Exorcise the partisan demon | VailDaily.com

Exorcise the partisan demon

Don Rogers

The parties can only poison local politics.I know this from experience. From covering mainly small towns from California to New York, and in between, for the past 20 years now.I’m sure Tamara will work hard fashioning a compelling argument for Republicans and Democrats holding county offices, including commissioner. I feel sorry for her this week, actually. Such a weak hand.True enough, local politicians do not need to spring from parties to be jerks, irrational or otherwise completely ridiculous. You can see this for free on selected Tuesday and Wednesday evenings right here in the Vail Valley. Thankfully, the phenomena is rare here.Believe me, it would be a lot worse if towns, special districts and the school board members came from local party machines, complete with platforms and campaign machinations.I’ve seen it. Auburn, New York, a lovely upstate city where the Seward of Seward’s Folly fame lived and the fine citizenry chose a state prison downtown over becoming the state capital (for the jobs), where Alex de Toqueville visited – what a wreck. Actually, covering the city was a lot of completely inappropriate fun for the paper, specifically because the City Council was a bare-knuckled partisan affair. And I mean bare-knuckled. A couple of years ago, council members even had a fist fight in executive session. I don’t recall if the Republican or the Democrat won. Back there, one is every bit as mean as the other.Never mind that they never got much of consequence done. The tilt between party machines was endlessly entertaining – for outsiders. In my time editing The Citizen, the mayor had the long knife out for the town manager. We endured gag orders on staff, leaked information that often as not turned out to be outright baloney if not merely twisted, all sorts of hijinks that had nothing to do with making an aging city better. It was all about getting an edge, all about sound bites, dirty tricks. All about the party and who cares about the city, never mind the constituents other than their votes? It was pretty nasty in a way that you never see in our town councils. Oh, voters elect the occasional nut, but there they were organized. The county Legislature – 17 strong! – had the Republican incumbent who had just been popped driving drunk for the third time, this time while passing an ambulance on a red-lights-and-siren call on a curvy road, against a Democrat who had been fired and prosecuted while a village police chief for giving buddies false police credentials to rock concerts.Some choice, eh? The drunk won. Good party man, anyway.Cronyism was big. Policy had a back pew. Whew. Entertaining, but partisan politics made the city much less livable for regular folks. Towns and small city decisions have nothing to do with Republicans or Democrats. Neither should Eagle County politics. The commissioner’s chambers don’t need to be part of the farm system for the political parties. We don’t candidates coming out of ideologues’ living rooms or even chosen in primaries open only to party members.The towns and other local boards run by non-partisan elected bodies do just fine, I’d argue better than the county with the party taint. Let’s elect people rather than partisans.We don’t need platforms for or against the war in Iraq, nuclear power, gay marriage. We don’t recall drives over a commissioner’s “failure” to sign a county resolution supporting anything the president wants to do about terrorism. We don’t need commissioners taking sides in statewide party issues.We just need good people working for us, the people of the county, and not with an eye toward party favor for something later.What I’m saying is that at the local level – including the county government – party affiliation and all that comes with it is a distraction from the work of commissioners and department heads.You don’t need a “D” or an “R” to evaluate a sheriff or a county commissioner. So little of the real work has a thing to do with that.So let’s set up the Board of County Commissioners like the other local boards – the town councils, the fire boards, the school board. Take away the distraction.Let’s vote on the person.We’ll all be a lot better off for it. That should be obvious. It certainly is to me. Each Thursday, the editors of the Daily and the Trail offer Point-Counterpoint. For Trail Editor Tamara Miller’s side, see the Vail Trail today or visit http://www.vailtrail.comVail, Colorado

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