Geographically, the meandering city-limits line between Camas and Washougal follows no particular pattern. Visitors often don’t know which city they’re in. But in other ways, that boundary might as well be the Iron Curtain.
West of the line, Ozzie and Harriet, Donna Reed, and the Cleavers all live idyllic lives of white picket fences and correctness in Camas. East of the line, Ozzy Osbourne is gassin’ up for the 40th annual Washougal Motocross.
Diplomatic public figures in the two cities maintain a fine howdy-do across this imaginary Iron Curtain, engaging in more than 30 interlocal agreements that help both governments. Privately, though, folks in each city retch at the thought of removing the curtain and assimilating. Four times they voted against consolidation. They haven’t even tried since 1971 when, legend has it, there was this giant hoo-rah over whether to call the conjoined communities “Camshougal” or “Washas.”
The recently resigned mayor of Camas — who left a glowing legacy — is heading up a new economic development group. By contrast, the former mayor of Washougal — who left town in January 2010 in the wake of a multi-dimensional scandal — last I heard was running a massage boutique near Washington, D.C. Her successor in Washougal recently apologized for using emergency lights on his city-owned vehicle to pass slower traffic, for which next month he will face a misdemeanor charge of criminal impersonation.
The differences between Camas and Washougal are manifested again in lineups for the Nov. 8 election (and the Aug. 16 primary in races where there are more than two candidates). In Camas, three of the five races for city council are unopposed. Each of the other two positions has two candidates. Nothing will be decided in the primary.
In Washougal, a typically rowdy race is emerging. A dozen candidates are elbowing each other for four spots. Three of the showdowns will require some winnowing in the primary.
Port politics in this corner of Clark County is predictably energetic, as we’ll see in the primary. Three candidates are signed up for the Port of Camas-Washougal commissioner race. By comparison, port races in Vancouver and Ridgefield are unopposed.
The only similarity between Camas and Washougal on the upcoming ballot is in school-board races. All three spots on each board are unopposed.
Complain, then sit quietly
Other observations about the Aug. 16 primary and Nov. 8 election:
It’s easy to complain about problems in public schools, but few people step forward and become part of the solutions. There are 32 school-board races in Clark County this year, and 26 are unopposed. That’s a whopping 81 percent. In addition to the Camas and Washougal school board contests, the unopposed list includes all three in the Evergreen district, all four in La Center and both races in Hockinson.
In city council elections around the county, about one third (10 of 32 in eight cities) are unopposed. Woodland is looking a lot like Washougal, with 11 candidates in four races.
All county ballots combined show 93 races this year; 54 are unopposed. Many of those are in elections for fire, cemetery and recreation districts.
Port of Vancouver Commissioner Brian Wolfe said he was “shocked” when notolls.com activist David Madore filed to run against him, and then “shocked” again when Madore withdrew from the race after their Tuesday lunch at Sweet Tomatoes. Wolfe also said he and other port commissioners spend about 5 percent of their board time discussing bridge matters.
Again we see that the redundant, ever-present squawkers at Vancouver City Council meetings are more bark than bite. For all the lambasting councilors repeatedly absorbed in the past couple of years, one would expect a veritable stampede of foes was waiting to mow them down in the election. Alas, only four candidates stepped forward to challenge the three incumbents. That’s down from seven challengers in three races in 2009.
This is why they’re called the Hounds of Whinerville and not the Lions of Action.
John Laird is The Columbian’s editorial page editor. His column of personal opinion appears each Sunday. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.