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Salida City Council Regular Meeting March 2020 (Photo by Taylor Sumners)

The Salida City Council met for a regular meeting on Tuesday, March 3 and among the items on the agenda was the adoption of Resolution 2020-10, which officially confirmed an invocation to bring civil discourse to meetings.

Resolution 2020-10 was drafted following visits from the citizen’s group called the Salida Civility Project on several occasions in 2019. Their goal; to bolster and promote civility in discussions between members of Council and Salida citizens in attendance.

After hearing debate over the language that had been expressed in the work session the evening prior, Council member Dan Shore revisited the statement and modified the language to bring before Council for official adoption. The Civility Invocation statement adopted by Council, will be shared during the ‘Call to Order’ portion of each meeting. The statement and guidelines from the Civility Invocation are as follows:

“It is the intention of the Salida City Council to promote civil communication by adopting the following guidelines for speaking to the public in Council chambers. It is our hope that by modeling this behavior, we can help create a safe space for people to share their perspectives and opinions:

  • We honor the opportunity to be engaged in the process of governance for the benefit of our community.
  • We acknowledge that each of us brings a unique perspective to this conversation and that our perspectives may differ.
  • We challenge ourselves to value varying points of view and hold all contributions as equally important.
  • We understand and accept that while we may sometimes disagree, we can always be courteous and kind.
  • We commit to respectful language, avoiding rumor, harsh criticism or personal accusation, even when feeling emotionally charged.
  • We will, to best of our ability, speak thoughtfully and listen with attention, respect, and curiosity.
  • We are confident that there may be even better solutions than any of us have thought of, which may be discovered through civil conversations.”

The adoption was not without debate. Opposition in the Monday, March 2 work session to adopting the proposed Civility Invocation statement came from Council member Mike Pollock.

Pollock explained that he felt uncomfortable adopting the Civility Invocation statement in the work session and expressed his concerns in the regular meeting, “For me, as I tried to explain yesterday [in the work session], just any kind of thing like this is a real stretch for me. Being as I am not really an artist and I am a musician; I hang around a lot of artists and artists they try and stay clear of this thing. Like anything that has to do with First Amendment and freedom of expression kinds of issues.”

Pollock continued, “[The revised draft] is much better to me. I still think the language could be improved. One of these things is the idea of reciting it. If it is for us [as Council members] why would we do that? We already know it. We could print it for ourselves or print it for people to see.”

Pollock went on to explain parts of the statement and language he disagreed with, “Even the word ‘modeling’ to me is a little bit excessive because you’re assuming that people need something modeled, and to me that diminishes what the First Amendment is. In my mind, people should know that they can express themselves in whatever way they feel is appropriate.”

Council member Harald Kasper responded saying, “I would say we are reading it primarily to ourselves. [Treasurer Merrell Bergin] said it beautifully yesterday … that it is like a ritual. We are in this space and we are attempting our best to have a civil conversation, not because civil conversation is good or bad but because it is efficient.”

Shore added, “We had members of the Civility group that came meeting after meeting reciting the invocation, that they actually scaled back, and it had a real calming effect. I’ve heard it, I have had people on the street talk to me about it and so I get where you are coming from, but what like others have said, this is really for us.”

Mayor Wood added his comments, “I would like to add that virtually every elected body in the country from the Senate, to the State House, to probably the majority of municipalities have some sort of invocation at the beginning of their meeting asking for wisdom, asking for civility and asking that they do the right thing.”

Wood continued, “I think that this is not anything unusual, radical or extreme. I think that this is very much well within our bell house to remind ourselves and the public of our intentions before every meeting before we go out and have profound effects on their life.”

Language suggestions were bounced around by the council members with the unanimous consensus that the word ‘modeling’ be removed from the opening statement. Council member Kasper made the motion to pass Resolution 2020-10, with the proposed changes excluding the word ‘modeling’. Council member Templeton seconded the motion. The motion was passed unanimously.