AUGUSTA — City councilors have voted unanimously to reaffirm their core values statement, in which they vow to act with civility, integrity and accountability.

The statement, they said, takes on added significance in light of the Jan. 6 domestic terrorist attack on the U.S. Capitol and divisive national political climate that might have left some with questions about the integrity of their government.

The council’s core values statement was first approved by councilors in 2018 at the urging of Ward 4 Councilor Eric Lind. It includes behaviors to which councilors pledge: Maintain high standards of integrity; be courteous, respectful, and promote civility; and be accountable.

Before councilors voted unanimously Thursday to reaffirm the core values, Lind said that while the values were written in 2018, they may serve in helping reassure residents their municipal government is one of integrity despite the nation’s divisive political climate and the attack on the U.S. Capitol by protestors claiming the Nov. 3 presidential election was stolen.

“It’s not a reaction to what has gone on nationally, but I don’t think it escapes us, what has gone on,” Lind said. “So I just think, given the domestic terrorism we witnessed on Jan. 6, the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with what I’d say were unusual national political events that have occurred lately, people are looking for a sense of normalcy and institutional integrity. The institutions we’ve kind of all relied upon and took for granted have all been tested lately.”

At-Large Councilor Marci Alexander said the core values, each of which includes a subset of specific values, are important and provide guidance to help remind local officials to treat one another and others with respect, even when they disagree.

“Sometimes, it’s hard to be mindful. We sort of forget the respect standards, the behavior standards,” Alexander said. “And that you can have polite disagreement. We can completely disagree on something and we can do it in a way that isn’t mean and hateful.

“I think it’s really important when you have a diverse group of people, trying to solve issues for an even larger diverse group of people, that you have some core values that we can all wrap our heads around so that even if you go off the wagon, we can bring ourselves back and center ourselves with honor and respect and integrity.”

Mayor David Rollins said sometimes officials can stray from following core values, including at City Council meetings, in public and on Facebook and other social media outlets, and that can be damaging to productive discussion and debate.

“We can see the incredibly bad impact Facebook can have, or other social media,” Rollins said. “And I think this is a good lesson to be learned this month, reflecting on these key values, especially civility amongst all the other ones, is very important. It’s timely and I don’t think this is an indulgence by any of us.”

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