Election 2020: Clark County Council, District 4 seat

Councilor Gary Medvigy challenged by Independent Matt Little in race for District 4 seat

CLARK COUNTY — The Nov. 3 general election is nearly here, and the League of Women Voters Clark County (LWV) wrapped up their final candidate forums for residents to watch through a Zoom call format streamed on Clark/Vancouver Television, last night. 

On Wednesday (Oct.14), the candidates for Clark County Council faced off; including the race for the District 4 seat. Incumbent Republican Gary Medvigy is in the race with Independent challenger Matt Little. 

In the Aug. 4 primary election, the aforementioned candidates were the only names on the ballot, with Medvigy receiving 59.91 percent of the vote and Little receiving 39.62 percent. 

This report focuses on three key questions and candidate responses from the forum, but to view the responses to all questions, visit CVTV.org

Opening Statements

Gary Medvigy
Gary Medvigy

Medvigy began:

“I want to thank you for what you’re doing. I thought I had more time as an introduction. I want to draw your audience to some of your own documents on your webpage, the League of Women Voters role of vesting and the Growth Management Act as well as successes and challenges that was published in 2006. Those are both really relevant documents today and will inform a lot of the discussion when we talk about development in Clark County.”

Medvigy went on to speak to his involvement in many organizations, both governmental and nonprofit, in Clark County and in other places he has lived. 

“I worked on the governor’s Commission on the Status of Women for two internships with an equity lens towards gender neutralizing all of our family laws in Vermont.’’

Matt Little
Matt Little

Little followed:

“I’m running as an independent for Clark County Council District 4. I live with my wife and two little girls in Fern Prairie just north of Camas. I’m running to try to create an even better Clark County for us all. I have a specific plan on how we’re going to do that, so I’m going to talk a little bit about that today. It’s really important to me to be able to do everything I can to help families and businesses that are struggling right now during this crisis.”

Little then emphasized his desire to be a true independent, at present and in the past through bipartisan activities.

“I am a true independent. My whole life I’ve worked for both parties. I’m a very balanced candidate. I have my background and all my endorsements laid out on my website, MattLittleforClarkCounty.org.” 

Question: The county is facing serious public health challenges. How do you see the county planning for these challenges both financially and programmatically? What kind of policies, if any, would you pursue to promote public health in our county?

Little began:

“This crisis we’re facing is the most important issue that we have to address. Dr. Melnick, our public health official and his team, they’re doing a great job with resources they have. They’re underfunded and understaffed and they need more resources to do the testing and have the safety equipment and put out the public health information that’s necessary. Also super important for this job, we as the council members are also running as the Board of Health. So what we say and do is critically important.”

Little then spoke directly to what he described as a distinct difference between himself and his opponent with regard to masks and social distancing. Medvigy recently attended an outdoor political rally in which no masks were worn and no distancing was practiced. Little said he found such behavior troubling. 

“I’ve said in the last debate that, you know, I’ve worn masks everywhere. It’s important because I’m protecting not only my family, but others. And I’m running for the Board of Health. So of course, I want to model the behavior that we’re supposed to enforce.”

Medvigy followed:

“First of all, Dr. Melnick, and The Department of Health is completely funded. We have granted every request that he has made for testing care, hiring other people to plus up our staffing, so he is not underfunded. If you asked him, we have provided him as policy makers and budgeteers, everything that he asked for. The Board of Health and Department of Health is a lot more than what my opponent just talked about. What we really need to talk about is what’s going to happen after the pandemic is over.”

Medvigy went on to acknowledge that public health has been traditionally underfunded, but that he wants to see a smooth process of transitioning back to normal after COVID-19 is under control. Public health needs to be able to continue managing clean water, immunizations, infectious disease, and medical examinations, he said.

“We have some great programs for new moms, especially for those in poverty and not able to otherwise get health care. We pair them up with nurses, to teach them how to raise their first baby. We have great programs across the board. We are funding it. We are funding it through the CARES Act right now.”

Question: Do you think there is a need for change in the criminal justice system? If so, what specific changes would you like to see in the county? And how would you implement them? If not, why not?

Medvigy began:

“We are doing absolutely cutting edge, leading work in juvenile justice here in our county with restorative justice. So we don’t need to touch that at all. That’s been in place for a few years now and it is reaping great benefits on treating kids and stopping recidivism and costing the county a whole lot less in the process. We have therapeutic courts for addiction, mental health and veterans court, as I mentioned previously. We are doing really good work across the board.”

