Public Comment Agendas

We continue our dialog of the growth of Public Agenda session at local government meetings. In this post, longtime Kansas Educator Harold Frye offers his observation.


Public Input at local government meetings.

Civility and the need to be civil extend beyond city and county boards as we are in the midst of this pandemic and its impact on our communities. I spent 19 years as a school district administrator charged with providing advice to citizens elected to represent their neighbors on school boards. Now we are seeing special interest groups plead their cases to school boards regarding whether schools are open or closed, whether sports continue or are delayed, whether kids can learn as well online as in person. Most school board members come to the position with a goal to improve their communities. None expected to face attacks from those who elected them. In one school district, it was my job to engage “public relations.” Almost nothing positive happening in the schools gained the attention of the media. Only the negative slod the news. In those days, the major newspaper’s advertisers were real estate and automobiles. Therefore, painting the city schools bad helped advertisers sell more houses in the suburbs and cars to get folks there. The culture is far greater than civility alone.


What are your thoughts?.. That’s 30 for Today.

In Search of Civility and Kindness

I find it very interesting how family members and friends can have such strong and opposite opinions regarding elections. The tone, meaning of many comments are nothing more than cruel. Perhaps its social media and our rush to comment on a post that moves us one way or another.

We see family members who practically assail each other over a candidate, an issue, or a movement. People feeding off doomsday comments while others seem to be goading or attempting humor.

I’d love to see more kindness, civil discussion, and respect for what others think, say, and feel. I’m asking my family, friends, and contacts to help each other practice kindness as we near the general election. Will you join in?

…that’s 30 for now.

EMPATHY

We are please to post an essay by Adam Ehlert, Past District Governor of Rotary International, and the recent author of: Atrial Frustration, a Cardiac Arrythmia Saga, which debuted as Amazon’s #1 New Release in Cardiology. 

We are please to add an essay about Empathy, written by Adam Elhert, Past District Governor in Rotary International, and the recent author of: Atrial Frustration, a Cardiac Arrythmia Saga, which debuted as Amazon’s #1 New Release in Cardiology.”

Why has our society become so decidedly un-civil? 

Politics, of course, seems to drive it all.  And that is surprising, considering how much disdain we all seem to have for all in office.  Any office.  At the most basic statistic, Congress has not had the approval of even one-third of Americans in more than a decade.  The much-maligned “Dogcatcher” position is better-received. 

So, if we near-universally seem to despise politics (two-thirds for sure, anyway), why has our public discourse been so “dragged”—in the parlance of the day—by the nonsense of their realm? 

Is it train-wreck voyeurism?  Good old schadenfreude?  Do we need dopamine doses from lamenting legislative inanities?  Are we trying to fit in by following the herd, piling-on the momentarily weak and defenseless?   Why the wedge? 

While not a good-government “Goo-Goo” optimist like my favorite high school teacher, I do believe that people—as people—strive to join, to heal, to uplift, to share, to be good, to do good, to see good (in all!), to take care, and to uphold, eagerly, the Golden Rule.  All without the implicit or wet-ink weight of Congressional blessing. 

Mankind has survived via a special kind of collectivism—especially in a free, open and self-governed society.  We have survived by not mutually-destructing.  So why do we seem hell-bent on it, now, at least rhetorically?  Why, again, the wedge? 

Why is a philosophical difference now the basis to declare one’s neighbor a mortal enemy?  Literally. 

I think we have forgotten to empathize with our neighbors.  That pure, basic, human emotion of kindness and understanding. 

We should not hate our neighbor because of a yard sign or a bumper sticker.  As Tom Lehrer ironically opined decades ago: “I know there are people who do not love their fellow man, and I hate people like that!”  We don’t all have to agree…but in today’s age we sure shouldn’t hate.  In fact, our great country of freedom was built upon the concept of dissidence.  Civil dissidence, of discourse, anyway. 

My suggestion for a quick recalibration via other-shoe perspective?  Take those steps through a hospital.  That’s it. 

You don’t need to be intrusive.  Just mildly observant.  You will see your brothers and sisters in all stages of humanity—relief, worry, unease, curiosity, frustration-borne-of-bureaucracy…and soul-challenging faith.  And while they may deal with it differently from you and from me, we all will share a host of human emotions throughout our lifetimes. 

Let’s try to be understanding.  Let’s empathize.  Let’s be civil. 


…that’s 30 for today. What are your thoughts? Submit a comment or article.

Civility in Discourse, a Reflection on Liberty

Today is July 4th and I’m please to welcome a guest commentary. Adam Ehlert reflects on our Freedom and the American Spirit.

We are living in strange and tenuous times.  Our country has been through tough periods before…time and time again, even all the way back to its groundbreaking founding, and then the early war that nearly tore it apart.  Those two events were nearly unprecedented in world history—a new, independent nation, founded on the principle of equal justice under the law, and all had the opportunity for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Unprecedented!  And resilient still.  Even today…barely. 

