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Candidates for county chair square off in forum

Three of the four candidates participate in forum; County Chair Marc Boldt answers same questions in email with ClarkCountyToday.com

VANCOUVER — Three of the four candidates running for the position of county chair participated in a candidate forum Saturday sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Clark County.

The three challengers to current County Chair Marc Boldt answered eight questions from a moderator and offered opening and closing comments at the forum. Those candidates included current Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring, who states her preference as the Republican Party, and challengers Christy Stanley and Erik Holt, who both state their preference as the Democratic party.

Boldt, who states no party preference, was out of town and unable to attend the forum. He did provide answers to the same eight questions via email with ClarkCountyToday.com.

The field of four candidates will be reduced to two in the August 7 top-two primary election. The final two will square off in November’s general election.

Here’s a look at the candidate’s responses to the moderator’s questions:

Question 1 — What is your leadership style? How would it enhance the chairing of the Council?

Christy Stanley: “My leadership style is both as a visionary and as a hands-on kind of a person. I would not ask someone to do a job that I would not do myself. The ability to improvise, adapt and overcome has always served me well. The ability to look at individuals for their merits and for their potential and for the types of ideas and solutions they bring to the table has always been something I admire about myself and seek in others as well.’’

Christy Stanley (shown here) was one of three candidates for the county chair position to participate in a recent candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Clark County. Photo by Mike Schultz
Christy Stanley (shown here) was one of three candidates for the county chair position to participate in a recent candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Clark County. Photo by Mike Schultz

Eileen Quiring: “I would say that I’m kind of a team leader. Having been in politics before, you learn that you build bridges, not tear them down. It’s very important because you never know when the person who maybe doesn’t see eye-to-eye with you on every philosophical thing,   there will always be something where you will agree. So, I think it’s very important, particularly in the political arena, to always be ready to listen and be ready and able to collaborate any way that you can.’’

Erik Holt: “For me it’s important to realize that leadership is not how you get people to follow you but how you inspire them to be greater people. So that’s what I do in my leadership groups. I collaborate with those. I see the talent that lies within all the people that I work with. We take those talents and turn those into a collaborative engagement to where, together, we build a greater force, a greater group of people. So, I think that’s really the true form of leadership, is to be able to set an agenda, to lay out your path, to hold everyone accountable but to allow them to create their own path and to become greater parts of that collaborative effort.

Marc Boldt (via email): My leadership style is leading by plain old hard work and service. I believe in going out to the citizen or going to the employee’s office or work station. My dad taught me talk is cheap so I have always put more work in seeing the problem myself. With that, I believe I can serve each person on the council better. Most of my work is not seen but it has great results in meetings that go smooth and everyone is heard. Also, because there is not a letter behind my name I can serve everyone regardless of party.’’

Question 2 — The Home Rule Charter states that the role of the council is to make policies, and that of the county administrator is to execute those policies. Explain your understanding of these roles.

Quiring: “As many of you should know, as just stated, there was a Home Rule Charter passed. It used to be that commissioners could manage the staff, etc. They could do a lot of things that now the Home (Rule) Charter has asked that the county manager do that. I was elected since the Home (Rule) Charter has been in place, because of that, I have operated under the Home (Rule) Charter so it hasn’t been that difficult for me to make a change. Those who sat on the commission as commissioners, now council, probably have a little bit more difficulty making that transition, but actually, I think we’ve done a pretty good job. I certainly do not step over the line and try to manage the personnel at all. It is our job to make policy and that is what we should do and it is the manager’s job to implement that policy.’’

