Press Talk: A chat with Sen. Ann Rivers

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian editor

Published:

 

On Monday, the special legislative session will be in session and — wait!

Is Sen. Don Benton going to have to take vacation time one week into his important, new $100,000-a-year-plus job as county environmental services director?

Does he have vacation time? Even if he takes unpaid days off, how can the M&M boys (commissioners David Madore & Tom Mielke) even allow it?

I mean, both of them said how they had to rush the hire on this job because — well — it was even more important than Col. Sanders inventing that fried chicken without the bones!

What the …

• • •

OK, OK, full disclosure. This column won't be all about the M&M boys and Benton. It's actually about a chat I had with state Sen. Ann Rivers. But it is difficult to resist that Benton stuff.

I mean, I devour everything we write on this issue. I'm so focused on gulping it all down, just yesterday I blurted out …

"I ate the bones! I ate the bones!"

But I digress.

• • •

A few days ago, I sat down for coffee with Rivers. Mostly to touch base and say "Hi."

I have a lot of respect for Rivers. She's bright, articulate, reasoned — and she has a great sense of humor. Why, she even brought up the dry cleaning brouhaha at the end of our conversation. You know, the Associated Press did a story on Olympia types who charge taxpayers for their business-use dry cleaning. She was one of the big spenders. (She's not charging for it anymore, even though the law allows her to.)

I knew she was ready to have fun with it. When I was setting up the coffee, she said she couldn't do it immediately because she was doing laundry.

I tell ya right now, she's going far in politics.

• • •

I often video my coffee chats, so you can see the full discussion with Rivers at www.columbian.com/video/youtube or at the bottom of this story.

My first question was — indeed — about the Benton hire. She works with Benton in Olympia, and both are Republicans.

Essentially, Rivers wouldn't go there. Too busy with stuff she's responsible for.

But it did get me to wondering. How many elected Clark County officials would be willing to go on the record defending how Benton was hired and his qualifications for the job. If you're out there, email me, and I'll print the responses. Consider it a challenge! I'll let readers know what I get back.

What else did we talk about?

• CRC: Rivers believes there's still a 4 in 10 chance the CRC funding will get through the state Senate. I asked why she didn't think the issue was completely dead in the water? In Olympia, she said, bills "come back to life like little zombies." She also said the CRC "doesn't pass the straight-face test."

• Pensions: Government pensions have been in the news recently. Former Gov. Chris Gregoire will be pulling down $160,000 a year with her pension. We just reported that if Benton stays in this new county job for a few years, he'll pull down $70,000 a year. So how could taxpayers expect the elected leaders of our state to look out for taxpayers who don't get these kinds of sweet deals? The elected officials would be required to kill their own sweet deals. Rivers suggests education. But I suspect taxpayer revolt is the only thing that would help to resolve it.

Speaking of revolts … :-)

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