(Paul Suarez/The Columbian)
In a wide-ranging interview with mortal combatants Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and Clark County Commissioner David Madore sitting together …
Hold on. Hold on. Let me back up.
First off, the idea that both of these characters are actually in the same room, sitting at the same table together … Well, that's just about as crazy as thinking the Seahawks could win a Super Bowl.
Yet there they were.
And to have a journalist at the table? We saw a few days ago how much politicians like pesky reporters asking tough questions.
A New York politician had these words of wisdom for a member of the working press after he tried to ask a stupid question:
"Let me be clear to you. If you ever do that to me again I'll throw you off this (expletive) balcony. I'll break you in half like a boy."
Madore on smoking dope
Our conversation was more polite than that, although Madore would later say that I did ask a stupid question or two.
Hey, I wouldn't consider an interview successful if there weren't some uncomfortable moments.
In the end I give thanks and credit to both Leavitt and Madore for showing up. The "negotiations" to do it actually began in early October. And there were several times when I thought it wouldn't happen. But there we were, laughing at times, looking indifferent at other times, but we made it to the end.
So how did it go? What did we learn?
Well, you can judge for yourself. The hour-plus discussion was recorded. You can view the full video at the bottom of this story.
As you watch, I will ask you to do this: Pay close attention to how directly Leavitt and Madore answered my questions. All politicians take the "How To Avoid Answering Questions You Don't Like 101" class. I think Madore took the "201" class as well.
But make your own judgments.
Also, get a feel for how engaged Leavitt and Madore are. Let me know who you feel was more engaged.
And of course I'm hoping someone out there will count the minutes I spent with each of them. I'm pretty certain that will reveal something, ah, revealing.
OK, here are a few brief moments from our discussion. Let me know what you think.
Rating each other
I pushed both Madore and Leavitt to score each other on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 meaning the person has had a real positive impact on the community and 1 meaning "absolute loser."
Leavitt: "A lot of things going on in the county that are very unfortunate. Below a five."
Hitching to a candidate
A plus to endorse?
I asked if it would be good or bad if a political candidate hitched his/her name to their name.
Leavitt: "I have to believe if I choose to endorse a candidate it would be a positive."
Madore: "If we have common ground, absolutely."
A bridge to nowhere
Of course we spoke about our need to get some type of bridge across the Columbia River. I ask Leavitt if he thought he'd see light rail come to Vancouver in the next 10 years. I asked Madore about the chances of getting a new bridge someplace east of the present Interstate 5 Bridge:
Leavitt: "Less than optimistic for me."
Madore: "Five years from now I think we'll be standing there at the East County bridge saying 'And they said they couldn't build it. And it's toll-free!'"
I was particularly interested in Madore's view on county Environmental Services Director Don Benton. Benton — who also is a state senator — was given the county environmental job with virtually no review. Many believe he is unqualified for the job.
My question to Madore was not about Benton's qualifications, but rather Benton's decision to threaten resident Ed Barnes with a lawsuit. Barnes frequently gets up at commission meetings to complain about Benton's hiring.
Madore: "You know me … freedom of speech … I'm a champion of it. I love freedom of speech."
That didn't answer my question, so I pressed Madore again. Did he agree with Benton threatening a lawsuit? Finally, he gave a bit of an answer.
Madore: "I could understand that."
Then I asked Madore, if he was such a big believer of freedom of speech, didn't he think threatening a lawsuit could dampen someone's enthusiasm for speaking out?
Freedom of speech
Madore: "Ed Barnes? No. He's a union leader. He's an organizer. That's no threat. He's a big boy."
I found this last exchange particularly dumbfounding. Frankly, the only — only — reason to threaten a lawsuit in a situation like this is to silence someone. So does Madore really get what freedom of speech is about?
In the end, we all laughed a bit and talked a bit. The idea that we were together was a win for me.