Current Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring (shown here) is running for county chair. She participated in a recent candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Clark County. Photo by Mike Schultz
Current Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring (shown here) is running for county chair. She participated in a recent candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Clark County. Photo by Mike Schultz

Holt: “There is clear delineation between the legislative branch, which are the councilors, and the executive branch, which is the county manager who executes policy that are set forth by the council. I think it’s important that we respect that Home Rule Charter because that is what was voted on by the citizens of Clark County by a good majority. So we need to make sure the people who are in place on the council are following that charter and making sure they are not crossing that line and trying to force influence on the staff members in the executive branch in permitting, in code enforcement, in other aspects where the county manager is tasked with  fulfilling those policies … Those who walk the halls and are too friendly with the staff … you’re engaging too much then in more than just what a council member’s job should be. You’re trying to force influence onto the staff and I don’t think that is the intention of what the Home Rule Charter was set up for.’’

Stanley: “First of all, I think that the county administrator must follow the policies set forth by the council, except when to do so would be a deviation in some manner that the council hadn’t thought about when they set forth the policy. I know there has been a lot of talk lately and speculation as to whether or not the county manager should be not appointed but elected. I’ve heard a lot of people say that they would prefer to have an elected county administrator. I don’t know if that would be cost effective. I think that would something worth investigating more because then that person would then have an obligation to uphold the will of the voters and for doing a good job executing the policies on behalf of the council members. Hopefully that can get resolved in the next couple of years.’’

Boldt (via email): “It sounds simple until you are the citizen with the problem. Then you want an elected person to know the problem. But, with that said, it is working well. We have a good team and will have a great manager starting soon.’’

Question 3 — What are the big issues around growth management? How should development look in 20 years in the areas of land use, schools, utilities, roads, police services and quality of life? Please address “sprawl.’’

Holt: “We live in a county of nearly 450,000 people. For our level of services that we as a county provide for the people of the county, to maintain that level we have to have to continual and steady and sustainable growth throughout the county. There are people who want to see no development whatsoever and there are those who want to completely over develop the county and put up McMansions throughout all of the farmland. It’s important to realize that if we want to fulfill our obligations to the cities, which we do as a county, we have to have slow, sustainable growth which means some housing, development for business, but we have to look at staying within the urban growth boundaries, within the cities and counties, and we need to have more focus on affordable housing for families who are now struggling to try to reach that level of $650,000 McMansions that are popping up all over. That’s not giving more opportunity for the people who live here for affordable housing. That’s making it even tougher to try to get by. If we want to make our county continue to grow and to provide the services we need, we need to make it smart and sustainable.’’

Erik Holt (shown here) was one of three candidates for the county chair position to participate in a recent candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Clark County. Photo by Mike Schultz
Erik Holt (shown here) was one of three candidates for the county chair position to participate in a recent candidate forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Clark County. Photo by Mike Schultz

Stanley: “I think first of all, I would incentivize businesses to locate here and bring a lot of our commuters back from Portland. I think that the fact that people are living here and working in another city causing innumerable problems is part of the complex problem of sustainable housing and preventing urban sprawl. To make sure that land use is promoting affordable housing, but in a manner that takes into consideration the sustainability of keeping the natural feel of Clark County at the forefront of the issue. I think that we could follow a couple of other countries that have very good examples for innovating ideas for utilizing small spaces and being able to make them work and that country would be Japan. There are other areas as well, different parts of downtown Seattle, they have implemented good use of land use. If we just take a little bit more attention to details and innovation and accepting of other ideas we could definitely solve this problem.’’

Quiring: “Actually one of the largest issues around the Growth Management Act and our Comprehensive Plan … is that we have been using the wrong formula and we are looking into that and correcting that formula. We also have a population projection that is off by historical numbers. Therefore, when these various calculations are made, they don’t take into account the growth that is actually happening. When that happens, urban growth boundaries are not moved out so that creates a false scarcity of land because there really is land available but we are not moving boundaries so that land can be available. That doesn’t mean we go out and pave paradise in the rural area, I’m talking about actual sensible growth so that when you see population is actually going to increase you need to use the actual numbers that are happening … The cost of housing is so high because of this scarcity, you know the supply and demand issue, when you don’t have land, the cost of that land goes up so the builder, the developer has to pay more for that land …. So, the cost of that land and everything that goes with it is very costly.’’

