Published in the Chanhassen Villager September 14, 2012.
By Bob Roepke
It is interesting that, as we’ve discussed civility in how public conducts itself as it interacts with public officials, and how important this civility is to building healthy communities, it didn’t register that we’d have to insist on civility on the side of the public leadership itself.
It didn’t register that we’d have public leaders who seemingly demonstrated a lack of respect in a public meeting and then seemed insensitive to their conduct.
It didn’t register because it is simply the most basic, the most fundamental, requirement of those who serve, to bring an attitude and a basic value of valuing every person and respecting each person with whom they come in contact.
The article in the Aug. 30 newspaper about Rep. Ernie Leidiger and his behavior at a League of Women Voters-sponsored meeting, was disturbing to read. His follow-up editorial explaining himself was equally concerning.
My comments are not about the pros and cons of the Voter ID amendment. I understand how people could react when positions are taken on important issues, and how emotions can rise and debate escalate.
My comments in no way address the need to support or not support the amendment. I realize this is a critical question for our state and our county, and I do have an opinion on the issue. I’m not here to debate those pros and cons. Rather my comments relate to an elected officials behavior as an elected official, a representative of the people, as described in the article.
In this age, where we are concerned about bullying in schools, we read a description of a public official that was bullying in nature. And this bullying identity has nothing to do with what his position was on this issue or what party he represents, rather it is based on his behavior and his conduct and that is the concern.
Our expectation should be that no matter what side you land on in a debate, be respectful of everyone’s opinion. I don’t believe there is any excuse for a lack of civility in any debate.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan group that, from my experience, works hard to help inform the electorate about those who serve or want to serve as elections approach and also study issues to better understand and report on those issues to the League and the community.
They will take a position after studying an issue, but will not support any individual or party position as they come to their conclusion. Rather it will be based on their study and analysis of the issue, so it is a nonpartisan group and effort.
The topic discussed is an emotional issue for many, and there may be the need to recognize it will create emotional reactions as issues are studied and positions presented which will require focused community education on all facets of the question or issue.
This may provide some learning for the League also as it carries out community reporting on any issue. In cases like this, we all can learn from the experience.
I was a member of the League for a period of time and I know the League promotes the community value of citizenship and they do what they can to instill that value and responsibility in all citizens. These are responsible and community-oriented people. They are made up of varied backgrounds, professions and roles. They have had members who have been school board chairs, mayors, county commissioners, professionals and nonprofessionals. Their effort deserves our respect.
Calling them a bunch of pathetic partisan hacks and lap dogs for the Secretary of State, and not just at the meeting but in his own article, is not the behavior which demonstrates basic respect.
It’s also a concern that the representative seems to lack an understanding of why this is a concern. His words demonstrate a lack of understanding or appreciation of the work of the League and a lack of respect of individuals that are trying to inform and build stronger communities.
From my perspective, this type of behavior lacks any connection to what good leadership means and what actions it requires. A requirement of good leaders is that they model the way for others and what was reported is not what we expect of quality leaders.
We must require more of those who are elected to serve the greater good of us all.
I am not a registered Democrat or a registered Republican, but I am a resident of my community and I, as do many, many others have expectations for those who serve any community, relative to their actions and behaviors.
In our community we have a core community value that says we respect others. We need to stand up and encourage those that conduct their work in support of this value and absolutely hold people accountable and expect more when it is not.
What was reported in the newspaper article should concern us all regardless of the political party or the subject matter at hand. His responsibility is a covenant our public servants have with those they serve and I truly hope Rep. Leidiger will choose to work together in a more positive manner with the League so working together they can better inform us all.
I hope that can become the end-result of this experience.
Bob Roepke is a former Chaska mayor.