Opinion: Defeat of Proposition 2 in Camas the most intriguing storyline from Tuesday’s election

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Voters in Camas rejected the ‘pool bond’ by almost 90 percent

It may have been a mid-term, or off-year election if you will, but in Clark County I still believe there was significant intrigue in Tuesday’s general election. For me, there’s no doubt the most interesting storyline in the Nov. 5 general election was the results of the Proposition 2 vote in the city of Camas.

I’m 56 years old and I’ve lived in Clark County since 1986. As you know, I cut my teeth in this profession as a sportswriter. Like most of you, I believe I’ve always had an eye on the political scene in the area, but it’s only been the last 15-20 years or so that I would say I’ve followed things closely. That said, I can’t recall a stronger statement made by voters in Clark County than the resounding “No’’ shouted by voters in the City of Camas this week.

Members of the Camas City Council, under the guidance and direction of Mayor Shannon Turk and City Administrator Pete Capell, approved the placement of Proposition 2 on the Nov. 5 ballot. As you know, Proposition 2 was known as the “pool bond.’’ If passed, it would have raised $78 million, $72 million of which would have been used to build the Camas Aquatic Center and other facilities associated with the facility.

Opposition formed immediately in the form of a group of city residents who branded themselves as the Committee Against the Camas Pool Bond and they were backed by the Camas Taxpayers Alliance. To say they were successful in their efforts would be a massive understatement. As of Thursday, 89.80 percent of voters in the city of Camas voted against Proposition 2 and only 10.20 percent voted in favor. 

In recent months, the opponents of Proposition 2 were extremely vocal. There were community forums and the conversation reached such a fevered pitch that Clark County Today joined with Lacamas Magazine to hold a Camas Mayoral Debate after two Camas residents filed as write-in candidates in the Nov. 5 general election in an attempt to unseat Turk, who was previously running unopposed for re-election. The event drew a standing-room only crowd at the Grass Valley Fire Station in Camas.

There were those who professed that the Proposition 2 opponents were guilty of doth protesting too much, that they should simply just cast their ballots in opposition and stop being so aggressive in their displeasure of the decision of their elected officials and city leaders. In a largely apathetic era when Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey expressed that he was pleased that turnout for Tuesday’s election could reach 30 percent, I find the passion and engagement by the opponents of Proposition 2 to be refreshing. Like I said, I don’t recall in my career, a collective effort being more effective.

Throughout the process, I never expressed my opinion on Proposition 2, and I won’t now. I don’t live in Camas and I don’t have a dog in the fight. As I’ve stated many times, I don’t believe it’s the role of a journalist to attempt to influence an election. I may be in the minority in an industry where endorsements are commonplace, but that’s what I believe. 

I will say this, I want as many amenities in our communities as we can afford. I grew up in Skamania County and we were fortunate enough to have a community swimming pool. I’m quite certain it didn’t cost $72 million, but I enjoyed swimming there often. I also remember, fondly, visits to my maternal grandmother’s home in Grandview, Wash., during my childhood. The highlight was trekking across the street from grandma’s house to the outdoor pool in that community. My cousins and I would spend all day in that pool.

Despite my fondness for amenities in our community and things that improve our quality of life, I don’t believe that my neighbors should have to pay for them if they don’t want to. Some years ago, a conversation was taking place in the city of Battle Ground about a pool. I remember an elected official told me that projections were that only 5 percent of the residents would actually use the pool, yet virtually everyone would help pay for it with their taxes. If my memory recalls that number mistakenly, I apologize, but I do know it was a very small percentage of the residents who would use the facility.

At the Camas Mayoral Debate I referenced above, I believe Mayor Turk handled herself very well in the face of the passionate opposition of Proposition 2 among those in attendance. As a human being, I felt bad that she, seemingly, had to face up to that opposition by herself. That said, what does it say that the mayor, city administrator and council members placed a $78 million proposition on the ballot that was rejected by 90 percent of the voters in their community? That’s not exactly having your finger on the pulse of your constituents.

We won’t know the results of the write-in efforts to unseat Turk until the middle of next week, according to Kimsey. We do know that, as of Wednesday’s results, Turk has received 2,051 votes and the write-ins have combined to receive 3,032 votes. Now, it’s certainly possible that the write-in candidates, Barry McDonnell and Melissa Smith, will split those write-in votes and Turk will be re-elected. But, as eye-opening as it was to me that 90 percent of voters soundly defeated Proposition 2, it’s also quite a statement that 60 percent of voters supported write-in efforts by candidates who didn’t even jump into the race until about a month ago.

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