Housing, county revenue, and prisoner rehabilitation were among the topics discussed
CLARK COUNTY — Three of the four candidates squaring off for Clark County Council’s District 1 seat squared off last Thursday at Vancouver’s Central Library. The forum, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Clark County, saw incumbent Jeanne E. Stewart, along with challengers Temple Lentz and Jim Moeller, face eight questions covering topics such as affordable housing, mental health, prison overcrowding, civility in government, and much more.
Stewart, who was a Vancouver city councilor from 2001 to 2013, is looking for her second term on the county council. She identifies as a Republican, while Lentz and Moeller are both running as registered Democrats. Stewart last won before the new Home Rule Charter, which Lentz helped to craft, went into effect. She’s now facing the prospect of re-election in the county’s most liberal district, which covers much of downtown Vancouver.
Lentz, as mentioned, helped to guide the Clark County Charter as a freeholder, and also has spent time as a precinct committee officer. She currently chairs the Clark County Commission on Aging, and works as business director for the Heather DeFord Group at Cascade Sotheby’s International Realty. Lentz has been leading the fundraising so far for this race. According to data from the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, Lentz has raised over $33,000, outpacing any other county council candidate. Stewart has reported only $1,100 in donations, while both Moeller and Veny Razumovsky have not reported any campaign contributions.
Moeller was in his third term as a member of the Vancouver City Council when he stepped down in 2002 to become a state legislator. He was a member there until an unsuccessful bid to unseat Republican Jaime Herrera Beutler for Washington’s 3rd Congressional seat in 2016. Moeller, who seemed to struggle with answering many of the questions within the time limit, went public with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease last May. “I have a disability — an illness — but I am not disabled,” Moeller told the audience. He said the neurological disease does make it more difficult to put a voice to his thoughts, but has not impaired his judgement or ability to do the job.
Razumovksy, a former Marine and IT specialist, is a fourth candidate in the race. He identifies as a member of the CascadiaNow party, though he has not run an active campaign and was not available at Thursday’s forum.
Following is a sample of some of the questions asked of the candidates, and their answers. You can view all questions and answers at the video below.
Question: “The Clark County Public Health Department continues to struggle with funding. The Department provides many services, from birth and death certificates, to communicable disease prevention, to restaurant inspections, to septic system inspections. How can funding for this vital department be increased?”
Temple Lentz — “There’s a possibility of fee for service. Currently a number of the services that are provided do not bring in the revenue that they actually cost. It costs us more in the county to put them out, than we charge. And while that’s good and wonderful that the county subsidizes a number of things, we also do need to think about the fact that, if we are offering a service, are we charging what we need to in order to continue to provide that service as effectively as possible?” — Also need to explore more public/private partnerships, and, if the ban on marijuana in the county is overturned, make sure any revenue goes to public health.
Jim Moeller — “I agree with many of the things that have been said by Temple. And I also agree that we have many, many mental health issues regarding trauma.”
Jeanne Stewart — “Prevention is the very best thing. Treating after the fact is expensive, and not altogether that successful. In the last four years public health has brought at least three recommendations to us to increase fees for services we provide, to reduce the sort of deficit. We have done that in every case, and we are continuing to do that.”
Question: “There is an advisory commission working on solutions to the over-crowding in the Clark County jail. What solutions would you propose, and how would you finance them?”
Moeller — “I don’t know how I would finance them. I would propose that we would keep…. I don’t know.”
Stewart — “The very first focus that we must have is that anyone who is incarcerated, regardless of the crime, must be in humane, healthy circumstances. And they must be protected from other prisoners, and in other cases, sadly, from themselves … We need to divert people out of jail that don’t really need to be there and are not a danger to the public. And we need to get them more quickly directed to mental health courts, substance abuse courts, and other of our therapeutic court systems that we have, that we know work. They’re expensive, but they work. This is preventing the need for jails at the rate we need them now.”
Lentz — “The fact that our population has gone up should not necessarily mean that we need to thus build a bigger jail. We need to look at why we are arresting people, and there are many cases where folks don’t need to go directly to jail … Now with regard to the jail that we have, it is outdated. I first toured it about ten years ago, and it was outdated then. Our corrections deputies spend 35 percent of their lives in a place with no natural light, as well as the folks that are in jail, but they actually get to leave a little bit sooner.”
Question” “Demographics show us that housing needs are changing. Examples include mobile employment, irregular income, fewer homeowners, more older citizens, and more cars per residence. Is the county being proactive in accommodating these changes?”
Stewart — “Especially for our older citizens, we’re looking at things called Cottage Housing, and it’s a little cluster of smaller, one story buildings that are self contained, but have common courtyards and open space. And we are working on our land use regulations, and our building code, and building standards for housing, in order to accommodate that need, and to do it as quickly as we can.”
