The big bully. The mean kid. We always knew them when we saw them.
Generations of parents helped their children face the school bully, and surviving their attacks came to seem a rite of passage to adulthood.
Somehow, though, the tough-it-out attitude gave bullying a veneer of acceptability, a “real world” behavior to be tolerated, particularly in politics.
I’ve worked for bullies myself in the past and believe that the behavior can spring from many sources: fear and insecurity, blind ambition and, most commonly, a generally toxic workplace environment.
The toxicity of the work-place came to mind in January when Boynton Beach Mayor Jose Rodriguez was charged with unlawful compensation or reward for official behavior, solicitation to commit unlawful disclosure of confidential criminal information and obstruction of a law-enforcement officer. The charges stem from his alleged interference in a police investigation — of him — regarding domestic abuse.
Those are the legalities. In my layperson’s mind, though, the charge could simply be called criminal bullying.
After spending over three years attending Boynton’s council meetings, I’ll attest to the long-simmering toxic stew — shouting, personal attacks, condescending treatment of the public from the dais and dug-in political divisiveness on issues critical to the city’s future. If the charges are proven to be true, this toxic history likely fed the alleged behavior the suspended mayor is charged with. Sadly, there are plenty of bullies in Boynton Beach.
It’s this toxicity from which our other towns and neighborhoods should take a cautionary lesson.
Delray Beach comes immed-iately to mind. The transient/rehab housing concerns are ones where everyone involved must remain on the high road to be successful. If neighbors begin criticizing neighbors, the neighborhoods fighting to retain their single-family character will be threatened on multiple fronts.
Keep the issue alive with elected officials, let the legal process progress and take the opportunity to get to know your neighbors.
But avoid the toxic stew of unfounded rumors and allegations. Don’t stoop to name-calling — don’t stir the stew.
— Mary Kate Leming