Boldt talks about jobs, stormwater in State of the County

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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WASHOUGAL — Attendees at the 2012 State of the County Thursday were asked to bring food for the Salvation Army and, in keeping with the theme of being a caring community, representatives from local nonprofits were on hand to sign up volunteers and accept donations.

But if elected officials are going to ask people to be kind to others, officials need to lead by example, said Marc Boldt, chairman of the Board of Clark County Commissioners.

During his 40-minute address at the Washougal High School auditorium, Boldt was informal, abandoning the podium and his prepared speech in favor of pacing the floor with a handful of note cards. He told jokes -- prompting several people to come up to him afterward and say, “I had no idea you were so funny!” -- but hit on serious topics, such as why the county’s fighting the state over stormwater regulations, what the county’s doing to attract jobs and how the county’s planning for an aging population.

Toward the end of his speech, he talked about how local officials act.

“What does character have to do with the state of the county?” Boldt said. “Character does a lot that has been overlooked.”

When county officials are trying to resolve differences with city officials or a neighborhood group or the state or federal government, it’s helpful to take a step back and look how we’re acting to each other, Boldt said.

“And that takes character. In most cases, we usually judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior.”

If you reverse that, Boldt said, “you might wind up with a regional government that works.”

A former state legislator first elected commissioner in 2004 who will be running this year for a third term, Boldt mentioned the race in Oregon to replace U.S. Rep. David Wu between Suzanne Bonamici, who won, and Rob Cornilles.

Referencing the negative TV ads, Boldt said increasingly the public hears not what the candidate will do if elected, but what the opponent has done wrong.

“That’s really got to change if we’re going to turn this country around,” Boldt said.

As for the county’s plan to attract jobs, Boldt said in addition to fighting for reasonable stormwater regulations, the county will revisit road standards. The finished result may not look spectacular, he said, but as long as congestion doesn’t get out of hand and safety guidelines are met, lowering the total cost of roadways will translate into lower traffic impact fees for businesses.

He said state stormwater regulations -- specifically the “flow control” standard that requires land to drain as slowly as it did back when the county was 95 percent forested -- are unreasonable and only drive up development and staff costs.

He received a round of applause for saying Olympia just needs to set reasonable standards and then “get out of the way.”

Boldt also talked about what the county has been doing to plan for an aging community.

Commissioners will have a public hearing Tuesday on its aging readiness plan, which serves as a blueprint for addressing key issues such as sufficient affordable housing, services to help people remain in their homes and public transit to assist older folks who no longer drive. Boldt singled out Prosecutor Tony Golik, congratulating him for the Elder Abuse Justice Center, a specialty unit dedicated to fighting financial and abuse crimes against vulnerable adults.

Following national trends, by 2030 one in four Clark County residents will be 60 or older, according to the report. That segment will grow from 16 percent to 23 percent of the population; the number of people age 85 and older will increase by 50 percent.

Boldt didn’t touch on the county budget, which has been “stable but fragile” for months.

During a commissioner retreat on Jan. 13, Budget Director Jim Dickman said that since the county remains behind the national average in economic recovery, he predicts a flat revenue forecast for the 2013-14 budget.

The county’s general fund budget, projected at $280 million for two years, has been cut by $62 million since the 2007-08 budget.

Expenses were further decreased by reducing the hours and pay of about 200 employees after 270 positions were cut. Most employees started paying 7 percent of their health insurance premiums this month, which will save the county $1.6 million.

Those savings mean the county’s not in a position to have to do layoffs, Deputy Administrator Glenn Olson told commissioners during the retreat.

Boldt did reference the economy, saying he recently read, “Great By Choice,” a book about businesses that survive hard times.

In one chapter, author Jim Collins says one person would run 40 to 50 miles on good days and rest on rainy or snowy days. Another runner would go 20 miles every day, rain or shine.

“The 20-mile runner always won,” Boldt said. “During the last few years, we have been on a 20-mile march in pretty bad weather.”

Prior to Boldt’s speech, awards were given to employees and community volunteers. Honorees were chosen by Boldt and Commissioners Tom Mielke and Steve Stuart.

Director of Community Development Marty Snell was named Clark County Employee of the Year. Snell has reworked the fee schedule to more accurately reflect how much staff time it takes to process applications and has a proposed fee holiday that commissioners will vote on Tuesday.

The Clark-Skamania Drug Task Force was honored for October’s Operation Gang Green, the county’s largest drug raid. Clark County Sheriff’s Cmdr. Mike McCabe accepted the award on behalf of Cmdr. Mike Cooke, who couldn’t attend because he was out on a raid, McCabe said.

Operation Gang Green involved more than 300 officers, netted more than 7,000 marijuana plants and resulted in more than 50 arrests.

Community volunteers who received “Spirit of Clark County” awards are responsible for the Clark County Veterans Assistance Center and Klineline Kids Fishing 2011. Joan Caley, a member of the county’s public health advisory board and Share board member, was also honored.

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.