Herbst says 'Civility Series' will focus on politics, social media

First Selectman Tim Herbst said a political rival overreacted to a text message mistakenly sent to him.
First Selectman Tim Herbst said a political rival overreacted to a text message mistakenly sent to him.

Trumbull’s first selectman is organizing a civility series in the coming months, with a focus on politics and social media, among other topics.

First Selectman Tim Herbst sent out a press release Tuesday, saying that in September and October, over the course of five Sundays, the Civility Series we will cover the following topics: Civility in Public Safety, Civility in the Law, Civility in Politics, Civility in Sports and Civility in the Media. The civility series will include guest panelists from across Connecticut and the nation.

“At a time when there is civil unrest in the United States and at times a lack of respect and civility in our society, I have made the decision to partner with local universities and corporate sponsors to host a civility series for the Town of Trumbull and the Greater Bridgeport region,” stated First Selectman Herbst. “I am pleased that Todd Piro of NBC Connecticut is one of many journalists that will be moderating the series. I am also pleased to be inviting many panelists from across Connecticut and the nation to participate in this series.”

Herbst said he got the idea of a civility series from former Stamford Mayor Michael Pavia. Herbst’s Chief of Staff, Lynn Arnow previously worked for Pavia. Holding the series was something he mentioned last November after losing the election for state treasurer to incumbent Democrat Denise Nappier.

Herbst said civility in social media will be a topic he talks about during the commencement ceremony at Trumbull High School. Similar to his address to the St. Joseph High School Class of 2015, Herbst intends to talk about the dangers of social media and the importance of civility.

“In this every changing society, where we conduct too much of our life’s work through the flip of a switch or the touch of the button, civility becomes even more important. As of late, our way of life, our society, our political discourse, simple human interaction has become too uncivil,” he said. “There exists a civil unrest in many parts of our country between police officers and civilians. There is a pure lack of civility among our elected leaders at all levels of government. Political campaigns today are conducted in a completely uncivil manner.

“Social media can at times be incredibly uncivil,” he said. “We have a moral obligation to right this ship and restore civility to different aspects of our daily life.”

The first selectman has sparred with residents and local Democrats on social media in the past. In March, when the controversial painting removal at The Trumbull Library was making headlines, Herbst said he was leaving the Facebook group Keep Trumbull Real. He started the group, Trumbull Talks, saying that KTR was “used by a handful of people to politically posture, show disdain for others and spew hatred.” Some have criticized Trumbull Talks, saying posts are deleted or they weren’t initially granted approval to join, due to political leanings.

This week, Herbst has also been criticized on social media for a decision to serve an FOIA (Freedom of Information) request to the Trumbull Nature and Arts Center. For more on that, see story here.

The first selectman's sometimes contentious relationship with other political leaders, most notably Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, has also been a recent topic covered by regional media.

For the civility series, Herbst said the schedule and details for the entire series would be made available to the general public in August.