Civility starts at home

July 24, 2015
Julie Tacker

Julie Tacker


In his most recent regular Tribune column, political campaign consultant Tom Fulks asks, “Who would take issue with civility?” He points a finger at COLAB and the “the usual assortment of gripers who routinely abuse the public comment period to wage personal wars against anyone they believe victimizes them in one form or another.”

As he repeatedly does, Fulks marginalizes and insults the participants at county public meetings. Perhaps he’s jealous of COLAB Executive Director Mike Brown’s, ability to inspire speakers to study the issues, take time off work and make their way to meeting rooms week after week to speak up and shape decisions.

Fulks’ biweekly column reaches driveways and mailboxes across this county; yet few who support his position on the issues actually attend or participate in these meetings.

Fulks mischaracterizes the recent adoption of a resolution on civil discourse authored by the San Luis Obispo County League of Women Voters (LWV). The LWV commits themselves “to building a civil political community in which each person is respected and spirited public and political debate is aimed at the betterment of San Luis Obispo County and its people and not the disparagement of those with whom we disagree.”

Fulks called it a “symbolic resolution doing nothing more than asking people to be nice and stay on topic when addressing elected bodies.”

Maybe Fulks should have listened to the entire item. Near the end of the board’s discussion, County Counsel Rita Neal explained that the board was “simply to approve a resolution, which essentially supports civility and civil discourse, you aren’t passing an ordinance.

You aren’t changing the law, the First Amendment remains strongly in tact today regardless of your passing this resolution. You’re not requiring each person who walks into the chambers to sign this resolution. Certainly there’s no enforcement mechanism and no consequence; but you’re supporting the awareness and encouragement of civil discourse, you’re not making a law.”

Resolutions are intended to set policy. In my opinion, a resolution is a promise. These promises are broken in the SLO County Board of Supervisors chambers all the time.

As evidenced just two weeks post signing of the civil discourse resolution. The ink barely dry on the document and Mr. Fulks’ Sunday column now lining the bird cage, the board hadn’t gotten through the consent calendar (the first order of business) when Supervisor Gibson lost his cool and raised his voice; scolding his fellow board members who chose to postpone an important water item to allow for more public participation. Any semblance of civil discourse from the District 2 supervisors was out the window.

Citizens from all walks of life enter meeting chambers around this great country every day. Fulks suggests the LWV “felt compelled to intervene” here in San Luis Obispo County, particularly at the Board of Supervisors.

However, a quick search of the LWV website reveals that the study of civil discourse is a statewide mission among the LWV and our county’s chapter is simply participating.
Ironically, where I’ve seen the most egregious display of incivility has been from select board members who sit at the dais. Elected officials, the people we put there, who have wrongly taken it upon themselves to write late night letters to the editor, bark from the dais, and engage a hired political consultant (Fulks) to use his newspaper column to denigrate, marginalize, label, and name-call at speakers they disagree with.

Over my many years of participating at the Board of Supervisors meetings, I can only think of a handful of instances where citizens have been truly “uncivil” but, I’m not a judge and respectfully suggest neither is Fulks. These passionate citizens have the right to express themselves any way they wish. The way they are treated and often antagonized from the dais elevates their delivery to what one might consider “uncivil.” It isn’t much to ask that the board members themselves lead by example and behave civilly.
Civility starts at home, the board signed the resolution put forth by the LWV, let’s see that they, and Fulks, live by it and then watch how the citizens respond in kind.



  1. IronHub says:

    Tom Fulks has been allowed by Sandy Duerr to attack COLAB in most of his columns to date. If she can’t see his political intent of aiding and abetting Hill and Gibson, she’s not looking too hard. All of this will soon trace back to PG&E’s Tom Jones and the Diablo Canyon plant’s re-licensing and an all-out effort by the utility to keep Hill the Pill in office and protect his vote. Destroying critics while crying out for “civility” is these clowns’ new mantra.

    (-5) 23 Total Votes - 9 up - 14 down
  2. MaryMalone says:

    QUOTING JULIE who is QUOTING SEWER WATCH: “In this case, it is clearly implied that SLOSense and me, Tom Fulks, placed an ad on Craig’s List to recruit bloggers to do political work, and that I am paid by politicians to do this. I am not paid by anyone to do SLOSense and never have been.”

    So then what was Fulks doing for $20,000 for Adam Hill? Giving him hand jobs?

    (-7) 37 Total Votes - 15 up - 22 down
  3. Ron says:

    Below, miles archer writes:

    “Fulks has his soapbox and you (Julie) have yours. He writes an attack piece, you write one back.”

    Well, the HUGE difference between Tom and Julie, is that local politicians, like Bruce Gibson, are NOT paying Julie tens of thousands of dollars to sneak around on the Internet (and elsewhere) and character-assassinate, and discredit, anyone that’s critical of them, like they do with Fulks.

    The fact that the Trib gives a known, highly paid, political operative — Bruce Gibson’s “evil genius in the back room” — a regular “opinion” piece involving local politics is, frankly, journalistically reckless.

    I mean, you don’t see the Washington Post giving Karl Rove a regular political “opinion” column, do ya?

    I also find the phrase “campaign consultant” to describe Tom’s job a bit too euphemism-y for my taste.

    He does much more than simply “consult” on campaigns. He’s paid to (at least attempt to) ruin people’s lives and livelihoods (especially media types) simply because those people report, or publish, or speak something critical about his clients, because that’s what weasily local politicians, like Bruce Gibson, pay him to do, and the Trib gives him the perfect platform to do just that.

    For example, Julie writes:

    Fulks marginalizes and insults the participants at county public meetings.

    Of course he does, because that’s exactly what Bruce Gibson pays him to do.

