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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Candidates for Clark County Council chair square off

Jail, marijuana, Madore among issues discussed

By Jake Thomas, Columbian political reporter
Published: July 4, 2018, 6:01am
5 Photos
Candidates for Clark County Council chair Christy Stanley, from left, Eric Holt, Marc Boldt and Eileen Quiring square off before The Columbian’s Editorial Board.
Candidates for Clark County Council chair Christy Stanley, from left, Eric Holt, Marc Boldt and Eileen Quiring square off before The Columbian’s Editorial Board. Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Republican Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring dismissed a comparison between her and former Councilors David Madore and Tom Mielke, saying that electing her council chair wouldn’t mean a return to a previous era of county politics.

Quiring’s comments were in response to a remark made by Eric Holt, a Democratic candidate for county council chair, during a meeting with The Columbian’s Editorial Board. Holt said that although he likes Quiring he wouldn’t vote for her because “none of us want to go back to the Madore and Mielke years.”

Madore and Mielke lost re-election and retired in 2016, respectively. Their time on council was marked with bitter feuds with the rest of the council, county staff and others. But Quiring said that era is over.

“You can see the differences,” said Quiring. “I think there was a perceived discontent and rancor on the council. I think it was just a mix of people. I think that David Madore moved too fast with policy.”

But she added that she agreed with their policies. “They’re conservatives; I’m a conservative,” she said.

That was one of the more notable exchanges during a roughly hourlong interview of Clark County Council chair candidates with The Columbian’s Editorial Board. The race includes current council Chair Marc Boldt, an independent, who is seeking to retain his position from challenges from Quiring as well as Holt, a manager in a mining company, and Christy Stanley, an owner of several marijuana stores.

During the interview, the candidates broadly expressed support for better jobs and affordable housing in the county. But they differed on issues of the jail, marijuana policy and approaches to the job.

Jail

The candidates expressed varying opinions on what to do with Clark County Jail. Last year, a consultant’s report found that the county will need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to upgrade the aging and outmoded facility. Earlier this year, the county assembled a commission to weigh its options and will present a recommendation later this year.

“The brick and mortar is really the easy part, and it’s really how you run the jail is the hard part,” said Boldt.

Boldt said the jail should build on its re-entry programs. He said the facility should be remodeled in a way that makes it easier to direct inmates toward the appropriate services to prevent them from coming back. He said the county will be coming to the voters with a bond measure to fund upgrades at the jail, likely in the spring. But he noted that it will be difficult to convince voters who just saw a significant property tax hike passed by the Legislature to fund basic education.

Quiring acknowledged the jail is outdated and overpopulated. She said there will be a “big price tag” to fix it. She said she will rely on the commission, which she said she expects to come up with “very good ideas.”

Stanley, who describes herself as a “Blue Dog Democrat,” said the county should think “outside of the box” for the jail and questioned why the commission needs to take so long.

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“What’s wrong with just asking what the general public thinks about what are some of the solutions for the jail?” said Stanley. She suggested utilizing inmates to do some of the work for the jail.

Holt he said he wouldn’t support a bond for the jail, which he said would be at least $200 million.

He pointed out that Clark County does not have AAA bond rating, meaning taxpayers would pay a higher rate of interest. Moody’s Investors Service, a bond credit rating business, currently assigns Clark County a rating of Aa1, a step below the highest rating of AAA.

He said that Clark County should first increase wages so that it can increase its bond rating. He said that the county should try to reduce incarceration by addressing issues with mental illness and substance abuse.

“Let’s decriminalize a lot of the activities that are not detrimental to society,” he said. But he added the county still faces problems with its jail. He praised Chief Corrections Deputy Ric Bishop’s efforts to introduce re-entry programs in the jail.

Marijuana

Both Holt and Stanley support lifting Clark County’s ban on recreational marijuana businesses, stating that it would bring in revenue that would help the county address its budget gap.

Holt, a resident of Hockinson, added that lifting the ban will help medical marijuana patients access their medicine and will reduce opioid addiction.

Stanley owns a recreational marijuana store in Kitsap County. She owns two more, one in University Park and another just outside of Battle Ground. She’s been unable to open either of these stores because of county prohibitions. She said that lifting the ban will create good-paying jobs, even if they are entry-level jobs.

“Those jobs will escalate into management positions because, kind of the sky is the limit with this industry right now,” she said.

Both Boldt and Quiring oppose lifting the ban. Boldt said the county provides drug and alcohol treatment services, so lifting the ban would send the wrong message. He said that he’s heard from rehabilitation services and law enforcement who oppose lifting the ban.

“With freedom comes responsibility,” said Quiring, agreeing with Boldt. “And unfortunately, the county will take on more responsibility when we legalize that.”

County style

Boldt noted that he served as county freeholder, a group of residents who wrote the home rule charter Clark County voters approved in 2014. He said that the council chair serves as a voice for the council, a role he’s embraced even when he disagrees with a vote it’s taken. He also said that much of the job involves behind-the-scenes work with local mayors and members of the council.

Both Boldt and Quiring said they’ve been able to get along on the council even while running against each other.

When asked if they had to vote for someone other than themselves, Quiring said she’d vote for Boldt even though she said she’d be a stronger leader. But Boldt said he was torn between Quiring and Holt. Boldt is currently the only non-Republican on the council, which he said could change after the election, and the chair needs to ensure that each councilor’s view is heard.

“I think you need a person who can talk to every council person,” he said.

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Columbian political reporter