Jayne: Much talk, seemingly little thought, as election nears

By Greg Jayne, Columbian Opinion Editor

Published:

 

Greg Jayne, Opinion page editor

So many issues, so little time.

With the election two days away, it feels as though this crucial, pivotal, epic journey to the ballot box (at least nobody has referred to it as “the most important election of my lifetime” — yet) has snuck up on us.

Well, maybe not for you. Odds are that you are weary of the TV ads and tired of the newspaper articles and suffering from eye strain after reading every word of the Voters’ Pamphlet. It’s understandable if you turned in your ballot and stopped paying attention two weeks ago.

But for those of us who make a living discussing and pondering this stuff, it seems as though there’s never enough time to cover all the angles or share all the relevant opinions regarding the election.

Consider, for example, the headline that appeared in The Columbian a couple days ago: “Class-size measure looks poised to pass.” This was in reference to statewide Initiative 1351, which would reduce class sizes for K-12 public schools in the state.

Now, I’m typically one who tries to consider both sides of an issue; it’s beneficial in formulating cogent arguments for the newspaper’s editorials. But in reading that headline, I couldn’t help but think it should say, “Washington voters poised to hit themselves in the head with a hatchet.”

I mean, has anybody who favors I-1351 bothered to read it? Have they noticed the estimated cost to the state of $4.7 billion over the next five years? Have they noticed the estimated $6 billion in additional costs for local school districts? Have they seen the studies that show class size has little correlation to student performance?

Supporters of I-1351 make note of the fact that Washington ranks near the bottom in terms of class size, but they never mention that the state ranks near the top in terms of student achievement. If we want to spend $4.7 billion at the state level — on top of the roughly $3 billion mandated for K-12 education by the McCleary v. Washington decision — let’s focus on classroom technology or teacher training or creating smaller classes for the students who really need them. You know, things that actually can impact learning.

See? Those are the discussions that we should be having. We should be taking the time to examine why forcing Evergreen Public Schools to construct 10 to 12 new buildings — according to Superintendent John Deeder — to meet class-size mandates is an absurd idea. Yet time is running short.

Issues for county voters

So, let us move along to the proposed Clark County charter. We won’t belabor this point; you likely have made up your mind on the issue. But I will say that perpetuating a situation in which one county commissioner needs just one fellow commissioner in his or her back pocket to rule the county is not a good idea. When the U.S. Supreme Court or the Vancouver City Council or the college football playoff committee decides that three members would be an improvement, then we can talk. Until then, having a two-person majority is a nonsensical limit of opinion and diversity.

And speaking of nonsensical, there is the matter of an advisory vote on an east county bridge across the Columbia River. The fact that this is a Quixotic quest by County Commissioner David Madore, and the fact that neither Washington nor Oregon nor the city of Vancouver nor Multnomah County has expressed any interest, and the fact that it’s a bad idea to begin with should be enough reason not to waste any more time on it. But go ahead and advise the county that you are in favor of the bridge to nowhere if you like, then see how far that gets you.

You see? There are all kinds of interesting topics on the ballot this year, even without a gubernatorial race or a Senate race or a question about legalized marijuana. Regardless of the issues, be they deemed large or small by a large segment of the populace, elections provide an invigorating opportunity for us to be part of the process — even if the process will drive us nuts until the next election.