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Opinion >  Column

Eye on Boise: Summit eyes elevating civility in Idaho’s public discourse

BOISE – The “Idaho Civility Summit” wrapped up on a positive note last week, with participants including elected officials, civic leaders and members of the press backing several moves to enhance civil discourse in the state, including additional education and training in the schools and a possible civility pledge and formation of more City Clubs around the state.

“The incivility that is rampant in our national media and political environment is seeping into Idaho, and these Idaho leaders have expressed they want to do something about it,” said Carolyn Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse at the University of Arizona. “I think Idaho is in a position to model for other states both short-term and long-term actions that can be taken to ensure civility and effective public decision-making.”

The center led civility training for the entire Idaho Legislature this year, the first time it’s worked with an entire state legislature at once; it’s now preparing to do the same thing in Arkansas.

Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, the Senate assistant majority leader, was among those participating in the Civility Summit, which ran for all or parts of three days last week. He said he came away “encouraged and energized.”

“The more we can do to kind of tone down the negative rhetoric and let people have a voice, the more likely we are to get people together and focused on common solutions, so it becomes a win-win, instead of just a win for one side or the other,” Winder said.

Like many at the summit, Winder said he’s concerned that incivility drives many away from the public arena, when more, not fewer, voices are needed for all in the state to be represented.

The summit, which drew attendees from Idaho Falls, Twin Falls and the Treasure Valley, was sponsored by the City Club of Boise and Boise State University, and was held on the BSU campus. The City Club of Boise is in the midst of a yearlong “civility project” this year that includes an array of activities.

The City Club of Boise was established in 1995, and has as its slogan, “Nothing happens until people start talking.” The club has more than 600 members.

Idaho Falls started its own City Club a decade ago and it’s been going strong ever since.

Lukensmeyer closed the summit with a slide showing a quote from Senate President Pro-Tem Brent Hill, who was the summit’s keynote speaker on its first evening.

“In a political world where shrill voices and personal attacks get lots of attention,” Hill said, “we need to be reminded that mutual respect and civility are not only the most effective ways to govern, but also the most beneficial ways to interact with our fellow human beings.”

Otter names new member

to Board of Education

Gov. Butch Otter has named Andrew Scoggin, an Albertsons executive from Boise, to replace Moscow resident Bill Goesling on the state Board of Education. The two other finalists for the appointment were former Sen. John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, the former chairman of the Senate Education Committee; and Adm. John Grossenbacher, former director of Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho.

“Andy’s wealth of knowledge and service from the private, public and nonprofit sectors will benefit Idaho’s state Board of Education,” Otter said in a statement. “I look forward to Andy’s work with the board, and I know he will help continue the positive trajectory of our education system here in Idaho.”

Scoggin holds both bachelor’s and law degrees from Brigham Young University and has worked for Albertsons since 1993, where he is executive vice president of human resources, labor relations, public relations and government affairs. He’s also held leadership roles in several charitable and community organizations, including a homeless shelter, the Boise Philharmonic and Idaho Business for Education.

Goesling’s term expired June 30.

Labrador: ‘Nothing against

the Muslim religion’

A constituent wearing a “Promise Keepers” shirt questioned Rep. Raul Labrador at a town-hall meeting last week about allowing Muslim refugees into the United States, saying he read the Quran after the 9/11 attacks. The man quoted extensively from it, including, “Slay the idolaters wherever you find them.”

Labrador had this response: “I’m not going to judge every Christian on what the Old Testament says.” He noted that it has similar passages.

“As a congressman, my job is to keep you safe, right?” Labrador told a crowd of about 50 in Eagle. He said he wasn’t convinced, based on testimony to Congress from the director of the FBI, that the United States can adequately vet Syrian refugees, as it did earlier Iraqi refugees, for lack of existing records in Syria. “We cannot do it,” Labrador said. That, he said, is why he’s called for a halt on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States. “Not because I am against Muslims, because I am against keeping you less safe.” He added, “I have nothing against the Muslim religion. … If you’re coming to America … you’re coming here to become a part of the United States.”

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