Freshman Clark County Commissioner David Madore says his first three months in office have produced exactly the works he promised to voters.
Some folks aren’t pleased with the moves for political reasons. And when you’re tackling issues such as the Columbia River Crossing or revoking money from a local economic group, that’s probably to be expected.
Others say he’s right on point. That this is the new direction of success in the county. And when you’re sticking to your campaign platform, you can probably expect that response, as well.
But perhaps what most folks would agree upon is that by sticking to what he said he’d do, Madore is shaking things up.
Commissioner Steve Stuart, a Democrat, has challenged Madore, a Republican, on more than a few occasions. He’s cautioned the new commissioner that altering the landscape so dramatically can harm relationships, and warned both Madore and the third commissioner, Republican Tom Mielke, about the “reaction to your actions.”
But Madore is sticking to the belief that he will change government, not that government will change him.
“I’m going to do what David does,” Madore said to Stuart in February.
By and large, he’s done exactly that.
In January, Madore and Mielke voted to halt $200,000 in funding to the Columbia River Economic Development Council over the coming two years.
The county had been a CREDC partner since the council’s inception in 1982. The council’s big-picture goal is to create jobs. But the two Republican commissioners homed in on the CREDC’s apparent support of the Columbia River Crossing.
In February, the two Republicans voted for a resolution to officially oppose the CRC project. Stuart was absent from that meeting but later said he would have gone against it.
The result was a March announcement by the CREDC that it was no longer working with the county. The CREDC revoked the county’s seat on its board, which Madore was to occupy.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., pointedly criticized the county for its move against the CREDC, saying “those who wield their influence by turning their backs on organizations that grow jobs in this community are turning their backs on the region itself.”
Another big win for Madore came just last week when he and Mielke voted in favor of removing parking fees at four county parks and two boat launches.
The process went on for nearly three months, and dissolving a city-county agreement to operate a joint parks department had been broached several times as part of a greater discussion on the future of the parks.
The Vancouver City Council openly worried about where the commissioners would come down on the matter. Mayor Tim Leavitt said the city needs to begin worrying about its own assets first, rather than rely on the county to keep its relationship intact.
It was another reaction to the status quo being jostled. But again, Madore stood by his actions.
Sticking to his word
Madore knows the first three months of his tenure have shaken things up. He’s called the CRC a “divisive” issue, and he’s not surprised folks have come out both for and against the commissioners’ actions.
Still, he stands by the belief that this is a better way to do business for the county.
“If you get elected on (your) vision and principles, you know what you need to do,” Madore said.
The point, he says, is that he’s not going to renege on his promises.
“There are two forms of voter fraud,” Madore says. “One is for you to doctor the ballots. Worse is that you count all the ballots and then do the opposite (of the voters’ wish).”
And, while there has been push-back and trepidation on the major moves, his supporters have been thrilled.
“We are in full support of the clarity and scrutiny (that commissioners) are applying in all of the decisions coming before the board. Budgets are being examined and contracts are being read. That is good for them and certainly good for us,” Clark County Republican Party Chair Lynda Wilson wrote in an email.
Even if the county doesn’t have any official say in the CRC project, Republican representatives at the state level say the message is important.
“I do think it mattered,” State Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, said. “For someone like me who lives here, it’s important that I noticed what they said. So yes, I definitely took note of it.”
‘Open the floodgates’
One of the catchiest slogans of Madore’s campaign came in his promise to “open the floodgates” of job creation.
To achieve that goal, he’s hopeful he’ll see more support and collaboration on future works. Take, for example, his recently proposed plan to eliminate development fees in the county if unemployment numbers are higher than state levels. Madore drew up the proposal just moments before a county workshop, and both Mielke and Stuart said they liked the idea.
Madore was all smiles after the meeting. He said he was excited it got unanimous support, especially from Stuart. Later in the week, Madore indicated this was the first step in the right direction to “open the floodgates” and that he hopes to see more permanent actions put in place in the coming year.
The commissioners do quarrel at times. Mielke has issued a few “be nice” warnings to Stuart during heated debates, and Madore has publicly sought a successor — possibly Harris — for Stuart, who is up for election in 2014. But neither Stuart nor Madore have publicly questioned the other’s commitment to the job.
“Every new commissioner comes in with a set of issues and ideas and things that they want to pursue that got them interested and involved in the first place,” Stuart said during a March interview on cable television. “That’s why you run for office, is because you care enough to get involved and there are issues that drive you. And certainly Commissioner Madore is a good example of that as someone who had a passion for issues, that chose to step up, run for office and then he won, and now we get to the process of governing.”
And while some fret over the state of relationships in the county, Stuart isn’t saying things have grown divisive on the board.
“There’s three of us, and the three of us have to work together,” Stuart said. “And we work together as a team for the betterment of the community on a daily basis. We don’t go into caucuses, and we don’t have majority leaders and minority leaders and all of these kind of things you hear about that create this divisiveness and this polarization at the state and federal level. We don’t have that. We have three people who work for the betterment of this community.”