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Fining politicians? Probably no cure for incivility
Sick of incivility during board meetings, a Nashua alderman has proposed a $10 fine for any alderman who violates the board’s code of conduct. And — presto! — we have found a way to fully fund all of Manchester’s desired public services without raising taxes!
Imagine it — every time Manchester Mayor Ted Gatsas and an alderman go after each other during a meeting, the Fine Meter starts clicking. An aide dressed like a bellhop at a fancy hotel (to maintain the image of sophistication and decorum) hits a button on the Fine Meter every time an insult, snide remark or other uncivil exclamation flies from the mouth of an alderman or the mayor. The city could hire all the teachers it wants without a tax increase. What an idea!
Alas, that is about as pie-in-the-sky as the notion that a fine — the rules and use of which will be controlled by politicians — will put an end to incivility on elected boards.
Nashua Alderman Paul Chasse Jr., who wants the fine, our correspondent reports, seems to have his heart in the right place. Others would not. Once a fine is on the books, the majority on a board would use it to embarrass and even silence members of the minority. We have already seen elected boards in New Hampshire impose rules forbidding minority members from speaking in opposition to policies agreed to by the majority. A fine system would give the majority a tool with which to further harass the minority.
Incivility is a real problem on elected boards and in the Legislature in New Hampshire. It is one of the reasons better candidates don’t run for office. It is understandable that an elected official in his frustration would seek a way to reduce it. A fine, though it has some appeal, is probably not the most advisable method.
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