Not a perfect union—then, or today—but one that is freer, more economically viable, and healthier than any other (and they’re all related, by the way).  Our patriots remained unified for our country’s freedom and prosperity through the fracturing events of its history.  The questionably-purposed Vietnam era, the necessary-but-difficult Civil Rights struggle of the sixties, the spirit-crushing Great Depression and the Dust Bowl that hit us right in the breadbasket.  All the way back to the aforementioned war between the states, an awful, bloody, gut-wrencher that pitted brother against brother. But once that war ended, the healing began.  Not overnight, but eventually the Union was restored and families could embrace across state lines.  

And through our sometimes-calamitous history, civil discourse remained.  And respect for our brother and sister citizens.  And respect for the process, for each and every voice, for the firm belief that our Constitution created an amazing framework to allow for our republic’s evolution. 

But I am concerned for today.  There is no respect for the process.  There is no respect for difference of opinion.  There is no room, in any room, for thoughtful, reasoned, respectful discourse—especially in that city of southern efficiency and northern charm, where it is all supposed to be centered. 

Yours truly is gun-shy in even adjectively describing some of the events above.  Let alone sharing an opinion on anything screeched from the television or splashed across tissue-thin front pages.  

But I will today, because I believe in this country’s resiliency.  I believe in the Constitution, that allows—with significant and thoughtful deliberation, our system to adapt to the times.  I believe in her people.  This is still The Land of the Free…barely. 

I believe in Life.  I believe it, and its pursuit of liberty and happiness begins when a heart beats. 

I believe in Freedom, nearly as far as the word will carry it.  Freedom as imbued specifically in our Bill of Rights—for everyone—and freedom of function.  Social issue freedoms—knock yourself out.  Actually, let me temper that Libertarian streak a bit—I think society as a whole cannot be trusted (to say nothing of trusting the government), and for medical and social health concerns, I am not comfortable with unrestricted pharmacological freedom.  I side with the science here, especially as normalization will more-pronouncedly affect young people, actually physically retarding brain maturation. 

I believe in commitment to our country and its rule of law.  That protects its citizens.  First and foremost—government is here to do what its citizens cannot do for themselves.  And hopefully very little beyond that.  Social Security—great; safety net services—even better, and doubly-effective when driven locally; Congress, the Executive Branch, and the Judiciary—pretty good checks and balances; interstate infrastructure, travel, commerce, and communications—a great nation!     

I believe in Freedom of potential.  Education, health, the potential of a vibrant livelihood…the pursuit of happiness!  Regardless of race, creed, color or circumstance.  Equal potential for all. 

But life is not fair—there’s no two ways about that.  No matter how gargantuan the monolith becomes, it will not parcel out opportunity and potential in 335 million properly-measured units.    But never in history has the playing field been so level, for so many.  Not a guarantee of “easy,” but a near-open ticket for Americans to chart a course of desire. 

But I am afraid, in most social (and business) scenarios to discuss these cornerstone American ideals. 

Media-fueled modern-day McCarthyism can brand anyone an ageist, a classist, a conformist, an institutionalist, (or perhaps more evilly, a red-blooded nativist—who ever heard that loaded term before 2016?), a sexist, or a racist.  I wish I could pick up a newspaper, and read news, as reported.  The every-story-as-a-societal-wedge has got to stop.  It is tearing us apart. 

I wish I could fly a flag.  I wish I could visit an historical monument without worrying about its implications, I wish I could visit my father-in-law’s memorial at Ft. Leavenworth without risk of being branded as a short-sighted patriot.  I wish we could continue to use Mount Rushmore as an educational monument (literally!) to learn our history.  This should serve to amplify the voices of the tribes who were so wronged so long ago.  Burning down a granite mountain will do nothing to educate our next generations of citizens and leaders from that history. 

I wish protests were plentiful…and peaceful.  I wish reportage was only that.  I wish I was still free to make my own decisions and opinions…and even occasionally have the forum to voice those opinions. 

The mistakes of our past will rise just as fast as the rule of law falls.  The civil rights of every single American are jeopardized as we undercut our foundational freedoms.

But I have faith.  Our indomitable American spirit will overcome; our country will emerge stronger than it was in the untested theory of 244 years ago.  With malice toward none and charity for all.  God Bless America.

Adam Ehlert,

Overland Park, KS

7/3/20

What are your thoughts on the day when we celebrate our great country?

Building Community

Now that many others have signed up to receive this blog, I wish to restate my primary mission, which is to:

Exchange Ideas, Learn From Others, and Build Community

I trust we can express our opinions, life experiences, professional knowledge without political purpose. I’m most hopeful this will be a forum for civility.


What concerns you could very well concern me, and perhaps together we can find common ground to understand each other better. Who knows, we may even develop some actionable ideas.

Let me start by listing some of my current concerns. In no particular order,

  • Our aging population
  • Increasing acts of violence
  • Racism
  • Healthcare
  • The environment
  • Our children’s future

Let’s start a discussion.