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How San Diego’s National Conflict Resolution Center Is Tackling Uncivil Discourse

July 12, 2017 1:31 p.m.

How San Diego’s National Conflict Resolution Center Is Tackling Uncivil Discourse


Steve Dinkin, president, National Conflict Resolution Center

Sherryl Parks, councilwoman, city of Del Mar

Related Story: How San Diego’s National Conflict Resolution Center Is Tackling Uncivil Discourse


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.

Most Americans believe civil society is getting a lot less civil. That is according to a new NPR PBS news hour pole. Seven in 10 Americans say the level of stability have gotten worse since President Trump was elected. In San Diego, the conflict resolution center has established a code of discourse to help leaders work through differences and find common ground. A city in the county has pledged to try out. Joining me is Steve president of San Diego's national conflict resolution center. Del Mar city councilmember Cheryl is here.
What did you make of the findings of this new poll? Did you think that they do have a problem?
We are experiencing a sense of instability and this is reflecting people's lack of confidence in all of the government institutions.
Besides making people feel uncomfortable what is the problem with instability in politics? What are the disadvantages?
The greatest disadvantage is the lack of dialogue because what happens in a situation is that people are reluctant to discuss some of the most contentious issues that are facing this country. If they bring up the topic, it's just going to escalate in terms of the instability and we need to have those discussions. The discussion is what is so critical to move our country forward to help us address some of the most challenging issues. People are avoiding the discussion because of fear.
To the resolution center work with the city of Delmar to come up with this code of civil discourse? We the organization with leaders from the city develop the code discourse. We had a platform and then we came to Delmar with the city leaders and they adopted and made certain changes so that it was customized and fit with the governmental structure of the city.
What are some of the provisions in the code that Del Mar adopted last year.
A major thing that we look to is to listen to one another for understanding. If you can calm yourself in the -- enough then your mind is better able to change itself. You can change your mind about an issue. That is what we have to do in order to be a government that represents our people.
Any other part of the code that stand out that is important? We showing respect. It is not just for my constituents but for my fellow councilmembers and for all those who work in the staff on Delmar. Respect is essential. We why did they feel this was necessary?
We are a town of passionate, intelligent, residents. We care a lot. We also host millions of visitors both at the beach and at the fairgrounds. Their issues are widespread and so we also take a big role in the county in our leadership in SANDAG and various other commissions. So we just thought it would be swell to get better skilled at being civil.
Can you give us an example of a instance where the Del Mar city Council members turned to this code may be a discussion that was getting heated and somebody said let's remember we've all agreed to a certain set of rules here.
Recently we were working with the issue of short-term rentals. There are business people who have businesses that they care deeply about and there are those that are residents who have lived there a long time and fear that these short-term rentals will take over our small town. We've been listening to testimony for ours and we remind each other quite frequently that it's time to realize there's more than one point of view about short-term rentals. Our staff took the training and for example parking officers who often face simple daily conflict have found methods of communication to prevent conflicts from building up unnecessarily.
Steve, the ongoing feud with the media reached another level recently when he tweeted a fake video of him body slamming a person with the CNN logo over his face. How much are that of the impact it's having?
The president is uniquely situated in terms of the platform that he holds and when he demonstrates through twitter of video such as that I think it starts to create a lack of confidence in the media for the general population and I think it's creating a challenge because the media is an important institution. It plays an important part of our democracy. The media is also fostering dialogue and communication. These are challenges as a nation that we need to continue to discuss and work toward addressing.
Delmar has adopted this code as Cheryl told us. They are using this code. Have you reach out to other local cities about maybe adopting a code of civil discourse in order to conduct their business?
We are excited to launch the effort with the city of Delmar. We see this. Our vision is every city throughout the county and throughout the nation where top the code of civil discourse. We have approached the mayor of San Diego who was expressing interest. Our hope is that the city of San Diego will adopt the code and also pledged Carlsbad, Chula Vista, and definitely interest with the code. We do see this as a helper Del Mar down the line? We definitely. We have the code written on each and every agenda. What that reminder of how it would be best to run that meeting and attend the meeting and participate, we have been benefiting.
I've been speaking with Steve Dinkin and Sherryl Parks. Thank you.