County councilors continue to struggle with redistricting process

(L to R) Council Chair Karen Dill Bowerman, Councilor Temple Lentz, Councilor Gary Medvigy and Councilor Julie Olson
(L to R) Council Chair Karen Dill Bowerman, Councilor Temple Lentz, Councilor Gary Medvigy and Councilor Julie Olson

Task of creating a map that will define the five County Council districts is being sent back to county staff with an April 28 deadline for approval in mind

With the candidate filing period just over a month away, members of the Clark County Council are still working to approve a new voting district map.

“The auditor is probably having conniptions,’’ said Councilor Gary Medvigy during a public hearing Wednesday. “There is a lot of candidates out there that need this process put behind them.’’

The councilors met Wednesday to discuss whether or not they would approve a map created by county staff, referred to as Council Alternative 1. The council, still without a representative for District 5, eventually was deadlocked at 2-2 on the approval of the map as Councilors Gary Medvigy and Julie Olson voted in favor and County Chair Karen Dill Boweran and Councilor Temple Lentz voted against.

With the candidate filing period just over a month away, members of the Clark County Council are still working to approve a new voting district map.
Click for PDF

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 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.

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. However, by law, the committee was disbanded at the end of last year.

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.

Recently, members of the council asked county staff to draw its own map with the intent of keeping the current councilors in the districts they presently reside. The result of that request was the Council Alternative 1 map the councilors were deadlocked on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s meeting was held in a hybrid format for the first time since council meetings were moved to a virtual format due to COVID restrictions. Medvigy was the only councilor who attended the meeting in person. The other councilors joined in the virtual format.

Area residents had the option of commenting on the Council Alternative 1 map and the redistricting process either in person, or in the virtual format, or by submitting their comments in writing prior to the meeting.

Three citizens made comments in person and each were opposed to approval of the Council Alternative 1 map.

“I appreciate the fact that Councilor Medvigy said the quiet part out loud,’’ said Rob 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.’’

Peter Harrison added, “this map that we are discussing today does not meet the requirements because there is a more compact and a more population equal alternative that was drafted that did not address putting councilors in their different districts. That is not the intent of redistricting. The intents are spelled out in the RCWs we just went over.’’

The final speaker in-person was Linda Nelson.

“It seems to me that any reasoning has followed on deaf ears in this county,’’ Nelson began. “To me, you have deemed yourself to be unfit to rule. Either this council is unwilling or unable to think outside the swamp agenda and neither is acceptable. Feathering your own nest seems to be your only concern and objective. Trying to wrangle around the law of redistricting proves it to me.’’ 

Other comments, made either in virtual format or in writing, asked the councilors to approve the map approved by voters in November. Councilor Lentz 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. 

“Going through this process specifically asking GIS to review it would help provide another layer of accountability and transparency,’’ Lentz said. “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.’’

The council voted 3-1 in favor of the Lentz motion, with Chair Bowerman the only vote against.

The council will return to discuss the redistricting issue in a meeting scheduled for April 19. The councilors are working under an April 28 deadline to approve a new map in order to give candidates time to make decisions prior to the May 16-20 filing period.

Should county staff consider the addresses of current councilors when drawing a new county voting district map?
176 votes
Receive comment notifications
Notify of
guest

4 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rob Anderson
7 months ago

Council Medvigy is grasping at straws. He doesn’t want to admit this, but he had the chance to pass a map back in Feb when they had the majority but punted… it’s not like the Republicans would get great representation from the PA’s office. Now, he said they are following all the State guidance, yet if anyone looks at that map they were voting on they’d laugh that it was “compact” which means they were sacrificing one or more of the criterion for their added & corrupt request to redraw with their addresses in each current district.
Then at the end he was saying he just wanted it to be done with so why did he vote for Temple’s motion? If he voted no then they could’ve voted on the B2 map and reduce a weeks time. All his political instincts have been wrong the last year.
Trust me, I know what the D’s are up to. The Charter Review Committee is nothing but Democrats and Leftist and this was gerrymandering but moving R’s out of their districts. But R’s fell asleep when those came out and didn’t put up a fight to stop them (lawsuits, educating voters, etc) but trying to rectify via corrupt means is not the way forward.

Margaret
Margaret
7 months ago

The map in the Nov. 2021 voter’s guide, divided the county into 5 new districts instead of 4, and that Nov 2021 map put 3 of the County Councilors who were elected as Republicans in the same district, something that was not explained in the voter’ guide.

Chuck Green is the Former Charter Review Commission Co-Chair and the Former Chair of Charter Review Commission’s Five-District Subcommittee who worked directly with the GIS Department to lead the development of the Five-District map sent to voters. Green was a democrat candidate for Clark County Council District 2 in 2015. He sent the following in his written comments to the council for the April 14 meeting:

“Attesting Statement: I am not an active member of any major political party. I have not been active with the Clark County Democratic Party for almost five years. The position I was elected to in November 2020 was a nonpartisan position representing Councilor District 2 on the Charter Review Commission, and I approached that position with nonpartisan intent. I further attest that there was never an intent to purposely district anyone in or out of their elected, representative office nor was there an intent to favor or disfavor any political party.I have not been active with the Clark County Democratic Party for almost five years.”

One of the charter changes is that County Council positions are now non-partisan.

The Nov. 2021 voters’ guide map did include the latest census population data, which reportedly wasn’t available in time for the voter’s guide map. Any map approved should reflect the latest population data, since nearly equal population in each district is one of the criteria for district formation outlined in state law. The maps considered by the re-districting committee in December, 2021 were said to reflect updated census data.

The charter doesn’t include a workable tie-breaking method for the committee, so the process stalled.

Margaret
Margaret
7 months ago
Reply to  Margaret

See also Councilors Temple Lentz and Julie Olson successfully delay process to fill vacant seat on Clark County Council as another example of Lentz leading delays to fill the District 5 position, and the selection of a county map in time.”Lentz said. “I don’t have the privilege of being retired. I have many commitments.’’
Medvigy, who is a retired judge, reminded Lentz and Olson that they were paid elected officials and obligated to perform their duties as members of the County Council.
“You are not retired,’’ Medvigy said. “You get a salary to conduct county business.’’
To which Lentz shot back, “This is not assumed to be a full-time job.’’

The position of Clark County Councilor appears to be a full time job, and is compensated as a full time job with salary and very generous benefits.
https://clark.wa.gov/councilors/article-5-human-resources

Last edited 7 months ago by Margaret
4
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x