Jayne: Signs of a good election: City, county working together

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Editor



Now that the election has ended and the people have spoken and the results have been tallied, the time has arrived for the most important part of the entire process — removing those campaign signs.

You know what I mean. For months, the landscape throughout Clark County — lawns and street corners and hillsides — has been dotted with signs imploring us to vote for one candidate or another, for this ballot measure or against that one. It’s part of the charm of local races that campaign signs and the occasional mailer are the advertising methods that fit most readily into campaign budgets. Combine that with the modern marvel of social media, and you have a full-fledged political campaign.

But before all the signs come down, we’ll take this opportunity to provide a few thoughts about last week’s general election.

Among the most interesting aspects of the results is the canyonesque divide between voters in Vancouver and those in the rest of the county. The Vancouver races skewed in favor of those who could be viewed as more progressive which, in these parts, means they are likely to support the Columbia River Crossing. Tim Leavitt won re-election for mayor, and Jack Burkman retained his seat on the city council. Alishia Topper and Anne McEnerny-Ogle also won council seats, and in all four city elections the losing candidate was staunchly anti-CRC.

Nothing wrong with that. There are good reasons for opposing the CRC, just as there are good reasons for supporting it. For races that are designated nonpartisan, voters were offered an unusually clear choice between differing philosophies. And, within the city of Vancouver at least, voters stayed on one side of the issue.

Now, before we go any further, it should be noted that the CRC likely is dead in its tracks (“in its tracks” — get it? Ah, there’s nothing funnier than light-rail humor). For some people, there is hope that Oregon will unilaterally revive the plan, but the odds are that we’re going back to the drawing board on this one.

Disconnect in county

Anyway, while Vancouver voters supported Leavitt and those most similar to him in their thinking, county voters delivered a much different message. For example, county advisory vote No. 1, which would suggest to Clark County commissioners that they oppose any plan involving light rail, passed with 68.3 percent of the vote. County voters insisted that their leaders do everything they can to derail the plan (“derail” — get it? I crack myself up).

Similar messages were delivered on other transportation-related advisory votes.

All of this is a bit problematic. The advisory votes are nothing more than suggestions to commissioners, who sit on the C-Tran board yet have no direct influence over bridges and highways. In essence, it’s like a security guard at a shopping mall trying to catch a shoplifter by saying, “Stop! Or I’ll say ‘Stop’ again.” But the voters were able to offer their suggestions, and I suppose there’s nothing wrong with that.

Still, the differences between Vancouver and the rest of the county are interesting, if not surprising. It is predictable that those in the city would be more inclined to support mass transportation. They would be more geographically suited to take advantage of a new bridge, and city folk tend to skew more liberal and collectivist than the individualists who live outside the city. The same likely could be said about any city in the United States.

So, all of that was expected, but it serves to highlight the most important thing to come out of this election. If the CRC is, indeed, dead, then we will need to find something else to talk about, and county officials and city officials will need to find some way to land on common ground. While talk of bridges and light rail and tolls has been divisive, that doesn’t mean the other issues facing the region need to be.

That, perhaps, would be the biggest victory of all from this election, and we will be watching for signs that the county and the city can actually work together. Now, speaking of signs …

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