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Oct. 24, 2020

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In Our View: Jesse James for Clark County Council Position 3

The Columbian
Published:

Although he is facing a difficult battle in his quest for election, The Columbian Editorial Board recommends Jesse James for Clark County councilor from District 3.

This is only a recommendation designed to foster discussion. The Columbian expects that voters will study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.

In James, a Democrat, they will find a candidate who has a vision for the region and can help Clark County prepare for a successful future. They also will find a candidate who will bring a thoughtful, independent approach to the council instead of being encumbered by inflexibility.

James’ campaign focuses on increasing affordable housing and leading the county’s efforts to combat climate change. As part of his climate change platform, he writes on his website: “Many people would like to own an electric car, but apartment parking lots are not equipped with suitable outlets to accommodate these vehicles. Lockable outlets should become standard for new multifamily construction.”

He supports spending on public safety and advocates for a system similar to one used for decades in Eugene, Ore., where a mobile-response system deploys unarmed responders in some situations.

During an interview with the editorial board, James also stressed the need for the county to approve the maximum allowable 1 percent increase to the property tax levy. “It’s important that we keep systems running,” he said. “We are a community; that’s why we have a government.”

In that regard, James provides a sharp contrast to his opponent, Republican Karen Bowerman, who stresses “fiscal restraint” and opposition to tax increases, including the 1 percent increase to the property tax levy — the total amount collected. That strategy in recent years has left the county with a structural deficit; even a 1 percent increase does not keep up with inflation.

Bowerman calls the county budget “bloated,” but declines to offer specifics about where she would make cuts. “I would prefer not to do that without being in a position to look with other councilors and staff,” she said.

“No new taxes” is an attractive platform. But it also is irresponsible, and candidates who make such a pledge should be prepared to say where they would cut spending. “There are ways to get at a structural deficit by spending less,” Bowerman said.

James and Bowerman advanced to the general election after a three-person primary that eliminated incumbent John Blom. Previously a Republican, Blom was running without a party preference after a falling out with the local Republican Party.

That points out a problem with Bowerman’s campaign. Bowerman’s husband, Earl, is chair of the Clark County Republican Party; County Chair Eileen Quiring is vice chair of the local Republican Party, and voters should be wary about such a concentration of power. Whether a councilor is a Republican or a Democrat, they have a duty to represent all of their constituents rather than adhering to party dogma.

James demonstrates that ability to a greater extent than Bowerman. He effectively articulates a broad vision for the county and maintains an interest in responsibly serving all residents. “For far too long our council has been influenced by special interests, rubber stamping projects while only paying lip service to our fellow citizens who are impacted by their decisions,” he writes.

Because of that awareness, The Columbian recommends Jesse James for Clark County Council, Position 3.

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