Hearing to be held March 2 at the Skamania County Courthouse
For Clark County Today
Just weeks ago, the citizens of Camas celebrated a victory after they collected over 3,000 signatures from residents demanding that the newly imposed 2 percent utilities tax enacted by the City Council be placed on a ballot for a special election. Now, the city of Camas and Clark County have both rejected those signatures connected to Referendum 1 due to a technicality that advocates say was not clearly communicated to them at the time of submission.
“In the city’s mind, rejecting over 3,000 citizen voices all came down to one staple,” said an advocate with Fix Camas who asked to remain anonymous. The advocate explained that after the petitions were accepted by the city’s clerk and public records officer, Bernie Bacon, they were denied because the seven-page ordinance was not attached to every petition sheet at the time they were submitted to the Clerk’s Office. “There were 307 petition sheets. If we would have attached the full ordinance to every sheet, we would have had to print an extra 2,100 pages. Instead, we printed a summary page and included those when we collected signatures.”
Bernie Bacon has since unexpectedly resigned from her position.
A lawsuit has been filed in response to the rejection and will be heard at the Skamania County Courthouse on March 2, at 9 am. The intent of the lawsuit is to force Clark County and the city of Camas to verify the 3,160 signatures which were collected during the 30-day window as stated by law.
The members of the Camas City Council also voted in January to revisit the issue of the tax after overwhelming opposition. However, that can’t happen until a replacement for Council Member Greg Anderson, who also unexpectedly resigned after his vote in favor of the utility tax, is appointed. The council has indicated that will take place on Feb. 17.
In addition to the added utility tax, which is projected to bring in about $1 million to the city, a $30 million capital bond will also be on the August ballot to replace firehouses. At the Jan. 17 City Council meeting, Council Member Leslie Lewallen said, ”We are talking about a million dollars over the course of two years. Is that where we want to hang our hat …when we have a 30 million dollar bond coming up and some other big ticket items?”
The council approved the new tax on a 4-3 vote in November of 2022. Canvassers worked for 30 days to get signatures to pass Referendum 1, Camas’ first petition of its kind, asking to have the tax on the ballot. To accomplish this, the group needed to collect 15 percent of the population of residents in the city limits of Camas (which amounted to 2,730). Volunteers surpassed that number by far and were able to gather 3,160 signatures. The paperwork was turned in to the city and received a stamp of approval by Bacon on Jan. 9.
However, on Jan. 13, signers of the petition received a letter from Bacon saying the petition was rejected by Clark County due to the aforementioned clerical issues. “The vote to approve this tax was not a consensus vote by our City Council,” reads the Fix Camas website. “The 4-3 split vote was made after many Camasonians from all walks of life came to the table, unified in opposition and delivering testimony about the impact this tax will have on them.”
“The biggest impact this tax will have,” said the advocate, “is on our senior citizens on fixed incomes. They can’t afford this added tax.”
- Opinion: Seven years of blessingsEditor Ken Vance reflects on the seven years since Clark County Today was launched as a community news website.
- Vancouver is expanding its ‘Safe Stay’ homeless housing programThe city of Vancouver is planning to open five “Safe Stay” shelters for homeless people, with each site providing up to 40 homeless people with their own private units.
- Opinion: Washington State Supreme Court narrowly upholds Inslee’s eviction moratoriumIn a 5-4 decision, the Washington State Supreme Court upheld Governor Inslee’s eviction moratorium during the pandemic.
- Legal expert tells Biden impeachment hearing: President ‘has lied’In his presentation, Jonathan Turley went into detail about the history of impeachment, what has been used as a standard in the past, and pointed out that investigations by Congress have proven the need for such hearings.
- Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tests positive for COVID-19 for the third timeWashington Governor Jay Inslee tests positive for COVID-19 for the third time, the first in May 2022 and again this February.
- Ridgefield Police Department recognizes Breast Cancer Awareness Month with vibrant pink patchesRidgefield is joining public safety agencies in Clark County and across the nation by participating in the “Pink Patch Project” for the sixth consecutive year this October.
- Public Health encourages residents to dispose of fallen leaves properlyAs colorful leaves begin to fall from trees, Clark County Public Health is encouraging residents to properly dispose of leaves to keep them out of streets and the landfill.