“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.’’ — John Quincy Adams.
It’s been almost 18 months since the Clark County Board of Councilors expanded to five members from the former Board, consisting of three commissioners. An assessment of the actions of the councilors, both individually and collectively, leaves a lot to be desired.
Let me preface my thoughts by offering some grace to councilors Eileen Quiring and John Blom, who have each been members of the Council since Jan. 1. Each has shown a willingness in that short time to faithfully represent the citizens who elected them and a little more than five months isn’t a fair amount of time to assess their job performance.
County Chair Marc Boldt took over the leadership position of the Council on Jan. 1, 2016. He sought out the position on the Council with the greatest need for leadership. Councilor Julie Olson joined Boldt on the Council at that time. Councilor Jeanne Stewart is the longest tenured councilor, having been elected in November 2014.
You might remember, upon the expansion of the Council from three commissioners to five councilors — as prescribed by the passage of the Home Rule Charter — Boldt, Stewart and Olson formed a Council majority to strip any power by the perceived evil empire of councilors David Madore and Tom Mielke, who enjoyed a two-person majority on the former Board when it consisted of three commissioners.
Immediately upon the formation of the new Council, Boldt, Stewart and Olson didn’t look forward with a new vision. They chose instead to place all their energy on the past, stripping away virtually anything Madore and Mielke had put in place when they held a majority on the former Board of County Commissioners.
Item by item, the three councilors reversed prior decisions by Madore and Mielke. Gone would be a proposed cut in property taxes. Gone would be the councilors’ proposed updates to the Comprehensive Growth Plan, which included victories for rural landowners who had battled for their rights for more than two decades. Gone would be the Fee Waiver Program that Madore and Mielke put in place to create jobs and economic growth in Clark County. Gone would be the waiver of park fees, which were reinstated earlier this year.
Boldt, Stewart and Olson made it crystal clear to those of us paying attention all the things they were opposed to. But, after 18 months worth of opportunities, can anyone tell me with any clarity what Boldt, Stewart and Olson are in favor of? What are the programs and projects that they endorse, or champion? What issues important to Clark County citizens are Boldt, Stewart and Olson fighting for?
I try to pay as close attention as I can and I swear I can’t tell you the answers to those questions. Isn’t that what leadership is, having the courage to take a stand about something you believe in and championing that cause to the end, whether you prove to be successful or not?
Earlier this year, the council voted 3-2 to endorse the companion bills passed in the Washington State Legislature targeting an I-5 Bridge replacement project. They endorsed bills that seven other area lawmakers did all the heavy lifting on. Is that leadership, or is that just riding on the coattails of others?
Recently, the council showed a considerable amount of courage to remove County Administrator Mark McCauley. I applaud that decision. The word around the county is that McCauley spent more time defending county staff, and even shielding them from the councilors. At the time of their decision to terminate McCauley, the councilors shared the vision that it was time for new leadership. Again, I applaud that decision and it is my hope their upcoming decision on a new administrator will be a leader who thinks of the citizens first and foremost, rather than being protective of the staff.
Again, the councilors showed us what they didn’t approve of. But, what is their vision? How are they going to improve the lives of Clark County residents?
When it comes to improving transportation congestion and freight mobility, anyone with any vision realizes the I-5 Bridge replacement isn’t a complete solution. I agree it’s certainly an element of the solution, but we need more crossings. We need to somehow get Oregon’s lawmakers back to the table to participate in a plan for a solution.
Boldt, Stewart and Quiring each sit on the Regional Transportation Council (RTC). In May, information began to surface that Oregon lawmakers were proposing tolls for Clark County residents crossing the Columbia River at both I-5 and I-205 and yet it took a citizen, Camas resident John Ley, to raise the issue during public comments. Thankfully, Quiring then questioned Oregon Department of Transportation Region One Manager Rian Windsheimer, an RTC board member, forcing him to confirm publicly that it was indeed Oregon’s plan to toll Clark County drivers. Stewart, who chairs the RTC board, and Boldt sat quietly in their seats and showed no signs of the contempt they should have been feeling for the outrageous proposal of the Oregon lawmakers.
I’ve stated before, I was against Clark County’s Home Rule Charter. But, I liked the expansion of the Board of Commissioners from three to five councilors. But, I want councilors to lead. To pick a cause and champion it, fight for it. It’s time for these five councilors to show us what they are currently fighting for.