Voters in the city of Vancouver have a difficult choice in the election for Position 1 on the city council. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends John Blom in the nonpartisan election, while also recognizing Kim Harless as a strong candidate. Either way, the seat held by Laurie Lebowsky is certain to remain in capable hands.
As always, this is merely a recommendation. We trust that voters will study the candidates and the issues before making an informed decision. Information about candidates is available through The Columbian’s coverage, the candidates’ websites, and the online Voters’ Pamphlet.
To arrive at our decision, the Editorial Board held a joint remote interview with three candidates prior to the August primary; unedited video of the meeting is available online. We also considered the candidates’ resumes, their stance on particular issues and their record of community service.
Ballots for the Nov. 2 election will be mailed Oct. 15 and must be returned by Election Day. Blom and Harless advanced to the general election as the top two vote-getters in the primary.
As a former Clark County councilor, Blom has a record of engaged leadership throughout the community. He served as a Republican on the county council before seeking reelection without declaring a party affiliation. During his four years on the county council, he demonstrated the ability to work collaboratively and pursue thoughtful solutions to myriad problems.
In interviews, Blom is extremely articulate and able to explain complicated issues in language that is insightful and easily understood. He points to his experience as a real estate agent as crucial for solving problems facing the city, saying he understands “how communities actually get created.”
“I’m the only one who has experience in working in the development world,” Blom said. “It’s really easy to say we need this, this and this, but if you don’t understand the impact that has on the ground, it creates challenges. The decisions that we make over the next year or four years are going to shape what (Vancouver) looks like in the years ahead. I built a reputation of being a pragmatic problem solver.”
In addition to time on the county council, Blom has served on the boards of the Boys & Girls Club of Southwest Washington; the Historic Trust; and Columbia River Mental Health Services.
Harless also has an impressive record of public service. She was co-chair of the Clark County Charter Review Commission, has been board president for Slow Food Southwest Washington and has been a council member for the local chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
She stresses climate change as a pressing issue, pointing to her degree in environmental science and work in that field as important for helping Vancouver prepare for the future. “I know the technicalities, and this is something we don’t have on our current council,” she told the Editorial Board.
Harless also points to her experience as a person of color – she is Hispanic and Indigenous – as a benefit. “I think it is so crucial that someone who’s actually experienced these things is in a position of power,” Harless said. “This is not a political career for me. This is something I’m doing for the community.”
Either candidate would be a strong addition to the city council, but the Editorial Board believes Blom’s experience and his broad understanding of the issues gives him an edge. The Columbian recommends John Blom for Vancouver City Council, Position 1.