The Star-News

It's not what you say but how

Sat, Mar 16 2013 12:00 PM Posted By: Carlos R. Davalos

You know which shotgun didn’t get turned in during last week’s gun buy-back program in Chula Vista? The one I’m using to fire the proverbial birdshot in this week’s column. Some weeks there isn’t enough to write about. Others, well, there’s just too much so it’s best to point, fire and hope I hit at least one of my targets.

Among the 90 weapons handed over to cops last Saturday was a rocket launcher. Some refer to it as a grenade launcher. Either way it was a big mechanical device that was created with no other purpose than to cause fatal damage. And while it’s hard to imagine some thug using it to jack granny’s rusted out Oldsmobile as she makes that perennial left turn, I guess we should all feel safer with one less bazooka on the street.

Sweetwater Union High School District Attorney Dan Shinoff tried to make friends and influence people recently.

During this week’s school board meeting it’s reported he held court and delivered an etiquette address. The gist of his nearly hour-long presentation was that people need to be nice to each other. Respectful. If not for humanity’s sake then for the sake of the children!

Seems his public imploration came after a particularly one-sided exchange between an administrator and a member of a school board committee. Things were said, feelings were hurt. Apologies issued after the fact. You’d think that would be the end of the issue. But no. The district’s lawyer became involved and short of putting somebody in a public time-out, he reminded the adults to play nice.

I’ve been to school board meetings. Grown-ups on both sides of the fence have behaved immaturely. While it’s great theater it’s hardly productive. But for the district’s attorney to actually take time to address the issue of civility in public discourse is  overkill. Unless, of course, he is protecting the district from employee claims of having to work in a hostile work environment.

If adults on either side won’t reform, maybe they need to model their behavior after the electeds at Chula Vista City Hall. There, politicians are masters at wielding subtle attacks without really doing so. Take, for example, Mayor Cheryl Cox’s recent State of the City address. In it she went out of her way to commend her friend and cohort Councilwoman Pamela Bensoussan for preserving her “integrity in both your campaigns,” the implication being that Bensoussan’s opponent and frequent Cox critic, Larry Breitfelder, did not.

Or maybe that’s not what Cox meant. I suppose it’s left to interpretation. See, that’s the beauty of “civil discourse.” In the absence of real civility and polite behavior, the appearance of civil behavior is the next best thing.

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