Santa Clarita Valley elected officials were recently reminded just how public their private lives have become during this age of social media and instant messaging.
Describing on a political website the unruly crowd at Congressman Steve Knight’s town hall meeting earlier this month, an elected school board member said the group acted like a “bunch of 17-year-old spoiled brats.”
That comment didn’t sit well with some parents in the online audience, who apparently believed the adults they entrusted their children to should have higher opinions about, or perhaps expectations from, their young charges than to label them “brats.”
The school board member responded with a counter-attack and the situation devolved into the finger-pointing and counter-charging that overcome so many “debates” these days, a familiar conclusion for those who follow online “discussions” or arguments between 7-year-olds.
Most elected officials know they need to think before they talk and that the public actually holds them to higher standards of behavior than the standards to which it holds itself. Some may resent that; others value it as a measure of the public’s trust.
Unwisely uttered words or unflattering social media postings have sunk SCV politicians in the past. Former Saugus Union School District board member Stephen Winkler was officially ejected from that school board in 2014, although it wasn’t for the same reason that parents rose up and demanded action against him.
The parents’ call to eject him was due to Winkler’s online postings containing sympathetic references to Nazism and depictions of animal cruelty. The ejection itself was because the board hired a private detective who determined Winkler lived outside the district.
Many Santa Clarita City Council-watchers blame sitting Mayor Laurie Ender’s surprise election loss during the 2012 race to her campaign comments at a public meeting that Jakes Way in Canyon Country should be moved somewhere else, like Palmdale.
But there’s no denying Knight’s town hall itself was largely a raucous shouting match during which, as columnist Noah Peterson said, little (if any) meeting of the minds likely occurred.
We in The Signal Opinion section hear more and more calls lately for civility in politics, with many saying it’s the only way things can get accomplished in a democracy. Many despair at the infighting and apparently consequential gridlock in Washington, D.C.
Yet we have the opportunity for a town hall with our congressman and we don’t hold ourselves to the same level of civility we expect of our elected officials.
As our former city Parks Commissioner Kevin D. Korenthal advised on a Signal Reader Poll recently, “I have found that when people calmly discuss (their) differences of opinion and dig deep into the motivations behind them, we often find common ground.”
Let’s see if we can hold ourselves to the same standards we would like to see others exhibit.
At the same time, we stand with those who criticized the school board member’s comment. Any Santa Clarita Valley elected official who despises those he or she was elected to represent should be looking for a new job.