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The Charles County commissioners adopted a “civility code,” by which they have vowed to operate and to which they expect members of their boards and committees to adhere when they conduct business. It also is intended to pertain to citizens who come to public meetings to participate in their government.

On the surface it sounds good. Be polite, be courteous toward others. Be respectful of other people and their opinions. But that should go without saying, and it should be the normal operating procedure without actually having to put it in writing. It is a sad reflection on how bad things have gotten. And it is not unique to Charles County either. We see the disrespect oevery day among our leaders on the national level. Look at the current debate in Congress on the country’s financial situation. Our elected officials are attacking one another and the other side’s motives, instead of tackling the problem. One would think it would be easier on the local level to get along since there are only five commissioners in the room. But that wasn’t always the case. The current board of commissioners got off to a rocky start. It seems that maybe now they have been able to figure out how to work with one another even if they don’t like one another. So with the adoption of the code, maybe they have found their solution.

It is sad, as a letter-writer pointed out this week, that the commissioners had to take time out from the business of running the government to adopt a policy on how people should conduct themselves when performing their duties. Common courtesy is something that we’re taught from the time we start interacting with other people. The early lessons deal with sharing and being nice. As one gets older, the lessons move on to respecting others and their opinions, even if we don’t agree with them.

The disrespect that is being seen today is astounding. It is most disturbing, though, when it creeps into the local arena. It started with the current board when it first took office and it seeped over to the planning commission during the past several months. It was getting out of hand and, as ridiculous as a civility code might sound, it was apparent something needed to be done.

The commissioners were getting a lot of flak for the planning commission’s continuous outbursts that became commonplace at those meetings. The commissioners aren’t saying openly that the new civility code has anything to do with any particular group or incidents, but we’re not sure that is the case. Something had to be done. The new code is their solution.

The commissioners now acknowledged that there is a problem and that everyone needs to work together. The conduct of both boards has been downright embarrassing. As trivial as it might sound, if the code brings some decorum back to these meetings then that is a good thing. It is a step in the right direction.