When the Nevada Legislature enacted our ethics into government law in 1977, it declared a fundamental principle of public policy – that a public office is a public trust that should be held solely for the benefit of the people. As a result, the Legislative Assembly has passed ethics laws designed to preserve our trust in government and in the public officials and employees who make decisions for us.
These laws help ensure that our leaders will not take advantage of their positions of authority for their own private gain, such as unfairly securing gifts, favors, opportunities, privileges, or compensation for themselves. It’s because when they do these things, they violate our trust in them and in the institution they serve. Our trust is at the heart of everything.
But good government requires commitments from every member of the community, not just from our government leaders. Community membership is voluntary. We have each made a personal choice to live in Boulder City knowing that with the privilege of doing so comes certain expectations, including how we behave. The decision to join our community triggered both access to its benefits and the responsibility to meet those expectations, including upholding shared values and commitments to one another.
Just as trust is central to the ethical laws governing our leaders, it is also central to our own actions as citizens. It is impossible to build a strong, unified and cohesive community without trust. All the ethical laws in the world will not help us if we cannot believe and rely on each other’s honesty, integrity, virtues and strengths. High confidence always leads to greater efficiency in achieving our goals.
But trust is at an all-time low in our society, as polls regularly confirm. People are losing faith in the government, in the police, in the media and in our education systems. And this lack of trust makes us feel excluded, helpless, powerless, vulnerable and disenfranchised.
Our level of trust is strongly correlated with our sense of belonging. Those with high confidence feel like they belong and are valued, which strengthens our community. Those with low confidence feel alone and undervalued, which weakens our community.
So, in order to build a stronger community, we must recognize the need for trust and do everything in our power to foster it. What can you and I do individually to build trust within our community? More importantly, we can each make a more intentional and concerted effort to avoid trust-destroying behaviors and replace them with better trust-building alternatives.
For example, instead of belittling, belittling, or making fun of those we disagree with, we can intentionally choose to listen carefully and try to understand them. Rather than bullying, intimidating, harassing, or seeking to embarrass others, we can choose to engage in respectful dialogue and use our gentle powers of persuasion. And when we are tempted to put our own ego and selfish desires above the greater good of our community, we can make the conscious decision to do just the opposite by subordinating our selfishness to the best interests of the whole community.
Rather than following modern trends of using lies and misinformation to discredit others or promote our own agendas, we can make a deliberate choice to avoid making issues personal and instead focus on the merits of the decision at hand. . Rather than sowing doubt on social media, hitting back with clever tweets or TikTok videos, or responding with sarcastic memes, we can take the high road by acknowledging common ground and respectfully pointing out differences in ‘opinion.
As you can see, trust is a choice. So choose to seek the good in others. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Give them the best motives possible. Forgive quickly and freely when you are offended. Do not look for reasons to attack and destroy. In summary, use the golden rule of trusting others as you would want others to trust you.
Personal integrity also goes a long way in increasing community trust. Your choice to follow Community Standards not only strengthens the integrity of the system, but also gives others more courage to do the same. Having personal integrity means doing the right thing and living up to our community standards even when no one is watching. It means being true to yourself and others even if the chances of being caught are slim. It means having each other’s backs, upholding each other’s good name and reputation, and never doing anything that can let you down.
So, whether you’re new to Boulder City or have been here for years, I hope you will continually ask yourself the question, “What can I do today to strengthen Boulder City by building a community of trust?” Then go do things you can trust, even when no one else is watching.
I am so grateful to each of you for all you do to make Boulder City the community I love the most and trust the most. For that, I will be eternally indebted to you.
The opinions expressed above belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Boulder City Review. They have been edited for grammar, spelling and style only, and have not been checked for accuracy of views.
Rod Woodbury has resided in Boulder City for over 40 years and is President and Managing Shareholder of his law firm, Woodbury Law. He served on city council from 2011 to 2019, including four years as mayor.