lark County commissioners (specifically David Madore and Tom Mielke) and directors of the Columbia River Economic Development Council have decided to patch up a relationship that should not have been severed in the first place. This is good news for everyone in the county because, as we editorialized on March 8, "both the economic development experts and the county leaders are instrumental in the crucial campaign to create jobs in our community."
The Columbian's Erik Hidle reported Thursday that the two-month separation between the largest local government and the largest local business recruiter has ended after a compromise was struck. The county agreed to send $169,000 over two years to the CREDC, in stark contrast to Madore and Mielke yanking away $200,000 over two years back in March. This is not a restoration of county funding. It is the continued approval of funds from the state Department of Commerce, a funding source that has helped the CREDC for a decade. Thus, Madore and Mielke technically can avoid the charge that they changed their minds on funding, although resuming the relationship with the CREDC seems to indicate their change of heart.
In return, the CREDC will allow the county to return to the council's board of directors. Madore will serve in that capacity.
We hope he pays close attention during the CREDC board meetings. At Wednesday's county board time discussion, Madore said: "I like the idea of having whatever relationship with them. To be able to have two-way conversations, it just helps close the communication gap. It's a healthy thing." But that wasn't the case earlier this year when Madore ignored explanations from the CREDC and cut the funding. As he said in March, "I was the instigator … in really breaking this relationship."
When Madore enters the CREDC board room, he will converse with a diverse collection of directors who represent the interests of 135 local businesses and governments. This won't be as easy as convincing Mielke to help Madore fulfill campaign promises. And if Madore intends to convert the CREDC to opposing the CRC, he'll need to be more persuasive than recently as angry citizens offered public testimony at county meetings.
Madore and Mielke are lucky to get back into the economic-development game without suffering greater pain. Bronson Potter, the county's chief civil deputy prosecutor, warned them in March that the county was legally bound by an earlier contract to help fund the CREDC. "The only provision for nonpayment is if they are under default of the contract," Potter said. "There is no claim that they are. So at this point, under the contract, the money is owed. If we don't pay it, we are under default of the contract."
They still haven't paid it, and have given no indication they will. And OK'ing state money the CREDC has received for years is a cheap price for Madore and Mielke to pay for patching up the relationship.
None of this was necessary. Clark County residents should hope their commissioners and the CREDC get back to the bigger, better business of bringing jobs to our community.