Voters have a clear choice in the nonpartisan election for Clark County Council, District 5. Sue Marshall is a newcomer to politics, but she is a longtime resident who understands the issues of land-use planning, the tension between urban and rural areas, and the needs of her district. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends a vote for Marshall in the Nov. 8 general election.
As always, this is merely a recommendation. The Columbian expects that voters will study the candidates and the issues before casting an informed ballot.
In the case of Marshall, an interview with the editorial board revealed that she is eminently qualified to represent a district that includes Battle Ground, Ridgefield, La Center, Yacolt and many of the rural areas of north Clark County.
She owns a hazelnut farm near Ridgefield, giving her insight into the needs of rural residents. She has worked for the Legislature, giving her insight into how policy is formed. And she has been involved with the Clark County Clean Water Commission, Friends of Clark County and the Clark Conservation District.
Marshall has used that experience to develop a clear understanding of complex issues rather than clinging to dogma.
Regarding land-use policy, she says, “I think a healthy rural community is part of a healthy economic landscape. There’s a whole infrastructure that supports farmers.” And she notes that inevitable growth requires balanced planning, saying that industrial land must be part of it – “land set aside for jobs.”
Marshall’s thoughtful approach to governance is evident in a question about property taxes. Washington counties are limited to a 1 percent annual increase in the property tax levy, and county councilors in recent years have routinely rejected this increase. Even when they use it, the increase does not keep up with inflation, leading to a structural deficit that diminishes county services and damages the county’s fiscal stability.
This contributes to obvious problems such as a shortage of sheriff’s deputies. It also contributes to issues that voters often ignore – until they are directly impacted. “If I don’t get my permit on time,” Marshall said, “the county isn’t responding to me. We need to show that tie to services and taxes.”
Marshall mentioned the permitting process several times during an hourlong interview, demonstrating her knowledge of issues that affect residents.
This insight is preferable to the history of demagoguery demonstrated by her opponent, Don Benton, who declined an invitation to meet with the editorial board but should be well-known to voters. As a state legislator, Benton was combative and pugnacious; as head of the county’s Department of Environmental Services, he was combative and pugnacious; as an executive in the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency, he was reassigned after three months.
His role with environmental services was particularly troubling. Benton, who had no environmental experience, was hired by county councilors in a blatant act of cronyism. The department was later eliminated by the county manager, and last year Benton won $68,000 from Clark County in a lawsuit for wrongful termination.
All of that, unfortunately, overshadows Benton’s qualifications to be county councilor. But it should not take away from the fact that Marshall is an exceptional candidate. The Columbian’s Editorial Board recommends Sue Marshall for Clark County councilor from District 5.