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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Battle Ground City Council race has mix of opinions

Incumbent former mayor runs against political newcomers

By Adam Littman, Columbian Staff Writer
Published: July 23, 2019, 9:14am

The race for Battle Ground city council Position No. 7 pits an incumbent who is a former mayor against two younger political newcomers, and all have differing opinions on some of the major issues the city is facing.

Philip Johnson, 59, has served on the council since 2012, including a two-year term as mayor in 2016 and 2017. He’s running for re-election, and he said the city is working through some growing pains.

“The folks should know that we are working with (Clark Public Utilities) on stabilizing our water needs through the 2030s,” he wrote in an email. “Also, with all (these) added water capabilities, we are working with the sewage district on taking care of all the disposal activities that all the added water service brings.”

The two candidates running for his seat on the council in August’s primary are Katrina Negrov, 32, and Josh VanGelder, 25, neither of whom has held public office.

Candidates

Philip L. Johnson
Age: 59.
Public offices held: Battle Ground City Council from 2012 to present, including mayor from 2016 to 2017.
Occupation: retired from Army, self-employed.

Katrina Negrov
Age: 32.
Public offices held: none.
Occupation: office manager for Sky Services Inc.

Josh VanGelder
Age: 25.
Public offices held: none.
Occupation: landscape crew lead.

Negrov said she has become increasingly involved in the city. At a recent council meeting, she said Councilor Shane Bowman brought up the idea of the city needing a trade school, something she thinks would help the younger generation join the workforce. It could also help the city with one of the major issues that concerns her: increased homelessness.

“If we work together with organizations like Flash Love, we could bring purpose and a new beginning to those struggling in life,” she wrote.

VanGelder said he was actively involved with a group of residents who pushed for the city to adopt a sanctuary city ordinance to combat Initiative 1639, a controversial gun control law state voters passed last year. In an email, he wrote that the biggest issue facing residents in Battle Ground is that their rights are not being protected.

“Those in government are in place to protect individual rights, not restrict them,” he wrote. “This includes everything from the right to bear arms to private property rights. The people should always be able to believe that their representatives are protecting their rights far above any personal agenda.”

Fire district annexation

The city of Battle Ground has contracted for fire service with Fire District 3 since 2016, and city officials have recently discussed the possibility of being annexed into the district. For the annexation to take place, it would have to be approved by voters in the city and all of Fire District 3’s coverage area of rural Battle Ground, Hockinson, Brush Prairie and Venersborg.

A ballot measure could go before voters sometime in early 2020.

The biggest change for residents of the annexation would be a new fire levy. Currently, the city uses 21 percent of its general fund to pay for its contract with Fire District 3, or roughly $3 million this year. City officials have said that money spent on the fire contract would be directed to other city services or be used to lower city taxes to help offset the cost of the new fire levy.

VanGelder said that if the annexation is approved, he thinks that amount should be deducted from existing taxes.

“I do not believe that the people should be subjected to any more of their hard-earned money being taken away,” he wrote.

Johnson is in favor of the annexation, and said that while it will increase the tax load, it will help the city provide more services in the future.

“For those who have been attending our meetings in the past, we have been projecting over the coming years that at some point fire service will be taking an ever growing share of the budget which will cause the city at its current finance levels to make some hard choices on city services,” he wrote. “Public safety services are expensive. What we will be asking our folks to do is to chip a bit more in to maintain and better those services through their vote, and at the same time bettering other services in the city.”

Negrov said she would like to learn more about the details of the agreement before taking a stance, but said Fire District 3 has provided great service for the city.

Future visioning

Battle Ground has already been discussing the the city’s future. City officials spent a lot of time in 2018 discussing a visioning plan, specifically asking residents what they want.

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Residents want Battle Ground to maintain the city’s small town feel, which is what Negrov is hoping to see.

“I would love to see Battle Ground thriving with community involvement,” she wrote. “Sometimes with growth, building close relationships and/or volunteering ends up on the back burner. But when we come together, we will be able to grow together and keep that small-town feeling going.”

VanGelder wants Battle Ground to be a city where people can see a path to success.

“If we can provide a place where people can feel like they are able to thrive, then all the other elements will follow,” he wrote. “By reducing the restrictions on growth and property, we can create a community that will prosper.”

Johnson said to get the city to where people want it to be, Battle Ground should look into adding more activities in parks for youth and finding a way to bring the community together more, since it is spread out into quadrants. He also wants to see the city bring in more jobs.

“We need to start a push on getting various employers small to large to set up shop here,” he wrote. “By doing this, we expand our job base and at the same time give people more choices inside the city.”

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Columbian Staff Writer