Tucson mayor touts his 'civility accord' as antidote for partisan vitriol
Tucson, Ariz., Mayor Robert Walkup forwards his 'civility accord' at an annual meeting of 230 mayors, saying 'civility must begin with us.'
Office of U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords/AP/FIle
The shooting touched off a debate about political civility, and Mayor Walkup sought to have mayors take the lead. The accord, to be signed at mayors' annual legislative conference in Washington calls on mayors to â€śstrive to understand differing perspectivesâ€ť and to â€śchoose words carefully,â€ť among other things.
After the shooting, US Sen. Mark Udall (D) of Colorado proposed having Democrats and Republicans sit together during President Obamaâ€™s State of the Union address. And Americans overwhelmingly describe the tone of political discourse as negative, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
But in some respects, a civility movement could find more traction at the local level than in Congress, says Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University in New Jersey.
â€śMost mayors have to deal with rather practical issues â€“ garbage removal, snow removal â€“ and itâ€™s not the stuff that makes for great traumatic rhetoric," he says. â€śRepublican mayors canâ€™t always be staunch conservatives, because they have to deal with Democrats to get stuff done."
"At the local level you might have a little more civility but not because of the accord and the movement, but because of the nature of the job," he adds.
Brownsville, Texas, Mayor Pat Ahumada, a fisherman for 25 years, says being brash helped him become mayor â€śbecause you deal with some crazies along the way.â€ť But the civility accord has "caused me to pause and try to tone it down a little,â€ť he says.
It's a start, he adds, but the mayors' behavior won't change overnight. â€śIâ€™m very blunt. And thatâ€™s not going to change."
For his part, Tucson's Walkup thinks mayorships are the place to start.
â€śWe believe that because mayors are the elected leaders closest to the people, restoration of civility must begin with us,â€ť Walkup said Wednesday after observing a moment of silence for the victims of the Arizona shooting. â€śWe are in a unique position to have a positive impact on behavior â€“ individual and collective â€“ and to lead by example."