The answer? Um. No.
A plea for a more civil dialogue within this community was woven throughout Tuesday’s business forum at the West Bend Mutual Insurance Co.’s Prairie Center.
Intended as an open discussion of issues facing the West Bend School District and the city of West Bend, several times speakers returned to the theme that honest disagreements over policies are buried under vehement, hostile criticism, which is harming the community’s image.
“ D i s a g re e - ment is healthy,” said Dennis Melvin, West Bend city administrator. “The lack of civility is unhealthy.”
The perception is that West Bend as a community is polarized by contentious issues, he said, and a more civil discussion about local issues is needed.
In recent years, factions have argued over such politically hot topics as school district finances, building referendums, the district’s harassment policy, removing books from the local library’s young adult section and an affordable housing project, often drawing state and national attention.
Organized by the West Bend School District, about 30 people attended the forum, consisting of business people and representatives from the school district, city, village of Jackson and Moraine Park Technical College.
The group did manage to discuss school district and city issues.
John Duwell pointed to “anonymous electronic communications” as a source for the lose of civility in debates over local policy issues. He called it insidious.
“What you read in the blogs, what you dial up on the Internet, does not match what is happening here in the (school) district,” said Duwell, a former West Bend School Board member. He is executive vice president and chief legal officer at West Bend Mutual.
Hillman said the business community should be telling conservative commentators to “lay off on the harping criticism.”