Initiative calls for civility in the state

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker and Utah Lt. Gov. Greg Bell joined for a press conference announcing a new initiative for civility in the state.

Modeled after the “Three-R’s Project” launched in schools in 1997 calling for “rights, responsibilities and respect,” the Utah Civility and Community 2011 initiative offers up “Citizens’ Five Steps to a More Civil and Caring Utah” — self reflection, sharing of feelings, engaging in conversations, taking action, and contributing stories and ideas.

Organizers of the initiative handed out colorful cards with the theme “Civility. Pass it On.” on one side and the group’s website on the other. They encouraged people to pass them out when they see heated discussions and when they wish to reward good, civil behavior.

“I think it’s really important that we all consider how we are interacting with each other, how we’re listening to each other, how we’re respecting each other,” Becker said at the conference. “If we can keep these very basic principles and values in mind, Lt. Gov. Greg Bell and I will continue to be having a good discourse on things, and we’ll arrive at good decisions.”

“The simple message of the Civility Initiative is one we believe everyone can get behind and benefit from as we all strive to treat those around us with respect,” said Bell. “The best solutions and results for our community come from collaborative efforts, and true collaboration demands civility and respect for one another.”

Organizers know that an initiative itself will not change a community in the short term, but hope to begin a dialogue on how people treat others.

As the Utah State Legislature reconvenes and topics such as gay and transgender rights and immigration become the topics of the moment, organizers hope that all parties can engage in civil discourse rather than arguing through hyperbole, anger and name-calling.

Becker said that the changing ways in which people gather their news is exacerbating the situation, rewarding those “shrill and impolite” over those more reflective.

The shootings in Arizona brought similar calls for civility nationwide a week after the press conference.

Citizens’ Five Steps to a More Civil and Caring Utah

In Utah we are committed to respectful discourse and behavior toward all people. Further we are committed to being a welcoming, inclusive and caring community. Now is a great time to pass it on and start the five steps to a more caring Utah.

I intend to make a personal assessment and reflect whether I am honoring the Civility Themes in all areas of my life.

I am going to share my thoughts and feelings in this regard with my close friends and family and encourage a family discussion about how we can all be more civil, caring and inclusive in our daily lives.

I will engage in conversations with my neighbors, colleagues in the workplace, at school, religious gatherings and other community settings about the Civility Themes and how we can all be more civil, caring and inclusive.

In all of these settings we will set some action oriented goals for 2011 to more fully realize these Civility Themes, to be more civil caring and inclusive and how we might be of service to others in consistent ways and act on them.

During 2011, we will share the richness of our community stories, projects and ideas with other Utahns by contributing information to the Utah Civility and Community office.

More information on the initiative can be found at utahcivility.org

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