Map would move two current councilors into new council districts
The Clark County Council’s effort to complete the redistricting process will continue with a public hearing on Wed., April 27. At that time, members of the County Council will vote on a proposed district boundary map, which they declined to approve when first presented with it as an option in December.
On Tuesday, three members of the County Council – Chair Karen Dill Bowerman and Councilors Temple Lentz and Gary Medvigy – voted to send Alternative B2 to the April 27 public hearing. Councilor Julie Olson was not available for Tuesday’s meeting and the District 5 position on the council remains vacant pending an appointment by Gov. Jay Inslee, which is expected to take place by the end of April.
The redistricting process was initially in the hands of a five-member Clark County Redistricting Committee. The committee was challenged by the fact that Clark County voters approved an amendment to the Clark County Charter that created a new fifth district for elected county officers.
The process was also hindered by a lawsuit filed against the county by former redistricting committee member Janet Landesberg, whose complaint alleged violations of RCW 42.30, the Clark County Charter 6.6, and violation of Washington’s Open Public Meetings Act. Landesberg did not prevail in her lawsuit.
The redistricting committee was unable to agree on a single map for the new five districts by its deadline. The committee had three maps – one supported by two Democrats, one supported by two Republicans, and another created by the redistricting master in an effort to suggest compromise. According to the county charter a two-thirds majority was required for approval.
The County Council has met several times to consider how to move the process along. The councilors were expecting one map from the committee and instead were provided three. In January, the councilors reached an impasse and voted to send the redistricting back to the committee.
Alternative B2 was one of the three maps previously forwarded to the County Council by the redistricting committee. The reason for the councilors’ previous objection to the B2 map centered around the fact that the proposed map moves existing councilors from their current districts. Councilor Olson will move from District 2 to District 5. Chair Bowerman will move from District 3 into District 4, which is currently represented by Councilor Medvigy. The county charter allows the councilors to complete their current terms in the district they were elected to represent.
Upon instruction from the councilors, county staff created its own map, referred to as Council Alternative 1. On April 13, the councilors received considerable feedback from area residents, including Rob Anderson.
“I appreciate the fact that Councilor Medvigy said the quiet part out loud,’’ said Anderson, referring to the councilors’ comment at a previous meeting. “To openly, publicly state they wanted to redraw these maps with the goal of keeping councilors in their districts was amazingly, potentially corrupt.
“It clearly uses their office for personal gain, to be able to be reelected as an incumbent in the district in which they now sit,’’ Anderson added. “There is an ethical responsibility that you are not to use your office for personal gain. It’s obvious at minimum the spirit of the RCWs is not being honored in this approach.’’
After receiving the public comment, virtually unanimous against approving the map, the councilors were deadlocked 2-2 on a vote on Alternative 1. Councilors Medvigy and Olson voted to approve Alternative 1 and Chair Bowerman and Councilor Lentz voted against.
“Going through this process specifically asking GIS to review it would help provide another layer of accountability and transparency,’’ Lentz said during the April 13 meeting. “What we’ve been hearing very loudly from the community is that frankly they don’t trust this council to draw or pick a map. I think that is very important for us to listen to.’’
Councilor Lentz then made a motion that the councilors recuse themselves from being involved in drawing a map with boundaries for the five county councilor districts. Her motion recommended the councilors ask county staff to draw a new map with no consideration for how it impacted the current councilors’ individual districts. It passed with a 3-1 vote, with Chair Bowerman the only member of the council to vote against.
However, during Tuesday’s meeting, Councilor Medvigy suggested that the councilors reconsider map B2 instead of considering the new alternative created by county staff. Medvigy and Chair Bowerman voted in favor of advancing map B2 with Councilor Lentz voting against.
After discussion among the three councilors, Lentz reconsidered her vote, creating a majority to move map B2 forward to the April 27 meeting, which will be held at 8:30 a.m. Public comment may be submitted in advance via this online link or in written format via US Postal Service to the Clark County Council, c/o Rebecca Messinger, PO Box 5000, Vancouver, WA 98666-500.
If the councilors approve map B2 at the April 27 meeting it will meet the county’s deadline to be in time for the candidate filing period of May 16-20.
“The auditor is probably having conniptions,’’ said Medvigy during the April 13 public hearing. “There is a lot of candidates out there that need this process put behind them.’’
Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey told Clark County Today if the County Council does not approve map B2 at the April 27 meeting, the map approved by voters in November (Charter Amendment 3) will prevail for this filing period.