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In Our View: A Good Talk to Have

Baseball stadium idea was worth considering; we'll keep dreaming about national pastime

The Columbian
Published: November 29, 2011, 4:00pm

Just as life continued (we presume) in joy-deprived Mudville after mighty Casey betrayed his townspeople back in 1888, life will continue in Clark County despite Tuesday’s collapse of a plan to bring minor league baseball here.

To further flog the baseball metaphor, County Commissioner Marc Boldt looked to the bullpen for some relief help from Vancouver city councilors, and he saw five of them shaking their heads no. Skipper Boldt knew that support from the city council was key to a proposed admissions tax that would help pay for a baseball stadium at Clark College. Thus, he deduced this game was over.

Boldt and other county commissioners never even voted on the proposal, because Commissioner Steve Stuart’s motion didn’t draw a second.

“Right now, I am sorry,” said Boldt, who was long known to be the swing vote on this matter. “I can’t support it.” Boldt said he could not find the fundamental fairness in the admissions tax. He also explained how five Vancouver city councilors had told him they would oppose the tax, which effectively killed the proposal. One city councilor, Jack Burkman, had been especially vocal about his opposition.

The Columbian is disappointed in Tuesday’s developments, but what happened is understandable in light of one barrier that became too high to clear. It was the idea of a new tax, which today’s elected officials know could become political poison during the worst economic crisis in seven decades. The proposed 5 percent entertainment admissions tax would have yielded almost $1 million annually to pay the majority of costs for a $19.5 million stadium that would have been home to the Yakima Bears, whose owners were seeking to relocate here.

Two positive and encouraging realities linger in the aftermath of this debate. The first is the crystal-clear logic of a minor-league baseball team moving here. Vancouver-Portland is the largest metropolitan area in the nation without a professional baseball team. Indeed, Portland for many decades was the home of a successful Class AAA baseball franchise.

In addition to the cultural benefits of bringing pro baseball here, there are numerous advantages in building such a stadium. In this case, Clark College would have gained a large outdoor structure for multiple uses. Other local groups also would have been able to use the stadium.

The second lingering reality is the appropriateness of having this particular discussion at this particular time. We never understood why anyone — County Commissioner Tom Mielke comes to mind — preferred that the discussion never take place. What narrow-mindedness. Today, Mielke might feel like the winner, what with the collapse of the stadium proposal, but we feel like all of Clark County is the winner just for having had the discussion.

Many visionary forces mustered in support of this idea. But also, many people were able to voice their opposition. At Tuesday’s hearing, according to Columbian reporter Stephanie Rice, 41 people testified, 21 for the new tax and 20 opposed to it. That’s a healthy exercise. How anyone could view the hearing as one that should never take place is beyond our comprehension. A more sensible view is that Clark County residents can — and should — consider and debate ways to improve what already is a wonderful place to live.

So our hat is off to the promoters of this proposition and to anyone else who gave it careful consideration and bothered to speak up. Our hat is also off to those who articulated an effective opposition to the baseball proposal.

We still hope professional baseball comes to our community, and that other visionaries step forward with different proposals. Precise presentations and comprehensive deliberations strengthen all of us.