Like all governmental bodies, the Clark County Council is facing pressing questions about budgeting, fostering racial equality and guiding their communities through a period of turmoil. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends John Blom and Jesse James as the best candidates from District 3 to shepherd the region into the future.
As always, this is simply a recommendation designed to generate discussion. The Columbian trusts that voters will study the candidates and issues before casting an informed vote. Ballots are scheduled to be mailed Friday and must be dropped off at a secure ballot box or sent by mail prior to the Aug. 4 primary. The top two vote-getters in the three-person race will advance to the November general election.
Blom, the incumbent, is a thoughtful and articulate councilor who has a clear vision of the problems facing the county. He previously was a Republican, but recently left the party and has stated no party preference for this election. “Having done the job for the last four years, I really feel like it should be a nonpartisan position,” he said in May.
Regardless of his party affiliation, Blom has been instrumental in stabilizing a county council that had been dysfunctional. “I’m proud of the work on the council over the past four years,” he said during an interview with the editorial board and other candidates. “When I came on it was very fragmented.”
Blom has a firm understanding of the issues and is open to finding thoughtful solutions. In one example, he led an effort for the county to spread debt payments over two years instead of one, freeing up money to help pay for a drug scanner in the county jail, two additional superior court judges and a small grant to the YWCA’s Court Appointed Special Advocates program.
Blom demonstrates an understanding of the role played by responsible government and says, “It’s all about relationships; that’s what will move the ball forward in District 3.”
James is a political newcomer who also has a clear vision of government’s role and stresses the need for leaders to react to climate change. He has been endorsed by the Sierra Club.
James advocates for rethinking the role of police and including mental health experts and medical workers on emergency calls — such as with the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, Ore. “We would not only be saving money, but we would be helping people,” he said.
The third candidate on the ballot, Republican Karen Bowerman, presents voters with a clear conservative choice. She says she would oppose the county’s permissible 1 percent increase to the property tax levy and claims the county budget is “bloated.” Unfortunately, she declined to give specifics about what cuts should be made to the budget and said, “I would prefer not to do that without being in a position to look with other councilors and staff.” In other words, we have to elect Bowerman to see where the budget is bloated.
She also gave a lengthy non-answer when twice asked whether systemic racism exists in Clark County, but criticized a letter signed by four council members (including Blom) in support of Sheriff Chuck Atkins’ decision to ban “Thin Blue Line” paraphernalia on department property.
Blom and James demonstrate a broader understanding of different perspectives and a greater willingness to engage with the people of Clark County — hallmarks of leadership. Because of that, The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends John Blom and Jesse James for Clark County councilor from District 3.