More civil public service

Lake Elmo officials to publicly pledge peace

Civil discourse will become more than just words in Lake Elmo.

City staff, council, commission and community members will sign a pledge and make a public commitment to serve the city in a civil manner at 6:30 May 21 outside City Hall.

The pledge-signing is part of a city-wide “Speak Your Peace” campaign to boost and improve civic engagement and cultivate a governing environment conducive to effective and informed decision-making, according to city spokeswoman Alyssa MacLeod.
“We want to make Lake Elmo a model of civility. Our leaders are going to set an example,” she said.

MacLeod said the initiative started with a resolution passed April 16 by the council.
Speak Your Peace is an effort to steer public comments toward debate without personal attacks, said City Administrator Dean Zuleger.

“In this day and age, it seems that it is the tendency for public debate to gravitate to the negative and to the personal,” he said. “Rather than a healthy exchange of ideas, folks go to their corners and come out swinging. Speak Your Peace is an effort to engage in spirited, thoughtful debate without attacking each other. It really focuses on respect for everyone’s ideas as part of making good decisions for the community.”

Although the city has a past reputation for contentious council meetings, MacLeod said no one issue prompted city officials to start the Speak Your Peace campaign.
“We want to set a tone to make an encouraging environment so people feel free to engage in their community,” she said.

MacLeod said Speak Your Peace: The Civility Project uses nine tools to promote civility and offers training and resources to develop civil communications skills. She added that the nine tools are paying attention, listen, be inclusive, don’t gossip, show respect, be agreeable, apologize, offer constructive criticism and take responsibility.

“Not only do they remind people to show good communication skills, but to apologize and make amends,” she said. “All of it builds mutual respect where ideas can flow freely.”

Another goal of the program is keeping discussion of issues less emotional, MacLeod said.

“It’s taking the emotion out of things. Everyone is entitled to their opinions and thoughts. It encourages the voices of all are heard.”

MacLeod said city officials hope the Speak Your Peace effort show people how things are changing in the city.

“Our reputation is getting better. Now, bringing this to the forefront is that we’re making a public effort to change,” she said. “This is more of a personal effort. It’s taking responsibility for their actions.”

And MacLeod said the effort is an attempt to show Lake Elmo residents that City Hall is “a place open to opinions.”

“Your voice matters. We want to hear from you. All of it builds mutual respect where ideas can flow freely.”

In fact, MacLeod said residents can sign on to the program May 21.

“If this is something they feel strongly about, they can come sign the pledge,” she said.