Press Talk: The M&M boys and Benton. Oh my!

By Lou Brancaccio, Columbian Editor



Get ready to dig deeper into your pockets. Those doggone liberal Democrats must be … Oh, wait. … What the?

Truth is, it’s the M&M boys and their sidekick, Boss Hogg Benton, who are coming for your money. Who would have thunk it?

But they’re at it again.

By now, you know them well. County Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke and — of course — Environmental Services Director (and state senator) Don Benton.

What a mess they’ve made of our county.

Their latest shenanigan is how to pay for an earlier county government blunder that has to do with stormwater runoff. It’s going to cost the county — read “taxpayers” — $3 million in fines because the county didn’t want to comply with state stormwater runoff regulations. (The county also has to come up with a ton of money to actually begin complying with the regulations.)

Now, since the three bad boys mentioned above are all Republicans in good standing, you’d think they’d get behind the conservative tenet: Don’t raise taxes or fees. Cut spending!

Well, think again.

They went right to the endless money stream called taxpayers. That’s how they’re getting themselves out of the $3 million jam they put themselves into.

And — oh yes — they have an extra-special treat for The Columbian. They’re proposing a fee for us because — well — just because.

At first, they designed this extra fee so it would just hit The Columbian. But that was so blatantly discriminatory, all newspapers in the county will now be hit. Of course, that’s still mostly us.

Now, the three bad boys would tell you this: First, this $3 million fine isn’t their fault! It was some other idiot elected officials’. Plus the dollar amount could have been worse! Right. Typical government finger-pointing. And about that great bargain they got us? Only $3 million. When you’re playing with funny money (read “taxpayer” money), $3 million is chump change.

And that newspaper fine? Well, the bad boys will tell you it has nothing to do with being vindictive. They’re good guys. Newspapers just happen to be major players in stormwater pollution.


So I asked my buddy Benton if he could share with me the specific information that supports this claim.

When he didn’t answer me the first time, I asked him again.

“Is this the way you treat residents of Clark County? Ignore them? I asked you a question on what information you have that supports your contention that newspapers are a major source of stormwater pollution.

“Are you going to answer my question?

“Thanks much.”

Again, no answer.

You’d think the county would understand community relations. I might have to send the entire crowd over there to Covey training.

Without help from Benton, I went to the Water Quality & Environmental Assessment programs of the Washington Department of Ecology. They’re the experts on stormwater pollutants.

I spoke to Sandy Howard, the communications manager of the department, and asked her two questions. Does the state have a list of major polluters of stormwater runoff? And do newspapers play a role on that list?

After speaking to several folks in her department, Howard got back to me.

The department, she said, doesn’t have a list of top stormwater polluters, but the usual suspects are always there: stuff like fertilizer runoff, washing your car on the driveway, and unscooped pet poop.

But what about newspapers? How bad are we?

Well, Howard said, she couldn’t find anyone in the department who had ever heard of such a thing.

I guess if you believe newspapers are major stormwater polluters, you probably believe in the Easter Bunny.

With Benton being tight-lipped, you basically have to guess what’s in this guy’s frontal lobe.

Maybe Benton and the M&M boys are just waxing philosophic about pollution in general and how newspapers use trees?

Benton has mentioned that. But that has little to do with stormwater pollution. Plus, if it’s trees he’s concerned with, shouldn’t there be an extra special tax on timber companies? How about a little extra for the building industry? Oh, they might contribute to your political campaigns? Sorry.

Truth is, no one is being fooled here. This is all about being vindictive. This is about the M&M boys putting a guy like Benton in charge of environmental services when he is much more familiar with poppycock than pollution.

And all my fellow taxpayers are getting dragged into the mess.

Welcome to the nightmare. If we don’t stop the Three Caballeros soon, we’re all going down the drain.

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