I’m pretty sure it’s not the wisest thing in the world for me to point out publicly a weakness, or shortcoming in my job performance. But, above all else, I’ve tried to make my editorials an open dialogue and honest conversation with our readers.
So, in that spirit, one of my biggest shortcomings since taking over as editor of The Reflector Newspaper more than three years ago, is our lack of coverage of Clark County issues. Marvin Case, our former owner and editor, did a much better job covering county issues than I have. Make no mistake, I’m proud to be keenly aware of what our bread and butter is. And, that’s covering our circulation area, which is largely North Clark County. However, I recognize that county issues are our issues too.
A visitor came into my office recently and asked me how everything was going. I responded that I felt good about everything, but if I could just find about eight more hours in every day, I think life would be considerably better. He said that if I could do that, I will have solved the challenge of life. Well, if I did perform that miracle, I would devote some of that found time covering what’s going on with our Clark County Commissioners.
I fully admit that I’ve been watching from afar. I wasn’t at the contentious Nov. 19 meeting. I don’t have the first-hand, in-depth knowledge and information that others might. I don’t think that disqualifies me from saying, however, “what on earth is going on?’’
There is no question that we’re living in a time, both locally and nationally, when most of us are clamoring for change. There is a strong anti-government, anti-establishment and anti-incumbent sentiment present today. Just ask the three Battle Ground council members who, after 12 years of service, were unceremoniously and soundly ousted from their positions in the recent general election.
So, the election of David Madore to the Clark County Board of Commissioners was change. I think you can argue now that it was a radical change. But, I think you can make a strong case that it hasn’t been a change for the better. Madore is an intelligent, successful man. But, it’s obvious to me that his actions show he has very little regard for any person, policy or procedure that stands in his way. The appointing of Sen. Don Benton to the position of environmental services director for the county is an example of just that.
At the Nov. 19 meeting, the county’s former chief diversity and inclusion officer, Rekah Strong, told Madore and fellow commissioner Tom Mielke that they “100 percent circumvented our process’’ when they appointed Benton. Anita Largent, who served as the interim director of environmental services for the county prior to the Benton appointment, filed a tort claim that the Benton hire “violated nearly every written county policy promising equal employment opportunity, non-discrimination and fairness in hiring.’’
Madore and Mielke have repeatedly said they have done nothing wrong. I guess that will ultimately be decided, one way or another. But, is that really the litmus test for a politician? Would Madore and Mielke be validated if a judge or ruling body later determines they didn’t commit the violations Strong and Largent claim they did? I don’t think so. I hope we all expect more from our elected officials.
We have many recent examples of area politicians not doing the right thing. The Battle Ground School District Board of Directors reach a settlement with former Superintendent Shonny Bria worth $400,000 and then feel like they don’t have to inform the district’s patrons. And when they’re confronted, the board president lies about it and the others remain silent.
In La Center, the mayor pays the former police chief $150,000 to walk away and tries to hide it. A year later, the interim police chief hands him a salacious 40-page report of ghastly allegations against department heads in the city and the mayor doesn’t even feel the need to look into the matter. Even after it’s made public five months later, he repeats he plans not to investigate. Finally, others persuade him to do the right thing, which he does, reluctantly.
And, at the end of every one of these remarkably ridiculous and troubling situations, the citizens are left with virtually only two options for change. They can start the long and arduous process of recalling an elected official or they can file a lawsuit. We can only get 36 percent of registered voters to turn in ballots for a general election. In that climate, how much chance is there of a sustained recall effort or someone standing up to file a lawsuit?
My good friend Brian Wheeler, the radio voice of the Portland Trail Blazers, has a long-standing ritual of poking fun at an opposing coach late in a game when his beloved Blazers have gone on a run that forces a timeout. As the home fans are standing and screaming their approval, Wheeler shouts that the other coach is experiencing three emotions, all of which conveniently begin with the same letter (Wheeler rotates the trios from game to game).
So, in that vein, the recent actions of area elected officials – and in this case commissioners Madore and Mielke – have left me disgusted, disheartened and demoralized.