The Great New Bedford Belgian Block War, otherwise known as the media scrum over spiked cobblestones, is already winding down.

But almost as interesting as the pros and cons of the debate over the panhandlers is what happened during it with three of New Bedford’s best known politicians.

Jon Mitchell, Mark Montigny and Hugh Dunn did a public dance of posturing, politicking and yes, earnest policy debate, that we don’t often see in this era of post-traditional politics.

Politics used to be about meeting your boyos in the backroom, raising your money and getting out your lawn signs, doing highway visibilities on, god forbid, traffic islands. A radio chat or a televised press conference would outline your policies, rewritten with details for the smaller portion of folks who read newspapers.

But during this era of the Great New Bedford Incumbency — the last three decades when local politicians get elected once and then forever put out press releases about the bacon they’ve brought home — we don’t often get debates about policy anymore. The endlessly re-elected local state reps and senators, mayors and city councilors, often seem like they mostly exist to do favors for the people enterprising enough to call them and ask for one.

And policy? Policy, including very good policy, still gets done, and some of it by the very same local elected officials riding the bacon gravy train. But when it gets done, it mostly gets done in Bob DeLeo and Stan Rosenberg’s offices. It gets done when Charlie Baker picks up the phone and asks the Pioneer Institute what they think about issue ‘X’. It certainly doesn’t get done in the realm of public debate very often.

But there it was last week a public debate, at least a briefly circumspect one, in the realm of the public comments.

First, we had the appearance out of nowhere of the angled Belgian blocks at the Octopus intersection. No one announced that the median would be reconstructed so it would be virtually impossible to stand on. No one took credit for making the median unwalkable or made any formal effort to tell the public, or even most of the elected officials, about what was going on to address the intractable panhandling problem.

Ward 3 Councilor Hugh Dunn was one of the first to get wind of the spiked Belgians and very soon after WBSM talk host Chris McCarthy broke the story that Dunn and two other councilors had written to Mayor Jon Mitchell opposing the “inhumane architecture.”

McCarthy’s very fine story outlined Dunn’s concern that the city, in an effort to deter panhandlers from working the busy intersections, had deliberately redesigned a bit of its infrastructure so that it would be dangerous for the public.

“We as a city cannot be hurting people, and it is an outrage that we are spending city dollars to make others suffer. To design our public spaces in such a demoralizing manner is unacceptable,” wrote Dunn, along with fellow councilors Ian Abreu and Maria Giesta.

Mayor Mitchell then made himself available to talk about the issue, both to myself and lots of other media. He stood by his decision on the angled cobblestones, he said. The public, frustrated with the growing number of panhandlers, had by an “overwhelming” margin told him that they liked the solution to the growing number of street beggars at the intersections, he said. He added that as a manager, he has to make decisions to get something done unlike legislators who deal only in the realm of creating policy.

Of course, New Bedford’s unusual solution to the cobblestones quickly went statewide, as all things negative about the city tend to, and WBZ did a story and put up a Facebook post on it. Which none other than state Sen. Montigny promptly commented on, calling the Belgian Block idea “Medieval. File this under ‘really stupid, thoughtless ideas,” he wrote.

As McCarthy pointed out in his blog, Montigny is very careful about the public comments he makes. For him to label a proposal of the mayor’s “stupid’ that had already been criticized by Councilor Dunn is more than meaningful.

It was a very public split between Montigny and Mitchell though to anyone on the inside of New Bedford politics, it’s long been known that the mayor and the state senator are not happy with each other. I’m not exactly sure what that is all about but suffice it to say we’re dealing with two guys here who both view themselves as the prime mover of New Bedford politics. And there can only be one prime mover.

Montigny, at least for this issue, has clearly aligned himself with Dunn. Does that mean he will always be there in any future races for mayor, state Senate or any other office aspiring politicians might think about? It’s not absolutely clear. It’s worth noting that Montigny hasn’t moved to reverse the mayor’s action on the intersection, not that it’s clear he would be able to do that anyway.

A lot of politics is about being able to work with other politicians and businessmen, some of whom are difficult to work with. And at least two of these three politicians have had challenges working well with others from time to time — I’ll leave it to you to guess which two.

Do Mitchell and Montigny work well together? You tell me. When was the last time you saw a photo of them together? Is Dunn someone who works better with Mitchell or Montigny? My guess is that far and away he’d be with Montigny and Montigny’s people.

But all of this is fluid. I’ve never seen a New Bedford politician of any sort who doesn’t work with even his political enemies when he or she has to. In my time, I’ve seen Fred Kalisz work with Biff MacLean and Scott Lang and Marlene Pollock work with Jack Nobrega.

It’s all relative. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Compromise and working with the political enemy is often the way things get done.

But for now, there’s some public messages being sent by Dunn, Mitchell and Montigny. We’ll just have to wait for a while to find out what the messages do and don’t mean.

Jack Spillane is the Sunday and editorial page editor of The Standard-Times.