Rules for Civil Discourse

Rules for Civil Discourse

Applying to City Council what may not have been learned in kindergarten.

City Council has now passed rules regarding citizen and elected official behavior in public meetings that are held in council chambers. Lest anyone forget them, they will be posted for all to see in a prominent location.

“We discussed this as part of our strategic planning process and now we have done something about it,” said Mayor William D. Euille.

THE RULES STEM from the last legislative hearing of June and City Council’s last public hearing in that same month. At the public hearing, a member of the public threw a large document at a staff member and a council member engaged in a heated discussion with another member of the public, which resulted in both the council member and the citizen being asked to behave more appropriately by the mayor. At the last legislative meeting, a citizen stood up in the middle of a council discussion and began shouting at the members. A council member got off the dais and led the citizen from the chamber, apologizing for her behavior when she returned.

“Things were sometimes getting to a level that is not acceptable,” Euille said. “Now we have guidelines and everyone will be expected to adhere to them.”

After some discussion, the following guidelines were adopted:

1. Treat everyone with respect and courtesy

2. Do your homework – Be prepared and be familiar with the docket

3. Express your ideas and opinions in an open and helpful manner

4. Be respectful of others’ time by being clear and concise in your comments and/or questions

5. demonstrate honesty and integrity in your comments and actions

6. Focus on the issues before the decision making body – Avoid personalizing issues

7. Listen and let others express their ideas and opinions

8. If a decision is made with which you do not concur, agree to disagree and/or use appropriate means of civil and civic recourse, and move on.

Adopted by the Alexandria City Council on Oct. 12, 2004.

Vice mayor Redella S. “Del” Pepper objected to the last guideline. “That sounds like we’re telling people to take us to court,” she said. It passed anyway and she agreed to disagree.