Friday, December 2

Editorial: Keep partisan politics out of Longview City Council and its elections | Editorials

The Longview City Council approved nine rezoning requests at its Thursday meeting.

Earlier this year, members signed off on a tax abatement agreement for Aviagen North America as part of the company’s pledge to build a facility in the Longview Business Park.

The council also in 2022 has approved making the city’s acting police chief permanent, OK’d renovations at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center and voted on numerous other issues affecting community members.

In the coming months, the council will review and eventually pass a 2022-23 budget and property tax rate.

None of these issues are inherently partisan, and they should remain that way.

Municipal elections are void of political party labels for good reasons. The focus of a council member should be not only on ensuring the will of his or her district’s residents are heard, but on moving the city forward through compromise and cooperation with fellow representatives.

Partisanship is an unnecessary burden — and distraction — that would hinder the council from performing its duties and likely poison our city’s progress.

So we agree with some of the concerns raised by Jose Sanchez during his comments at Thursday’s council meeting.

Sanchez as well as Bernd “Dutch” Deblouw recently lost the race to represent District 5 on the council to Michelle Gamboa.

“When all you (council members) … ran and were elected, no candidate was ever questioned or attacked for their political voting history,” he said during the citizen comment portion of Thursday’s meeting. “No state elected politician or groups endorsed or were publicly involved in a campaign. Why? Because it is a nonpartisan race.

“This was the first time in the history of Longview that any party got involved. … Your role as a council person or mayor now will be dependent on your political party.”

Gamboa’s campaign ads published in the News-Journal painted the District 5 race as a “clear choice” between a “liberal Democrat or conservative Republican.” The ads also stated that Sanchez “has historically voted in the Democratic primary,” presenting a contrast with Gamboa’s GOP voting record.

Other ads included an endorsement from prominent conservative state Rep. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola.

Gamboa certainly had the right to use facts in her campaign materials, such as Sanchez’s voting record, as well as list endorsements.

Other details used in her ads, however, are an unfortunate microcosm for how our nation, and culture, have drifted away from practical and into political.

One of Gamboa’s ads mentioned her opposition to critical race theory, which is irrelevant to the duties of a Longview council representative.

But is there a topic right now that elicits a stronger response from some Republicans? It’s a trigger aimed to tickle the political ears of Longview voters who lean red — likely the majority of residents in Gamboa’s district.

According to a Dallas Morning News article, Calvin Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, said the practice of having nonpartisan local elections in Texas began after the Galveston hurricane of 1900. Nonpartisan leadership was seen as the best way for officials to come together during hardships and efficiently serve their community, he said.

“What you often hear people say is that potholes know no partisanship,” Jillson told the Morning News. “There is no Democrat or Republican way to fill potholes or building schools and libraries.”

That’s what our City Council must be about — finding cost-effective, efficient and fair ways to address the needs of all community members, regardless of which political party or beliefs they align with. And our municipal elections must be a reflection of that mission, with a focus from candidates solely on real problems and real solutions.

Partisan politics should remain a problem plaguing the Capitols in Austin and Washington, D.C., and not Longview City Hall.

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