“All politics is local,” as the saying goes, but even local politics shouldn’t be so personal, and it’s refreshing to see the borough assembly address the issue.
Last week, during the assembly’s Meeting of the Whole, rules for decorum were addressed, and several members apologized for breaching those guidelines during a series of contentious meetings on the anadromous waters habitat protection ordinance.
Controversial issues are nothing new in local politics. While many of the decisions made in Washington, D.C., or Juneau may not directly impact our daily lives, decisions made by municipal governments always hit close to home. And any time one of those decisions results in additional restrictions or tax burden, there’s going to be someone unhappy with it.
However, many of our recent discussions of local issues seem to have as much to do with the people involved as with the issue itself. In essence, the message is being drowned out over feelings about the messenger.
That’s not a healthy way for local government to conduct businesses. For that matter, it’s not a healthy way for government at any level to conduct business. When good ideas that would benefit the community, the state or the nation are discarded simply because of their source, it is detrimental to everyone.
We don’t expect every assembly meeting to be rainbows and butterflies, nor do we expect assembly members to all be BFFs. Contentious issues are going to continue to crop up, and the reason people run for local elected office is because they are passionate about improving the place they live. Disagreements as to the best way of doing that are inevitable. Spirited debate is an important part of crafting the best legislation possible.
But spirited should not be mistaken for uncivil. The assembly’s effort to restore decorum to its chamber is a good reminder to us all that we need to treat our fellow community members, elected and otherwise, with the proper respect.