Wednesday, October 1, 2014

LMC Launches New Civility Resources

“Whether real or perceived, there seems to be a widely held belief that people are too often behaving in ways that are just, well, uncivilized when dealing with government.” So says Kevin Frazell, director of member services at the League of Minnesota Cities (LMC).

So what’s a city to do? And what’s really going on? We weren’t sure, either!

Getting to the bottom of it
The League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota City/County Management Association called for the creation of a special civility task force. A key result of the work of the 13-member joint task force—comprised of local government elected officials and staff from across the state—is a collection of resources for better understanding, preventing, and addressing incivility.

“A few people seem to think the best approach to achieving their public policy goals is to demean and ridicule—rather than collaborate with—others,” observes Kevin. “These entrenched attitudes and open hostility are making it difficult to carry out even the most basic functions of governing.”

At LMC, we believe that good government starts with collaboration, and that differing opinions should be what make us strong, not what breaks us down. Lively and productive debate on a topic helps us think through the issues thoroughly—but when things turn ugly, productivity can really take a nose dive.

Where can you find help?
With that in mind, the task force created a series of resources meant to help guide your city through a variety of sticky situations. You’ll find tips on how to deal with highly partisan councilmembers, elected officials with narrow agendas, relations between council and staff, disruptive citizens at city council meetings, and much more.

Taking it on the road!
Civility in local government is also on the agenda at LMC’s upcoming Regional Meetings this fall. We’ll use the fictional city of Mosquito Heights as a case study of a community struggling with incivility to discuss real-life solutions for this issue. (Side note: If you’re curious about Mosquito Heights, see this previous post for a little primer!)

Overall, the League knows that most cities are running smoothly and that incivility may not be a significant issue for the vast majority. As LMC Training and Conferences Manager Laura Harris points out: “Examples of uncivil behavior and dysfunctional governments show up regularly in the news media and on social media—but you don't see people sharing links to YouTube videos of tame council meetings or cordial interactions with constituents.”

Don’t wait until it happens in your community! Whether or not your city is currently dealing with incivility, it’s best to be prepared! Check out these resources now for tips and tricks before an incident occurs at www.lmc.org/civility or register today for a Regional Meeting near you.

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