The way David Madore tells it, each morning upon waking the politician stands, salutes God, and says, “Reporting for duty, Sir.”
It’s a favorite story of the outgoing Republican Clark County councilor, who lost his re-election bid in the August primary. That means as of Jan. 1, wherever Madore reports for duty, it won’t be at the dais at the Public Service Center.
Setting Madore’s often polarizing politics aside, there is no question he served a full and busy four years on the Clark County council. Here are five takeaways from Madore’s time in office.
1. Policies made, policies dismantled
By a vote of 3 to 2 – one of many this year – the Clark County council in late June approved an ordinance codifying its 2016 Comprehensive Growth Management Plan update.
The largely technical finale capped a lengthy and controversial growth plan update process, much of which was dominated by Madore with his authoring of the Alternative 4 zoning plan. The current board threw that plan out, adopting instead more modest changes allowing for smaller lot sizes. But up until the end, including at that June 28 meeting, Madore fought for his plan.
“My position has not changed,” he said at the meeting. “I believe the requirements of the (Growth Management Act) are not being satisfied. This will have to be redone.”
That attitude has been a keystone of Madore’s time on the county council. With the consistent support of Republican Councilor Tom Mielke, Madore championed — and saw the dismantling of — a series of often controversial policies.
There was the fee waiver program, currently on hold after granting millions of dollars in free traffic impact and application fees to nonresidential developers. There was the 2 percent cut to the county’s property tax levy collection, which likely would have saved individual taxpayers the equivalent of a couple of cups of coffee this year while costing the county $1.2 million in revenue. Then there were a series of eight resolutions approved by the council in a late-scheduled meeting the week of Christmas last December that were quickly dispatched by the incoming council.
In fact, the only Madore-championed policy that remains on the books is the elimination of parking fees at Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park, Lewisville Regional Park, Vancouver Lake Regional Park, Salmon Creek Regional Park/Klineline Pond, Daybreak Regional Park and Boat Launch, and Happa Boat Launch.
2. Transparency questioned
Madore also branded himself an advocate for transparency, pushing for programs like Clark County’s open checkbook, where the county lists its expenditures, and The Grid, a site for meeting agendas and documents.
But Madore has asked that documents be posted to The Grid without prior approval, and at one point operated his own “C-Grid” that could be reached only by knowing the correct web address.
There are also two ongoing lawsuits against Clark County questioning whether the county is complying with the Public Records Act when it comes to Madore’s communications. County Planning Director Oliver Orjiako, who earlier this year filed a whistleblower complaint against Madore, sued alleging the county failed to provide all responsive text messages from Madore’s private cellphone, that it failed to provide an affidavit confirming Madore’s cellphone was fully searched, and that it permitted Madore to delete public records. Open-government gadfly Arthur West of Olympia is also targeting Clark County, alleging the county “silently and unreasonably withheld records” from Madore’s Facebook page. The councilor regularly deletes Facebook comments — frequently from people who simply disagree with him — and lambastes his fellow councilors and county staff in posts and comments.
3. Racking up costs
Clark County faces a $20 million budget deficit in the new biennium. It’s difficult to say with certainty how much of that can be attributed directly to decisions by Madore or policies the councilor has championed.
To be sure, Clark County’s long-standing policy of not increasing property tax collections — which may help individual property owners save a few dollars each year but has slowed county revenue by millions of dollars — plays a role. The county hasn’t taken its allotted 1 percent annual increase since 2011, prior to Madore taking office, but the councilor has been the loudest advocate for not raising taxes since he took office.
“Revenues are simply not keeping up with expenses,” Budget Director Adriana Prata said earlier this year.
And Madore can add new expenses to his r?sum?. Clark County taxpayers are responsible, for example, for more than $100,000 in attorney bills resulting from Madore’s discredited accusations of wrongdoing by county officials. Clark County also paid R.W. Thorpe and Associates, a Mercer Island-based land-use firm that email records show Madore personally selected, $36,663 to analyze the zoning proposal Madore wrote.
Outside of the general fund, Clark County also paid out a $250,000 settlement to Anita Largent, who sued the county alleging unlawful hiring practices after Madore and Mielke hired state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, to lead the Department of Environmental Services.
4. Local momentum shifts
Madore’s role on the Clark County council gave rise to significant community momentum, including a number of citizens groups and two political action committees set out to oppose him.
Clark County Citizens for Good Governance, a Facebook group with nearly 1,200 members, was born from early efforts to recall Madore. That spawned a later group, Clark County Citizens Unfiltered, which has nearly 400 members.
Chris Prothero founded the latter Facebook group, as well as a PAC called Reunite Clark County, to oppose Madore. He said last week he is optimistic the community energy focused on Madore will transition into the “issues that face Clark County as a whole,” rather than the issues created by one elected official.
“David Madore brought together such a variety of unlikely groups together for a common goal of better governance that I think, for as divisive as he was, he brought the majority of the county back together for the good of our community,” Prothero said.
Prothero registered the PAC under mini-reporting laws, meaning he couldn’t raise more than $5,000 and did not have to fully report contributions. He estimated he raised about $1,250.
Camas investor and philanthropist David Nierenberg launched another PAC, Connecting Clark County, also with the aim of taking down Madore. He contributed $50,000 of his own money, while another 69 donors brought the group’s war chest to $157,521.
“It would be nice for our community to be able to revert to having a government that focuses on the essential task of government in a manner that is both efficient and civil,” Nierenberg said. “We don’t want to be expending the time and money with volleys back and forth.”
5. Home rule charter passes
It was arguably that same momentum that propelled voters to approve Clark County’s home rule charter in 2014 after several failed attempts in years prior.
While some backers of the charter — including Nan Henriksen, who chaired the group that wrote the new form of government — were hesitant to call the charter a poll on Madore and Mielke, it is undeniable that support for change became more widespread following the hiring of Benton.
Chuck Green, a founder of Clark County Citizens for Good Governance who also ran for Clark County council, spent the months following the approval of the charter giving presentations explaining the county’s new form of government.
Green has been highly critical of Madore and said his behavior in office gave rise to the charter.
“There’s only so much people can take before they rise up, and in this case, it became the home rule charter and not being re-elected to the only elected office he has ever won,” Green said.