When Republican Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring announced that she would challenge incumbent Clark County Council Chair Marc Boldt for his position in the upcoming election, both candidates shrugged off suggestions that they couldn’t get along while vying for the same position.
But Boldt, no party preference, said that the campaign has taken a negative turn after Quiring sent out a mailer attacking his record on property taxes, park fees, property rights and the sheriff’s budget. He said that the mailer lacks context and includes one “outright lie.”
“It was real similar to the one that was sent out against me by (former Clark County Councilor David Madore) or (state Rep.) Liz Pike,” he said, referring to his opponents in his 2015 run for the position.
The mailer states that Boldt’s “record of tax hikes, fee increases, big spending, cutting vital service and harmful land use policies are hurting our citizens!” In contrast, the mailer states that Quiring wouldn’t raise taxes and “puts citizens first!”
“This is just showing what the record is,” said Quiring. “And I suppose he doesn’t like people saying what his actual record is. … This is not personal. This is his voting record.”
Perhaps the most striking claim made by the mailer is that Boldt “slashed” the sheriff’s budget during a period of rapid growth making the community “LESS safe!”
Quiring said the claim is in reference to Boldt’s vote for the 2016-2018 county budget. A statement posted to Boldt’s website called the claim an “outright lie.”
Figures provided by Clark County Interim Budget Director Emily Zwetzig show that the sheriff’s office saw its budget increase after the budget was passed. For 2015-2016, the sheriff’s office had a budget of $102.7 million. For 2017-2018, its budget was $112.5 million — a 9.5-percent increase over the previous budget.
“I don’t know why they would be saying that,” Quiring responded when confronted with numbers from the budget office.
She added that she would have to check the numbers herself. “I don’t know what they are saying.”
She stuck to her claim that the sheriff’s budget was cut. Quiring justified her claim by pointing to how Boldt, along with Republican county Councilors Jeanne Stewart and Julie Olson, voted down a series of amendments offered by Republican Councilors David Madore and Tom Mielke (who are no longer in office) to the county’s 2016-2018 budget that were intended to bolster funding for the sheriff’s office.
Quiring took office in late December 2016, just weeks after the budget had been finalized during a long and contentious council hearing.
Although the budget increased overall funding for the sheriff’s office, it contained a provision that reduced ongoing expenses in the sheriff’s office by a half-percent, or $562,580. One of the failed amendments supported by Madore and Mielke would have restored this funding.
Another amendment would have restored $1.3 million to the sheriff’s office. This funding reduction was in response to the sheriff’s office losing a contract with the city of Vancouver for records management. The council later approved $100,000 for a study for the staffing needs of the sheriff’s records units.
Another amendment would have removed what’s described in budget documents as a “placeholder estimate” for potential savings from an upcoming review of the county’s fleet of vehicles, which the sheriff’s office heavily uses. The county has not reduced its fleet in response to the review.
Yet another amendment would have restored $51,553 for the annual maintenance and replacement of a SWAT vehicle and crime scene investigation truck. In May 2017, the council voted to approve the sheriff’s office using $270,000 from the seizure funds to buy a Lenco BearCat G2 armored vehicle.
“It’s a cut because those budget packages were not added,” said Quiring.
Boldt said that the county isn’t less safe. He also said that the sheriff’s office is authorized to hire more deputies. Getting them through the academy is the hard part, he said.
Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins did not respond to a request for comment.
The mailer states that Boldt raised property taxes seven times to the maximum amount allowed by state law. It states that Boldt voted to raise taxes annually between 2006 and 2010 before he lost re-election as a county commissioner. It further states that he again raised them in 2016 and 2017 after Clark County government was reorganized and he was elected council chair.
“It doesn’t say it was 1 percent,” said Boldt.
Under state law, counties can only raise their total property tax levy by 1 percent each year. The most recent increase in the levy resulted in a tax increase of a few dollars for a median property tax bill.
County officials have long complained that the cap on the levy has created a structural deficit, where expenses (particularly labor) are increasing at a faster rate than revenues.
Boldt said that the county has to make the decision to cut its services or find more revenue. He said that the county has to keep adequate reserves to keep a good bonding capacity, and the 1 percent increase doesn’t even cover inflation.
Quiring said that she voted against taking the 1 percent increase because she knew that taxpayers would already be facing a steep property tax increase this year as a result of a state education funding package.
“As unhappy as people are right now about their taxes, it’s on (Boldt) to defend it,” she said.
Under the county charter, the county manager prepares the budget, which can be amended by the county council before approval. During the council hearing to readopt the county’s two-year budget, Quiring offered no amendments and voted against the property tax increase and the budget. She said that county revenues are sufficient to cover its expenses without a tax increase.
The mailer also says Boldt hurt working families by reinstating park fees.
It’s true that Boldt, along with Stewart and Olson, voted in 2016 to reinstate the fees at the Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park, Lewisville Regional Park, Salmon Creek Regional Park/Klineline Pond and Vancouver Lake Regional Park. In 2013, the then-county commission lifted the fees.
On his website, Boldt defended his vote to add a $3 parking fee at four regional parks, arguing that they keep out people who degrade them and use them as a place to party.
“The parking fee has really helped,” he said.
“That is baloney,” responded Quiring, who dismissed the concern. She said that she now gets complaints that Lewisville Park is backed up because of people paying the “stupid” parking fees.
“These parks are paid for,” she added.
The mailer states that Boldt voted against “policies that respect private property rights that would have lowered the high cost of housing.”
Quiring explained that she was referring to Boldt’s opposition to Alternative 4. Alternative 4 was a zoning proposal crafted by former Clark County Councilor David Madore. Had it been included into the county’s Comprehensive Growth Management Plan update, it would have reduced the minimum allowed parcel size of rural, agricultural and forest lots across Clark County.
The proposal had the support of property rights group Clark County Citizens United. But it was rejected by the Clark County Planning Commission, and in February 2016, Boldt, Stewart and Olson voted down Alternative 4.
The council later approved a comprehensive plan that included a scaled-back reduction in the minimum lot sizes for rural and agricultural lands. But a state land-use board found that the reductions violated state law.
“The property rights one is a big one,” said Boldt. On the statement posted to his website, he faulted Quiring for her “inability to understand” state law and for supporting a plan that the county was advised would fail in the courts.
Quiring has long expressed support for private property rights and allowing rural landowners to divide their land.
“It could be held up in court,” she said. “But at least you tried.”