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Our View: Recalling a more civil La Jolla

One of the questions we ask prominent La Jollans in our weekly feature called “10 Questions with ... " is what they would change about La Jolla if they could snap their fingers and have it done.

Many say they would eliminate the traffic or improve the architecture, but a third category also stands out. A good number of our respondents have told us - in various ways - that they wish La Jolla were as civil a place as it used to be.

It’s not that the long-timers don’t want people to argue over La Jolla and its future, they just seem wistful about a time when arguments were more respectful.

We also hear from our reporters that there is a harshness when some issues are discussed at local meetings.

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If it is true that La Jolla has a harsher edge in its politics, then the local scene mirrors the national. Contemporary debate is often graceless. The rule seems to be that if one is not sneering and scoffing one is not really trying.

It is a daydream to think that our national debates were ever free of acrimony, however. Indeed, there have been times when the acrimony far exceeded even what is mustered each evening on contemporary cable.

Democracy is a rough business.

But the memories of long-time La Jollans of days when local debates were more civil are not a daydream. La Jolla has traditionally been a civil place.

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It has been a place of science and art, a place of beach culture and high culture. But it has also been a place for families and friends.

That civility needs, perhaps, to be rekindled.

Of course there are contentious issues afoot. When are there not?

But contentious issues are the very reason for civility.

Civility is not just about being nice. It is about working hard for the common good and being patient when the perfect outcome is never quite reached.

There was a time, perhaps it has passed for good, when people spoke openly about the civic virtues. It was these virtues, as Benjamin Franklin used to point out, that made self-government possible.

If any place should be a bastion of their practice, it is La Jolla.