by William Skink
One of the things I brought to my work at the shelter was an ability to collaborate with people I didn’t necessarily agree with. I set aside my strong opinions to find common ground on which to work because I wanted to get things done. I was at least able to make some inroads with people and agencies where not much collaboration existed.
Partisanship is the opposite of collaboration. Republicans played a paralyzing game of partisanship for 8 years at the national level to stop Obama, and now Democrats are using the same playbook to stop Trump. Cynicism abounds, and the only things that get done are the things the big donors want their puppets to get done.
Partisanship exists in its most potent form at the national level. As it trickles down, partisanship gets more diluted, and that’s because it starts running up against the need to get things done.
One example of this is the surprisingly honest and idiotically partisan rationalization by Jeff Essmann to force cash-strapped Counties to carry out the special election because:
“All mail ballots give the Democrats an inherent advantage in close elections due to their ability to organize large numbers of unpaid college students and members of public employee unions to gather ballots by going door to door,” Essmann’s letter said.
Democrats, Essmann said, have “perfected the mechanics of using mail ballots” in recent elections. Essmann said he fears “the long-term viability of our Republican Party” if Montana switches to all-mail ballots.
Essmann ran afoul with his own party because fiscal conservatives dealing with grim budget decisions balked at this nakedly partisan attempt to prioritize winning elections over the day-to-day reality of County governments getting things done.
In this situation, the partisan position was not the winning position.
I didn’t recently defend State Representative Adam Hertz just because I find the partisans writing at Intelligent Discontent to be insufferable hypocrites stuck in a protracted tantrum over election results they helped create. I defended Hertz because I think he’s a collaborator who can get things done.
Evidence of this assertion came today via Missoula Current. The irresponsible owners of the defunct Smurfit Stone site won’t pay their taxes, and the cost of unpaid taxes continues to burden the county, impacting schools and infrastructure. To deal with this, a “R” and a “D” worked together to craft legislation palatable to both parties:
Hertz, whose House district includes the former mill site, said he got involved when Dudik’s bill came before the taxation committee, of which he is a member.
“I could see issues with it and that it wasn’t going to make the cut with Republicans,” Hertz said. “But I could see the value of it for the Frenchtown site, and potentially in the future for Columbia Falls (the former aluminum mill site) and Colstrip (the power plants).”
Hertz joined Dudik as a co-sponsor and worked with her on amendments that would make the bill more palatable to the GOP majority.
Subsequent amendments eliminated the bill’s call for treble damages, allowed the prevailing party to collect attorney fees, and added a provision limiting the bill to property taxpayers who were $250,000 or more in arrears.
That answered most of the Republican legislators’ concerns, and the bill passed out of the taxation committee late last week.
True collaboration (not the corporate sponsored kind prevalent among environmental collaborators) gets things done. I saw this first hand during one of the many clean ups I was involved with at the homeless camps under and around the Reserve Street bridge. I got to work with the Health Department, the Clark Fork Coalition and a bunch of volunteers to remove tons of trash from an area that had become a no-man’s land. It’s still not ideal out there, but there are less people engaging in unsafe behavior (like stabbings and homicides), less trash, and the Montana Department of Transportation doesn’t have to spend well over ten thousand dollars to hire contractors to clean up the mess.
Collaboration is not always going to be the answer, but with such rancid partisanship on both side, it’s nice to know there are still a few things a Republican and a Democrat can work together to accomplish.