The Morning Press: State of the County, Sparks, Inslee visit



Photos by Steven Lane/The Columbian Clark County Commissioner David Madore, right, takes the stage after being introduced by Commissioner Steve Stuart during the State of the County address at the Clark County Square Dance Center. For Stuart, the address, his 10th, was his last.

The Sparks Home Furnishings site is across from the historic Academy building, in the background, now the subject of a $10.6 million purchase and restoration campaign, and also is close to Vancouver's new public library (not shown).

Gov. Jay Inslee, top left, and his wife Trudi, far right, standing, and principal Scott Parker watch students, from left, Devin Golden, Mason Boss, Wil Parsons and Gab David, all 14, work on a team building exercise at Fort Vancouver High School on Wednesday.

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Here are some of the week’s top stories and news you may have missed:

State of the County: ‘Business-friendly’ stand

Clark County is showing signs of economic growth as it exits the hardest period since the Great Depression, Commissioner Tom Mielke said Thursday, but more could be done to make it the most business-friendly community in the state.

Comparing the last five years to being “battered by a storm,” Mielke said there “are signs of recovery and brighter days” ahead. Still, he added, there’s plenty of work that needs to be accomplished.

“Too many county residents commute to jobs in Oregon,” Mielke said. “Too many homeowners are underwater on their mortgages and are worried about their future.”

The statements were made Thursday afternoon at the 28th annual State of the County address at the Clark County Square Dance Center. And — as they remain the county’s hot-button issues — the economy and transportation underscored the speeches, delivered by Mielke and fellow Commissioners David Madore and Steve Stuart.

Although the year ahead will pose opportunities, commissioners said, it will also likely be a period of transition.

For one, the county will be losing one commissioner by the end of the year. In January, Stuart announced he would not seek re-election. And just last week, he was named a finalist to become Ridgefield’s next city manager.

Read the full story here.

Sparks confirms the end is near

It’s now official: Sparks Home Furnishings, downtown Vancouver’s oldest business, is closing after 132 years.

The store has weathered lots of history. It started as a small tin-smithing shop, became a hardware store, was a department store and then an appliance retailer before its final bloom as a furniture store.

The business just couldn’t withstand the economic changes now underway, said Tom Craig, who confirmed this week he’s preparing for a going-out-of-business sale. Craig is selling the building at 1001 Broadway to a downtown developer for $1.7 million in a deal expected to close in June. The buyer, Ryan Hurley, plans to transform the 40,000-square-foot building into a multitenant office and retail space that includes a coffee shop for Torque Coffee Roasters and a new headquarters for Olson Engineering.

Craig, 60, plans to retire and walk away from business challenges such as fierce competition from big-box stores, his less-than-vibrant downtown location and a lack of desire from the family’s next generation to take over.

On top of those forces, the state’s retail sales tax finally did him in, Craig said.

Read the full story here.

Clark County OKs temporary ban on strip clubs

Clark County is laying it bare: It wants to prevent strip clubs from setting up shop in unincorporated areas.

At least for the time being.

Commissioners approved an emergency resolution Tuesday temporarily banning businesses where nude men or women dance. It places a 60-day moratorium on the county’s ability to receive or process applications for that type of adult business.

The resolution stems from an inquiry the county’s community planning department received in late February about whether strip clubs were allowable in certain parts of the county. There are currently no strip clubs anywhere in Clark County.

“In this case, they were asking about the ability to locate nude dancing in Clark County,” said Chris Horne, the county’s chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney.

From the county’s end, the ordinance is a preventative measure to ensure no paperwork crosses the planning department’s desk.

Based on the county’s vested rights doctrine, as long as a business application meets the letter of the law, it has the right to move forward. Vested rights disallow a jurisdiction — in this case Clark County — from passing a law prohibiting a type of development after an application has been filed.

Read the full story.

Inslee visits two Vancouver schools

Gov. Jay Inslee visited two Vancouver Public Schools buildings Wednesday morning to hear about programs for mentoring new teachers and improving the on-time graduation rate. And he took a slight detour for an impromptu hoops session.

At McLoughlin Middle School, Inslee and his wife, Trudi, chatted with teachers and mentors who are part of a districtwide program to assist new teachers. Released from classroom duties, each mentor meets with 20 to 25 new teachers regularly, offering teaching observations and classroom management tips.

“How do I clone you across the state of Washington?” Inslee, a first-term Democrat, asked the teachers.

Inslee credits knowing the value of teacher mentors to his father, who was a new high school biology teacher in Seattle in 1951. An experienced teacher showed his dad the ropes.

Inslee told the teachers he was “trying to get seed money so other districts can follow your lead.”

The governor also visited a U.S. history class and an art class to observe how teachers and students use iPad tablets in the classroom. This is the first year all McLoughlin students have used the handheld tablets as part of the district’s 1:1 technology initiative. District voters approved a technology levy in February 2013.

Addressing the need for businesses to have workers who are trained with the newest technology, he said, “The fact that we don’t have every student in the state of Washington with access to this technology is criminal.”

Read the full story here.

Quiz: Which Vancouver neighborhood should I live in?

Living in Vancouver offers a variety of backdrops. You might situate yourself downtown, in Hough, Arnada or Esther Short, close to the city’s annual events. Or, perhaps, you prefer a quieter setting with views of Vancouver Lake, like you might find in Northwest or Fruit Valley. Money aside, it depends on your lifestyle and your interests in the city. If you’re wondering what sort of place might be the best fit, take this quiz to help you figure out where you belong inside Vancouver city limits.