[MissoulaGov] Partisan Elections

Janet Donahue janetdonahue at msn.com
Sun Oct 29 14:50:10 MST 2006

Sue, thank you for this additional information. I wholeheartedly support going back to partisan elections. While anyone can run as a Democrat, Republican or some other partisan affiliation, the parties themselves are very good at supporting those "Democrats" and "Republicans" who best represent that party's ideals and platforms. Remember the Flathead County Commissioner race two years ago that found Republicans very upset with the "takeover" attempt of their party by the very, very far right. For the most part, Republicans ended up supporting the Democrat as a referendum for cleaning the Republican house even though it meant losing a Republican-held seat on the Commission. It energized the Republicans and this year things are different in the Flathead Commissioner race. The Republican candidate is more reflective of the predominately Republican Flathead County and is favored to win.

We could point to cities of populations over 50,000 and say that the majority of those cities have City Managers but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's the right choice for Missoula. Nor can we look at whether the majority of those cities have non-partisan or partisan races and expect that because there are more non-partisan city elections that it is right for Missoula's races to be non-partisan. We have a history of very open, lively and competitive partisan politics in Missoula. I think it is healthy, gives candidates a good support base, and helps those of us who care about politics to make wise, informed choices. Are there decisions made at the City level that have partisan overtones? Absolutely!

Having run as a non-partisan (Justice of the Peace) and a Democrat (County Commissioner and Lt. Governor) I found it very rewarding to be identified as a Democrat and less divisive. I had nothing to hide. If someone doesn't want to run as a Democrat or Republican, they can set up a different party, as Geoff suggests, or run as and Independent. There was no real reason to change from partisan elections 10 years ago. It has only led to confusion and the ability of some to call a candidate "new party" or whatever without any basis other than to try to paint a candidate with a (good or) bad brush. Let's eliminate the games being played and go back to partisan elections.

Janet Donahue
----- Original Message -----
From: Malek, Sue<mailto:Sue.Malek at business.umt.edu>
To: missoulagov at cmslists.com<mailto:missoulagov at cmslists.com>
Sent: Sunday, October 29, 2006 11:13 AM
Subject: [MissoulaGov] Partisan Elections

Please take a moment to read the attached article "Statement NYC Nonpartisan Elections" which Bob Oaks gave to study commissioners during our deliberations and which influenced our decision to recommend a return to partisan elections.

I believe the subject of partisan elections is due serious and well-researched consideration. I want to reiterate what I hope many of you know. Your Missoula City Government Study Commission worked very hard over a two-year period, interviewing people, taking public comment, reading articles and books, arguing points of view and finally arriving at the recommendations that will be placed before voters next Tuesday. In recent days, two people asked me if the commission was my job. I have a full-time job, one commission member has three jobs, and yet all of your study commissioners spent hundreds if not thousands of volunteer hours, working on and refining what we learned into recommendations for Missoula voters.

We did not merely ask Missoulians who elected us to do this job --- "How do you think city government should be change?" We surveyed citizens about what they liked and didn't like about city services and the responsiveness of their government and we made recommendations based on what we learned in our studies of municipal governments and trends in the field of municipal governance.

I was sorry to read Geoff Badenoch's Sunday morning comments in this blog this morning. The interesting statistics he cites are that the majority of cities in the United States now operate under nonpartisan elections AND participation in municipal, state and national elections has continued to decline. Are "all politics local politics"? Perhaps not, but city governments do make resource decisions. Will low-income housing be available in our community, will we be able to walk to a neighborhood store to pick up the milk we forgot to buy on grocery shopping day, will we continue to have open spaces, clean water and breathable air or will other priorities take our attention and resources and will the Montana I knew as a child and know today be long gone for my son and his children? People deserve to hear these political debates.

What is the trend in municipal governance today, a trend that began more than 10 years ago? Cities in increasing numbers are returning to electing a strong mayor. They recognize that municipal governance isn't just about potholes, it about resources and politics and where city dollars get spent. May the voters of Missoula have opportunities to learn about the values of their candidates and find that those candidates of groups of people, yes political parties, who are willing to fight for these values.

Thank you to Heidi Kendall and Bob Jaffee, who despite the politics, are supporting what they think is best for Missoula.

Sue Malek, Chair, Missoula City Local Government Study Commission
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