Boldt (via email): “The big roadblock to a good growth plan is the state hearings board and all the power they have, even if they are not elected. It is the reason why alternative had no chance and even AG-10s or FR-20s went nowhere. To get anywhere, the state must step up and make this change. We need a reliable 20 years of land supply with a capital facilities plan to pay for roads, parks and schools, and enough buildable land for jobs. We do need to protect agriculture as long as farming can be profitable, but along with that we need enough resources in the county to take care of our needs without expecting other counties to do our work.’’

Question 4 — Specifically, what can the county do to support urban farming and food production?

Stanley: “I believe that there could be more promotion of education either online or in the classroom for these types of endeavors. It’s a part of the sustainability for keeping a rural field in high impact environments where a lot of people are living on top of each other. There is definitely lots and lots of information out there and we actually have professors in the college here in Clark County who are educated in this topic. So, I think it is important that there be a public-private partnership to be able to educate people in neighborhoods or to go and reach out to different neighborhoods that are established with homeowner associations and covenants and such. Maybe communicate with them … we can reach out to them and discuss various ways they can better use their spaces.’’

Quiring: “Actually, statistics show us that most recently that smaller farms are really doing the production. I have a friend who I think has 2 and a half acres, on that farm she grows organic vegetables. She has sheep, turkeys, chickens, eggs and various flowers too. It’s amazing what you can do with land when you know how to treat it and grow various things. So the farm-to-table idea that many restaurants are using, and that many of us want, really is happening throughout. Using our extension service that already exists is very helpful educationally for people to be able to create these small farms … You can learn an awful lot about creating a small farm right where you live.’’

Holt: “I live on five acres with a few chickens and goats and we have gardens and it’s a fantastic thing but it’s not a sustainable model for this county. We have 450,000 people in this county and 430,000 acres … I think that’s not a very good balance for everybody to running sustainable gardens on their own. The county needs to come in and be active in developing urban growth areas where we can set up community gardens … I believe there is $20-30 million we spend per year on our parks department. A chunk of that should be going into the parks creating food for us where people from the community could actually benefit from that food. We can get it back to food banks and to people who don’t have access and availability to fresh produce. We can be utilizing the land in a much more efficient and effective way rather than just mowing the lawn. As a county we have an obligation to do more for the people who live here and to look long term and to see when that population reaches 550 or 600,000 people, how are we going to make sure that everybody in this community has access to good organic food at a reasonable and affordable price. We need to support markets. We need to support gardens. We as a community need to make sure we are doing everything we can.’’

Boldt (via email): “The county needs to support our conservation district, which not only helps the farmer but the homeowner as well. I was instrumental in keeping our WSU research farm. Now that we have a research team, we can better serve the small farmer with varieties of fruit and vegetables for our area as well as other operating skills to be profitable.’’

County Chair Marc Boldt (shown here in a file photo) was not able to attend the recent League of Women Voters of Clark County Candidate Forum but he submitted answers to the moderator’s questions in an email response to ClarkCountyToday.com. Photo by Mike Schultz
County Chair Marc Boldt (shown here in a file photo) was not able to attend the recent League of Women Voters of Clark County Candidate Forum but he submitted answers to the moderator’s questions in an email response to ClarkCountyToday.com. Photo by Mike Schultz

Question 5 — Should there be an office set up to assist those who are unfamiliar with county procedures and services, especially for newcomers and non-English speaking citizens of the county?

Quiring: “My experience at the county tells me that just about any different department that you would call you are met with very friendly, informative employees so I think we’re doing a pretty good job. Now, if you’ve had a bad experience come tell me about it because even though I’m a councilor and we do legislative things, we actually do help our constituents too. I have observed the people in the county council’s office who help many individuals when they call. They are a wealth of information so I would support the employees who already are doing an outstanding job.’’

