Setting an example in leadership

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If all the Washington infighting is giving you headaches by day and nightmares when you should be sleeping peacefully, we have a suggestion.

Change your focus.

While we should never expect nor want complete agreement in local government - only differing views respectfully expressed lead to effective change - it’s kind of nice when our local politicians rise well above their federal counterparts.

Political civility throughout Kootenai County right now deserves a solid A, just as Washington, D.C., torn asunder by blind partisanship on both sides of the aisle, weighs in as an abject failure. But we’re not going in that direction today. Instead, we’re focusing on home, where peace and quiet generally prevail.

It isn’t always that way. Almost exactly four years ago, Coeur d’Alene looked a lot like our nation’s capital does today. The rampant conflicts boiled into a front-page story with a Coeur d’Alene dateline that opened this way:

“The longest-tenured city councilman [Ron Edinger, more than 40 years] said he has never served on a council where arguing has been so commonplace.”

Gee. Sound familiar?

At the time, the Coeur d’Alene City Council often featured disrespectful exchanges, sometimes direct personal slams, between two factions during public meetings. Councilman Woody McEvers observed that part of the tension came from the city getting criticized with inaccurate information that filters its way to meetings via online discussions.

Again from the March 30, 2013 story by Tom Hasslinger:

“Blogs, online posts, comments at the end of stories: Discussions during city meetings often mention online threads where those who comment aren’t required to leave their names and facts can get twisted while opinions can run hot.”

The Press has tried to help, eliminating anonymous comments on cdapress.com. City spokesman Sam Taylor has made a difference, too, often responding to false or exaggerated claims, or simply answering citizens’ questions.

There’s no regulator on how hot opinions can run these days, and maybe what we’re observing now is merely a relative calm before the next storm. In spring 2013, Coeur d’Alene and surrounding communities were struggling with mandated, tremendously expensive upgrades to water and sewer systems - some $36 million for Coeur d’Alene alone. That maddening development, which forced perhaps the nation’s most stringent wastewater quality standards on Kootenai County communities, continues today, as our recent story about $3,800 assessments to Hayden Lake residents attested. Yet the political leaders of these communities are somehow staying above the fray.

Maybe it all comes down to keeping service to citizens as top priority, above political ideologies or petty disagreements.

And maybe it’s a page from the local playbook that could be emulated by some in positions of far greater power who really should know better.

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