Lentz — “We really do need to start having a much more realistic, much more serious conversation about what we mean when we talk about density in Clark County. And that doesn’t mean for the county as a whole — this is a diverse county with many different people and many different styles of housing. But especially as it affects District 1, we need to think and talk about density. (It is) really one of the only ways that we’re going to be able to increase housing opportunities in our county without also increasing deep infrastructure needs, and thus continuing to increase our structural deficit.”
Moeller — “Is the county being proactive when it comes to housing needs changes? Yes they are, to a degree. Fewer homes mean that we must go up, instead of out, at least in District 1.”
Question: “How should the County Council apply civility to its discussions? What would you do to increase the transparency of the council’s decision-making process.”
Lentz — “Some friction in county governance is necessary. Having a diversity of viewpoints, to be sure that we’re adequately representing our community is incredibly important. But we need to act professionally, we need to be courteous, we need to be civil, and civil isn’t just waiting until somebody else is done talking … In recent months we have seen what appears to be a lack of transparency with a number of decisions that were being made at the council level. The community deserves to know what is happening when we lose multiple staff members in a very short period of time and we don’t hear about what has happened to make this happen.”
Moeller — “The county should be civil in its discussions, and it is. That has been my experience throughout the meetings that I have attended … But civil discourse also needs friction. Transparency in the decision making process — I have a feeling that instead of six o’clock once a month, it could be six o’clock throughout the month to increase transparency.”
Stewart — “Sometimes there is discourse that’s hot — it’s controversial, people disagree with each other—that’s part of nature. But you just get over it … I believe that there is transparency, but I see a need for additional transparency as well.”
Question: “Mental health issues, including trauma, affect so many areas, such as homelessness, schools, prisons, and individual quality of life. How would you address the mental health issues that face the county, including funding?”
Moeller — “I spent my life at Kaiser dealing with mental health issues, including trauma. However, with Kaiser you have a self-selecting group of people. They are not homeless. They have jobs, they have families, usually. At length I would say… well… that will be my answer.”
Stewart — “One of the things I really want to draw attention to are new studies that have been done all over the country, and in other parts of the world, that indicate that early childhood trauma — meaning domestic violence in the home — and mental illness, substance abuse, affects that child throughout their life, unless that child can also understand that there is a more stable life. And we have programs right now through Public Health that are specifically directed towards working with those families. That’s a wonderful outcome.”
Lentz — “What I would like to see the committee do, and continue to do, is to really evaluate the programs that they are funding. And the ones that are working, the ones that are really showing benefit, let’s increase how we support those. And the ones that aren’t working as well, can we re-allocate those funds in a way that will be more impactful? And that is a way to distribute the funds better without having to actually raise what we’re charging anybody else.”
Question: “What programs should be available to inmates to help them become law abiding taxpaying citizens when they are released?”
Lentz — “The things that I’m interested in seeing are workforce development and training. If there are folks who need help getting back into the workforce, can we not just offer those services in the jail, but connect them with the other folks in our community that are doing great work to help with those problems?”
Moeller — (defers to Temple’s response)
Stewart — “One of the barriers, and this is a difficult barrier, is anyone convicted of a felony has a very hard time renting an apartment, even if they have financial assistance. And the reason for that is many landlords are fearful of having felons in a building with non-felons, because you don’t want to lose your other tenants … And right now there are not adequate resources for getting responsible housing for people, and if you don’t have housing, how can you apply for a job?”
Question: “What specific recommendations do you have for increasing the county’s revenue?”
Moeller — “Immediately I have the elimination of the ban on marijuana. I think that would bring in a tremendous amount of cash. Right now we give the city of Vancouver and the city of Battle Ground, I believe, free reign over that.”
Stewart — “I think it’s the wrong question. I think the question is ‘how do we get a fully adequate balanced budget?’ … The first thing we need to do is make sure the money we’re spending is necessary. Do internal reviews, look at contracts that are issued — do we have staff on board that could do that same work — and reduce the number of contracts we have … When it’s determined that we cannot balance the budget, after all efforts are exhausted, then we will need to find a way to have a tax that pays for that. And I completely disagree that marijuana should be included in that possibility, because we do not know what long term effects there are from long term use of this much stronger marijuana.”
Lentz — “We need to stop hamstringing ourselves on our ability to charge accordingly for the services provided by the county. We need to grow our economy. And we do need to figure out how to manage more effectively. As far as not hamstringing ourselves — a number of years ago a one percent cap was placed on our ability to grow property taxes, but then our county commissioners voted to stop taking that one percent for five years. And during that time we passed the tipping point of being able to recover from that.”
Jeanne Stewart: JeanneStewart.org
Temple Lentz: VoteTempleLentz.com
Jim Moeller: No known website
Veny Razumovsky: No known website