A year ago, seven mayors and the five members of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors agreed on a Regional Code of Civility, with a goal of raising politeness between those of differing political views. Elected officials pledged to be courteous and to respect varying opinions.
“We are in unanimous agreement on one important point: The caustic incivility across the current political landscape is damaging our democracy — not just at the national level, but also at our local level,” the group announced.
Since then, several public officials have continued to label people registered under opposing political parties or with differing viewpoints as either racist, homophobic, sexist or anti-Semitic.
At a San Luis Obispo Council of Governments meeting on June 5, during a discussion on a state required regional housing needs assessment, Gary Kirkland, a Libertarian and property rights advocate, asked the board to discount state housing requirements.
“At Nuremberg, the people who were on trial there said, ‘Well I was putting people in the gas chamber cause that was the law and that was what I had to do,’ ” Kirkland said. “That defense didn’t work in Nuremberg and it shouldn’t work here. Just because the state tells you you have to do something, doesn’t mean you have to do it.”
Supervisor Adam Hill, a Democrat, called the speaker stupid and said Kirkland needed to think twice before comparing local governments to the “annihilation of European Jews.”
“And if you don’t like being called stupid, then tell this Jew to his face what you think about him,” Hill said.
On May 21 during a San Luis Obispo City Council meeting, Republican Jeffrey Specht asked Mayor Heidi Harmon, a Democrat, if the city’s sanctuary designation was likely to increase homelessness and crime. He voiced concerns that increased numbers of illegal immigrants could reduce resources currently spent on the city’s homeless population.
Harmon responded by telling Specht his question was “inherently racist.”
On June 4, Specht returned to the council and asked Harmon if she considered Canadians and Australians racist because they believe in legal immigration. He then chastised Harmon for a lack of civility.
“When I asked what I believe was a very sensible question, you accused me of being a racist,” Specht said. “It would seem that anytime someone does not agree with you, you resort to childish name calling. What you are doing here, in my opinion, is inciting hate and violence.”