Tim's Take: Should civility be a law or a suggestion?

By Tim Guidera - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - As the old saying goes, if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it to a fellow member of City Council.

Actually, that could have been a new law here had Mayor Johnson been successful in adding an amendment to Council's Ethics Ordinance that Savannah's aldermen play nice together.

''We've been having some turbulent times lately,'' said the mayor. "And we want to make sure that we present the best decorum possible.''

That makes sense. But is a law to that effect necessary? Is it even possible to legislate civility?

Especially for a group whose job sometimes dictate that they defend opposing positions, which council did two weeks ago when they tabled the make nice amendment, after considerable arguing, of course.

"We are human beings and human beings have emotions,'' said councilwoman Mary Osborne. "And when you are passionate about something, tempers flare.''

The mayor then was simply attempting flare control, his point being it's okay to disagree, just don't get personal about it.

This reminds me of when we were kids and we'd have boxing tournaments in the backyard. One of the neighborhood dads would always stop by and tell us "fight nice.''

We didn't like hearing that. But it was probably a good suggestion.

And maybe so was the idea of council meetings not resembling a reality show.

It's just not the Savannah way.

This after all is America's most mannerly city. And council should know that. They accepted the award last month.

They just weren't so ready to accept the no bickering decree today.

"You can't make it law,'' said Councilman Clifton Jones Jr.

Ultimately, they didn't, postponing the vote again, but agreeing to make it a guideline in the rules of council rather than law of the land.

"We are going to handle it with a compromise,'' said Mayor Johnson.

Of course, had they done that more often, there wouldn't have been the need to do so when it came to courtesy.

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