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Editorial, 9/8: Don't discourage best to serve in public realm

Editorial, 9/8: Don't discourage best to serve in public realm

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LPS board meeting

Kristi Molina, a Lincoln North Star High School teacher, holds a sign outside the Lincoln Public Schools offices ahead of a school board meeting Tuesday, July 28.

The Associated Press shared a national story last week -- "Hostile school board meetings have members calling it quits," (Aug. 29) -- that must be taken to heart on a local level.

It noted that board members, most of whom draw no pay, like those who serve on the Lincoln Public Schools board, have found themselves the target of hostile behavior and threats as they try to navigate the rough waters of COVID, vaccines and mask mandates.

School board members need a delicate balance of thick skin and sensitivity to the needs of others. They require a large knowledge base and a willingness to understand impacts on the micro level of a family or student.

Most recently, Lincoln school board members have seen heated discussion at meetings evolve into social media threats. Five members of the Norris school board are targets of a recall effort.

Last year, a group mounted an unsuccessful effort to recall Lincoln Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and four city council members.

A recall effort is a perfectly legal measure to remove officeholders whom voters find derelict in their duties. But it is a measure that shouldn't be taken lightly. 

And whether it's through a recall, comments at a meeting, a social media post or a casual meeting in a grocery store aisle, voicing one's displeasure with a person or a policy must be done civilly. Our system of government depends on able and willing people stepping up. Running for office is hard work. Serving after election is even harder. And, yes, city council members and state legislators receive compensation, but most would tell you their per-hour wage is less than a pittance.

Every public servant knows disagreement is part of the job description, but disagreeability doesn't have to be. If we want the best people representing us, we owe them our best behavior.

That doesn't mean ignoring a bad decision, but it does mean addressing it in an adult and respectful manner. That doesn't mean not arguing for or against a policy, but it does mean not attacking a person -- verbally or otherwise. 

No one runs for office expecting to please everyone. But no one runs for office to place themselves, their family or their livelihood in harm's way. 

Neither the left nor the right has a monopoly on good ideas or good people. Public servants deserve the benefit of the supposition they are trying to do what they believe is right.

Treating elected officials -- and everyone else in a civil setting -- with respect gives us the best chance to be represented by good people and find good solutions to the hard issues that divide us.


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