Clark County voters tackled some divisive issues in Tuesday’s election, and their collective decisions could have far-reaching impacts on the region. Here’s a look at what we might expect:
Clark County Commissioner-elect David Madore is well known in the county for his opposition to the Columbia River Crossing project.
Once he takes office in January, the Republican says, his first actions to challenge the current project will be to withdraw county support and start asking questions.
“One of the top priorities would be to pass a resolution that declares we withdraw all support of the light rail, tolling project,” Madore said. “And we would explain why it is not appropriate to continue the waste, to continue the same bureaucracy.”
Madore added that the process will take more than “simply passing a resolution.”
“It requires meeting face-to-face with the authorities,” Madore said. “I will personally visit with those authorities. I need to be advised of who are the authorities … (but) it includes legislators on both side of the river.”
As a county commissioner, Madore will have a seat among the C-Tran board’s nine voting members. A county commissioner’s ability to significantly obstruct current CRC plans would depend on the will of the rest of the C-Tran board.
Madore said he plans to ask lawmakers how they view state law in regards to voter approval when it comes to the project. He plans to make the same query to county legal counsel and attorneys present at C-Tran board meetings.
Madore says he’s not against a project that addresses transportation but is against the project in its current form. His concerns stem from the belief that the public process was flawed from the early stages of planning, and that light rail transit simply isn’t appropriate, given the density levels in the county.
— Erik Hidle
Tuesday’s election carried significant implications for the Columbia River Crossing — most directly through C-Tran’s Proposition 1.
Voters soundly rejected the proposed sales tax to, in part, help pay for light rail operations in Vancouver. That added yet another question mark to a $3.5 billion project that already faces major financial uncertainty.
Project backers have said they’ll find another way to pay for light rail operations. The CRC has indicated it will carry on planning as before. But the project must line up local funding before it can secure a crucial federal grant. And state lawmakers in both Washington and Oregon still haven’t committed their proposed share.
The Prop. 1 result emboldened CRC opponents who framed the vote as a referendum on the project. On Thursday, a group of 10 Southwest Washington Republicans — including U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas — jointly called for a “new direction” on the CRC that would overhaul its design as proposed. In addition to replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge, the project would extend light rail into Vancouver and rebuild five miles of freeway.
The election wasn’t all bad news for the CRC. In Portland, Mayor-elect Charlie Hales was seen as friendlier to the project than his opponent, Jefferson Smith. Oregon Democrats regained control of the state House of Representatives, which could bode well for its funding prospects there. (Democrats also hold the state Senate and governor’s office.)
In Washington, the political climate remains largely unchanged. Democrats still hold the state Senate and House, and Democrat Jay Inslee is the governor-elect. He’ll replace Democratic Gov. Chris Gregiore.
— Eric Florip
Initiative 1240 to authorize up to 40 publicly funded charter schools received broad support and looks as if it will be approved and enacted into law. In Clark County, a larger percentage of voters approved the charter schools initiative than voters statewide. Friday, about 52 percent of Clark County voters approved the initiative, compared with nearly 51 percent approval statewide.
After the election, the State Board of Education met to discuss the charter school application process and a timeline to implement if the initiative passes. Shannon Campion, spokesperson for the “Yes on 1240” campaign and executive director of the Washington State affiliate of Stand for Children, said it’s unknown whether one of those charter schools will end up in Clark County.
“There is no official plan yet as to where the up to 40 charter schools will be located, but the appropriate next steps are under way,” said Campion, of Seattle.
The governor, the Senate president and the House speaker will each make three of the nine appointments to the charter school commission.
This fall, the school board of Vancouver Public Schools adopted a position statement opposing the charter school initiative; the school board of Evergreen Public Schools also adopted a resolution opposing the initiative. The school board of Battle Ground Public Schools, the third-largest district in Clark County, has not taken a position on the charter school initiative.
— Susan Parrish
In the months ahead, the Washington Legislature faces another budget shortfall and a court mandate to bolster the state’s education system. Adding to the challenge, a two-thirds vote of approval in both chambers will be required to pass any tax increases.
Voters on Tuesday approved anti-tax activist Tim Eyman’s latest measure, Initiative 1185, which once again establishes the two-thirds (super-majority) rule for tax hikes. In Clark County, the measure passed with 70 percent of the vote; statewide, it passed with 64 percent of the vote.
Clark County’s three main legislative districts — the 17th, 18th and 49th — will send four fresh faces to the Washington State Legislature this winter. Democrat Annette Cleveland will replace state Sen. Craig Pridemore, D-Vancouver, in the 49th District. Cleveland said by phone on Friday that her goals will be similar to Pridemore’s, including his outspoken support of the Columbia River Crossing.
“Craig leaves some awfully big shoes to fill,” Cleveland said. She added that when she gets to Olympia, “the economy and jobs must be top priority.”
Negotiations for committee assignments are still in their infancy, but Cleveland said she hopes to land on the Senate’s transportation, education and health care committees. She has worked for C-Tran, was a lobbyist for the American Cancer Society and was government affairs director at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center.
Former Clark County Republican Party chairman Brandon Vick was elected on Tuesday to represent in the 18th District in the state’s House of Representatives. He says he has his eyes on the House committees that tackle environmental policy, technology and energy, and agriculture and natural resources.
He said he hopes to use his new gig to help entrepreneurs and small-business owners navigate the state’s business regulations. He said he’ll look to fellow Southwest Washington Reps. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, and Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, for guidance during his first term.
Recently appointed state Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, will also experience her first legislative session this January.
— Stevie Mathieu