Be hard on issues and soft on people

The following letter was submitted to local newspapers and is reprinted here with permission of the author Ron Areglado. Ron is running for election to the Chariho School Committee.

Ron Areglado

The campaign for the State Representative seat, House 36, between incumbent Donna Walsh and Blake Filippi has taken a sad turn in recent days. Apart from their political differences, voters have seen some of the most egregious accusations of an individual’s character and ethics.

In past elections, Representative Walsh has avoided baseless accusations and tactics, which have served her well. For whatever reason, she has now veered from principled discourse and has accused Mr. Filippi of lying about his residency. Written in a style familiar to those of us who have been attacked by the architect of the Progressive Charlestown’s hate blog, one is supposed to believe that Mr. Filippi has committed a felonious act, which would not only disqualify him from the election, but also subject him to criminal charges. A simple check of the voter registration list on Block Island, the address on his driver’s license and where Mr. Filippi registers his car would indicate if Representative Walsh’s assertions are true. If so, Mr. Filippi should have to be accountable to the electorate and the Rhode Island Board of Elections. If not, Representative Walsh owes the same electorate and Mr. Filippi a public apology for false accusations.

My commentary has less to do with who wins this contest, but underscores the reason why many qualified individuals do not seek public office. Who wants to be the target of baseless attacks by those (bloggers) who lack the conviction and courage to run for elected office or volunteer their time to contribute to their community? Sadly, these same people also choose to hide behind the shield of the First Amendment to vilify the character and qualifications of those who are willing to devote their time, energy and talents to serve.

My hope is that this latest example of political posturing will encourage all of us to condemn those who take perverse delight in harming others’ reputations because they have a different point of view. Roger Fisher and William Ury, two prominent negotiation and mediation experts, best summarize how to deal with differences. They contend, “Be hard on issues and soft on people.” Let’s hope their message will be a victory for civility long after this election is over.

Ronald J. Areglado