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ABJ: Mayor’s divisive tone

Mayor’s divisive tone

Like many people, I was taken aback at the divisive tone that Mayor Dan Horrigan adopted in his Oct. 30 commentary ″While Sage Lewis postures.″ In the piece, Horrigan blasts, by name, Lewis, the founder of the Homeless Charity, for fighting for his right to shelter people experiencing homelessness. Among other things, Horrigan suggests that Lewis is motivated by fame and a love of publicity and does not care about the well-being of the people he serves. Echoing the tired “outside agitator” rhetoric that people also leveled against the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Horrigan also condemns Lewis’ “recently transplanted, slick, out-of-town lawyers” for filing a constitutional lawsuit on the charity’s behalf.

As with any contested policy issue, there are strong feelings on both sides. Horrigan believes that his preferred policy is both lawful and the best course of action; the Homeless Charity and other nonprofits disagree. Disagreement is healthy. But productive policy conversations mean debating the policy, not accusing people who disagree of acting in bad faith.

Horrigan had the opportunity to emphasize the positive things being done in the community by traditional service providers. Or he could have focused on the merits of his policy preferences. Instead, giving the local nonprofit organizations passing reference, he went gratuitously negative, spending the bulk of the commentary impugning, without any factual basis, the personal motives of the founder of a local charity.

Public sector leadership is not a leader overreacting to every petty slight he or she perceives or every instance of dissent. Rather, it is working to bridge divides and bring the community together in a joint effort to make it stronger.

In a time of divisive and overheated political rhetoric, we should expect our local leaders to model civil discourse. Horrigan failed to do so here.

Joseph W. Mead, Akron

Assistant professor at Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law

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