Anti-civility is an actual cause?

After the shooting that wounded U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, then-President Obama spoke poignantly about the need for civil discourse.

 “At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized, at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do,” he said, “it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.”

President Obama added: “We may not be able to stop all evil in the world, but I know that how we treat one another is entirely up to us,” Mr. Obama said. “I believe that for all our imperfections, we are full of decency and goodness, and that the forces that divide us are not as strong as those that unite us.”

Unfortunately, local elected leaders and their advisors have ignored Obama’s advice – and for whatever reason, African American leaders appear to be the frequent recipients of caustic discourse.  If you want to align yourself with ugly, insulting and – as one commissioner has characterized it – “racist” discourse, you have clear options in local government.

If there is such a movement as the “anti-civility” movement, Commissioner Jeremy Matlow appears to have taken the mantle.

But don’t take our word for it – here are his own words:

But when Matlow thinks he’s on the receiving end of pointed discourse, he’s suddenly all in for civility:

But it’s Matlow’s associates that truly have shown a penchant for lowering the level of discourse in our community. Here is Our Tallahassee contributor Jeff VanderMeer, on City Manager Reese Goad, who has given his professional life to serving local government and has never been accused of anything approaching corruption:

The Tallahassee Democrat’s recent story on text messages during a Blueprint meeting with all commissioners was a window into what other elected officials find acceptable.

Here you will see a constituent (gray texts) is communicating with Commissioner Kristin Dozier (blue text):

The implication from the constituent texter is that African Americans only take stands on issues when they are “bankrolled” like white candidates. Dozier responds with two exclamation points.

In this next exchange, the texter mocks Commissioner Curtis Richardson’s long-time advocacy for the southside of town, where he has lived for many years. Commissioner Dozier participates in the mockery. It should be noted that Dozier lives in midtown.

Dozier isn’t done mocking Richardson. Here, she insinuates that he doesn’t stick to his guns in the face of public comment:

Finally, we turn to Max Herrle, who is or has been a local lobbyist, political advisor and campaign manager for Commissioners Matlow and perhaps others. He has also confirmed that he is dating current Commissioner Jack Porter.

His text in grey was sent to Dozier:

Herrle apparently lives in a world where calling African Americans “dumb bastards” isn’t viewed as racist. The subject of this text, Commissioner Nick Maddox, who is African American, has called the text racist.

It is unfortunate that Dozier didn’t respond to this with a “dislike” or in any other way, as she did with prior texts with which she had an opinion. Her only response is to call out two more African American commissioners (Commissioners Bill Proctor and Carolyn Cummings) for failing to speak up during the meeting.

Later, Dozier referred disparagingly to Mayor John Dailey as “Foghorn,” an apparent reference to the cartoon character Foghorn Leghorn:

Ironically, a website that includes the top quotes by Foghorn Leghorn includes this one checking in at No. 35:

Maybe we could learn a few things from ol’ Foghorn.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t all bad. The text messages also revealed some good old-fashioned “agreeing to disagree” from Commissioners Jimbo Jackson and Brian Welch. The two commissioners argued passionately on opposite sides of the issue, but found a way to come together afterward:

Thankfully, civility still matters to some commissioners, which might bring a smile to President Obama’s face.

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