If you're going to run for public office, you'll need some thick skin.
It's not for the faint of heart, and we choose to believe that anyone running for public office does so with good intentions. It is public service, and as it implies, it is all about serving the public.
The Nanaimo-Ladysmith school district has made a difficult, and controversial, decision to close some schools and shuffle students around. The Save Cedar Schools group doesn't like the decision, and is raising its collective voice to see if they can have that plan changed or altered.
That's their right. It's called democracy.
As they do question, they should not have to be subjected to insults, particularly along the lines of what trustee Bill Bard wrote on his own blog (the post has since been removed) regarding the SCS group: "Suck it up children" you are "blinded by anger."
As one would expect, Bard's comments have poured gasoline on the fire, and the responses have been voluminous.
"This is how our community is being treated by SD68" was one. Another: "Sadly, the only thing we can trust to come from these trustees is disrespect and arrogance."
Maybe Bard is taking his cue from board of trustees chairman Jamie Brennan, whose own tweeting, and opinions on school board letterhead, are raising plenty of eyebrows.
The behaviour of his wife, Coun. Diane Brennan, at council meetings, has also been questioned at times.
To a certain degree, our elected officials are reaping what they've sown. When Coun. Brennan turns her back on passionate speakers in the hotly contested Colliery dams debate, why should she not expect disrespectful comments and chiding back? Do we need to put together a symposium on manners for our local elected officials? A modified SuperHost course for politicians? This does not excuse the barbed, vitriolic comments that emanate from some members of the public. Not at all. And some might argue that Bard and the Brennans are fighting fire with fire. But what it really cries out for is not an equally gutter-like response, but standard-raising, understanding, respectful, listening ears.
These are prime opportunities for those we've elected as leaders to raise a new standard, as in: This is how we should hold public discourse. Talk about everything. Listen. Don't insult. For the public, give it your best shot. If you don't get your way, then move on. Wait until the next election or issue.
This issue does not, and should not, involve insulting the public. We want our leaders to make solid decisions that benefit the communities they serve as a whole. We also need them to carry themselves with a level of decorum that elevates the office and sets a standard for what the community should aspire to.
Raise the bar.
We should expect more from our elected officials. We shouldn't have to witness them getting into verbal battles with those who question the decisions they've made.
By resorting to name-calling or tossing out pithy epithets, you slide off your perch as a leader with strong convictions and become one who, unwittingly or not, trivializes the very real concerns of your constituents. In almost any political arena, criticism is part of the job.
That can't be fun. But in order to maintain the respect of the electorate, even the ones who disagree with you, the best course is to remain above the fray and maintain an unwavering sense of decorum. That's good leadership.
We want to hear from you.
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