On September 8, 2022, the California City Management Foundation (CCMF) hosted a panel discussion at the 2022 League of California Cities Annual Conference in Long Beach. The session, “Defending Institutions: Promoting Civic Debate and Rejecting Personal Attacks” featured Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson and Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez. Pismo Beach City Manager and CCMF Board Member Jim Lewis moderated the discussion. 

A key theme of the session was that public discourse has become increasingly hostile in recent years. With more city protests turning violent and a growing number of direct threats against elected officials, panelists shared insights about how city leaders can respond to harassment and incivility without sacrificing civic debate. 

Mayor Lock Dawson, a recipient of violent threats, spoke about the importance of establishing trust between residents and city leaders. She also mentioned that cities should prioritize creating constructive channels for debate to raise awareness about community issues, rather than resorting to harmful, targeted attacks on government officials. Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez contributed to the panel from a law enforcement perspective, referencing various measures and best-practices his department has implemented to address civic unrest and mitigate violence. 

Both panelists referenced the importance of coordination and collaboration among city leaders and municipal departments to uphold community order and promote public safety. No matter how much a citizen may disagree with their representative, violence and targeted attacks are not the solution to unfavorable policy outcomes. 

Thank you to those who attended the informative panel discussion. If you would like to learn more about this topic, CCMF President Ken Striplin recently published an article in Western City Magazine about this subject.