MARVIN CASE

Throughout the 237-year history of the republic, Americans have demonstrated a reverence for fair play, justice and doing the right things.

In contrast to many other countries, American auto drivers generally obey traffic laws and line up for traffic signals at intersections, not solely due to enforcement efforts but because it satisfies the underlying principle of equity.

The American sense of justice and fair play is further demonstrated by the ballot box decision-making process. At some levels of government, Americans vote to decide important issues.

Even in athletics, sportsmanship and following the rules is often emphasized over winning.

Given this background of cultural preference for fair play, it is particularly troublesome when blatant violations occur. Americans understandably object when the ideals of equity and doing the right thing are not followed. Here are a few examples:

• It is not fair that the Washington State Department of Transportation closed a Brush Prairie grocery store years before the land was needed for road improvements, forcing a businessman to lose his livelihood and, many years later, die a broken and bitter man. The same inequity is now underway with a Dollars Corner restaurant, which was forced to close one year and counting before that property was needed for road work.

• It is not fair that all residents of Clark County pay a C-TRAN sales tax when they shop but many have no way to affect C-TRAN policies or service. It is a glaring example of “taxation without representation,” which was to be barred when this country was established. Yet the C-TRAN board knowingly and purposefully created this situation, thumbing their collective noses at the concept of fairness.

• It is not fair that the federal government spies on American citizens – monitoring phone calls and emails and possibly by other means – while denying citizens the right to monitor governmental activities. Anyone who is able to break into government computer systems is prosecuted if caught, but there seems to be no consequence for the government snooping into the affairs of private citizens.

• It is not fair that some people enter the country illegally. Some immigrants sneak across borders or overstay their visas and remain in the country until apprehended, if that ever happens. Even then, violators are not always evicted but allowed to further abuse the goodwill and generosity of the American people.   

• It is not fair that government can ignore or override the decisions made by citizens at the ballot box. Too often the will of the people is overturned by either the courts or by legislatures, sometimes on technicalities and other times on constitutional grounds and twisted logic. Perhaps it’s time to make changes in the structure of the federal government by establishing term limits for senators and representatives, mandating a balanced budget, and placing limits on the application of the interstate commerce clause of the Constitution.

• It is not fair that those planning a new I-5 bridge have to be pressured to increase the height to just 120 feet and even then needing to buy out two companies that would no longer be able to do business with an obstruction so close to the water. This writer was in Savannah, GA recently and marvelled at a new bridge 140 feet above the water, which allowed very large cargo ships to pass. Both the Savannah River and the Columbia River are dredged to about the same depth, but the bridge height in Savannah made all the difference.  It was good for commerce and very impressive.

• It is not fair that Clark County voters rejected a light rail system and tax, yet the C-TRAN board approved the project anyway. County commissioner Steve Stuart, who cast a critical vote in favor of light rail after having led some people to believe he would vote otherwise, has proven to be unpredictable on this matter. He has recently announced plans not to seek re-election. Odds are he will resign before his term is up to allow for the appointment of a hand-picked and like-minded replacement.

• It is not fair that the Battle Ground school board renewed the contract of its superintendent and then “terminated” her a few months later. That process resulted in a wasteful expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars for which the school board later apologized. Board members knew what they were doing. They did everything they could to cover their tracks and then avoid talking to the public about it, never explaining why they didn’t simply let the superintendent serve the remaining contract term or quit. The board operated on the idea that it’s easier to seek forgiveness than permission.

Other inequities are on the horizon. More than 10 years ago, Clark County voters soundly defeated a plan to expand the number of elected commissioners from three to five, yet efforts are underway to force that matter to the forefront once again. This writer hopes voters will once again reject that plan.

And on it goes.

The only apparent answer to alter the course of growing inequities is to elect new representation at all levels of government, to “throw the bums out,” and to elect people who will respond to the will of the people.

It’s hard to do that at the federal level. Even though voters seem to believe that changes are needed in Congress, they are reluctant to vote to change their own representative or senator.

It is somewhat different at the state and local levels, where it’s easier to identify those who ignore public interest and seem to think they know better than the public what course of action should be taken.

Clearly changes in representation are needed at all levels. Clark County citizens would be better served by commissioners and C-TRAN board members who are responsive to the public interest. Property owners would be better served if the state legislature had greater control over the state Department of Transportation and its use of the power of eminent domain.

And the only apparent answer to the Battle Ground school board debacle is for voters to replace the school board and to turn down the next levy request. Voting against levies is usually characterized as punishing children, and to some degree it is, but such action will be a necessary step for the public to regain control of their public schools.

Above all, it’s necessary for the public to express itself in all of these ways and to let it be known that an era of apathy and lethargy is over.

Marvin Case may be reached at (360) 687-4122 and at marvincase@msn.com.

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