Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Nov. 30, 2022

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In Our View: District 2 Clark County Council hopefuls have pros, cons

The Columbian

In the election for Clark County councilor from District 2, candidates Michelle Belkot and Chartisha Roberts have strong but differing attributes. They each, however, have shortcomings that preclude The Columbian’s Editorial Board from endorsing them for the Nov. 8 election.

This warrants some explanation. First, this is not a case, as sometimes happens in elections, of neither candidate being qualified or having the necessary demeanor. But either one would need to reevaluate their positions and expand their knowledge. Second, this is not a suggestion that the people of District 2 should not vote in the contest. It is essential that an effective and collaborative councilor be voted into office.

Regardless of who wins, we hope that person can echo the thoughtful governance demonstrated by Julie Olson, who currently represents District 2 but did not seek reelection.

Belkot is articulate, is well-informed and has studied the issues, and has strong qualifications. She is a Navy and Air Force veteran and has experience in “acquisition and procurement of multimillion-dollar construction and architect and engineering contracts,” according to her campaign website. That experience would be beneficial in piecing together a county budget that exceeds $600 million.

Belkot has done the necessary homework in preparing to serve. She has, for example, visited the Clark County Jail to glean information about the working conditions and the infrastructure. Replacement or renovation of the jail promises to be a major issue for county leaders and for taxpayers.

At the same time, Belkot embraces some positions that give us pause. During an interview with the editorial board, she blamed the “defund the police” movement for rising crime in the region. In truth, no local government has cut funding for law enforcement.

In addition, regarding homelessness, she writes, “I believe that the necessary infrastructure already exists. We just need to take a serious look at where public funds for homeless ‘services’ are going and restructure or eliminate unproductive agencies.” So, Belkot complains about nonexistent budget cuts to law enforcement, but suggests that the budget for addressing homelessness can be trimmed. There is some incongruity there.

Finally, Belkot was a proponent of a mini-initiative that would have instructed Clark County to ignore state COVID mandates. This was a foolish proposal that would have opened the county to legal challenges and cuts in state funding. A reminder: Gov. Jay Inslee’s emergency measures were routinely upheld by the courts, regardless of how loudly critics complained.

Roberts also has experience that would serve the council well, working in human resources in the health care and transportation industries. She recommends focusing on the causes of homelessness, remodeling the jail and investing in the sheriff’s office to improve recruitment and retention of deputies.

Roberts would provide some much-needed diversity to the council, not only as a Black woman but as somebody who focuses on problems at the ground level. She told the editorial board that the council is “out of touch with everyday, hardworking people.”

But Roberts did not appear to be as informed as Belkot. She was not as familiar with land-use issues or the jail. She also did not know the details of the county budget.

Michelle Belkot and Chartisha Roberts both have strengths and weaknesses as prospective county councilors. We recommend that voters employ due diligence to select the best representative for District 2.

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