Pete Rose had a regular habit of sending out a Friday email to the Council. It functioned as part status update and part homily. One of his April emails encouraged the Council to change the tone of discourse (see excerpt below).
From my perspective, there are many ways the Council and staff can change the tone of discourse, but it isn't via any of the methods they keep choosing. There is a trust gap between many of the citizens and the County government, and when the County government appears to act in ways contrary to trustworthy behavior (e.g., secrecy, apparent bias), that doesn't help to narrow the gap. In Wile E. Coyote fashion, everything the County government seems to do, just makes things worse. They keep making the same mistakes in different ways.
Plan, plan, plan. Control, control, control. Scold, scold, scold. The County wants us to behave, but whether it be solid waste, land use, or something else, much of the citizenry simply does not perceive the County as having the demonstrated requisite professionalism, competence, good faith, fairness, or skill to do a yeoman's job. This isn't because the public is bad, deranged, or the agent of some political agenda. The many diverse people who feel this way have come to this view from our personal experiences with local government. If the County were to improve the experience, the tone would improve. If our local government did things "for" us instead of "to" us, or at least just got out of our way to let us get on with our endeavors, the tone would be better.
I don't see that happening given the siege mentality that has developed at the County. Instead, we should probably brace ourselves for more lectures on civility, with all the sanctimonious overtones that come with it. Genius.
Below is Pete Rose's April 5, 2012 missive to the Council about civility.
Changing the Tone of Discourse: One of your former colleagues used to say he liked the feistiness of the San Juan County citizens. The question we have to ask ourselves is “How much is too much?”. As public figures, we have to take a certain amount of this, but the CAO and other things are bringing a raw tone to the surface. Like the national discourse these days, it is much more “in your face” and much more personal. We have seen things in publications like, “staff with an agenda”, innuendos about councilmembers gone to the dark side, inadvertent “You Tube” stars, calling out staff members by name, chiding “pseudo-planners”, separating staff from our governing body. The sentiment has gone negative – too negative. Also, staff below the normal definition of public figure are being called out by name for doing their job. Tactics appear to be organized and are being rolled out like a political campaign. We are all taking our turn in the barrel. As regards the CAO, a staff perspective is this: It is your legislation that we are working on – the toughest job you will have while in office. It is being done in concert with the guidance document by Dept. of Commerce and your resolution from 2010 (periodically updated). For two years, we have been moving down the path of site-specific variable buffers as directed. Now that it has been delivered and people have realized it is more complicated to be fair and sometimes being fair is a wider buffer, the move is afoot to summarily kill and the mood on the blogs and in lousy cartoons is indeed feisty. At the same time, you have taken a measured and moderate course when given the opportunity on such things as rebuilding and other hot buttons, and the criticism has only increased. This is hard and people have to recognize that. I am calling on the Council to pull together and call for a tone of civility and to accept that an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. If you do not feel it is appropriate for you to do so, I will do it.