Our View: Local officials should play nice

October 20, 2013 

Can’t we all just get along?

These are words to live by in life and regarding intergovernmental relations, we hope.

We’d like to think, for instance, that city of Boise and Ada County Highway District leaders can begin doing a better job of communicating to one another so they can resolve differences and get about the business of doing what is best for citizens sans barbs and stiff arms.

We’d like to think the city of Eagle and the Ada County commissioners could get together soon, be honest about the facts and hurdles and come to a mutually beneficial decision about the Gateway Project and other matters on that 200-plus acre parcel in Eagle before the drama melts away the possibility for a snow terrain park for this season — or for good.

We’d like to see less vitriol back and forth between state leaders and municipalities and more cooperation along the lines of Gov. Butch Otter’s Task Force on Improving Education. The example of people who were verbally attacking one another a year ago about education reforms — and who now are working together to bring them about in Idaho — is one to emulate across the board.

Having just witnessed our leaders in Washington D.C. act like they need a time-out after a month of bickering, we don’t want to see any of our city, county and state leaders fall into a similar pattern.

We need more progress and pragmatism and less politics. We are not trying to lecture in any specific direction — though we certainly could recite the back and forth about impact fees, parking space sensors, nitpicking “hidden agendas,” misinterpretations of protocol, miscommunications and misunderstandings.

The takeaway from the federal government shutdown is that the majority of the stakeholders were talking at each other instead of to each other. What-not-to -do Washingtonians made too much use of third-party forums and media to vent the very points they should have been negotiating face to face.

“Negotiation” doesn’t work well when the lips say “we should talk” and the words are followed by actions that say “we want to win it all and we’re going to ignore you.”

We’ve talked to knowledgeable observers and stakeholders involved in the city of Boise’s occasional spats with ACHD. It is a strained relationship sometimes because it is so unusual and fraught with unique demands. Nobody we know can name another city like Boise that has to work through the rules and protocols of a county highway district in order to get its own roads developed or maintained.

Over in Eagle there is a decision to be made because Ada County is not interested in taking on the liability associated with a snow terrain park based on the current Eagle/Ada County lease agreement. If Eagle were to buy the property in question, there is going to be some difference of opinion on the value.

So, what’s new? Differences of opinion are common, but disagreeable grudges that can end up in court are lose-lose propositions.

We have faith in a core of reasonable people in Eagle, Boise, Ada County and ACHD. Working through disagreements is a much better path than sending missives back and forth that frustrate negotiations.

Boise City Council President Maryanne Jordan said there are fundamental disagreements between Boise and ACHD at times, but the two organizations have been “playing nice on a whole host of things, like the 30th Street project and developing bicycle transit plans.

“We’re getting there.”

Can’t we all just get along?

If it is naive to think so, or hope so, we’re all in trouble.

“Our View” is the editorial position of the Idaho Statesman. It is an unsigned opinion expressing the consensus of the Statesman’s editorial board. To comment on an editorial or suggest a topic, email editorial@idahostatesman.com.

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