Charter adds intrigue to November general election

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As is often the case, there weren’t an abundance of compelling races in this month’s primary election. There were few positions that had legitimate top-two elimination battles on the ballot. That said, my interest in the November general election has already been piqued.

At or near the top of the reasons this general election is of great interest to me, is how will Clark County voters be split on the Home Rule Charter? Voters in the county have defeated three past efforts to approve a Home Rule Charter (1982, 1997 and 2002). For some reason, I think this year’s vote shapes up to be more compelling than those in the past.

First of all, I have made the issue our editorial question this week. I hope you will go to our website (www.thereflector.com) and let us know how you feel on the issue at this point.

On a side note, I realize there is a potential flaw in our poll. It allows just one vote from each computer, but obviously it doesn’t prevent readers from voting from more than one computer. I received some comments of concern when I asked for our reader’s thoughts on the race for Clark County sheriff. Ironically, the results of our “unscientific’’ poll were remarkably similar to the results of the primary election. That said, I’m not in any way holding our poll up to be anything more than a glimpse into the current thoughts of our readers who choose to participate.

Back to why I believe this year’s vote on the Home Rule Charter is compelling to me. First of all, there is such an acrimonious culture in the county right now. The ideological divide between Conservatives and Liberals, Democrats and Republicans, is as wide as anytime in recent memory. And, I believe this vote will, in large part, be that of ideological minds and party lines.

Second, it appears to me that the proponents of the Home Rule Charter are well organized, well funded, and extremely motivated to get the Charter approved. It appears to me that they fully understand the uphill battle they, and others, have faced in the past and they are not taking the Herculean-nature of the task for granted. Curiously, at this point, there just doesn’t seem to be the same groundswell of organized support for a fight against that uprising for change.

Let’s face it, there are strong footholds on both sides of the issue. Clark County has always, in my mind, leaned to the right. Sure, inside the City of Vancouver and among certain, even powerful, county leaders, there are Democrats/Liberals who are passionate and committed to their agenda. And, those folks have been galvanized and energized in their opposition to David Madore and Tom Mielke’s majority leadership on the Clark County Board of Commissioners.

There are those who believe I have a dog in this fight, when it comes to Madore and Mielke against the field. Even though I am a confessed Conservative, I don’t approach county issues with an ideological agenda. My view of the proposed Home Rule Charter isn’t based upon what has transpired in the last couple of years, and it’s my hope that voters who want to approve the charter don’t view it as a vote against Madore and Mielke. There’s much more at stake in this vote than just trying to pry away some power from two conservatives who currently hold a majority on the board.

In the State of Washington, six of the 39 counties have a Home Rule Charter in place. If Clark County becomes the seventh, here’s some of the changes that would take place:

• The Board of Commissioners would be expanded from three to five and their pay would be cut virtually in half, to $53,000 annually.

• The commissioners would no longer have the ability to hire and fire department heads or implement a countywide initiative and referendum process.

• One of the five county “councilors’’ would serve at-large and would act as “chairman.’’

One of my biggest fears, is that the 15 freeholders who created this proposed Charter (three of which voted against it), weren’t working with a historical perspective in mind. They were acting in a reactionary way to the current dynamics in play in our county. That’s extremely dangerous if that was the case.

I have always been amazed at the wisdom and foresight our Founding Fathers had when they drafted our Constitution and created our form of government, seemingly to account for all contingencies. Does this Home Rule Charter do that? Is the restructuring of the Board of Commissioners and the shift in the balance of their power to an appointed county manager a better structure for our county? I’m not convinced that’s the case.

It’s my hope that voters in our area will take a closer look in the next couple of months as to what is the best path for the long-term future of Clark County and not just consider how it might be a short-term solution to current frustrations. I promise I will.

Ken Vance

Editor

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