As we near two years of divided government in Portage, now is a great time to reflect on how Portage’s elected leaders of different parties can do a better job of working together to find solutions in the best interest of Portage residents.
Anyone attending recent City Council meetings will have witnessed political theater at times rivaling the best that Washington, D.C., offers seemingly on a daily basis. What we have failed to remember as elected officials from opposite parties is that issues and problems facing our community know no party.
Crumbling streets, leaking roofs and missing sidewalks are not Democrat or Republican issues. They are community issues that require our elected leaders working together to find solutions.
Rarely in politics are there absolutes; none of us is ever completely right or completely wrong. The recent vote against the park bond shows the dangers of political absolutes and what happens when politics overshadows finding solutions.
It's clear there was not agreement on what projects are needed at the parks versus what are wants. Instead of tabling the proposal to allow more time to find consensus on an appropriate list of projects for the park and city, the council’s abrupt “no” vote seemed to send a message of choosing political victories over a willingness to find common ground.
It is our responsibility as elected leaders that instead of simply saying "no" we offer our own ideas as alternatives.
We cannot allow our valid disagreements on how to solve problems to become excuses for simply being obstructionist. The recent federal government shutdown illustrates clearly what happens when political leaders obstruct instead of solve.
Without clear leadership and vision in city government, mistrust, divisiveness and obstruction are allowed to develop. It is critical for us as elected officials to offer a clear vision for Portage's future which we can use as a guide in our decision-making and avoid having one branch get too far ahead of the other.
Of course, even with a clear vision we will still have disagreements as to its implementation. That is OK. Disagreements in government are good as it shows elected officials are being thoughtful about their decision-making. However, when disagreements become political posturing we have failed ourselves and our constituents.
With about two years remaining in our terms, now is the time for us to redouble our efforts as elected leaders to put aside the political gamesmanship and work more diligently to find solutions to important issues. We cannot forget that to our residents achieving results are the only political points that matter.