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Conference Aims To Restore Respect in San Diego Civic Dialogue

March 17, 2014 2 p.m.

Carl Luna, Political Science Professor, Mesa College

Scott Lewis, CEO, Voice of San Diego

Related Story: Conference Aims To Restore Respect in San Diego Civic Dialogue


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: This is KPBS Midday Edition I am Maureen Cavanaugh. Our top story on Midday Edition, There was a time in America so they say the one politicians and the public could disagrees strongly that maintain respect for their opponents. It's easy to look at our present of the dialogue and conclude that those days are gone. Aquatic a lot of public discourse has degenerated into shouting matches and campaigns have defaulted to attack ads. For the third year in a row the group of organizations are coming together to try to bring back civility into the weight that we talk about politics, the third annual restoring respect conference happening this week at the University of San Diego, Carl Luna returns as the moderator of the event and he joins us now, hi Carl. Scott Lewis is a panelist at the clock conference, good to see you. As a political science professor, was there ever really a time in American politics were partitioned and more simply than they do now?

CARL LUNA: You can say that to a degree, we always had problems in American politics with incivility on the fringes and violence, back in the 60s politicians could agree on politics and go golf together and agree on good intentions but I'm assuming time we had more civil lights civil rights violence nurse going on, we have managed to get the political violence of the society we still have issues on Fox and cable and MSNBC and demonization has replaced debate because it sells ticket's and negative advertising is more effective because it is easier and cheaper to do, and this made it harder to find middle ground where there is no ground to be found.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: We just went through a mayoral election in a like to ask you both your take on how civil the candidates work during that campaign.

CARL LUNA: I was part of an initiative to rate advertisements and we look at the overall ads given out on the side and they were coming in somewhere from the C- of the range there a couple of ease our scale that we use there were just positive messages about candidates but their words a preponderance from the independent campaigns supporting David Alvarez that were simply negative attack ads which consorted distorted records and didn't try to show where there is room to grow work on ground or advanced paths of policies, I give the all overall campaign C- on overall scale.

SCOTT LEWIS: I think that I don't like to compare negative with uncivil, I think there's a great place for negative advertising and critiquing of an opponents position and even demolishing that opponents position, think where crosses the line is where brings their encrypt integrity into question or their motivations or expects it to something nefarious without any proof or justification or in a passive aggressive almost cowardly way, and when I look back at this last election, there's definitely a lot of basic emotions that they're trying to push, resentment and fear, and on the left the labor and others were focusing focusing on the fear Park, that Kevin Faulconer does not support basic aggressive things and also he is an old white guy who and we don't want more white guys in charge.But clearly the most brutal campaign was by the linking clubs supporting Kevin Faulconer and it sought to build up resentment about David Alvarez and he wanted to steal resources from some neighborhoods or deny members resources to protect his own and that could be in interpreted as his own ethnic groups or at the neighborhoods, I think that was really really awful and there are some lines that were across there between Critiquing and criticizing. Actually Crossing the line into casting suspicions and an unfounded way.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Want to follow up with the distinction between negative ads and some that were just challenging the particular pallets to politicians I review or stand on issue and go really pointedly to the heart of that, as opposed to a broad brush that is trying to paint an opponent in a certain light whether it is from fear or whatever, do you see those two as two sides of negative ads?

CARL LUNA: Most certainly like to differentiate between critical and negative ads, Google ads look at the things that matter, they look at truthful claims and relevant claims and contextually fair claims about different positions of policy and they are not based on emotion as Scott was pointing out there was a racial or ethnic connotations that, the notorious flyer that was going out that had allegedly had David Alvarez flashing gang signs. But you had on the other side when he showed Kevin Faulconer with the Learjet and how you as a tool of capitalist interest in none of those got to policies document minimum wage or Barrio Logan, you can get into a critical debate about this and this is my policies and why they're right and wrong, but natives looking at it when you're deliberately trying to rip down the other side and appeal to emotion and things that are not actually true, taking things out of context to make the other guy look bad so either his orders stay home or your sit for hours at a fear to not to vote, I would rather people vote out of hope and fear.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: And it's your contention that these negative ads did dampen voter turnout?

CARL LUNA: People were expecting 5 to 6 points higher than what turned out, you tend to see Republicans doing a better job getting their photo, we don't have a good control study of cases where there been a lack of native as put in the national level Ronald Reagan's campaigns against Carter had less native context in terms of voter analysis and the terms to send seems to be some that are sure to correlate between them and I'll think all of those negative ads help them after five months I think people were just tired of Merrill politics.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Would you think that the media contributes to the climate of stability or negative hostility that is actually in a particular political discourse?

