Roosevelt Society 7

Among those on hand at the Aug. 12, 2017, gathering of the Roosevelt Society of the Arlington County Democratic Committee were (from left) County Board member Libby Garvey; County Board candidate Erik Gutshall; Commissioner of Revenue (and event host) Ingrid Morroy; County Board Chairman Jay Fisette; and state Sen. Adam Ebbin (D-30th).

One member of the Arlington County Board is making a concerted effort to remind residents of the need for civility in public discourse.

“I hope we continue to be respectful,” board member Libby Garvey said at a recent meeting. “Everybody is of goodwill and trying hard.”

Her comments weren’t in response to any particular incident – the meeting in question was well-attended but not particularly rancorous. But Garvey said she has noted that, on contentious issues, those with an opinion frequently are digging in their heels.

Perhaps the current poster child for contentious issue-du-jour in Arlington is the battle over open space, where proponents of additional fields square off against those who think field space already is excessive. Each side has trotted out enough reams of statistics in recent months to confound the average resident.

And that’s just one.

“On every issue, not only are there two sides, but two sets of facts . . . battling facts, dueling studies and warring experts,” Garvey said. “There are a lot of accusations that get thrown around, back and forth.”

Garvey recently got her hands on a copy of “Rules of Civility & Decent Behavior in Company and Conversation” by none other than George Washington. While some of the rules are obscure, outdated or simply self-evident, others continue to have relevance to the modern day, including “Think before you speak; pronounce not imperfectly nor bring out your words too hastily, but orderly and distinctly.”

(The complete list of 110 rules can be found at

(2) comments


Yes, civility is important. The concern is this comment: " those with an opinion frequently are digging in their heels." If Arlington Citizens have no way of engaging in a fact based conversation to reach a deeper understanding of the issue - this will be a perenial problem. The reality is that the current engagement program in Arlington is a series of one way thoughts. Fill out a survey (thoughts to the CB), listen to a presentation (thoughts to the residents), open mic (thoughts to the CB), wrap up session (thoughts to the residents). That's not engagement. Engagement is a rich dialog that embraces disagreement to get to a richer, better outcome and it is sorely missing in Arlington.

Take the PSMP draft, for instance. A group of well intentioned citizens are throwing a flag "heh, there isn't any data in the PSMP documentation to support the recommendations - can you provide it?" First they were stone walled with no answers. Then they had to FOIA and cull through the data. Now, they are being deemed uncivil - when they are advocating for ALL Arlingtonians - because noone will engage in any dialog with them and try to find a better outcome.

The most interesting part that instead of sharing any data or facts the County Staff have dug in and decided to make villians out of the people who are asking questions instead of just saying "heh, we don't have data in this spot because..... xyz" At least have the courtesy of responding to the issue raised. Oh right, that's civility.


I applaud Libby for tackling this issue, but before officially confirming the head of her committee, it would be wise of her to scratch the surface to see if that person doesn't have a widespread reputation for incivility towards residents and fellow commissioners. It could be quite the irony and embarrassment to Libby and to the process.

I am a bit puzzled by Scott's article, where he is the lumping of "incivility" of various residents with opposing views. Scott should provide some examples maybe of the name-calling, online and social media smear campaigns against fellow residents. These people have forgotten that they are no longer on the sports field or in the locker room and they carry that dialogue into the public domain.

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