About the Author

Scott Neal began work as Edina City Manager in 2010. Prior to joining the City staff, he served as City Manager of Eden Prairie since 2002. He has also held the positions of City Administrator for the communities of Northfield, Minn.; Mt. Pleasant, Iowa; and Norris, Tenn. Neal was the first City Manager in Minnesota, and one of the first in the country, to share his experiences and observations in city government in a blog and has traveled internationally to speak about his experiences with leadership blogging. Follow Scott Neal on Twitter. @edinacityman


Scott Neal, February 14, 2013 | Posted in Scott Neal

There is a larger societal discussion going on in America today about public civility.  The argument generally seems to circle not around the concept of civility, but more around what it means to be uncivil or rude or a bully.  There are times when the discussion of civility, which I believe is important, sometimes supercedes the discussion of the public policy issue that was the point of the discussion in the first place.

I think that most people would agree that the use of profanity in a public policy discussion, especially when it is directed against another participant in that discussion, is uncivil.  But what about sarcasm, humor and low level snarkyness.  Would most people agree that those communications styles are uncivil?  I don’t know.

We’re addressing this issue right now at the staff level over a couple of discussion threads going on at our Speak Up, Edina public engagement tool on our website.  Check it out.  I’d be interested in some feedback on this issue in this space.  You don’t have to use examples in your feedback.  Just tell me what you think of the general level of civility there.

More later…

6 Responses to Civility

  1. David Frenkel says:

    From Government Technology Magazine:

    What Does Your Lawyer Want You to Know About Social Media?


  2. Liz says:

    There should not be any censorship of posts unless there is a profanity. We are not China or Iran – we are in the USA!

  3. Tom LaForce says:

    Brock, I’m a fan of both fairness and accuracy. I need to correct the statement that I’m posting pictures of houses. There are not pictures of multiple properties on PIE. I’ve posted a picture of one house, a house that is currently empty and will be torn down. I plan on posting pictures of the redevelopment process for this one property only. It’s not my intention to start snapping photos of houses all over town.

    Since you are a reader of PIE, perhaps you missed the following post that describes this effort. https://www.facebook.com/PoliticsInEdina/posts/10151736214454951

  4. Susan says:

    Some wit is good and can be entertaining. In these recent posts, it’s not witty or entertaining. It’s painfully unpleasant, mean spirited, rude and incessant piling on. These clumsy, failed attempts at sarcasm are crude and even vulgar and have the effect of reducing participation by others.

    There are people will always use public forums as a way to somehow show off their imagined wit, perhaps not realizing or caring that they shut down discussions. Or they like to shut it down. It’s their power trip? It is effective at shutting down discussions. Who needs the hassle?

    They are not engaging in a discussion, they are performing or attacking. It is the role of a moderator to provide, promote, and encourage a welcoming discussion space. They can do this by moderating posts at various levels or restricting certain posters or contacting them privately to advise them of expected behavior and invite their suggestions about how to improve discussions.

    It’s also a good idea for posters to refuse to engage with vulgar, crude satirical posters. Maybe then they will go somewhere else, and the city discussion zone can be free of their unhelpful, negative, discussion ending inputs.

  5. Floyd Grabiel says:

    One idea behind the First Amendment is that the expression bad ideas is better handled by the expression of good ideas. Suppression, aka censorship is anathema to a productive exchange in the public sphere. By who’s definition will we define “snarkyness?” You, or me? If we are going to become snarky czars, then with all respect, I prefer it be me. Otherwise, let people post so long as the post is not obscene (we know it when we see it) and let the discussion weed out the snark perpetrator.

  6. Tom LaForce says:

    In general sarcasm and snarkiness doesn’t help. I think most of us know when we are doing it and could easily enough make a different choice.

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