Town Manager Calls For More Civility When Discussing “Hot Button” Issues In Wilmington

WILMINGTON, MA — Below is a message from Town Manager Jeff Hull, published in the latest Town Topics newsletter:

As residents receive this edition of Town Topics, another holiday season has drawn to a close. During the lead-up to the holidays, feelings of giving, kindness and good cheer have, for many, been in the air. As I prepare to step into a new year, one of my goals is to exercise a greater measure of civility. Treating people with respect, as we would like to be treated, seems obvious. For a variety of reasons, civility is more challenging than ever.

Society appears more accepting of harsh rhetoric that we direct at one another. Main stream media is drawn to distributing the latest barbs while social media platforms have created “safe havens” for us to “vent” increasingly hostile verbal attacks directed at one another. Incivility occurs across the spectrum of our daily lives whether driving to work, shopping at the grocer, watching our children’s sporting event or during the public meetings.

In September 2018, the library led a month long effort entitled “Revive Civility.” Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer, Executive Director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, was a featured speaker. She cited results from an annual poll conducted by an international public relations firm that noted 75% of respondents believe that incivility in America is in crisis and that 83% of respondents agreed that incivility leads to intolerance in free speech. You can find her presentation at https://www.wilmlibrary.org/revive-civility/.

Wilmington, like other communities, has confronted controversial issues over the years. The most recent “hot button” issues were proposals for a gas station/convenience store on West Street and a substance abuse detoxification facility on Middlesex Avenue. In each case, passions ran high and the communications turned hostile. Focusing on the facts can be challenging. Attacking someone’s character or motivates can sometimes appear to be the most effective way to make one’s point. But at what cost? Relationships should not dissolve because we cannot agree to disagree.

As we begin a new year, I hope you will join me in identifying ways to a bit more patient, a bit more tolerant, a bit more understanding, and a bit more forgiving in the moment. In the words of President John F. Kennedy: “Civility is not a sign of weakness.”

(NOTE: The above information is from the latest Town Topics Newsletter.)

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