The councilor, who was previously a judge, went on to speak to the council’s work on looking at jail alternatives. Such options include greater discretion given to law enforcement when arresting someone, and allowing them to be taken to treatment. 

“What I’d like to see is some more transparency, increasing body cameras, we’re working on indigent defense, we need to do better in that. Those are some changes that we can implement.”

Little followed:

“I think we are doing a good job and we need things like a public defender’s office to have more equity in the defense as well as the prosecuting office. I think there’s some programs that we can copy and model, like the CAHOOTS Program that brings out mental health services to help our enforcement officers. I definitely believe that we need to fix the jail, we need to remodel it.”

Little went on to describe a conversation with Sheriff Chuck Atkins and Undersheriff John Chapman about issues with the Clark County Jail. Due to COVID-19, overcrowding is less of a concern at present, but will be again in the future, he said.

“It’s a long-term problem that we have to address. It’s an expensive program to implement, but we can do some things with our budget, and we can implement some changes and remodels that would provide the services and space that we need for our jail.” 

Question: What is the county’s responsibility in dealing with homelessness and the lack of affordable housing? What specifically would you propose to address these issues?

Little began:

“Homelessness and being able to afford your home is critically important to our county right now. My plan … it would address some of these things. I sat down with Kate Bud, who’s the director of the Council for the Homeless to try to figure out some solutions. The county isn’t directly in charge of a lot of the solutions. They have some, like the hotel that they’re providing, but the nonprofit’s that the county partners with and the alliances are where the real work is being done. The Council for the Homeless and others are doing great work.”

Little also spoke to doubling down on the partnerships and further extending the county’s relationship with organizations which house people.

“Forty percent of the people who need emergency shelter in this county are not getting it. And even more importantly, 10 percent of the people who need housing assistance to get into housing, are only 10 percent of people who are being addressed. So we need to step up our work. It’s going to be a tough budget year, but we need to try to put more resources into that. I believe we’re going to have to change our priorities a little bit in the budget and reassess it next year.”

Medvigy followed:

“Matt Little doesn’t really know all that we do. I think most of the public doesn’t understand it either. We really have the lead in the county on homelessness since we have the most resources. We do policies that prioritize all of those grants, from block grants, from HUD. I sat on the Council for the Homeless for a year and I’ve been in a constant working relationship with them. Across the board, Housing Initiative LLC, The Merryweather, Oxford House, Lincoln Place, these are all great creations, behavioral health supported apartments, that the county has had a huge role in helping to fund and create, and all with an equity lens.”

Medvigy elaborated on the community connections he said he sees as critical. Youth programs, veteran assistance, developmentally disabled, were among them. 

“We put about $1.5 million into [block grants] just last year, and we’re always looking for other ways to partner with the Vancouver Housing Authority, Vancouver in general, but we have an absolute lead, and are doing great work through our community services. Vanessa Gaston is a godsend to this county and all that she does for the homeless population.”

Closing Statements

Little began:

“Thank you for your time, I really appreciate you all staying on listening to this and voting. I have a strong plan for Clark County, I have a balanced plan. I am an independent, who will fight for you. I am trying to create an even better Clark County for us all; one where our kids will actually stay and thrive. I believe this position is very nonpartisan. When you vote, please know that this position is focused on providing resources to you. Please look at my website. I have a long list of endorsements from the teachers, to the farmers, to the businesses, to labor, and so many business CEOs, small business leaders, community leaders, left, right and middle. They’re all on my website at MattLittleforClarkCounty.org. I will work for you. Please trust in me as an independent that I will represent you. Thank you for your time.”

Medvigy followed:

“Thank you. So I remain very humble, in this position. I do look forward to continuing to serve. I do hope to have the equestrian code fixed before January ever rolls around for whoever is in the petition. We are working every day to support our schools. We are working every day to support our low income families, rent subsidies, you name it. We are supporting businesses. We are doing the hard work right now. Unfortunately, we had a pandemic and the pandemic has slowed down our equestrian code fixes. The council is pretty much unanimously supportive of fixing it and it will be done. We just haven’t had the ability to do the public meetings. I am here to serve you. I have no other agenda. I do so with a nonpartisan heart and sincerely ask for your vote. Look at my LinkedIn site if you want a little bit more depth of my experience.”