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Winning at civility


Just in case you don't know how to make arguments in a civil way, the San Luis Obispo City Council gave a little rundown at its March 2 meeting. You know, like a civics class done over Zoom where nobody pays attention.


Listen first, respect different opinions, show courtesy, criticize constructively, debate the policy not the person.

Wow, maybe Facebook and Twitter should adopt these rules? Nah. That would take all the fun out of non-constructive criticism, name-calling, and demonizing the other!

"Avoid personal attacks or abusive language or any sort of behavior that gets us off track," SLO Mayor Heidi Harmon said. "My goal here in these meetings is to make progress. ... I hope you will join me here tonight in that goal."

Good luck, lady! We have no idea how to conduct a policy debate without abusive language or behavior that gets us off track. Just flip back a few pages and take a gander at our opinion section. It's not very nice. Personal attacks are America, which is why national politics can't accomplish one iota of progress on anything!

How long have we been talking about the need for affordable housing on the Central Coast? How long have we been trying to "tackle" the homelessness problem? Racism? We can't even get our shit together about the stupid pandemic, which is/has literally affected everyone. All of the debates devolve into name-calling.

Nobody listens to anybody they don't agree with and that's literally why we can't solve a damn thing!

"I get it. Civility will not solve racism or any other issue that we face, and I'm equally certain that when we engage in destructive attacks against each other, we will likewise not get to where we want to go," she said.

OK. So, basically, good luck, people!

If you want to know how the public commenters at the March 2 meeting responded, feel free to check out the Abolitionist Coalition of Central Coast/SLO's Instagram page: "Everyone start out with the same first sentence," the organization posted in its "how to" instructions.

"Tell the SLO City Council they need to divest from policing and invest in our community," the organization said on one image slide.

"We will continue to repeat ourselves until we are heard," it said on another image slide.

And they succeeded! In repeating themselves, that is. They want the SLO Police Department to lose 33 percent of its funding—although, they didn't say where that particular number came from—and they want mortgage, rent, and utility relief for all! That sounds lovely. I need help paying for my cardboard box by the creek.

And they really don't like City Councilmembers Jan Marx and Carlyn Christianson! I guess these "liberal" council members just aren't woke enough to be progressives and defund the police. In fact, these two explicitly stated that they wouldn't vote to defund the police. How dare they!?

I'm pretty sure I heard one guy say "Marxist" when referring to Marx. Personal attack! Tristan Love was irritated that Marx talked down to them at one of the previous meetings by saying "so many intelligent and well-meaning people are saying the same words over and over again." Marx said that repeating the same comments wasn't persuasive.

"Why wouldn't that be more persuasive?" Love said, not understanding that Marx was trying to get them to delve a little deeper into their policy arguments. "If this is what the people are asking for, that should be more persuasive."

Yeah! Like speaking increasingly louder in English to someone who doesn't understand English. Works every time!

Well, Jan baby, all you have to do is follow @_acccs_ on Instagram and you don't even have to listen to the public comments! And perhaps, if you'd like to be heard and actually engage in a conversation with constituents, you could approach your constituents with a little bit less of a schoolmarm attitude?

The abolitionists were super upset that Christianson referred to their demands as "ideological delusions" and "emotions" in a previous meeting. Wow, I don't blame them. That's an un-courteous thing to say!

"The only flawed ideology in this conversation is the ideology that police keep us safe," Alejandro (no last name) said during public comment.

Oh snap! That's a great comeback. But is it constructive?

SLO city resident Marshall James made his case that only four public commenters used curse words at a previous meeting! Only four! Another commenter said that "when the police are trusted to do anything other than responding to violent and dangerous situations, they turn those situations into violent and dangerous situations." Could be true, but can I get some factual evidence to back that up? He also said that police shouldn't respond to domestic violence situations—something I'm very confused about. Who should respond to those, then?

Ethan Weisse said that "SLO police abuse our homeless population in SLO regularly." Do they?

Kat Mora called the council "willfully ignorant" and said that police can't be reformed. "How can you possibly call this 'ideological delusions'?" she asked.

It's very clear that we are in the same place we were before mid-February: Not listening to or respecting different opinions, with lack of courtesy and a lack of constructive criticism, debating the people and not the policy. Δ

The Shredder isn't civil. Send comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.


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