Ridgefield first selectman distributes 20-page guide to urge 'civility' among public officials

Ridgefield Town Hall file photo

Ridgefield Town Hall file photo

FILE PHOTO

RIDGEFIELD — First Selectman Rudy Marconi is distributing a new guidebook he has developed, which he hopes will promote "civility" among those who serve the town.

Marconi said in creating the guide, the town's goal "is to work harder to discuss more about compassion, about civility, about respect for all of us regardless of our perspectives in life, and how we should listen more and talk less."

The approximately 20-page pamphlet, called "Information and Guidelines for Boards, Committees and Commissions," will be distributed to all  appointed and elected officials of the town.

The book includes topics such as attendance, meetings, public participation, legal opinions and executive session. 

He said the purpose of the guide is to ensure officials demonstrate respect, fairness, consideration and courtesy to others and act and speak with honesty and integrity. 

He referenced a recent incident when Kay Gelfman, who is a member of the town's Economic & Community Development Committee, made a comment that sparked outrage from many in the community. She commented that an award the committee was giving out shouldn’t be named after “an old white guy.” Some residents called for her resignation. 

Marconi also spoke of other town board members making posts on their personal Facebook page, saying while someone's Facebook is their personal First Amendment right ... "we ask for the spirit of cooperation and understanding."

"People who volunteer or people who are elected understand that they are the face of Ridgefield in the public," Marconi said. "So, if they're going to post something on social media and it is contentious or accusatory, they need to realize that as a member of the board committee or commission, that they are representing the town and the town would not agree with that."

Marconi's concerns regarding civility echo officials across the state and country. Recently, the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities began circulating a civility pledge asking local officials to vow to do their part to help foster respectful, civil engagement in their communities. Since then, municipal leaders from nearly 60 cities and towns have signed on.

Another initiative promoting civility Marconi is a part of is Compassionate Ridgefield, which is a nonprofit group of Ridgefield residents who promote and encourage respect and compassion toward one another. 

"Born out of concerns about the high rates of stress, depression, and bullying among our youth, the incivility and hostility on all social media platforms, as well as the increase in hate vandalism in our area, we feel deeply that Ridgefield is OUR town and that, TOGETHER, we can do something to “shift” the culture," the nonprofit's website states. "Our ultimate goal is to create a Ridgefield where every person — no matter their age, ethnicity, gender, abilities, religion, political, or sexual orientation — feels welcome and respected. Compassionate responsiveness can change our world, one person and one act at a time."