The letter, approved at an emergency meeting on Thursday, says the city needs to open sooner to prevent businesses from going under
BATTLE GROUND — During an emergency virtual meeting held Thursday afternoon, members of the Battle Ground City Council unanimously agreed to send a letter, written by Mayor Adrian Cortes, to the office of Washington Gov. Jay Inslee.
The 398-word letter urges the governor to consider the economic fallout of the ongoing stay-at-home order, which has been extended through May 31.
“We appreciate your efforts and leadership in dealing with the pandemic, but I fear that the efforts are not sufficient to deal with the fallout,” the letter reads. “Our local economy is suffering. Businesses are closing for good, and those that are attempting to remain open are faced with escalating debt and no clear idea when things will return to ‘normal.’”
During the emergency meeting, Councilor Mike Dalesandro expressed his support for an effort to urge the governor to cede more control to local governments in moving through the phases of reopening.
“The one-size-fits-all approach, it’s just not practical for our state and for our community,” Dalesandro said, noting that Clark County currently doesn’t meet the governor’s requirements to apply for a waiver to move to the next phase more quickly. “You do everything right and it really won’t matter in the grand scheme of things.”
While supporting the sending of the letter, Councilor Brian Munson wondered if it would be enough to get the governor’s attention.
Quoting from a story in Clark County Today, Munson noted the frustration of Vancouver Republican Rep. Brandon Vick, who joined three other lawmakers this week in taking legal action against the governor’s order.
“Really, at the end of the day, if a legislator can’t even get a response, and he’s up there, why is a small city of 21,000 gonna even get a consideration?” Munson asked.
Councilor Shane Bowman said he’s hopeful the letter might encourage other elected officials throughout the state to follow suit, urging the governor to cede more local control.
“Enough of us start saying that, maybe we can get some change,” Bowman said, “or maybe we can get him to sit down.”
“It’s a first salvo, if you will, to the governor,” added Cortes. “My hope is that, like Council Member Bowman said, this is a first that creates the momentum for other jurisdictions to follow in the footsteps of, and creates a momentum to start to begin those discussions.”
Cortes said he has had numerous discussions with local business owners worried they will be unable to stay open past the next week or two, let alone several months.
“We recognize the significant public health concerns around COVID-19 and we continue to advocate for sensible measures to help mitigate those health impacts on our community,” the letter reads. “However, staying the course will cause more Washingtonians to lose jobs, lose their ability to pay for basic needs to support their families, and will undoubtedly create irreversible impacts that will far out live the pandemic.”
Munson suggested City Manager Erin Erdman look into creating a framework for how businesses in the city could reopen, ahead of the governor’s current schedule.
“Your letter’s there, but we’re not telling him ‘this is who we are, this is how we get back on our feet sooner than later,’” Munson said. “We have businesses that need to be open weeks ago, there’s no reason they shouldn’t have been up and running.”
The council agreed to bring the topic back up for discussion at their next meeting, currently scheduled for May 18, to include details on what an accelerated reopening schedule would look like.
In the meantime, they hope other cities and counties will follow their lead in taking action to urge the governor to sit down and consider their plight.
“I want to be clear, I’m not advocating for breaking the current rules. I think that we have to be real clear about that,” added Dalesandro. “We want to follow the orders, but what we’re asking the governor for is a policy change, and to give local jurisdictions more control.”