Whomever voters pick to be Clark County Council chair will have some big challenges ahead that include budget shortfalls, a housing shortage, homelessness, growth planning, charter implementation and others.
In the race, incumbent Chair Marc Boldt, an independent, is facing challenges from Republican Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring and political newcomer Eric Holt, a Democrat. Christy Stanley, a Democrat, has suspended her campaign and endorsed Holt.
In advance of the Aug. 7 primary (the top two candidates will square off in November), The Columbian sent the candidates a questionnaire asking where they stand on the issues. Below are their responses, which have been edited for clarity and brevity. Their complete responses can be found at columbian.com.
The Clark County Council chair has the same voting power as the four other members of the council. What power does the Clark County Council chair position really have, and how do you intend to use it?
Marc Boldt (I): In some ways, the chair has less power. You only have a personal opinion until the vote. After that, you speak for the council regardless of your vote. The job of this position, if done correctly, is to serve all the council as well as the other electeds.
Eric Holt (D): As chair, I will work with the council to set a vision and mission, create regular meeting agendas and hold the meetings in accordance of the charter requirements and work with the state and local jurisdictions to form a more cohesive and cooperative operation.
Eileen Quiring (R): As the spokesperson for the county, it is important that we have a chair that can articulate our priorities and encourage an agenda that places citizens at the front of the line. The chair can be a catalyst for policies that encourage job creators and that meet the needs of our community without adding unwarranted burdens onto the citizens.
What is the single biggest challenge facing the county?
Boldt: The remodel of our jail is the most important issue.
Holt: Lack of effective leadership. This in turn leads to a failure in the county’s ability to address the truly pressing issues.
Quiring: We must have land use policies that do not contribute to the high cost of housing. And we have to plan for adequate infrastructure to accommodate that growth.
Clark County is experiencing a structural deficit where revenues outpace expenditures. This is happening at a time when the county is experiencing rapid growth and an increased demand for services. What are your specific plans to address the situation?
Boldt: First, there are only a few counties in the state with stable budgets. With that said, the most important issue is a balanced budget with enough reserves for tough times. The state legislature must start funding items mandated by the laws they have passed such as growth management, indigent defense and more.
Marc Boldt• Age: 65. • Occupation: Clark County Council chair. • Notable endorsements: Building Industry Association of Clark County, Clark-Cowlitz County Farm Bureau. • Education: Associate degree in agriculture from Yakima Valley Community College. • Previous political experience: Republican Clark County Commissioner, 2004-2012. Republican state representative, 1994-2004.
Holt: My family going back four generations were blue collar union Democrats. We earned our income by the sweat of our brow and the strength in our backs.
Quiring: I am a Republican because my values most closely align with the Republican platform of lean and efficient government, which adheres to the statutory requirements of state law, lower taxes, property rights and respect for individual freedom and liberty.
When is it appropriate for the county government to increase taxes or fees on citizens?
Boldt: We must first take time to build a budget meeting the needs of citizens, but realizing that citizens pay for the entire budget. If at the end you have a deficit, you can look for ways to meet the challenge of funding through taxes or fees.
Eric Holt• Age: 44. • Occupation: safety and operations manager at a mining company. • Notable endorsements: Clark County Treasurer Doug Lasher. State Reps. Monica Stonier and Sharon Wylie. State Sen. Annette Cleveland. All local Democratic organizations. • Education: Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Western Governors University. • Previous political experience: Former candidate for Washington State Senate. Currently an executive board member and the (Western) Washington Vice Chair of the Washington State Progressive Caucus.
Holt: It would definitely be the mineral resource land designation via overlays. This essentially allows the Department of Natural Resources or property owners with a mining resource land designation to expand their land via overlays onto private property owner’s lands.
Quiring: I would allow for a more realistic division of lands both by expanding the urban growth boundary and in the rural areas, as well. GMA in Washington state and other similar laws throughout the nation have caused a “false scarcity of land” thereby causing housing prices to skyrocket.
What changes would you make to the Clark County home rule charter, if any?
Boldt: I will wait for the citizens review committee to come up with their recommendations in the next two years.
Eileen Quiring• Age: 70. • Occupation: Clark County councilor. Licensed real estate broker (semi-retired). • Notable endorsements: Former Clark County Councilor Tom Mielke. Current state Rep. Vicki Kraft, R-Vancouver. Former Washougal City Councilor Dan Coursey. • Education: B.A. from George Fox University (Distinguished Alumnus 1998). • Previous political experience: Current Clark County Councilor, Clark County Planning Commission; Board of Equalization; Oregon House of Representatives 1995- 1997, Oregon Senate, Majority Whip (Oregon) 1997- 2001.
Holt: I would consider making the county manager an elected office with requirements for experience and education.
Quiring: I did not initially favor the charter form of government. The charter did put in place a mechanism for citizens to make changes, so we will see what comes of that over time.
The Clark County Jail has become overcrowded and outmoded for modern correctional practices. How should the county address the problem?
Boldt: I helped create a citizen task force to look at the remodel of the jail and the operation of the facility. I am committed to see changes in our jail.
Holt: First, we need to see what options and solutions can be exploited before incarceration, e.g., treatment, mental health services, basic living services, behavioral treatment services. Reducing sentencing on nonviolent drug related and petty crimes. Then, after reducing our incarceration levels, we continue the great work we have been doing on re-entry to society after time has been served and focus on reducing recidivism. Plans to build a new facility should be a last resort.
Quiring: The overcrowding problem in our jail and the eventual solution to either increase space or build a new facility will ultimately be decided by the citizens if/when they are given an opportunity to vote whether they want a bond issue for this or not.
Clark County is experiencing a housing shortage and an increase in homelessness. What can the county do to address the situation?
Boldt: The county is the lead agency for homelessness. We must continue to work along side of the Council for the Homeless to provide long-term solutions. For housing needs, the county must start this year working on the foundation for a new growth plan for a 20-year supply of land required by law. Without it, there is an artificial demand, and land prices rise quickly.
Holt: Yes. Revenue could be put toward the looming budget shortfall, drug and alcohol treatment and enforcement, homelessness, and improving services to the citizens of Clark County.
Quiring: I am not in favor of lifting the ban in the unincorporated area of Clark County. Any extra revenue generated would have to be funneled back into law enforcement and social services.