Democrat Cleaver and Republican Yoder share award for civility

Across the state line – across political parties – with a wide gap in their ages – Missouri urban Democrat U.S. Congressman Emanuel Cleaver and Kansas suburban Republican U.S. Congressman Kevin Yoder have become good friends. The two were jointly awarded the Consensus Civility Award yesterday, with nominators calling their friendship “a fine example of statesmanship.”

Just following what some call a particularly nasty political season, a Kansas City nonprofit has handed out its first annual awards for civility. And here’s a surprise – the award in the government category goes  – jointly – to Democratic U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Kansas City, Missouri and Republican Johnson County, Kansas U.S. Representative Kevin Yoder.

Consensus, an organization that works to “put the public in public policy,” has been studying civility and advocating for more respectful public discourse. (In the interest of transparency, Midtown KC Post editor Mary Jo Draper is a part of the Consensus Consulting Group). Consensus said it has begun the awards to encourage civility in public life and to recognize individuals and organizations that have worked to solve problems.

According to KCPT’s Nick Haines, who emceed the awards ceremony, said on the surface, Cleaver and Yoder could not be more different. “What they share is a commitment to working together even when they disagree. The commitment sets them apart from much of political life these days,” he said.

Yet Cleaver and Yoder often take the same plane flight to or from Washington, and they’ve formed a friendship. It’s becoming more common for them to speak at events together.

Carol Grimaldi, executive director of Brush Creek Community Partners, was honored with the first nonprofit civility award. Her organization, founded in 1996, works with institutions and neighborhoods along the Brush Creek Corridor. The nomination said, “Carol commands great respect from her peers. She is a true community leader with a demonstrated history of bridging socioeconomic and cultural divides.”

The award honored the two for “exemplifying civility in action.” Cleaver, it noted, has championed civility since taking office, forming the Civility Caucus in 2005 and promoting bipartisan and respectful relationships across the aisle. Yoder, the nomination said, “has proven his ability and willingness to engage in common-sense, civil dialogue.”

Consensus also honored these civility award winners:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award/Father Norman Rotert: Rotert was honored for his career championing the poor and practicing justice. He is a founder of the Blue Hills Homes Corporation and the Kansas City Organizing Project, an advocate for Church Community Organizing, and served on the national board of the Pacific Institute for Community Organizing.
  • Public Process/The Kansas City Star: The Star was honored for changing its policy on anonymous posting of comments about stories. It now requires people to fill out a registration form or sign in with their Facebook accounts.
  • Nonprofit award/Carol Grimaldi: Grimaldi, the executive director of Brush Creek Community Partners, was honored for leading the organizations and neighborhoods in the Brush Creek Corridor to encourage cooperation and collaboration.
  • Forprofit award/Greg Graves: As past chairman of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, Burns & McDonnell CEO Graves was honored for helping to bring together the urban core of Kansas City and the suburbs. He lead the chamber in developing the “five big ideas” to improve the metro region.

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