Maneuver by council makes county look like Podunkville

Greg Jayne: Commentary

By Greg Jayne, Columbian opinion editor

Published:

 

In the battle over efforts to bring the Yakima Bears to Vancouver, this was the Three Stooges version of local government.

It was comical. It was ludicrous. It was laughable. But in the end, it was harmless, meaning little more than a poke in the eye.

Nyuk-nyuk-nyuk!

The Clark County commissioners, who under the current proposal will have the final say on whether we build a stadium for a Class A baseball team, wanted a little insurance. They wanted to make certain the Bears’ owners weren’t playing them for fools.

The commissioners came up with a plan: They would draft a contract that says the Bears won’t talk with other municipalities about moving, and Vancouver/Clark County won’t try to lure other minor-league teams.

Kind of, “We won’t sneak around behind your back, and you won’t two-time us.”

So the commissioners had their lawyer draft such an agreement. And then they refused to ratify it.

Huh?!?

Here’s what Columbian reporter Stephanie Rice wrote from Tuesday’s meeting:

“Commissioners Marc Boldt and Steve Stuart seemed prepared to vote in favor of the contract.

“Once Commissioner Tom Mielke, who said he didn’t understand the rush to sign any type of contract, said he’s ‘more committed’ to the neighbors who don’t want a stadium at Clark College than he is to the Yakima Bears, Boldt and Stuart backed off.”

Now, I’m no lawyer, but it’s clear that Tom Mielke isn’t, either. The agreement stipulated only that neither the county nor the Bears will negotiate with anybody else. You know, like the sort of deal that Maria Shriver could have used.

It didn’t mean the county would be committed to the proposed 5 percent entertainment tax, which team owners say would be necessary to help fund a stadium. It didn’t mean the county would be committed to building said stadium. It didn’t mean the county is not committed to the neighbors near Clark College.

It just meant you won’t cheat on each other. What could be wrong with that?

Mielke either didn’t understand the agreement or simply was being cantankerous. Either way, I can respect that, even if I disagree with it.

But I’m not sure I can respect the decisions by Boldt and Stuart to spinelessly back off because their colleague professed his commitment to the neighbors around Clark College. This particular agreement had nothing to do with the neighbors and everything to do with protecting the interests of taxpayers, and I’m pretty sure they understood that.

Still, they chose to put politics ahead of common sense.

In the end, Mielke’s stand on this particular issue will have little impact on whether or not a stadium gets built. But it does speak to the overriding issues surrounding this discussion.

Because part of the impact of bringing professional baseball to town would be in helping Vancouver to shed its image as Podunkville. As Vantucky. As a sleepy little burg that is a suburb of Portland.

You know, the kind of things that are reinforced when the county commissioners request an agreement and then apparently fail to understand it.

That might be important to you, or it might not. Reasonable arguments can be made on both sides of the baseball-in-Vancouver discussion.

But in this particular case, the Clark County commissioners had an opportunity to ensure that the Yakima Bears are not playing them for fools. And then they proved they’re perfectly capable of doing it themselves.

Greg Jayne is Sports editor of The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4531, or by e-mail at greg.jayne@columbian.com. To read his blog, go to columbian.com/weblogs/GregJayne