    By the way, the reason I put the word “opinion” in quotes above, is because what Tom’s popping out in the Trib isn’t necessarily his opinion, it’s the opinion that his clients pay him to promote, of course, and the Trib just allows it to happen.

    A terrible situation.

    (6) 50 Total Votes - 28 up - 22 down
    • kettle says:

      “Fulks has his soapbox” No, Sandra Durr has a soap box that she lets Fulks, Adam Hill, Cory Black (special events planning with masterful communications tactics and “campaign style” implementation. ) And Pacific Gas and Electric’s Tom Jones as Adams personal consultant use to further the campaign to control the board of supes. Pg&E gets to re-licence diablo with BOS support, Fulks and Black get billable hours and further control, developer supporters get projects fast tracked and approved, while other developers get delays that make there projects more costly even if they can get them past the approval process.

      Follow the money, this is about far more than bully’s and controlling the “public speakers” at the bos meetings.
      For example look at Jan Marx and her (concealed until later) special support for the coplands development.
      “The state’s probe includes 1,414 pages of reports and documents and was recently made public through a Freedom of Information request. The documents identify Mayor Marx, an attorney, as a leader in the campaign to stop Dalidio’s development, which was slated to directly compete with commercial properties owned by the two Copeland brothers.”

      Now just imagine what Team Adam has been doing behind the scenes.

      Please Vote.

      (-7) 35 Total Votes - 14 up - 21 down
    • hijinks says:

      Tom Fulks and Carl Rove !!! That’s precious. Hey, Tom, we knew you were special and all powerful, but not THAT all powerful. Come on folks, get real. Rove has hundreds of millions of $$$ at his disposal to spread lies and propaganda, and to engage in character assassination. Little Tommy ain’t even close to that. You all daily accuse others of lies, name calling, and false accusations — look in the mirror. The truth ain’t in that reflection.

      (7) 11 Total Votes - 9 up - 2 down
      • SLOBIRD says:

        Yea, and of course Madonna was rewarded in the Dalidio campaign by rapidly moving forward with Costco, etc. And look who got Target, yea, Madonna. But, Madonna repaid the debt by supporting Cal Poly Hotel / Convention Center and being a key player in getting the sales tax 1/2 renewed for his special projects. Yep, rub my a$$ and I will rub your a$$. The good ole boys and girls just love to play together. They are all scum!

        (-2) 8 Total Votes - 3 up - 5 down
  4. MaryMalone says:

    Thanks, Julie, for pointing out that Tom Fulks lost his argument when he stooped to hypocrisy.

    (-7) 47 Total Votes - 20 up - 27 down
  5. fishing village says:

    I record and watch public meetings, so I am able to avoid those speakers at public comment that I know have come to spew out ugliness. I watch the content of the meetings and our elected officials run the meetings. It still isn’t the same as attending the meetings, for that I blame those who come knowing they have ugliness to spread. I encourage Civil discourse and hope the chairs of meetings will not tolerate ugliness.
    Stop the recording, close down the microphones, but don’t give people who come with anger to dominate the public comment period. You owe it to the rest of the public.

    (-3) 39 Total Votes - 18 up - 21 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      Thanks, but our rights to free speech don’t define it as “speech I like.” There are no caveats attached to that right.

      I do applaud you, however, for taking the incentive to simply not watch or listen to the speakers who you find objectionable.

      (-19) 21 Total Votes - 1 up - 20 down
  6. fishing village says:

    I’m wondering if having meetings on TV has encouraged those who want to be ugly and make statements against seated representatives. Since the meetings are televised we’ve had speaker after speaker come to the meetings and spew angry stuff. Before TV the minutes would reflect only the speaker’s name and a bit of what was said, but now there it is playing over and over on our public channels!! The people who say nasty things and attack our representatives can only be stopped by closing down the meeting (which has happened a few times) threatening behavior should not be allowed, personal attacks (usually for political reasons) should not be tolerated. The people watching should not be subjected to the ugliness. Family and friends of those being attacked should be considered, but NO those making the statements just don’t care. We deserve better.

    (1) 37 Total Votes - 19 up - 18 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      If anything, I believe having the board meetings broadcast/televised encourages people to be less vociferous in ways that many find objectionable.

      It takes a lot of guts to get up before the count BOD even if you are being nice about your complaints. But to truly communicate to the BOD the breadth and depth of your feelings about your actions takes balls the size of oranges, because you never know who will be watching those broadcasts, and some of the watcher may be vindictive.

      (-17) 21 Total Votes - 2 up - 19 down
  7. Otis says:

    The issue isn’t civility as much as it is the meaning in the presentation of ideas or one’s point of view. Emphasis construed as rudeness does not always destroy the point of the argument being made. Given fortune favors the bold, incivility is often a favored tactic.

    Consider Donald Trump’s statements and answer the question, is he civil?

    David Limbaugh states “the biggest effect Trump is having is he’s showing other Republican candidates that being nice and non-confrontational is a loser’s strategy. Being nice and non-confrontational is deadening. Trump is demonstrating that talking tough, being honestly outraged at liberal stupidity, and insulting the left is how you win. As he demonstrates the confrontational strategy and other confrontational Americans join him, he lights up the nation’s dozing and everyone begins to feel comfortable with confrontation.”

    The irony here is the lack of classic civility in the political process — that is classically adversarial — finally yields the civil procedures of the law interpreted by lawyers in an adversarial context. This incivility is factually civil.

    (-15) 41 Total Votes - 13 up - 28 down
    • MaryMalone says:

      The sad thing is Adam Hill should be expected to act and react with civility, something he very, very rarely does.

      I don’t expect any audience board-meeting attendee to stand up as a punching bag for Adam Hill and not return fire.

      (-15) 25 Total Votes - 5 up - 20 down

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