Because of her vast experience in the community and her understanding of local issues, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Republican incumbent Julie Olson in the race for Clark County councilor from District 2. As always, this is merely a recommendation; The Columbian trusts that voters will study the candidates and make an informed decision.
In examining the candidates, voters will find that Olson has a deep commitment to the community. She has served on the county Board of Health, the Columbia River Economic Development Council Executive Board, the Workforce Southwest Washington Executive Board, Council for the Homeless, and with several other local organizations. She spent eight years on the Ridgefield school board and was elected to a three-year term on the county council in 2015, following passage of the county charter.
During that time, Olson has been a thoughtful leader who works to solve problems rather than cling to political dogma. Representing a district that includes unincorporated areas north of Vancouver, such as Hazel Dell; La Center and Ridgefield; plus sparsely populated areas, she understands the county’s mix of urban, small town, and rural concerns.
Olson describes herself as “probably a social moderate” and has expressed a willingness to consider lifting the county’s moratorium on recreational marijuana businesses. She describes herself as a fiscal conservative and says, “We don’t ask for tax dollars unless there is a true need, and we are very respectful of how they’re spent.” At the same time, she understands that a growing county leads to increasing expenses and twice has voted for the permissible 1 percent increase in total tax levy.
Olson’s pragmatism appears to be in contrast to her opponent, fellow Republican Elisabeth Veneman, a political newcomer. We say “appears to be” because Veneman has been reluctant to share her views regarding the issues facing the county. She has declined interview requests from The Columbian, and the information she supplied for the Voters Pamphlet is long on rhetoric but short on details.
“I want a lower taxed, fireworks friendly, free parking at County Parks, Clark County,” she writes in the Voters Pamphlet. Those ideas might resonate with voters, but Veneman could bolster her campaign by answering questions about them and expanding on her vision for the county. Instead, we are left to wonder whether she has a realistic understanding of local issues.
During a recent one-on-one interview with Clark-Vancouver Television, when asked about development of the Interstate 5 interchange at 179th Street, Veneman expressed concern about the inclusion of light rail. To be clear: There has been no mention of extending light rail to 179th. Veneman said of homelessness: “A lot of times it’s a lifestyle choice. Sometimes it’s not.” And she seemed to confuse the county’s property tax levy with a state property tax created by the Legislature to meet the school-funding mandate from McCleary v. Washington.
Veneman — who has received support from former county Councilor David Madore, Carol Levanen of Clark County Citizens United, and outgoing state Rep. Liz Pike — might be a well-meaning candidate, but she has yet to demonstrate the knowledge necessary to help shepherd Clark County toward a prosperous future. Olson, on the other hand, has a strong record of leadership and service.
The Columbian’s Editorial Board believes Julie Olson is a clear choice to retain her seat as Clark County councilor from District 2.