A good friend often prefaces transitions in conversation to serious topics by saying, “I’ll not sacrifice clarity on the altar of diplomacy.” I’m getting to the point in my life where I appreciate not wasting time beating around the bush so this preface always makes me smile, even though the conversation to follow may not be amusing at all.
However, it is with continued amusement that I follow the “civil dialog” initiative being advanced by Scottsdale Leadership. The latest effort under this initiative is, “A Community Conversation on Civility,” the first of three public meetings officially sponsored by the City of Scottsdale under the banner of, “the Civil Dialog Series.”
The press release published by the city under Gabby Giffords’ photo begins with,
“A Tucson shooting that killed six and wounded 13 – including Congressman Gabby Giffords – prompted a national debate over whether heated political rhetoric played a role in the tragedy.”
Bear with me while I momentarily sidestep the altar of diplomacy: No one has ever established whether “rhetoric played a role in the tragedy.” I believe that to the extent that it might have, it was a small role at worst.
There are folks out there who would like to pin this tragedy on hyper-partisan rhetoric, but that doesn’t explain shooter Jared Loughner’s diagnosed schizophrenia.
Neither does it explain the idiotic racial intolerance and terrorism perpetrated by the Mahon brothers against former City of Scottsdale diversity director Don Logan and other city staffers.
I can tell you for certain one thing that won’t prevent such tragedies: Mistaking frankness and conviction for, or intentionally (and dishonestly) conflating them with incivility.
Never one to shy away from a fight over misrepresentation of facts or abuse of public process, I have been accused many times of being less than civil. Interestingly, many of my accusers (for example, Dennis Robbins) have a track record of elitist aversion to real dialog. And some like Jim Lane have a history of being rather cavalier with truth…Ok, maybe that’s TOO civil…he just flat out lied about the city budget deficit.
Furthermore, Robbins spoke very disrespectfully of several folks who made comments at a recent city council meeting, dismissing them with his “parade of candidates” remark.
Lane’s campaign treasurer, Mike Manson, recently published a letter to the editor in the Scottsdale Republic labeling a council candidate as lacking in “intellectual capacity” and “integrity,” and calling that candidate “misleading and dishonest.” He applied the same aphorisms to yours truly.
His candidate Lane referred to me in campaign literature as “ridiculous,” and “goofy.” Can you imagine me as, “goofy?”
Afterward we heard nary a peep from Scottsdale Leadership’s Chris Irish and Cynthia Wenstrom, moderator for the “Community Conversation”; and City of Scottsdale diversity director Dr. Velicia McMillan-Humes was silent.
Incumbent Suzanne Klapp recently touted herself in a public candidate forum as having been, “…consistently in support of a balanced and fiscally conservative budget.” Yet the budget for which she voted three months ago contains the same $8 million deficit that Jim Lane denies. In fairness to Lane (I may be frank, but I try to be fair), he didn’t vote for that budget…but his version contained the same level of spending.
Klapp mocks the non-Chamber candidates as being anti-growth. However, as she knows full well, they’ve never opposed a single development that met the standards of Scottsdale’s General Plan.
So, why has Scottsdale Leadership not taken Klapp to task? Oh, that’s right. She’s a Valley Leadership graduate and she sits on the board of Scottsdale Leadership.
Robert Leger, opinions editor of the Scottsdale Republic and Phoenix Republic, called me a “bombthrower” in his pre-election endorsement of Lane, and he completely ignores the budget deficit.
Could Scottsdale Leadership’s silence on his incivility have anything to do with Leger’s status as a Scottsdale Leadership grad?
Randy Lovely is the senior vice president of Republic Media. Lovely recently bragged that the Republic is the community’s “watchdog.” Where was their coverage of the budget deficit, which might have resolved the question of whether my assertions were uncivil, or just an uncomfortably frank truth.
Probably the same place as CEO and publisher of The Arizona Republic John Zidich when he was serving on the board of the scandal-ridden Fiesta Bowl.
Probably the same place as Scottsdale Republic general manager Michael Ryan when he was serving on the executive board of the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce when they got spanked for illegal campaigning four years ago.
Maybe the same place as Scottsdale Republic community news editor Chris Coppola when he’s…participating as a panelist in the Civil Dialog Series?????
Don’t these Republic people ever learn? A NEWSpaper can either COVER the news, or it can BE the news. It can’t effectively do both.
With Zidich and Ryan, at least they were in management. Leger hides behind the nebulous firewall that supposedly divides the “opinion” people from the “news” people.
But Coppola has no excuse. He IS a news guy.
All of which goes to prove the old saying:
Diplomacy is the art of saying “nice doggie” until you can find a rock.
Update: Mike Manson replied, “You forgot to add the part where you stood before the City Council and told them that they all sucked.” Done.
Update 2: Yes, I know I misspelled “altar.” I’d fire my editor, but then I’d have to fold the shop.