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posted: 4/23/2013 8:18 AM

Incivility too costly for local politics

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The Daily Herald Editorial Board

For some time now, we have spoke out against the growing incivility in politics.

It's been most visible at the federal level, where attack ads funded by Super PACS muddy messages and soil reputations in some very ugly campaigns for congressional and senate seats.

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Rancor is displayed on cable news programs and is amped up by television and radio talk show hosts.

That riles up the masses to the point where callers, readers and commenters, often anonymously, spout off angry, polarizing statements that might not reflect anything like the way they comport themselves in daily life.

It's unnerving to watch and hear.

Local politics can be edgy, too, particularly in an election year, but they have mostly been free of the real nastiness.

Until now.

A few disturbing recent examples raise our concern about whether those lines are blurring with some of that incivility seeping into our back yards.

Sure, one requirement for anyone who wants to run for elected office at any level must have a thick skin. But some tactics cross the line from bare-knuckle politics into something far worse.

Such is the case in a story by staff writer Bob Susnjara about efforts to intimidate Gurnee Mayor Kristina Kovarik into dropping out of the April 9 race by using false sexual innuendos on a crude mailer.

Not only did this dirty trick aim to force a candidate into withdrawing, but it did so by falsely trying to damage the reputation of someone serving her community.

Even more worrisome is that it's not an isolated incident.

Elsewhere in the same election, Island Lake mayoral candidate Charles Amrich was the target of robo calls from someone who claimed to be a village police officer and falsely stated Amrich had been indicted.

Sitting elected officials have also been threatened.

Felony charges were filed in March against Stephen Bona of Chicago, who authorities said left a threatening voice mail for Republican state Rep. Jeanne Ives of Wheaton over remarks she made about gay marriage.

And, a substitute instructor was charged last month with leaving a threatening voice mail with Grayslake Elementary District 46 school board member Shannon Smigielski during a three-day teachers strike in January. She resigned her seat, citing the threat as a factor in her decision.

Threats and intimidation aren't the foundation of good government. The people who use those tactics don't have the character and leadership qualities needed to address the serious issues facing our communities.

Our fear is such tactics will convince real leaders -- those who truly have something valuable to offer -- not to serve their communities.

That's a price we can't afford to pay for politics.

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