The unaltered original text from my 2012 campaign is preserved below in RED and BLUE on this page so you can see what I said in 2012. For accountability and transparency, the BROWN text shows the updated text so you can see what’s changed since I was elected.
Q: How can you afford the time to serve as a full time county commissioner when you are the CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of US Digital?
A: For several years now, the day to day operations of US Digital have been handled by our very capable management staff of executive level leaders and department heads. US Digital is in very good hands and continues to prosper and aggressively grow even as I have progressively been freed up to focus more on helping our larger community.
This is a crucial time when leaders from private industry are most needed to breathe new health into our local economy. Our community has a lot of work ahead of us to bring new innovation and practical effectiveness to the way we do local government. Be assured that I am not only available, but I am highly motivated, dedicated and committed to serve with great enthusiasm to make great strides as your full time county commissioner.
Our very capable US Digital staff has successfully run and continues to grow the thriving business on their own. I join them for a staff managers’ meeting every two weeks where they report their progress. I began my full time work as your full time county commissioner the day after the November 2012 election and continued after I was sworn in on January 2, 2013. It’s a pleasure working with our outstanding county staff solving problems with innovative practical solutions.
Q: How many commissioners are there and who gets to vote for them?
A: Clark County has 3 commissioners. Two of the 3 positions are up for election. Tom Mielke won first place in district 1, North County and David Madore won first place in district 2, East County in the Primary. So we will both be on this General Election. All voters in the whole county can vote for both candidates (not just by district). Ballots for the General Election get mailed on October 15 (3 weeks before Nov 6).
The Charter passed in November 2014 and after 125 years of county government prescribed by our state constitution, fundamentally changed our county government forever. It cut full time citizen representation from 100% (each citizen being able to vote for all three commissioners) to 40% (each citizen able to vote for 2 of 5 councilors), who are presumed to be part time leaders paid for part time work. However, these are in actuality, full time positions that include not only the duties of county government, but the responsibilities of numerous other governing boards.
Four of five councilors were stripped of the right to speak on behalf of their office. Rather than equally empowering each councilor, exclusive power was concentrated into the hands of one chairman who alone is authorized to speak for the council, set the agenda, and control the meetings. It is crucial that this position is held by someone committed to faithfully represent the citizens of our community, and whose allegiance is to the people.
Q: What does a Clark County Commissioner (council member) do and how can they help our economy?
A: Clark County Commissioners govern the county through an administration staff to provide a healthy environment where citizens can prosper and thrive. They do so by listening to and serving citizens in conformance with state and federal law to ensure that essential services are provided to citizens using the most efficient sensible effective means possible.
In contrast to city council positions that simply set policy, Clark County Commissioners directly and indirectly determine who serves as the county administrator and every nonelected department head. The commissioners set the budget for every department in the county. They are responsible for negotiating with more than a dozen public unions and guilds. They determine which county services are granted protective monopolies and which ones welcome competition. They determine which services are provided directly by public employees and which are open to open bids by private enterprise.
Commissioners determine the cost to citizens for services and are responsible for the smooth efficient operations of more than two dozen departments that affect transportation, parks, law enforcement, building permits, public health, utilities, planning and more. All three commissioners are automatic board members of C-Tran with veto power and of RTC, the Regional Transportation Commission to determine transportation plans.
The current budget is approaching one billion dollars per biennium (up $70 million from last year). That amounts to $1000 per year for every man, woman and child in the county. The cost for county services has increased nearly every year for decades and current plans project that trend to continue into the foreseeable future with expenditures consuming or exceeding all available funds every year.
The status quo of economic stagnation and unsustainable increasing costs demonstrates the need for new innovative leadership from private industry to provide a major tune-up to focus on smarter priorities, increasing efficiency and lowering costs while improving customer service and opening the floodgates to new local private jobs. When government does a great job, people flourish, businesses can prosper, and the economy can grow healthy with lower taxes. County Commissioners are in a great position to do just that.
Much of the above answer is no longer true. The next Q&A lists some of the changes.
Q: How has the new Charter changed our county government?
A: The 2014 Charter abolished our 125 year old constitutionally defined county government and replaced it with a different form that marginalized the role of elected representatives and concentrated power into the hands of two new positions, an appointed county manager and a county council chair. Many years ago, the day to day management of the county was already handled by a county administrator who reported to the elected representatives.
The elected representatives (county commissioners) used to provide more checks and balances in ways that helped control the size and cost of county government. All staff vacancies required the approval of elected representatives before they could be filled. That saved the county millions per year since dozens of positions were typically vacant but considered not needed to be filled immediately. The Charter changed that and dozens of new staff members can now being hired without the oversight of the elected representatives.
The Charter also gave the county manager the authority to raise the salary of staff members and hire new department heads without the involvement or approval of the elected representatives. In time, the result will likely be more top level managers being recruited from the public sector (other government positions) and fewer from the private sector (business leaders).
The Charter also makes it less likely for elected representatives to work with staff to help build a culture that focuses on making our customers (citizens) successful by isolating elected representatives from direct staff access without the permission of the county manager.
