Press Talk: Politics and baseball in River City

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 

As professional baseball took its last, fateful, dying breaths here, one is left to wonder: What really happened?

Politics, of course.

You see, there was this grandiose proposal out there. Build a new baseball stadium with the help of a 5 percent admissions tax.

The Yakima Bears wanted out of that farm town and would move to the big city lights of Vancouver. With Portland just a few minutes away, this idea seemed like a home run.

The baseball stadium — really a multi-purpose stadium — would be used just as much by the community as by the baseball team. Maybe more.

And it would be right there at Clark College, something the community college teams could us as well.

Almost too good to be true.

But there was trouble. Right here in River City. With a capital T, and that rhymes with P, and that stands for politics.

Politics, mind you, isn’t always a bad thing. On a large scale, politics means an official has an understanding of his or her constituents and is unwilling — even if he personally feels otherwise — to go against them.

Politics also does not have to involve elected officials.

Some might argue it was politics that produced only initial tepid support from Clark College. This troubled the stadium’s backers, and eventually the college folks found a way to propose giving more.

But it was too little, too late.

I suspect the college was trying to read the political tea leaves on this controversial project, and the first rule of politics is: When in doubt, sit it out.

• • •

Of course, the big league of politics is with our friends whom we elect. And first up to bat on the stadium proposal would be the Board of County Commissioners.

If they had passed it, the Vancouver City Council would have had to take a swing at the proposal.

Among the county commissioners, Republican Tom Mielke and Democrat Steve Stuart were not going to be players. Their votes canceled each other out.

And that left Republican Marc Boldt. Boldt is an interesting guy. He would never be taken as a gifted orator. But don’t let that fool you. He’s been a reasoned, honest and thoughtful commissioner. Equally important, he has been the guy who often breaks ties.

Now, logic would tell you that Boldt would be an automatic no. Raise taxes? Heck, no.

But remember, Boldt is a reasoned guy. So throughout this baseball debate he has strongly signaled that he was a “yes.”

This was well known — we had reported it several times — to both those who supported and opposed the stadium.

• • •

Then came the day of the vote. After a long public comment session, Boldt spoke. He was rummaging around trying to find the words to explain his view and early on sounded like his “yes” vote was intact.

But then he said, “No.” He said, “No.”

So what happened? Politics. Another definition of politics, one that some would argue is the most important definition, is this:

“I need to get re-elected.”

The election looms in 11 months. And whom does he see as a possible — likely — candidate in his rear view mirror?

None other than one of the most high-profile guys around.

David Madore.

I like both of these guys. They’ll both need to step up to the plate and take a swing. Let’s see who can hit it out of the park come November.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or lou.brancaccio@columbian.com.