Archive for July 27th, 2007

by Pete Talbot

“You don’t fill a pothole different as a Republican or Democrat.”

Those words came from former Missoula County Commissioner Barbara Evans. I’ve heard them before, in various versions, from city and county officials for many years now.

And I suppose those words are true. But how you budget for roads and maintenance, and craft transportation and growth policy, is political. So are zoning and affordable housing and open space and, well, just about everything except how you fill potholes.

Progressives and conservatives have a different view on how to accomplish public policy.

The “politics” debate is heating up for the city council races, too. There are those that like the idea of a warm, fuzzy council with no bipartisan conflict. It ain’t gonna happen. The ‘R’ and ‘D’ may not be behind a candidate’s name on the ballot anymore but we know who’s who. Or we’ll certainly find out as soon as they start casting votes on council.

City council hasn’t become any less contentious since we went to nonpartisan ballots over a decade ago. And I prefer knowing what a candidate stands for before electing him or her to office. Ergo, I prefer partisan elections.

Meanwhile, back at the county. Commissioner Bill Carey said of Evan’s replacement, “It’s not a political job.”


During county campaigns, why do you think the Chamber of Commerce and the development community line up behind the Republican candidate, usually, and the rank-and-file tends to line up behind the Democrat? It’s because the different parties represent different interests within the community.

I’ve been accused of being a Utopian, and as such, I should embrace politics that don’t promote rancor and conflict – things like nonpartisan elections and apolitical appointments. Since when does not having a political designation make someone a better candidate?

So call me a Utopian realist because it’s been said that all politics is local. I’d add that local is political – there’s no getting around it.

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