Dozens of citizen advisory boards used to serve as resources to the elected representatives to help solve problems with practical solutions and to craft innovative improvements to do government smarter. The Charter changed that so that many of these boards are now appointed by the county manager and report to staff instead.
The elected representatives used to be responsible for union negotiations to ensure that citizen interests were protected when crafting the language in union contracts. The Charter transferred that authority to the county manager and restricted the involvement of elected representatives mainly to general wage and benefits totals.
The elected representatives used to have the authority to oversee all contracts. The Charter also gave the county manager the authority to award more contracts without the involvement or approval of the elected representatives. Some limits may be set by policy.
The Charter unrealistically presumes that the reduced the role of elected representatives are part time positions and it expanded the role of unelected government staff. The Charter cut the pay of the elected representatives to about half that of most staff members.
For these and other reasons, the Charter lessens the ability of citizens to be served by cost effective accountable county government and makes it more challenging. The elected representatives will need to be much more vigilant and dedicated to sacrificially serving our community. Campaigns for the county chair will likely be more expensive and targeted by special interests and unions due to the concentration of power in the hands of two key positions, the county manager and the county chair that controls the board, the agenda, and the media.
It will likely be more difficult to find competent experienced leaders competitively employed in the private sector who are willing to serve as elected county councilors. Those that are elected will need to continue a close trusted relationship with the county manager to voluntarily work together as a team to faithfully serve citizens.
Virtually any form of government can be good government as long as those entrusted with authority are benevolent and dedicated to faithfully serving the people. But as history reveals, such kindness is normally short lived when those that love the people are replaced by those that love their wallets. For that reason, Thomas Jefferson wrote, “In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” The Charter is no Constitution, but has exposed Clark County citizens to threats, that unless vigilantly guarded, will eventually yield the kind of mischief foreseen by Jefferson.
(You are invited to watch , step by step, as I continue to update this site to this 2015 campaign. In the meantime, the 2012 content is there for you to compare what I said then, to what I have done after getting elected. Did I keep my promises?)
Q: What other races will we be voting on and how can I tell what precinct I am in?
A: The elections office provides a great site here.
You can find your precinct and your current representatives are here.
Every position in the house side of the state legislature is up for election and Public Utilities Commissioner. You can see all the positions and the names of the incumbents here.
Q: Do you support parks? How should parks be funded? Should the county keep charging high entrance fees and parking fees at our parks?
A: I am a strong supporter of parks, dog parks, walking trails and bike trails. They are necessary for a healthy quality of life. All of us are already paying for parks with a designated portion of our existing property taxes. Because those taxes already pay for our public parks, I oppose entrance fees and parking fees. The county needs to remove the $10 per day parking fee at our newest walking trail. Parking needs to be free.
I believe in the principle “Government should only do what private business cannot do better.” That means park maintenance should welcome competition from private businesses. Customers (citizens) win when competition naturally improves customer service, improves efficiency, and lowers cost. Mowing and caring for our parks is no exception. That basic step will ensure that our existing taxes are ample to maintain and create new parks without extra fees.
New parks should be planned and a portion of our existing park taxes should be saved for new parks so we can pay cash for new parks. That is far better than spending everything, saving nothing then borrowing millions only to pay many times the original cost due to financing charges and debt service. We should also invite and allow volunteers to help care for our parks. It costs far less for the county to carry the liability insurance to allow for volunteers than to prohibit volunteers.
Our community needs well cared for parks. With good stewardship that embraces smart financial management of the taxes we already pay, our parks and trails can be one of the greatest amenities of Clark County.
We removed all park entrance and boat launch fees and restored outstanding lifeguards to Klineline in 2013. Park Fee Collectors were retrained as Park Ambassadors to help our guests. We started managing our own county parks instead Vancouver City and saved hundreds of thousands in the process. Our parks are better cared for and beautiful. We built two new parks last year and are planning to build two more next year.
Q: When I moved in, I signed an agreement to abide by the Homeowners Association rules. They say that I cannot display a political sign in my yard. Have I lost that freedom?
A: No Homeowners Association or any other body can make you sign away your Constitutional rights. Every citizen has the right to display a political yard sign in their yard as long as it does not present a safety hazard. The United States Supreme Court ruled on yard signs in 1994 in City of Ladue v. Gilleo. Residential signs are, said the Court, “…a venerable means of communication that is both unique and important.”
States have found that prohibiting yard signs is unconstitutional in every case that has made it to court, although what can be regulated is the size, the shape and the location of signs if the signs’ locations are hazardous to health and safety. They cannot regulate what is said on the signs – all regulations and ordinances must remain content-neutral. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right.
Q: Is it legal to reduce your salary as a government official?
A: Regarding giving up all or part of my county commissioner salary, here’s what the attorney wrote who specializes in Washington State law: “The idea that a public official could not give up all or part of his salary, was the most idiotic thing I have ever heard. No law or regulation would be broken by you reducing or turning over part (or all) of your salary to the county.”
