This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2016, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Provo's mayor is blaming the nation's presidential candidates for creating a widespread case of "trickle-down" potty mouth in his city.
John Curtis is publicly calling for them to be more civil which, in turn, has some people disparaging the mayor.
"It kind of proves my point," Curtis said Tuesday about some caustic reaction to an open letter he posted online Saturday.
Curtis didn't expect much reaction because it went up on Labor Day weekend and wasn't targeted for mass readership. "But we have had more reaction to this than any blog post I've ever done," he said, noting that it has had tens of thousands of hits and prompted a few hostile replies.
Curtis wrote that he has seen public dialogue this year essentially flop into the gutter, even in his city of 115,000 that is home to the LDS Church-owned Brigham Young University and two Mormon temples.
"Engagement on all platforms from social media to civic meetings [is] more sarcastic, biting, impatient, rude, aggressive and often all too personal," he wrote. He cited a recent email suggesting that he and an aide should "both be stripped of their clothing and carried out of the building."
"In the [six] years of being mayor," Curtis wrote, "I can strongly say this surge of negativity is not normal for our community."
So what is going on?
"Much of it has to do with the trickle-down effect of the conversation happening on the national stage," he wrote. "As we listen to those who have platforms as presidential candidates, we hear them use words that tend to be more cutting, more personal, more filled with spite."
He said the disparaging remarks he hears in Provo "are echoes of what we hear every single time we turn on the news" about the race for the White House.
"It's always there when we engage in a presidential discussion. Name-calling, bigotry, hate, attacks. The leaders of our national stage insist on using more and more syllables to pollute the air with words that incite, provoke and demean."
Curtis wrote that such attacks have turned the election into something more than fears about Supreme Court nominations, the economy or war.
"We now need to worry about the impact of negativity. From what I'm seeing in the community, it's as if the two candidates from the major political parties have issued us all a license to be rude without the thought of consequence."
He called on national leaders to conduct a "more civil discussion on issues like health care, immigration, national security and jobs. We need them to take responsibility for changing the public discourse not only nationally but everywhere in our states, cities and homes."
Curtis also urged local leaders and residents to become the "voice of civility."
"If we can't expect decency from the top," he said, "let's start it from the bottom."
Curtis said Tuesday that most of the replies he's seen to his post have been respectful, but some lashed out and appear to have missed the point he was trying to make.
"There are those who will find the bad in everything," he said, "even this."
Some put the blame for any negativity in Provo on the mayor. Melanie McCoard wrote a reply to his post saying, "It would be complete self-delusion to assume that people's anger at you and your staff has no foundation."
Curtis said in an interview that he blames Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, for the coarse dialogue.
"Clearly, Donald Trump has to bear a lot of responsibility," Curtis said. "I'm not comfortable either with what I hear from Secretary Clinton. It also comes off as very caustic."
So whom will Curtis support for president?
"I don't know. I'm really at odds with myself," he said. "I picture myself voting for one, and say, 'I can't do that.' Then I picture myself voting for the other, and I say, 'I can't do that.' So I don't know what I'm going to do."
Either way, Curtis said, "I'm pleased if this helps generate some conversation about a higher dialogue and communicating with more civility. That's my hope."