Civil Dialog is a Hoax

Like the recent Scottsdale City Council meeting at which the otherwise-inattentive masses showed up to watch their city government debate an ice cream truck ordinance, one of last week’s meetings drew a crowd eager to hear about the latest Band-Aid on public safety in Scottsdale’s bar district.

Unfortunately for those who departed after that discussion, virtually no one witnessed the next item on the agenda which gets right to the root of many of the problems in Scottsdale politics.

Cynthia Wenstrom presented to the Council for official ratification Scottsdale Leadership’s “Principles of Civil Dialog.” According to their website…

The mission of Scottsdale Leadership is to inform, inspire and empower leaders to champion and strengthen the interests of the community. Core Values:  Engagement – Inclusion – Connection – Courage – Stewardship

The Principles of Civil Dialog as adopted by the Council are distilled down to one statement: As a member of the Scottsdale community, I will genuinely listen; speak respectfully; and be accountable for my words and actions.
Resolution 9445 adopted by the City Council expands on the statement a little:


  • “Genuinely listen” means I will listen for the purpose of understanding the speaker’s point of view, without prejudging whether that point of view is right or wrong.
  • “Speak respectfully” means I will voice my point of view calmly and respectfully without losing the passion of my position and commitment, discussing the issues without personal criticisms.
  • “Being accountable” means I accept responsibility for my words and actions.

I’d like to have seen a definition of “accepting responsibility,” because the definition of “being accountable” is pretty much circular. And I haven’t seen any actions from the Mayor, Council members, Chambers of Commerce, or Scottsdale Leadership grads that demonstrates either accepting responsibility or being accountable.

I note the agenda item included a letter of support from the North Scottsdale Chamber of Commerce, signed by executive director Joe Galli McCarthy, who once labeled Council candidate (now Councilman) Guy Phillips a Communist. Councilman Bob Littlefield put Ms. Wenstrom on the spot by pointing out Galli’s ‘hit piece’ on Phillips.

I love the fact that Bob pointed out that Galli was a member of the Scottsdale Leadership class that created the Civil Dialog initiative!

Naturally, Mayor Lane quickly gave Ms. Wenstrom the hook, and she couldn’t get away fast enough. Not a peep was uttered in response to Bob’s call-out.

This isn’t the first time for incivility from the North Scottsdale Chamber. I previously pointed out in an earlier article on ScottsdaleTrails their glaring lack of action on this transgression. As a reminder, Galli (along with Loren Molever and Craig Trbovich) labeled Guy Phillips as a Communist. Not only was that uncivil, it was–simply–a lie.

Also, Galli and his Chamber cronies did exactly the same kind of dishonest attack piece against yours truly before the primary election last year, which you can see on

Watch the brief, but entertaining city council discussion starting at about time index 1:46:00, including Councilman Littlefield’s ‘Golden Rule’ alternative motion. Naturally that went nowhere.

A few more observations about this ‘civil dialog’ discussion:

  • Mayor Lane kicked it off by insulting Councilman Littlefield, which reminds me of an earlier ScottsdaleTrails Quote of the Day about irony.
  • In another irony, Dennis Robbins [Scottsdale Leadership Class 7] asked Ms Wenstrom whether her efforts have borne any practical results. Robbins exercised a bit of incivility himself with an insult toward other council candidates last year. You’ll note in that same linked article that there was more than a little dishonesty from Jim Lane and Suzanne Klapp [Scottsdale Leadership advisory committee] in last year’s council campaigns. Funny that Scottsdale Leadership doesn’t reference “honesty” in their mission statement, core values, or their Civil Dialog initiative.
  • The Scottsdale Republic has done its share of hypocritical promotion of civil dialog. Former publisher Mike Ryan and former editor Robert Leger were both associated with Scottsdale Leadership.
  • Scottsdale resident Mike Kelly pointed out to the council MONTHS ago that civil dialog is already enshrined in Scottsdale’s 2001 General Plan.

Because of Scottsdale Leadership’s promotion of Resolution 9445, I offered Scottsdale Leadership one more opportunity to respond to Councilman Littlefield’s concerns. This is my email to them:

Ms. Wenstrom,

I am working on an article about Scottsdale Leadership’s civil dialog initiative and Scottsdale City Council Resolution 9445.

I’d like to know why no one responded to Councilman Littlefield’s statements about the North Scottsdale Chamber’s pointedly uncivil attacks on then-council candidate Guy Phillips, and to offer you and your board an opportunity to respond at this time if you would be so kind as to forward my query to them.

I will tell you honestly (which is a quality I personally value far above merely being pleasant) that having been on the receiving on the North Chamber’s ‘civility’ myself, I’m rather prejudiced against the whole notion. Perhaps you can change my mind.

Thank you in advance,

John Washington

This is the response from Scottsdale Leadership:

Thank you for your question about the Principles for Civil Dialogue initiative.  We welcome any inquiries about the initiative, and I’m glad to respond to you on behalf of the Scottsdale Leadership staff and Board of Directors.  Your question and concern present a timely opportunity to act on the intent of the Principles.

Campaign literature, as Councilman Littlefield referenced at the City Council meeting, is not something that Scottsdale Leadership has ever monitored or responded to, nor would we ever do so [emphasis added].

Members of Scottsdale Leadership Class 25 (2010-11) initiated the Principles.  Since then, alumni have passionately advocated for adoption of the Principles as a helpful resource for people and groups throughout the community.  This good faith effort has been grassroots from its genesis, directly responding to concerns that  lack of respect in listening and speaking hinders the constructive, candid communication necessary to solve problems and advance the public good.

I assure you that more than ever, Scottsdale Leadership welcomes diverse perspectives and we are acting to listen more broadly, deeply and sincerely—in keeping with the spirit of the Principles of Civil Dialogue.

Again, thank you for reaching out.


George A. Martinez, Ed.D.
Executive Director
Scottsdale Leadership, Inc.

So, as I read Scottsdale Leadership’s response, the “principles of civil dialog” don’t apply to politics.

Perhaps we can persuade Councilman Littlefield to petition to reconsider his “no” vote, and offer an amendment that would expand the resolution. I won’t hold my breath that the champions of civil dialog on the City Council (Robbins, Milhaven, Klapp, Korte and Mayor Lane) would go along with it, though.

It seems fundamentally contrary to recognize an, “opportunity to act on the Intent of the Principles,” and simultaneously draw an imaginary line beyond which those principles seem not to apply. I don’t see a lot of “good faith effort” in that juxtaposition.

Based on their lack of “courage” in holding their own accountable to these principles, I have to agree with Councilman Littlefield that their Civil Dialog effort is a hoax designed to suppress dissent. Scottsdale Leadership looks like nothing more than a Chamber of Commerce charm school for wanna-be politicians.

If this is civil dialog, you can keep it. I’ll settle for some good old-fashioned honesty.

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  1. Do they do this presentation every year? Thought they did this last year? Hmmmmm, when they start advocating for the mayor and council member having to abide by the same code of ethics that board and commission members have to literally sign their names to then I’ll be impressed. Or not.

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