Upcoming Conference | 2019 Re-Wire Policy Conference, Dec 10, 2019 Register

Boldt: The death of civility

Jim Boldt, President of Duckabush Communications/Public Affairs, wrote the following commentary for the Wire.

As has been the case for decades, the memes and subject matter of bills introduced into the legislature each winter reflect the current real or chosen issues of the time.

We have dying Orcas, failed carbon taxes, streets crawling with people collectively called “homeless,” never enough money for K-12, a mental health system that is long on mental needs and short on “health,” we need to get the “men or man” out of “women or woman” so womxn, and of course the micro-management of special purpose districts. (Did you even know that mosquito control districts could place liens on your property if you don’t pay your assessment to…what? Spray for mosquitoes? Swat mosquitoes? Could a mosquito cause a foreclosure, they can cause malaria? Anyway, RCW 17.28 and HB 1583.)

The theme that is as troubling as most is the lack of civility in our culture and evidently the need to legislate fairness, appropriate conduct, and, particularly, the relationships between men and womxn (sic) or any combination thereof. On Thursday, at the end of the intro sheet for the House was HCR 4401, a house concurrent resolution.

The lack of common sense and civil respect for each other has evidently reached a low point and caused the legislature to consider a code of conduct. You know, something like the placard in the back of most kindergarten rooms.

The HCR comes to us with considerable contemplation by not one, but two work groups. Sexual harassment has reached the point in the marble halls that we need to lay down some guidelines for those who did not hear them, were not taught them, or ignored them in the their youth.

In sales, “no” is the first step to “yes.” Folks, “NO” means “no” everywhere else.

Although sexual harassment is the indicator species of this scourge, all types of intimidation and bullying are listed as no-nos. The list of prohibited conduct will apply to all staff, legislators, and anyone in the “legislative community,” including lobbyists, we guess.

So here we are, 2019, living in the fast-moving digital age, and we have to remind people not to act like they live in caves where brute force rules and…well whatever else cave people did, and I don’t mean draw on the walls.

Oh, it gets better. Over in the Senate, SB 5550 was introduced the same day. Evidently, our elected officials are suing each other. Who pays for that? Really? Must be, the bill sets up a mandatory mediation process, which, of course, is paid for by the citizens. The people of Washington will be paying for the disagreement settlement process of our elected officials. It takes this to get them to stop suing each other? Is anyone else upset with this?

Both of these provisions are directions third graders should hear on the first day of school. Well, they don’t sue each other (but their parents will and do), but they are taught civility and respect. Right?

In a land far away and a long time ago I was a freshman (is that freshmxn now?) legislator. Our caucus had an introduction session about how to be successful. It was actually a preaching about “going along to get along,” but we also received some good advice.

I remember being told to make friends not enemies; go easy early, long sessions don’t really start until Valentine’s Day; don’t get mad, get even (which never really works in the long run); and, the men were later told, “You can go a long way here if you keep the cork in the bottle and your fly zipped up.” I don’t think we can add that as an amendment.