Leaders of all seven cities and the unincorporated county signed off on a code of civility last week. Good for them.
We're also impressed that they invited the public and the media to hold them accountable if they fail to live up to the pledge.
"Call me out on it," Board of Supervisors chairman John Peschong told The Tribune.
We plan to, because without some form of accountability, a pledge is little more than words on a piece of paper.
Basic as it is, the civility code is a start to healing the divisions in our county.
Here's the pledge:
- Listen first.
- Respect different opinions.
- Be courteous.
- Disagree constructively.
- Debate the policy, not the person.
Sure, you could argue that adults shouldn't need a code of conduct; we all should have learned lessons like "listen first" and "be courteous" in kindergarten. But we live in an age of acrimony. Just look at what's going on in Washington. D.C. (Or, for your own peace of mind, don't look.)
Washington may be a lost cause — at least for now — but we believe local movements aimed at promoting civility are a hopeful sign.
In San Luis Obispo County, the League of Women Voters launched a campaign for civil discourse a few years ago that put the issue on the radar.
Then last week, local government officials announced the adoption of their own code.
If followed, it should help end the sniping that's been especially apparent at the county Board of Supervisors.
Granted, such behavior isn't new, and it certainly hasn't been confined to county supervisors.
Over the years, we've witnessed some abysmal displays of bad behavior on the part of both elected officials and audience members in practically every community in the county. But it's been particularly nasty in recent years, and as a result, some members of our community are afraid to share their opinions or even attend meetings because for fear being verbally attacked.
That's wrong, and it is time that local governments turned it around.
But let's not end there. We have some further suggestions.
For one, how about adding accessibility to the list? Failing to respond to constituents in a timely manner is another form of incivility.
Keeping an open mind and explaining the reasoning behind decisions would help, too.
And here's a big one: Tell the truth. Mistakes are understandable, but deliberate misrepresentations are not.
And please, please, no chastising staff at public meetings.
Also, why stop with the cities and counties? How about all elected bodies, including school boards and community services districts, sign on?
Finally, with the November election looming, this would be an excellent time to urge candidates to pledge to run clean campaigns, before voters are completely turned off to politics.
USA Today opinion writers Mack McLarty and Al Cardenas make some excellent points in a June 5 column:
"Given some of the lessons learned, rightly or wrongly, from 2016, it will be tempting for candidates of both parties to decide that the old rules of political behavior no longer apply. Some strategists may conclude that the only way to win elections is with petty nicknames, headline-grabbing tweets and inflammatory accusations of questionable veracity. We disagree. One of us is a Democrat, the other a Republican. ... But there is one area where we absolutely see eye to eye: to embrace incivility in our politics would do a disservice to candidates, parties, and voters alike."
Unfortunately, we saw too many petty nicknames and inflammatory accusations made in the recent primary campaigns. That was ugly, and it did voters a disservice by distracting from the issues.
If you think a campaign can't be run without getting down and dirty, you're wrong.
One that stands out is the 2010 campaign for state Assembly that pitted Republican Katcho Achadjian against Democrat Hilda Zacarias. They both signed pledges agreeing not to engage in mudslinging. They didn't.
So how about it, candidates? Are you willing to take a clean campaign pledge, and to direct your campaign staffs to sign off on it as well?
We'll be asking, and we strongly urge voters to do the same.
After all, if candidates can't run respectful, civil campaigns, why should we believe they'll be respectful and civil once in office?