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Another Voice: Civility and bipartisanship need to make a comeback

By Anthony H. Gioia

Any follower of the national political scene has to be aware of the increase in partisanship that has infected our country on both sides of the aisle.

While I can understand that well-intentioned individuals can have legitimate differences of opinion, it seems that scoring points on the opponent is more important than doing the right thing for America in far too many instances. Given the serious challenges we as a community and nation are facing, this has to change, or our adversaries will exploit these differences to the detriment of our entire country.

It wasn’t always this way. I was a major supporter of Sen. Alfonse D’Amato in upstate New York. Shortly after D’Amato lost his re-election bid in 1999 I received a call from Sen. Charles E. Schumer’s office requesting a meeting with me when the senator was planning to be in Buffalo on his first trip after the election. I explained that I was a big supporter of Sen. Schumer’s opponent so there must be some mistake. I was assured that the senator was aware of my past support and that was the primary reason for the meeting request.

We spent a very pleasant half hour or more together and he explained that even though I supported his opponent he wanted to get to know me and hoped we could work together. I was very touched by this and I mentioned that there was a possibility that newly elected President George W. Bush would nominate me for an ambassadorship. Schumer said that if that happened he would be pleased to introduce me to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee when I went for my hearing, which he did. Rep. John LaFalce, another Democrat, also was at my hearing supporting my nomination.

In 2004, then-Gov. George Pataki appointed me as the chair of the newly formed Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., to help manage and coordinate the development of our waterfront. In this role I interacted frequently with Rep. Brian Higgins, who was and still is the leader of developing our waterfront. It also happens that almost every time Brian ran for office it was against a close family friend who I backed aggressively.

Brian and I put my past support behind us and we worked together to move our new agency forward. Working cooperatively, we, among other things, negotiated an agreement with the New York State Power Authority that ensured considerable and continued funding for our waterfront. Brian and I continue to be close friends.

I personally, as well as the community, benefited from working together, although the senator and congressman are Democrats and I am a Republican. This is because, in my opinion, all of us are Americans first. As a nation we must go back to that almost forgotten practice for the collective benefit of our country.

Anthony H. Gioia served as the U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Malta from 2001 to 2004.

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