Guest Opinions

Boise City Club project to explore civility, problem-solving

The City Club of Boise was founded 20 years ago by Dottie Stimpson and her husband, Ed. Dottie’s motto, “Nothing happens until people start talking,” is particularly appropriate as the club launches its year-long Civility Project on Nov. 4 at the 20th anniversary celebration.

The club has upheld Dottie’s motto over the last two decades as well as its own mission statement by promoting an open civil dialogue on the important topics facing both the city and the state. Whether it has been learning about pre-K funding by other states and a discussion of its potential impact in Idaho or a discussion on the U.S. Federal Refugee Resettlement Program, which has placed more than 1,000 refugees in the state, the club has not been shy in tackling issues where people tend to have strong feelings.

It has done this by encouraging people to listen, learn and talk about them; not to yell and argue, but to have a real dialogue. And the club sets the bar high by encouraging discussion, including disagreement, but has made it very clear that all disagreements are expected to be civil.

The agenda for the coming year is going to start many new discussions as the City Club explores the subject of civility and its impact on everything from academics to the courts to philanthropy. It is also going to create a unique dialogue as people explore how Boise and Idaho go about solving problems. It is not expected to create harmony on the issues — nor is that the main purpose.

Rather, they are seeking to educate people and start discussions. No one person or group has all the right answers. The club’s carefully thought out program will provide people with the opportunity to hear from all sides and to identify areas where they can collaborate moving forward.

As part of the yearlong Civility Project, the club is also sponsoring the National Institute for Civil Discourse’s Next Generation program for the Idaho Legislature. The program was created with the idea that the state Legislature is often the training ground for future members of congress — a point the Idaho Congressional Delegation highlights — and helping them learn ways to work through issues together in a civil and productive manner.

The day after the 20th anniversary gala, the club will host a workshop for the bipartisan leadership of the Idaho House and Senate. This workshop will also lay the foundation for the January Next Generation meeting, which for the first time will involve the entire state Legislature.

The city of Boise and the club are to be commended for their diligent work on providing an open, civil forum for discussion on the issues of the day, and for highlighting the importance of civility in today’s world by creating a year-long agenda around the issue. They are setting a marker that other cities will hopefully follow, for it takes all of us, working together, to move forward in a positive measure to make Boise and our nation a better, more productive and civil place for our children and grandchildren.

Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, lives in Washington, D.C. The institute has offices in Washington, Arizona and Ohio.

City Club’s 20 years

City Club of Boise will launch a yearlong project focused on civil discourse with a 20th anniversary dinner at 6 p.m. Nov. 4 at the Steuckle Sky Center at Boise State.

Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer, executive director of the National Institute for Civil Discourse, will offer the keynote address.

The event is open to all. Cost is $50 per person. To register, call 208-371-2221.