For better government in clark countY, Washington

Clark County faces a crisis of leadership driven by elected leaders who have failed to make sound decisions on key public policies and projects.  Instead of looking to the public, policy experts and staff before making key decisions, these elected leaders have relied on ideology and party politics in arriving at poor solutions to public policy decisions.

County Leadership Challenges to Economic Growth

Over the past two years, key elements of local elected leadership have listened more to political ideology than the needs of the citizens and businesses of Clark County. This leadership has pursued narrow political agendas that have stood in stark opposition to key economic development projects and initiatives that had the potential to keep our community moving forward.

In November 2012, two ideological conservatives were elected as Clark County Commissioners. Consequently, the Clark County Board of County Commissioners became dominated by two ideologues who have consistently shown a willingness to pursue policy avenues aligned with an inflexible set of world views, and an unwillingness to pursue policies reflective of the true needs of the citizens and constituencies they represent.

The laundry list of questionable decisions made by the conservative majority on the Board of County Commissioners will have long-term negative consequences for the economic health of our county.  

In April of 2013, these Commissioners circumvented established Clark County Human Resources policies and practices in their hiring of a State Senator as Director of Environmental Services, after firing the incumbent Director for questionable causes.

The passing of resolutions eliminating park fees, permitting fees, development and traffic impact fees stripped the county of revenues used to cover the cost of services critical to the development and business communities. This action would either require that funding come from other county sources, or the level of quality of these services would decline and impact the development community.

These Commissioners withdrew the County from a joint operating agreement with the City of Vancouver for the city and county parks, resulting in increased parks operating costs for the County.

Wasting County resources in the development and passing of clearly political resolutions in opposition to the Columbia River Crossing and questioning the integrity of other elected officials related to C-TRAN and RTC decisions regarding the Columbia River Crossing.

Legislative Challenges to Economic Growth

The second major development of the 2012 elections was the change of control in the Washington State Senate from majority Democratic party control over to a Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC), comprised of minority party Republicans and two conservative Democrats.  From Clark County, State Representative Ann Rivers (R) and State Senator Don Benton (R) were elected to the Washington State Senate, and took on key roles within the MCC.

Throughout the 2013 Washington Legislative sessions and the 2014 session, Identity Clark County, the Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce, the Columbia River Economic Development Council, and other business, labor, freight, government, port and citizen groups from throughout Washington and Oregon came together to advocate in favor of a transportation-revenue package that included the Columbia River Crossing (2013) and a second version that simply included funding for other Clark County transportation projects and road maintenance/preservation. 

Despite the strong showing of support for these packages, the MCC failed to pass them, demonstrating a higher allegiance to party politics than to the needs of the community.

During the 2013 regular Washington legislative session and the two subsequent special sessions, the MCC blocked key transportation funding packages that included Washington State funding for the Columbia River Crossing, citing the opposition of Senator Rivers and Benton.

During the Fall of 2013 and the 2014 regular Washington legislative session, the MCC leadership rolled out two proposed transportation-funding packages of approximately $12.3 billion each.  Of the approximately $8.7 billion in capital projects listed in each package, Clark County was to receive $41-45 million in funding, or about .7% of the package for a county with about 6.3% of the state’s population.  The reasons stated by MCC leaders for such a poor showing for Clark County was the lack of support for these packages by Senators Rivers and Benton. 

In the late spring of 2014, after derailing the decade long effort towards building a new Columbia River Crossing, Senators Rivers and Benton have launched a new effort to build a newer Columbia River Crossing, and Commissioners Madore and Mielke have launched an effort aimed at building a third bridge across the Columbia River in East Vancouver.  Both of these efforts have been undertaken without significant consultation with other potential partnering cities, counties or state agencies.  Absent any partnerships, these efforts will have no realistic chance of success, and will play out as acts of political theater rather than real attempts at solving our communities' transportation needs.


A Crisis in Leadership