A presentation on a new, countywide initiative to “just be nice” at Tuesday’s Mono County Board of Supervisors meeting had at least two supervisors questioning the legitimacy of such a program.
The Choose Civility Initiative is an effort to be civil to one another in a world where this is increasingly not the norm. Presented to the Board by Mono County District Attorney Tim Kendall and Mono County Office of Education Superintendent Stacey Adler, the program is expected to “promote the importance of civility in a world becoming less civil,” and “encourage community members to choose positive and respectful behaviors in their personal and work lives.”
Adler and Kendall were requesting that the Board sign a resolution recognizing and supporting the initiative, which has the goal of making Mono County known throughout the state “for its healthy, vibrant and thriving communities and citizens,” according to Tuesday’s presentation.
“I don’t want to paint myself as anti-civility,” said Supervisor Fred Stump, “but I have dealt with [programs like] this before. They didn’t work because there were no consequences. There’s nothing to motivate people’s internal value systems; the program is just a Band-Aid.”
Stump was concerned about signing his name to a resolution that “may be used as a marketing tool for something that lacks teeth,” he said.
“I’m just questioning the legitimacy of the program,” Stump said. “I’m not questioning that the conversation [of increased civility] needs to be had.”
According to research from a survey conducted by KRC Research and presented in Adler and Kendall’s report, two-thirds of the public believes American society is uncivil.
“It’s a public awareness campaign,” Kendall said. “We want to give people the tools to deal with others.”
The initiative has already been adopted in eight other counties, where it has seen great success, Adler said.
“Many of my constituents are fed up with the government telling them what to do,” Stump said.
“We’re not trying to say this is how you should behave, we’re just putting the option out there,” Adler said. “If we don’t try, we can’t expect change.”
Supervisor Tim Fesko agreed with Stump that the program sounded simply like a “feel-good, top down initiative.”
“I live by the motto, ‘do unto others as you would have them do to you,’” Fesko said. He added that civility really starts at home, not at the schools and questioned how the program would involve parents.
“How will you affect the change?” he asked. “Parents are the root … that’s where change needs to happen.”
Adler explained that those working on the initiative had already begun reaching out to people, including business owners and leaders, who, she pointed out, are often parents, too.
Supervisors Tim Alpers, Byng Hunt and Larry Johnston were supportive of the initiative.
“Sometimes ‘feel good’ is not a bad thing,” Supervisor Alpers said. “We have to start somewhere and if we can help one other life it gives our life meaning. Pay it forward.”
“I think it’s OK for leaders to say they want to be civil and here’s why,” Supervisor Johnston added.
“We’re just reminding people that there’s another way to behave,” Adler said.
Supervisor Hunt pointed out that passing the resolution with a 3-2 vote would not look good for overall support of the initiative.
“Perhaps I should just sign it on behalf of the Board,” he suggested as a solution to Stump’s concerns about having his name on the document.
Stump, however, became swayed.
“As long as you can assure me that it won’t be presented as ‘Mono County says …’ I can support the resolution now, thanks to our civil discussion,” he said with a smirk.
The Board approved the resolution unanimously.
A kickoff event for the initiative is scheduled for Aug. 16 at the Mammoth Library.