Press Talk: Why the fuss now? M&M boys!

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photoLou Brancaccio

So who's going to be the first one to acknowledge the mastodons in the room?

OK. Me, me, me!

It's the M&M boys, of course. You know it. I know it. But not a lot of people are willing to say it publicly.

Where to begin

I sneaked into a Rotary luncheon this week for a few reasons:

• I knew I'd run into conservative-crusher Temple Lentz. She's sharp, witty and — frankly — makes me laugh. She makes the community laugh as well.

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• I knew Elson Strahan, president and CEO of the Fort Vancouver National Trust, would be there and I wanted to gift him a Columbian umbrella. Why? In an earlier story we called him a rainmaker and — hey — it can get ugly out there. Rainmakers need umbrellas.

• I knew I'd run into Republican Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey and Democrat Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart. They announced they'd have something provocative to say. Something about a bipartisan vision for the future of government in the county.

OK, OK, there really isn't going to be a bipartisan vision here. Democrats spend too much and Republicans cut too much. (Well, Republicans don't cut their salaries, pensions, benefits, free meals and dry cleaning bills. But they like cutting other stuff.)

What Kimsey and Stuart were looking for was some bipartisan agreement on how government should be set up. You know, stuff like should there be only three county commissioners -- as we have now -- or, say, five county commissioners?

How do you do this?

Unfortunately you don't just wake up one morning and say "Hey, this ain't working for me anymore; let's hire more county commissioners."

Nope. Ya gotta rewrite the rules. And to rewrite the rules, ya gotta to go through a process. And that process begins by voting for people called freeholders. These freeholders then shape a county constitution of sorts. That constitution is then voted on by Clark County residents.

But why now?

OK, so that's the overview. But why, all of a sudden, are we interested in changing the rules? And that, my friends, takes us back to the beginning of this column.

All of this gunk is bubbling up now because of the M&M boys: County Commissioners David Madore & Tom Mielke. Both Republicans. Both mischievous.

They've done so many goofy things since they've taken control of the commission, they make a guy like me look normal.

Their hiring of Sen. Don Benton to a $100,000-a-year county environmental director job -- one he is completely unqualified for -- was buffoonery at its finest. And this squabble that just went public between Benton and Republican Sen. Ann Rivers shows what a poor choice he was. Hey, M&M boys, how do you like Benton now?

Just two guys. That's all ya need, on a three-person commission, to rule the world.

Personally, I'm not sold on the idea of increasing the commission to five members. Whatever the number, politicians seem to refuse to take the pledge I would demand of them: "Don't do stupid stuff."

But at this point, I suspect most residents will reach for just about anything.

Fair enough.

And, by the way, Temple isn't the only one who makes us laugh. She has competition from many of our politicians.

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian's editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505, lou.brancaccio@columbian.com or Twitter: http://twitter.com/lounews