Del Mar City Council adopts code on civil discourse


Although Del Marians sometimes disagree on everything from roundabouts to replacing city hall, there’s one thing all residents always have in common: their love for the community.

In an effort to keep public dialogue productive, even when there’s conflict, the Del Mar City Council on April 4 unanimously adopted a code of civil discourse. The city is the first in the region to adopt such a code, which is based on the National Conflict Resolution Center’s Code of Civil Discourse.

“We’re the first city to do this,” Mayor Sherryl Parks said. “I’m ever so proud. I really am.”

Parks brought the idea before the council after she attended a NCRC training program.

An international leader in mediation instruction and conflict resolution, San Diego-based NCRC provides the resources, training and expertise to help people, organizations and communities around the world manage and solve conflicts with civility.

The University of San Diego Law Center and the San Diego County Bar Association founded the organization in 1983. Since then, NCRC has managed more than 20,000 cases.

“These are people with an international reputation who do mediation, but more than that, they do training for people on how to discuss topics that are in dispute in an effective and civil way,” explained Councilman Dwight Worden, who spearheaded the project, along with Parks. “She came back very energized by that, so she and I have been working on how we can provide a similar program here in Del Mar.”

Officially called “Civility Works: The Del Mar Code of Civil Discourse,” the one-page code is a pledge for inclusive and respectful communication practices that foster fruitful dialogue and promote progress.

“Together we will: promote inclusion, listen to understand, show respect, be clear and fair, focus on the issue,” the code states.

“The idea for the code of conduct is something that we have been, particularly at this time, very interested in promoting,” said Jim Forbes, NCRC’s director of fund development, prior to the council’s vote.

NCRC is currently working with the San Diego County Board of Supervisors and the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista and Oceanside on the possibility of adopting similar codes, Forbes said.

“We would be very happy if Del Mar would take the leadership,” he said.

Now that the code is adopted, it will be posted on the city’s website, in public meeting rooms and included in meeting agendas.

But the city went a step further to promote its new code.

NCRC’s “Art of Inclusive Communication” course teaches participants how to practice civil discourse, how to find common ground, and how to gain the communication skills needed to move forward. The half-day sessions can accommodate up to 24 people at a fee of $2,500.

Three training sessions have been funded for community members, thanks to a local resident. They will take place in April, with invitations being coordinated by the donor.

The Del Mar Foundation has also offered to fund a training session for the chairs of city advisory committees and committee support staff. The training session is set for May.

“The hope is that if we do these four sessions, and it works as well as I think it will, and it’s well-received, it will just become an ingrained part of our community as a resource that’s available on an ongoing basis,” said Worden, adding that the civil discourse training could become part of the annual training that’s already offered to advisory committee members.