Conn. city invites big names, Snowe’s included, to talk about civility

Posted July 18, 2012, at 6:10 a.m.
Olympia Snowe
Olympia Snowe

STAMFORD, Conn. — Mayor Michael Pavia has unveiled an upcoming lecture series that will bring high-profile speakers to the city to discuss civility.

James Cuno, president and CEO of the international philanthropic institution J. Paul Getty Trust, is scheduled to kick off the symposium in the fall. Pavia said he wants to foster public discussion on the breakdown of civility in government, politics, business, sports and entertainment.

“You’d have to be out of the loop completely if you don’t realize that there’s a serious challenge to civility in all components and all sectors of our society,” the mayor said Friday. “I have a number of people prominent in each of those disciplines that are anxious to deal with the issue.”

The series is also sponsored by the Dilenschneider Group, a strategic communications firms headed by Darien resident Robert Dilenschneider. The agency sponsored a similar series in New York City in 2011 with the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs.

Pavia said he first reached out to Laura Linney, a three-time Academy Award nominee and cast member from the Showtime series “The Big C,” which is filmed in Stamford.

“She’s onboard to do a civility lecture on entertainment,” Pavia said. “I talked personally to Fay Vincent, who is the former commissioner of Major League Baseball, and Fay Vincent loved the idea and is willing to step forward and do a lecture.”

Other speakers who have committed to the lecture series include former Los Angeles Police Chief William J. Bratton; broadcaster Ernie Anastos, of Fox News; former New York City Schools Chancellor Joel Klein, of News Corp; and retiring U.S. Republican Sen. Olympia Snow, of Maine, Pavia said.

“What’s amazing about this is when you mention civility, there are people who recognize the problem and are willing to come forward and do whatever it is to come forward and protect it,” Pavia said. “Each speaker will address the components of their experience and how we need to change things to make it better.”

Pavia said his own experience in local politics partly inspired his decision to host the lecture series. The mayor has frequently been at odds with members of his own party since taking office, and said last month that he is considering leaving the GOP altogether.

“I saw the kinds of things that were happening in local government and I looked at the things that were happening on a national level, and it’s clear that sooner or later we really need to address this,” he said. “You don’t accomplish a public good and you don’t accomplish good government with the kinds of incivility that are taking place throughout our society.”

Hearst Corp., The Advocate’s parent company, is also is a sponsor of the monthly series, which is expected to be held at the Ferguson Library.

Dennis Mahoney, chairman of the Republican Town Committee, said the civility symposium is a “fine idea,” but responsible government is even more critical.

“We should not lose sight of the fact that the ultimate goal the mayor and our elected officials should endeavor to achieve is good government,” Mahoney said in an email. “Everyone needs to strive to be civil as we endeavor to achieve this goal, but good government, transparency and accountability should not be sacrificed at the altar of civility.”

Democratic City Committee Chairman John Mallozzi, who represents District 12 on the Board of Representatives, said he does not think there is a lack of civility among city representatives, but welcomes the idea of a symposium.

“I don’t think it’s a negative to have it, but I don’t see where it’s a problem — at least among the Board of Representatives,” Mallozzi said. “If something good comes out of it and the Republicans start liking each other, that’s good — for them.”

Kate.king@scni.com; 203-964-2263; http://twitter.com/kcarliniking

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(c)2012 The Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Conn.)

Visit The Stamford Advocate (Stamford, Conn.) at www.stamfordadvocate.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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