May 23, 2023 - News

Des Moines City Council to take civility course

Illustration of a handshake, repeated backward several times.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Des Moines City Council members are spending half the day learning how to better work together.

Why it matters: Tuesday's four-hour training is intended to increase effectiveness of the city's top leadership, partly by promoting civility among themselves and the public.

Catch up fast: DSM council meetings became noticeably more contentious as local efforts for police reform reached our city following the 2020 murder of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.

  • New safety protocols, including city hall security sweeps and metal detectors, were added after in-person meetings resumed in 2021 following pandemic closures.

What's happening: Employees of Baker Tilly, a Chicago-based consulting company, lead the training during a special workshop at Central Library.

  • It'll focus on good governance practices with emphasis on process, civility and teamwork.
  • The Institute for Local Government's paper, "Attributes of Exceptional Councils," is on a recommended reading list for meeting participants.

Of note: The training is something Mayor Frank Cownie and city manager Scott Sanders discussed prior to the pandemic, Sanders tells Axios.

  • It'll cost the city $25,000, according to public records.

The big picture: Almost all Americans believe society is less civil than it was a decade ago.

  • And they blame social media and public officials, according to the American Bar Association’s 2023 Survey of Civic Literacy.

Get involved: Drake University is hosting a free panel discussion next week about civility in our local elections for current and future metro leaders.

đź’¬ Our thought bubble: Sometimes even "Iowa nice" needs a refresher.


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