After a long and partisan election year, how can we come together — as Democrats, independents and Republicans — to solve problems for people?
I reject the notion that politics is a fight between two sides, and that whenever the other holds office, your job is to obstruct everything and hope for the worst, then win the next election and fix the mess.
That brand of scorched-earth politics only hurts the people we represent.
Pierce County is a perfect example of why working together is more important than ever. It’s about as politically diverse as a county gets in Washington, with Democrats and Republicans, liberals, conservatives, moderates and independents all serving at the local, state and federal level.
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We struggle more than most with congestion on our roads and are seeing rising rents as Seattle transplants move south to escape the high cost of living.
On the eve of the 2017 Legislature, I am proud to be an elected Pierce representative working alongside passionate Democratic and Republican lawmakers committed to their communities.
The past year has been full of vitriol, attack ads, blame games and fear from national politicians. But, believe it or not, that is not the norm in our state capital.
The reality is most bills passed by the Legislature are bipartisan compromises made in committee or through face-to-face discussions. That’s the approach Pierce County legislators have taken to work together.
It’s an honor to be a part of that process. Yet perception does matter.
The public sometimes sees lawmakers belonging to different teams in a partisan fight. That message constantly rains down upon our citizens, new lawmakers and our kids.
It’s a corrosive and poisonous story that can only lead in one direction: gridlock and a broken democracy.
We can’t let that happen. Cooperation is the only real way to solve problems.
Take education. For years, the big challenge out of Olympia has been the battle to fully fund public schools. This is a critical goal and a long, past-due obligation. It’s the paramount duty in our state constitution, and one reason I decided to become a lawmaker. Like many of you, my family includes children in public schools.
Yet our schools won’t get fully funded without a compromise among Democrats in the House, Republicans in the Senate and Gov. Jay Inslee, who can veto any bill.
Compromise doesn’t happen when you’re at each other’s throats. We have to rebuild trust between citizens and their democracy, and that starts by rebuilding relationships among all of us.
Our job isn’t to crush the other side. It’s to have a discussion of ideas until we reach a compromise that solves a problem faced by citizens in every corner of our state, whether traffic gridlock or the high price of college tuition.
This isn’t a zero-sum game where you only win if your neighbor loses. The best solutions help all families and neighborhoods.
Over the holiday season, I took my two teenage daughters to our nation’s capital. They saw our founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.
We talked about the importance of the words written more than 200 years ago. My wish was that the trip would help them understand America is the birthplace of the modern democracy. By working together, compromising and being willing to listen to the other side, our Founding Fathers showed the world what we could do with freedom.
We need to lead by example at all levels of government. Pierce County is blessed with committed lawmakers who can show the rest of the state how great democracy can be.
It’s my hope that in 2017 all of us can step back from the political brink and look past the labels of party, geography and demographics.
Because we are better, as a state and as a country, than what we saw in 2016.
State Rep. Christine Kilduff, D-University Place, is vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee and serves on the House Education Committee. She was a two-time president of the University Place School Board.