Green Shoots at the Grassroots
Bipartisanship can deliver positive results, when hyper-partisanship cannot. Here are four more examples of the good things that happen when good folks work together.
Kentucky – Job Training
Kentuckians are positioned to successfully grow the automotive industry in their region. They are six years into a ground-breaking “Big Collaboration” that connects 30 community colleges, 34 auto-related plants, and governors from 12 states along the I-65 corridor from Michigan to Alabama. The Automotive Manufacturing Technical Education Collaborative (AMTEC) began when Toyota Kentucky asked Bluegrass Community College to help prepare the ‘highly-skilled and multi-skilled’ workers needed for modern advanced manufacturing. Soon, GM, Ford, BMW, and several auto suppliers had joined, and educators from neighboring states were collaborating to develop curriculum and teaching methods. Partnerships that effectively link ‘red’ and ‘blue’ states to large companies with similar skill needs can achieve the scale needed to put a dent in the nation’s job creation challenge.
Ohio – Transportation
Diverse communities require diverse transportation options if all residents are going to be able to move about freely and safely. Public officials from 47 jurisdictions in the Columbus, OH metro area are working together to achieve this goal with a shared ‘complete streets policy’ adopted in 2010 through the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission. The policy says that road and bridge projects seeking federal funds must accommodate pedestrians, wheelchair-users and cyclists – as well as automobiles. Complete Streets is the first step in a larger program called Lifelong Communities. Participating cities and counties will cooperate in solving transportation, housing, employment and challenges associated with future demographic shifts.
South Carolina – Fiscal Soundness
Faced with shrinking revenues and increasing needs, many governments across the U.S. face the threat (or the reality) of having their status downgraded by bond-rating agencies. The City of Greenville, SC bucked that trend in 2011 when Standard & Poor’s upgraded their bond rating from AA+ to its highest AAA. That means the city can borrow money and refinance debt at a lower interest rate, freeing up dollars for other community investments and attracting new businesses and jobs. What’s their secret? It’s in the process. Republican Mayor Knox White observed to Fox News that the City Council has worked together to get things done “in a nonpartisan way” for a long time. Democratic council member Jil Littlejohn agrees: “We don’t worry about political lines…. We look at what’s best for the residents.”
Wisconsin / Minnesota – Citizen Participation
Citizens and local officials in the twin port cities of Duluth, MI and Superior, WI are combating partisan rancor with nine common sense principles of respect. When the discourse at city council meetings turned ‘raw’ in 2003, leaders from the Duluth-Superior Area Community Foundation reached out to citizens to help establish ground rules for future debate. The resulting principles were adopted by the City and County councils and inspired a curriculum now taught in the Duluth Public Schools. The process also successfully engaged Millennials who had previously been turned off by self-defeating, combative processes. The “Speak Your Peace Civility Project” is being replicated in other communities.
Blair is a No Labels citizen leader from Alexandria, Virginia.