Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

Opinion

June 26, 2014

A call for civility a matter of common sense

This spring, outgoing Selectwoman Mary Lyman issued a challenge to her fellow townspeople on her way out of office — show each other some respect.

Lyman, who spent more than 20 years in public service starting in 1992 on the School Committee followed by a dozen or so years as selectwoman, said the tone of civic dialogue had grown too contentious for her to bear.

Indeed, it was one of the reasons she had chosen not to seek a fifth term as selectwoman.

She recalled being yelled at, having a shopping cart pushed in her path at a grocery store, being threatened with lawsuits and being labeled along with other elected officials as “idiots.”

That type of behavior obviously is not right — or particular constructive. And no one should have to be subjected to it.

But is legislating good behavior really necessary?

The town manager seems to think so, and the Board of Selectmen happens to agree.

Last month, at the request of Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski, selectmen approved new policies that include a code of conduct for the public to follow when doing business with the town.

Among the “do’s” listed in the code are: show respect for oneself and others, avoid causing disturbances and disruptions, and use common courtesy by following the Golden Rule — “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Those who don’t follow the rules risk being banned from town offices. And violators of no-trespass orders could face arrest, although the police chief himself says he didn’t think it would ever come to that.

The fact that such a code is even necessary seems unfathomable.

As children, most of us are taught good behavior by our parents, rules of decorum that are reenforced by our teachers, coaches, Scoutmasters and spiritual leaders. We learn we are responsible for our actions and there are consequences if we misbehave.

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