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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Hamlik, Belkot best for Clark County Council

The Columbian
Published: July 20, 2022, 6:03am

The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for Kim Hamlik or Michelle Belkot in the race for Clark County Council, District 2.

As always, this is merely a recommendation designed to foster discussion. The Columbian trusts that voters will study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.

Two candidates from a three-person field will advance to the November general election to fill the seat held by Julie Olson, who is not seeking reelection. For the first time, candidates are running without declaring a party preference, meaning that voters need to do a little extra work to identify the candidate who best aligns with their beliefs.

The county council has been hampered by ideological rigidity and mismanagement in recent years. No single councilor can fix those issues, but Hamlik, in particular, demonstrates a thoughtful demeanor that would benefit the council.

During an interview with the Editorial Board, she frequently said “that’s a really, really tough question for me” before giving a detailed answer. A willingness to examine all sides of an issue is a strength, indicating that a candidate will ponder multiple viewpoints rather than approaching it with ideological certitude.

Hamlik lists the sheriff’s office, the county jail and public safety as the most pressing issues facing the council, echoing the concerns of many citizens. She also demonstrates a broad knowledge of those issues and has sought to learn details through a visit to the jail and a ride-along with sheriff’s deputies, rather than forming an ill-considered opinion.

Regarding the possibility of an annual increase to the county’s property tax levy, Hamlik said: “We need to start looking at the 1 percent increase we can take. If we don’t want to raise taxes, we need to look at what we cut.”

Belkot also has done her homework by visiting the jail and working to understand complex issues facing the county. She is articulate and thoughtful, but is more strident than Hamlik in her opinions.

For example, Belkot was an outspoken critic of mask mandates during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is entitled to her opinion; but the Editorial Board disagrees with her regarding a mini-initiative that would have created a county ordinance to ban mask and vaccine mandates in Clark County. Belkot said she supported the proposal, which was rejected in a 4-1 vote by the county council.

We believe county councilors should support public health and recognize that the courts routinely upheld Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID measures. Rejecting legal mandates should be viewed as a step toward anarchy, not a point of pride. Voters can decide whether Belkot’s willingness to ignore legal mandates outweighs her strong attributes as a candidate.

Chartisha Roberts also is on the ballot and is a worthy candidate. Roberts stresses adequate funding for the sheriff’s office but also accountability for law enforcement, and she says the current council is “out of touch with everyday, hardworking people.”

Roberts, however, seems not as well-prepared for the job as her two opponents, who clearly have put great effort into learning about the issues facing county government and speaking to the people who are tasked with providing services and are impacted by the decisions of the council.

While there are three good candidates for the Clark County Council from District 2, The Columbian’s Editorial Board believes that Kim Hamlik and Michelle Belkot are most deserving of your vote.