Political compromise is usually the best way to advance progress in government, but such compromises should be driven by principle, not mere expedience.

That’s why we have reservations about a deal struck between city-parish Mayor-President Kip Holden and Mayor Pro-Tem Mike Walker linking approval of a downtown Baton Rouge project with bridge funding.

Walker chairs the Metro Council, and Walker and Holden frequently have been at odds with each other. Holden also has sparred with other members of the Metro Council.

Recently, Holden promised Walker he would free $900,000 in funds for parish bridges in exchange for the Metro Parish’s support for a $900,000 stage canopy in Galvez Plaza downtown. Some council members had complained about the cost and safety of the canopy, but the Metro Council eventually approved the stage canopy.

Some council members distanced themselves from the deal between Holden and Walker, saying they were voting on the canopy on its own merits, and not in connection with anything else.

Even so, the deal promoted by Holden and Walker sends the wrong message.

If there are legitimate concerns about the cost and design of the downtown stage canopy, the public shouldn’t be left with the impression that such concerns simply can disappear if money is made available for unrelated projects.

Yes, we know these kinds of bargains develop in politics all the time — everywhere from the smallest village council to the halls of Congress. But it’s the kind of thing that tends to make people cynical about government.

We want Holden and Walker to work together, but they should be united by something more than a shared gift for horse-trading.