Don't call a person names that are naughty or silly.
Look a person in the eye while he or she is talking to you.
During group discussions, sit at the table with your peers and try not to fidget.
Listen attentively for as long as a person is speaking to you; try not to interrupt or avert your attention to your cell phone, your wristwatch or someone else's conversation.
If you disagree with what a person says, remain respectful. Don't roll your eyes or otherwise be dismissive.
Remember to say "please" and "thank you."
While this advice sounds elementary – the kind of thing a kindergarten teacher tries to ingrain in pupils during the first weeks of a school year – the lessons bear repeating for all those members of Luzerne County's newly reorganized city and borough councils, township supervisor panels and school boards. For that matter, it also applies to the 11 women and men who, as of Jan. 2, collectively make up Luzerne County's first county council.
Area residents attuned to the news know, for example, that Wilkes-Barre's city council meetings at times last year drifted toward the absurd: council members seemingly more obsessed with counting the minutes allotted to public speakers than hearing what they had to say, personality clashes, "cupcake" tossing.
This nonsense further erodes people's confidence in our local governments, already shaken in recent years by many incidents of public corruption. It also distracts from the issues that matter.
Luzerne County, its communities and its schools face financial and other challenges in 2012; debating how best to meet those challenges will naturally result in dissention and discord. Understandably, upset constituents will sometimes vent.
But true leaders – those deserving of our votes in the future – will disagree with each other and their detractors without resorting to boorish behavior. That's what distinguishes them as leaders.
As for the others, well, they should resign from public office or get booted by voters at the next opportunity. If they can't represent without constant rancor and theatrics, our local governments don't need them.
Thank you very much.