What’s in store for Clark County in 2017?

For most of us, Jan. 3 was the actual start of the new year. You may or may not have spent the first two days of the year consumed by NFL and college football as I was, but for most of us, our return to the real world took place today and not before.

Ken Vance, Editor
Ken Vance, Editor

The turning of the calendar from one year to the next is always filled with several different emotions. For me, gazing out over the Clark County landscape on this day, I’m filled with eagerness and anticipation, if not impatience, of what lies ahead.

 

Let’s take a look at the stories that we’re surely going to follow in 2017:

ClarkCountyToday.com

 

It’s hard to believe that ClarkCountyToday.com was launched just a little more than three months ago (Sept. 27, 2016). While I’m proud of the foundation we’ve built for the future of our news organization, at the same time I, more than anyone else, realize we’ve only just begun.

 

News outlets will continue to evolve in 2017. You will receive your news content in different forms moving forward. The industry is in a constant state of change, and thus, ClarkCountyToday.com will also be.

 

For now, that will have to serve as your limited peak behind the curtain. But, I continue to be excited about this new venture and opportunity to be a new and different source of news content for Clark County residents.

 

Board of County Councilors

 

Without pointing fingers, or assessing blame to any individuals, the actions of the Clark County Board of Councilors and county staff was gruesome and often downright painful to watch during the past year. Everyone has their own opinion as to why that was the case, but I would guess very few of you would disagree with my characterization that it was a virtual trainwreck.

 

New councilors John Blom and Eileen Quiring have now officially replaced David Madore and Tom Mielke on the council. Regardless of which side of the feud you were on, and whether you are happy or sad about the changes, you have to hold out hope that the council will be more productive moving forward than it was during the past 12 months, when it seemed virtually every vote was decided by a 3-2 count.

 

Things got so ridiculous that during the recent budget process, the council majority (Chair Marc Boldt and councilors Jeanne Stewart and Julie Olson) struck down 23 out of 23 amendments to the budget proposed by Madore and Mielke. There was a 24th amendment that Madore and Mielke were ready to propose, but Olson beat them to the punch, and it passed by a 5-0 vote. The instigator in me wishes either Madore or Mielke would have had the opportunity to propose the amendment first. That would have put Boldt, Stewart and Olson in the awkward position of actually professing agreement on just one issue with the councilors they seemingly had no trouble neutralizing the rest of the year.

 

So, at the very least, it would seem the lack of decorum and respect displayed on the council in the past year will be replaced by more civil interactions and let’s hope that makes for a more productive and efficient representation of the people’s business.

 

Can we make plans to build a bridge or two?

 

Virtually every elected official in Clark County and southwest Washington needs to get serious about a solution to the bridge problem. Citizens of the area are only growing increasingly frustrated with congestion, not just in the I-5 corridor but now also along the I-205 path.

 

If history is any indicator, I fear that we’re headed right back down the same old roads of ideological divide. There are deep-rooted agendas in this conversation and there is no evidence that anyone on either side of the debate has changed their minds.

 

I don’t profess to have the answers. I don’t believe any one person does. But, here’s what I do believe.

 

  • The majority of Clark County residents still don’t want light rail attached to a bridge project, but many of the most influential voices are still determined to join the two at the hip.

 

  • Simply replacing the I-5 bridge isn’t the answer. The proposed Columbia River Crossing would have cost taxpayers billions and it would have decreased the commute by just one minute during high traffic periods. Also, there has to be congestion relief in that I-5 corridor and it needs to start on the Oregon side of the river near the Rose Quarter. We could build a brilliant, new eight-lane I-5 bridge but if the problems on each side of it aren’t solved, it wouldn’t do much good.

 

  • The cheapest, and perhaps simplest, answer(s) may be a third and even fourth bridge, either on the east side of Clark County near 192nd Ave. or a west side crossing. But, those are problematic for geographical reasons and there are no guarantees that either or both of those bridges would bring the congestion relief we need along the I-5 corridor, which simply is the traveling home to  too many vehicles, and more importantly trucks.

 

So, set your personal agendas aside elected officials and seek a solution before the problem gets any worse.

 

Jobs, jobs, jobs

 

Clark County residents want more jobs created. And, they want jobs with good salaries and benefits. I remember Councilor Stewart once told me that didn’t mean they had to be all white collar jobs (“Because what a boring world that would be,’’ she said, and I agreed). But, they need to be good enough jobs that we keep more of our residents working on this side of the river rather than leaving  them to travel to Oregon for employment.

 

ClarkCountyToday.com recently posted a story about an upcoming Jobs Fair at the ilani Casino set to open this spring near the La Center I-5 junction. I am told it received the most shares and views of any story we posted in the last three months.

 

The county councilors voted (3-2) recently to end the Fee Waiver Program, which many of us believe created jobs in Clark County in recent years. (I’ve listened to business owners who have told me directly how the program helped them create jobs.) Whether you believe that to be true or not, I feel strongly in asserting that the creation of jobs is forefront on the minds of our residents. So, elected officials, we depend on you for answers and action. In the absence of the Fee Waiver Program, what’s your idea for creating more jobs?

We'd love to hear your comments!

About The Author

Ken Vance got his start in the newspaper industry in 1987 as a reporter at The Columbian Newspaper in Vancouver. Vance graduated from Stevenson High School in Stevenson, WA, and attended Clark College in Vancouver. He worked for The Columbian from 1987-2001. He was most recently a staff member of The Reflector Newspaper in Battle Ground, where he served as editor since 2010 and reporter since 2007. Vance’s work in the newspaper industry has won him multiple awards, including a first place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for in-depth reporting.

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