Platte County needs to avoid divisiveness that lead to polarizing politics

One of the more difficult parts of working in journalism revolves around developing an opinion voice.

The opinion section is a difficult place to be, and it’s even more difficult to be good at voicing your opinion. There’s a difference between saying things and truly being heard.

I decided to let faithful Citizen reporter Brent Rosenauer wade into a commentary last week. He went in a direction I didn’t expect, which led to some trepidation.

You see, Brent is still just a college student learning on the job.

At least one statement he made appeared to be inflammatory to a certain degree, and I warned him to be prepared to stand behind his viewpoint of Donald Trump. Should I have edited him down? Perhaps.

However, I didn’t envision a scenario where I would be defending his right to an opinion to an irate customer demanding a $4 refund on his remaining subscription. Yet there I was last week trying to understand some very convoluted reasoning that led a man to drive to my office and seek out a $4 check while yelling at me.

My mistake. I should’ve known better.

This unfortunate incident has led to some contemplation on politics, which have become overexposed and almost incomprehensibly complicated. This especially shows at the state and national levels, leading to very contentious elections during the past year and set to continue in November.

Perhaps you’ve been following the Democratic and Republican national conventions and have some idea of what I’m writing about here.

I can see a direct correlation between disagreeing so vehemently with an opinion that you opt out of a service you originally signed up for and how we ended up with two so divisively different candidates for President of the United States. We can’t even listen to others anymore and consider compromise.

No. Instead, we get red-in-the-face mad and try to tell someone else why they are wrong to have an opinion.

That’s what led us to an overgrown Oompa Loompa who can’t stop contradicting himself and a woman who might be just as fit to serve some time for federal crimes than run for office.

Almost no one seems to support either candidate but would instead like to tell you why the other candidate is bad and shouldn’t get your vote.

I find it all terribly exhausting.

But that’s what it takes to be a viable candidate at this level — no middle ground. Just speak to the extreme on either side and watch the more moderate candidates fall away.

There’s no such thing as a conservative Democrat or liberal Republican anymore. In fact, liberal and conservative have become interchangeable with the parties.

What happened to looking for compromise?

That’s part of why I worry about the elections in Platte County. It’s become obvious that conservative Republicans have become the predominant force in local politics.

I won’t tell you that, in and of itself, is a bad thing.

What I worry about is one direction with no checks. Too often in these Republican primaries the finger gets pointed at Beverlee Roper or Duane Soper for being too moderate on taxes.
I always appreciated Soper’s pragmatic approach that led to enough stress that he chose not to seek reelection. Being the unpopular dissenting voice can be difficult.

In reality, Roper and Soper voted for a rise in property taxes to account for a past mistake (poor planning to account for a federally mandated expenditure), hoping that would be a temporary inconvenience. The opposition wanted to find a way to “cut spending,” but actually identifying those potential cuts has proved difficult.

Now, one of John Elliott’s plans centers around a proposed sales tax cut that could be taken to voters. This would include a reduction in parks tax, establishment of a law enforcement tax and a reduction of the road tax.

In all, this equates to a 15 percent cut that looks great but maybe doesn’t deliver what is intended. Ultimately, a citizen would save about 12 cents per $100 spent, or about $1 for every $800.

Saving money is good, but if the outcome of that is a decrease in park maintenance or road quality, is that what we truly want in Platte County?

I’d argue that working together to find efficient solutions should be the answer. Maybe the cuts would be practical and services wouldn’t suffer.

That balance will be the responsibility of a commission that appears headed to having three like-minded Republicans seated. I just don’t want to see scare tactics used to convince citizens they can save a bundle in tax cuts when responsible compromise could simply allow the money to be better spent.

I respect the positions of presiding commissioner Ron Schieber and the current presumptive Republican candidates. I think they have good ideas.

I just hope they also respect the idea of quality discussion in determining the direction for Platte County. Sometimes, we have to listen to an opinion we don’t like, understand it and respect it to create the most viable solutions. 

Ross Martin is publisher of The Citizen. He may be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter: @Citizen_Ross.