The Rosenmeier Center, American Association of University Women and the League of Women Voters, a non-profit, grassroots,
bi-partisan coalition, recently announced Civility 2000, an area effort to inspire clean and issue-oriented political campaigns in this fall's elections in central Minnesota.
The coalition will invite candidates for public office to sign a pledge to practice campaign principles of honesty, fairness, respect, responsibility and compassion.
The purpose of Civility 2000 is to encourage political candidates to stick to the issues that shape public policy. Through this focus, Civility 2000 will result in voters who are more aware of policy issues, rather than the negative, attack-ad campaign strategies that demean representative democracy, and the political process will be less acrimonious.
The coalition's effort is patterned after the Project on Campaign Conduct, an East Coast initiative attempting to change public understanding of acceptable campaign practices.
John Erickson, Rosenmeier Center board president and a Brainerd attorney, said the coalition feels there is a direct relationship between the past decade's trend of negative campaigns and the public's distrust of government.
"It's understandable that many potential voters don't vote," said Erickson, "because they want to make an educated vote, yet they don't have enough facts on which to select one candidate over another and because they are alienated by the political process. It seems like we hear more about the faults of one's opponent rather than about the policies and principles of a candidate."
Shirley McConnell, a co-sponsor representing the League of Women Voters, said, "We feel that each candidate is responsible for the fair and ethical practices, by or on the behalf, of his or her campaign. In other words, candidates will be asked publicly to repudiate subtle deceptions and half-truths that third persons or entities may issue in their behalf. It's a matter of personal responsibility."
Civility 2000 will ask candidates to sign a clean campaign ethics pledge form. The public will be informed which candidates have signed the pledge. Then, the Civility 2000 coalition and the public will monitor candidates' advertisements, news releases, media interviews and public speeches. Those public office candidates who followed the concepts of the Civility 2000 pledge will be recognized at the conclusion of the campaign season.
Area political races that will be included are House districts 12A and 12B, Senate District 12, Crow Wing County commissioners, Morrison County commissioners, the Little Falls School District and the city council races in Brainerd, Baxter, Little Falls, Pequot Lakes, Nisswa, Crosslake and Crosby-Ironton.
For more information on Civility 2000, contact John Erickson at 829-7852, Tim Houle at 632-0293 or Shirley McConnell at 963-2328. For more information about the Rosenmeier Center for State and Local Government, visit its Web site at www.clc.mnscu.edu/users/rosenmeier.
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