Holt: “We have great employees working for the county and they go out of their way to do outstanding work for all of us, but we do need to be more inclusive and have more availability to people in our community who are joining us. We also need to be a lot more technologically advanced. We need to have easier access and more user-friendly interfaces for the people in the community. As we develop and as we advance in the technological world, we need to realize we are very years away from having autonomous cars driving around the county. We need to have the same level of availability and infrastructure in place so that people can just dial in on an app on their phone and make sure that their bills are paid, or to apply for a permit, or to make sure that any other issues they are having at the county level are easily accessible and easily translatable to any of the many people we have in our diverse community. Although we are doing well, we can do much better.’’

Stanley: “I believe that there should be more public-private outreach services for newcomers. I would probably venture to say that the community strategic services plan if they don’t already have a good outreach program, which I think they do, could be expanded on. If they need an extra office specifically targeted for non-English speaking persons or newcomers to the area to get acquainted with services they may need is probably the best option.’’

Boldt (via email): “I believe the goal for all of us in the county is to serve everyone. If you do not know the system, we first need to make it easier to understand and then strive to serve everyone regardless if they are a long-term contractor or a person trying to build a shop for the first time. If we can get this to a high degree, any language barrier will be much easier to overcome.’’

Question 6 — The state legislature has voted to allow business development around the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad in Clark County through special zoning regulations. What are some of the pros and cons in moving forward with this development?

Holt: “The pros are obviously you have that development, you get jobs and you have investment, but there are a lot more cons to this deal than the pros. We are talking about a mile-wide industrial park … it’s going to be just north of this area, a mile wide where the farms used to be, where we are going to have industrial businesses developing up in there. We’re going to have, along that rail line, potentially very hazardous chemicals being trucked back and forth. This is a conversation we need to be having with the people in this community to let them know that yes there is this beautiful trail plan that is going up along with the rail, but there’s also a lot more to it than meets the eye. We need to have an open discussion with all the people of this community to let them know what’s going to be happening in their backyards.’’

Stanley: “There needs to be further discussion about this Chelatchie area industrial park expansion area but I’m for it. This goes along with my thinking that we need to attract more business and industry into our area to bring our commuters back, to get them back from Portland, to let them work where they live. That will help ease the traffic congestion that we all know so well. I don’t believe there is a plan at this point to put industrial waste or hazardous materials on the railway. I know there was some talk about an asphalt plant but I don’t think that has been finalized yet. I am for the development of that area and I do believe it should be done carefully and with as much community involvement and creative suggestions as possible for the development of that area. It’s all about bringing more jobs to this county and it’s all about getting an area that doesn’t impact the nature and farmlands as much as people believe it does.’’

Quiring: “What you heard from Mr. Holt is not true at all. He is taking some things that a sub-committee came up with but no decisions have been made yet. I’ve been working on this for a year. We have a 33-mile railroad that is an absolute treasure in this county. The ability to bring jobs to this county is wonderful, I think. I’ve been working to keep tolls off of I-5 and I-205. It’s made me even more passionate about the idea that we need our own economic engine. What will be done as we decide about any of these things that are developed along the railroad there will be careful consideration of all of the homeowners, the landowners, there will be buffering, and they are doing development rules right now … Many people are involved in this. This is an absolute wonderful opportunity that rarely do we get. This is an amendment to the GMA that’s been worked on for three sessions. I am excited about the possibilities. The CREDC … had a list of 14 companies that would create jobs along this railway that need land for jobs they would provide hundreds of thousands of jobs … I looked at the types of businesses and they were clean businesses.’’

Boldt (via email): “The railroad can bring in good reliable jobs but it has to come with public education and acceptance. It has been a long time since there were many cars going up and down the track so we must proceed steadily but not too fast. If we do, all may be lost.’’

Question 7 — Do you think the county has adequate revenue to fund the levels of service that residents want? Explain your response, including examples of what other revenue sources, or cuts in service, should the county pursue, if any?

Stanley: “We have an obligation and a duty over the next 20, 30, 50 years to attract more businesses and industries to our county and to be able to provide good paying jobs to our population, which will generate vital tax revenue and reinvestment in the communities where these people will work and live. Having 60,000-plus people commute to Portland every day is not acceptable. We have to take a strong approach to making our county and cities affordable, enjoyable and innovative for future generations.’’

