In a town like Sudbury someone actually cares enough to point out "dismissive" behavior, or "interrupting" or "rude" or "hostile" behavior. Meanwhile in Melrose, a twice-elected official like Mrs. K, is routinely dismissed, interrupted (by the chair, by the mayor, by the superintendent and other members), and attacked by a city employee/treasurer of the district's ed foundation by name for things that aren't even factual, let alone fair, and this is allowed, not called out of order by the chair or her colleagues. This member has always and very clearly been working to make things better for the students, plain and simple. If that's somehow not the goal of the others (and that is seriously in question based on their actions), they should step down immediately.
It's way past time that we take back our community and return to a Melrose that was decent, civil, and where there was a fair chance of doing the official business without politicizing and tearing the fabric of the community apart.
From the Wicked Local today:
By Ann Kenda/Town Crier Correspondent
May 04. 2015 2:20PM
Report sheds light on ‘incivility’ in Sudbury
SUDBURY – Two students with Harvard’s Negotiation and Mediation Clinical Program had a full audience at Grange Hall Sunday afternoon as they offered their “outsider perspective” on reports of incivility in Sudbury politics and discourse. The students spent two months compiling a 63 page report at the request of the Sudbury Clergy Association, which said it was worried about congregation members becoming increasingly disturbed by what they thought was a rude and hostile tone taking place in town meetings and online.
“We heard stories of ruined friendships, and people retreating from Sudbury socially,” said Seanan Fong, a master's candidate at Harvard Divinity School. “We also heard some people expressing the thought that they wish they could leave town all together.”
Jaiyun Ho, a master's of law candidate at Harvard Law School, described a number of narratives the survey uncovered and stressed that there’s not “two camps” at war in Sudbury, but more than one camp, with a number of people expressing personal hurt and frustration about the tone of incivility. She said one of the consequences is people being less willing to participate in town government, while some current or former town officials or board members are left feeling that their work is not appreciated.
Ho and Fong said their report found that 84 percent of residents said they had witnessed personal attacks in town discourse. Seventy percent had witnessed dismissive behavior, while 68 percent had heard unfair allegations of bad intentions. In addition, 66 percent feel that certain individuals or groups intentionally spread misinformation, while 66 percent feel there is a problem with constant interruptions of people who are trying to give their perspective.
“It is not our goal to fix Sudbury’s challenges but to create greater understanding moving forward,” said Fong, who said the project was limited by time and resources but benefitted from residents being willing to share their feelings on the subject.
“A huge part of this project has been you,” he told the audience. Some of the audience reported that the tone of incivility has only been a problem at Town Meeting in recent years, while others said that Sudbury politics have always been a “contact sport” and that the problem with incivility is not a new one. Others drew a parallel with the incivility taking place on a national level, and said Washington DC is helping to set a negative tone.
“But we think Sudbury is better than that,” said Fong to a round of applause.
Ho and Fong said the goal of their project was to describe the problem, and not necessarily to solve it, but they did offer a few recommendations on how residents and groups can do their part on help improve the tone in Sudbury politics. They said one of those ways is to increase awareness of a possible mismatch between intentions and perception, since people are sometimes unaware of how their behavior appears to others. They also suggested a Board of Selectmen retreat, regular one on one meetings among selectmen and more participation by selectmen in social events. They also said the town could benefit from improvements to the official town website, an increased use of social media for updates and the hiring of a town media & information coordinator.
“Because social media is here to stay, we suggest making the best use of it,” Fong said, suggesting a moderator who is considered neutral to help keep online discourse under control.
“As stakeholders in the town, it is in your hands to decide how you will respond to this report, how you will relate to fellow residents in the light of what you have read, and what recommendations you wish to take up. We are sincerely hopeful that Sudbury’s community can draw on the dedication and public-spiritness of its residents to find a path of deeper understanding, healing, connection and collaboration,” the report concluded.
Unfortunately, our problems run much deeper than just incivility in Melrose politics. The powers that be are specifically attacking open participation in public meetings and access to what should be readily available public documents, to the point of even trying to prevent sitting school committee members (recall the "School Committee Norms", aka, the Anti-transparency, Anti-Public Participation Norms??) from obtaining school related documents.