SCOTT LEWIS: I think we're perfect, I think we are fine, no if there is any bias that the media has and I think there's obviously a tremendous structural fires, the real bias towards conflict, we do gravitate toward conflict and if there is a conflict that arises in the neighborhood or does the Council or whatever, that is a story and I believe in conflict as a productive force and I believe as anybody who's worked with me and that I love arguing and debating, and again wear crosses the line is where there is suspicions cast about your integrity or motivations and when you tour to a civil system initially willing to engage in passionate argument without going towards character assassination and I think that is what I have to preach to our employees, and what I hope to achieve in public debates and I think that the media could do a lot better to encourage productive conflict and to discourage the sort of character assassinations and frankly I could do a lot better, every but he could I look forward to this event as a chance to reflect on that.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Can you think of nuclear instances or do you hold something in your hand about a time in your professional life when maybe the was not always the best thing to say or it got out of hand or got pretty rude?

SCOTT LEWIS: Ice when I sent a tweet couple of years ago after a story broke and I was upset about some of my own personal connections to it this was called the mail and an effort to really silly him and investigate his past and the story that came out touched a nerve in me because as close to some of the people in the issues, and I name called me didn't know another way to put it, and I think everyone as you mature as a writer or politician your member the times that you speculate about a leader's motivations and when that happens to you as it has in other settings for me, you start to realize how hurtful it can be, that they don't know your motivations and when they add suspicions about them or just try to assassinate your character, that ruins any chance for advancement of the debate.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Carl, Scott gives an example of social media and injuring our dialogue and of course what we have when you see anything on the internet with the comment section and you might as well just strap yourself in and make sure You're ready for what rough rather.

CARL LUNA: I noticed that I got the biggest traffic on my site whenever we would have a controversy and you'd really had doing engage it but if I ever got into that I feel Bad after that because conflict cells and at the end of the day government is about reducing something and the benefit of civilities, this stability of our community, the perpetual campaigning and the attacks that we do it each other, a perfect perpetual horserace dogfight and in the end we don't get stuff done.

SCOTT LEWIS: I obviously adored the internet and that my life around it and obvious it is good in and put the good far outweighs the bad, we have created culture in San Diego that is in the town hall and me of made connections and had great discussions and debates and 70% of what we go through I think it's productive and there is some negativity and accusations and OF problems but I think it is utter to have all those out in an front of people to have people see each other in a better and more closely in the adjacent way and we have to get better at treating systems in a culture that demands a higher level of discussion in accountability for words.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: The restoring respect conference is the third annual conference, Carl what would you say that you've been able to achieve so far?

CARL LUNA: In the last few? Compasses we brought up the concept that this is an issue that needs discussion in this spun off additional outside things that function and we have formed a group of civic talk which brings foundations and universities together to discuss ways that they can improve delivered to mosque democracy and we put together a course consortium of all of the colleges and they're going to try to create centers of democracy for civic engagement on that emerging the facility had review and working with the city schools and we're doing a workshop after our act on Friday to look at ways that you can actually do article steps to do this, to build a culture of civility. Will be looking at ideas like that within the campus of civility, we've raise the dialogue and got other events going and get together once a year and talk about how you want to do things in people want to network and do things they want to do is to have a practical impact in time. We had a mayor like Bob Filner come in and crash our event and give talk about civility and then go into a public event and being uncivil. Who want to bring more people into a local dialogue in a civil way and hold people accountable for not being civil.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Heavily got to the peak place where people need instruction in how to pick place arguments they don't get a response and immediate response that is uncivil and start an argument, do people know these days how to actually disagree without being disagreeable?

CARL LUNA: I don't think we have as many good models out there as we used to have, and people have a quiet reason to debate.

SCOTT LEWIS: A couple of things we have to work as a staff of the time to talk about how to engage productively and even to chat not chastise but think of things that we've crossed across the line and pull back on and I reject this notion that there was a golden age of stability, people used to shoot each other over debates in the 60s not only was there civil rights violence but there's also intellectual violence against academics and against the equal housing work, violence all of the time about politics and about discussions and just because the Congress got along because they were homogenous and went into the background ends smoke cigars and got it done does not mean it was more civil, means that there is a culture that was not transit nontransparent that was able to work together plays on the street there was violence and heart of it things happening, I think that we are progressing through this human experiment and every deck decade we get better at understanding each other and develop new things that hurt each other.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Is held at this conference is going to be extremely interesting, this third annual restoring respect conferences this Friday at UST's peace and justice center, the conversation continues at on Saturday at the League of Women Voters event, tell us about that.

CARL LUNA: They are costing an event at Mesa College from 9 o'clock to 2 o'clock and if you want information on it though have several speakers and I will be one of them. You can go to, League of Women Voters North County and they have all of the information for registration at that rate workshop on Saturday.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I will make it easy for listeners and they can come to the website find a link. I've been speaking with Carl Luna and Scott Lewis, thank you very much.