Quiring: “I would agree that bringing more industry, more jobs to this county would create the revenue. It is stated that because we live next to Portland that we do have sales tax seepage because people do across the river to buy some of their goods. Our last budget, we had a $23 million balance and this is the type of balance that we need to maintain. We can increase the revenue by creating jobs and having more people working here and businesses paying their property taxes. We should always be looking for the most efficient use of taxpayer money. We’re going to be doing program-based budgeting this particular year. We’re changing from a biannual to an annual budget and I think that’s going to benefit us. I think any time you are dealing with budgets you have to carefully, even line by line, look at things and programs to make sure they are doing what they were planned to do when they were created maybe years ago, make sure there aren’t redundancies or overlap of different departments. I just promote that we should use taxpayer more just as efficiently as we can.’’

Holt: “In Clark County, we have about an $897 million budget and we have a shortfall looking at close to $11 million. As people in the community, we don’t want to have our services cut. Because of that, we need to find out how to make up that shortfall. The revenue that comes into the county, one third of that comes from the state as grants, one third of it is property taxes and another third of that comes from permits and fees and the other operations of the county. So, bringing more jobs to the county is absolutely what we need to do but there are a lot of available jobs in the county but they’re just minimum wage jobs that you can’t afford to live in the county if you’re working those jobs. So, we need to bring in infrastructure to make sure that the jobs that are created here are living wage jobs and they provide the families with benefits and sustainable growth but we don’t need to have the county filled with industry to make sure that we provide those jobs.  We have a huge port with an immense amount of growth potential, hundreds of acres just past the new development that is already allocated for heavy industry. So, why would we want to pull all of that through the county when we have a place allocated for that where we get people working great paying jobs in the county and not have the 71-75,000 people drive over the bridge everyday to find good paying jobs.’’

Boldt (via email): “At the present, we can have a balanced budget but in the future some changes need to happen with citizens’ reviews. Our criminal justice system will need new revenue soon. In the last recession, we cut a lot of services that has not increased any in the last few years. There are places we can cut but it should have citizens review before we do it.’’

Question 8 — As chair how would you ensure that the council engages in full and civil discussion of issues and questions before the group?

Quiring: “I think it’s very important that you maintain building bridges and not breaking them down. At this point in time, I think our county council is quite civil. I think we have good discussions about the decisions we make. I just plan on going forward with that kind of an atmosphere. I think you need to be collegial and I do think you should be able to talk about differences of issues but it should be done in a very collegial and friendly environment so no one is attacking anybody verbally, or physically.’’

Holt: “I think it’s very important as chair that you are listening to the other voices that are valuable and important. Everybody has something valuable to add to the discussion. Everybody sitting on the council has experiences in their life and a perspective that is important to listen to as a group and to be collaborative you all need to share those and not be disrespectful to anybody because you might disagree with their point of view. Nobody is wrong or less valuable than anybody else. It is important to hear all of the voices and to vet that as a group. That is what I would do as chair. I would get our group together and discuss the issues and determine what is the best decision we can come to for the people of Clark County and not for our own personal interests.’’

Stanley: “I feel like a person needs to leave their Sunday best and power suit at home when they show up for work in public office. I don’t believe that the current council is comprised of this ability. I feel that … everyone deserves to be heard. Everyone needs to put aside their own personal preferences and ideologies and really intently listen to the different perspectives presented.  I think it’s important to not focus so much on what divides us rather than focus on where we have shared perspectives. I think it’s important that the chairperson be fair and balanced with their time We are here to serve the community. We are here to actually get a job done. We are here to solve the problems that the citizens themselves are not going to do without our help. We work for them. I think that the community should not have to spend their time, almost as a part-time job, keeping an eye on government to make sure that it works for them and serves them.’’

Boldt (via email): “I have chaired some very tough meetings in the last few years.  I believe as long as the chair is polite, respectful and gives all citizens a right to be heard it can be civil.’’

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