Mike DeBonis has an excellent piece in the Washington Post about the folly of holding partisan municipal elections in Washington, DC. If I have any disagreement it’s that the conclusion that “The problem in the District is that parties add no value to our politics” is too weak. Partisan elections subtract value from our politics by effectively disenfranchising the 10-20 percent of the population that registers Green or Democratic.
Partisan elections also subtract value from our politics by introducing an irrelevant heuristic into the mix. I remember when I told people that I was voting for a Republican for an at-large City Council seat a couple of years ago they were outraged—a Republican!—but of course the legal status of abortion or the merits of invading Iraq weren’t on the ballot in City Council race.
In general, I think political parties and partisanship are useful mechanisms for democratic mediation. So my ideal scenario would actually be for DC to have two-party politics with something like a “Growth and Development Party” pitted against a “Preservation and Community Party” which I think roughly captures an actual ideological disagreement that’s relevant to city government. But insofar as that’s not possible, it’d be best to imitate the many other cities (DeBonis cites Chicago, LA, and Houston) who go non-partisan for these offices.