“Ann Rivers decided last year to reduce her legislative salary by 3 or 4%. Other legislators followed her lead. No one was accused of breaking the law. In fact, the legislators who did not reduce their salaries were maligned by the press and the public.“
Ann Rivers is a fabulous representative who leads by example, like we all should. If more representatives would lead by example, we would all be better served. I too will not accept taxpayer-funded healthcare, taxpayer-funded retirement benefits and taxpayer-funded automobile expenses.
Not only have servant leaders sacrificed their pay here in Washington, but many leaders have sacrificed across America. We owe them a debt of gratitude for their unselfish service.
That law that sets official salaries is not in question and of course respects the freedom of officials to voluntarily reduce their own salary by contributing part or all back to the taxpayers.
From the beginning, I arranged for all my paychecks to be reduced by 20%. I don’t turn in expense reports. I waive the $700 per month car allowance, use my own car, and waive all benefits (health insurance, retirement, Etc). I do this to lead by example because I cannot expect others to be thrifty with our public funds if I am not willing to sacrifice first.
Q: Can you share some ways that you support our community?
A: We can all do our part by shopping in Clark County instead of shopping in Portland to save the sales tax. US Digital shops local for supplies that are available here. One local business that I highly recommend, is Ask Advertising. Husband and wife team, Andy and Kimberly are very talented people that are amazing. Rather than creating this website ourselves, we gave that business to Andy and Kimberly on Main Street in downtown Vancouver. They are stellar. Even small decisions like these add up when we all buy local.
Another way we can bless our community is to give to local nonprofit organizations that help others here. We provide no-cost space for 34 organizations in our building including a Christian radio station, WAY-FM at 104.5 on the dial. That station serves nearly all of the Portland Vancouver area. Tune in and check it out. We extend warm hospitality to all who visit our coffee cafe (Engedi) for the world’s best coffee that gives 100% of the gross proceeds to a different one of these organizations each week.
We also created a local next-generation media source for Clark County called COUV.com. COUV’s mission is to enable Clark County citizens to have our own local stories on this side of the river. We are extending an invitation to interested citizens to volunteer to contribute stories or host a live weekly report from our video or audio studio. If you have a passion, the time, and the talent for a particular topic, and are not too shy to be on live TV or radio (live web), share your vision with us via email COUV.com.
We expanded the US Digital Outreach Center to make room for more faith based nonprofit organizations (around 40 now). We are in the process of expanding it again to add another large meeting room and new offices.
COUV.com has been repurposed to serve as a media resource for the Outreach Center organizations.
Q: Who writes your material?
A: I do. Whether it be on this website, on Facebook or on COUV.com, if my name is on it, it is my writing. There is no substitute for the real person behind the words. Once in a great while, I may ask someone to proof-read something. But that is the rare exception. You will once in a while see a typo due to the nature of the on-line self-publishing world.
That’s still true for this website and Facebook.
Q: Why are you running and what qualifies you to hold this office?
A: If there ever was a time when leaders from the private sector are needed to serve our community, to help get us back on our feet, this is it. If we care about so many of our neighbors who languish without a means to support their families or keep their homes, we will do what we can to help. “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
We each have different capacities and roles we can play to pitch in and help our hurting economy. My role has been to help provide a home for faith based nonprofit organizations, to create as many great jobs as possible directly, to help elect pro-citizen pro-business leaders, and to influence the policy makers to foster local private businesses.
Rather than fostering local private jobs, our incumbents continue to grow the size and cost of the public sector at the expense of the private sector. The status quo incumbents continue policies that extend the stagnation while taking insufficient measures to strengthen small private businesses, the economic engine of our economy. Harmful Policies are hurting our economy by adding more debt, deficit spending, higher taxes, more regulation, and more expensive less efficient public transit that increases traffic congestion.
The first recourse for many citizens, including myself, has been to appeal to our local representatives. After years of effort and no significant results, the need for new leadership is obvious. A number of capable citizens have seen the need and have stepped forward to serve and work to bring about the changes needed to get us back on the right track. I am one of them.
Serving as a county commissioner is a demanding full time challenging commitment. The role requires decades of experience developing on a large scale, good judgment, people skills, a competent working knowledge of sound financial principles, management skills, and a heart that is motivated by genuine care for others.
This new era requires new leaders to possess and foster entrepreneurship, creativity, inventiveness, and fresh new ways to do local government. Those leaders are found in prospering and thriving private businesses. Their track record of continued success during this economy demonstrates the need for their service to revitalize local government. I am one of those people highly motivated to accept that challenge. I believe that the same foundational principles that create healthy efficient business that provides great customer service should be welcomed into the public sector.
As founder, CEO and inventor of such a business that has grown as a model for three decades focusing on making others successful, and seeing the need in our local government, my care and concern for others compels me to serve our community as county commissioner.
A competent leader trains, equips and facilities others for success, delegating to them the freedom and responsibility to accomplish their goals. US Digital has in place a fabulous management team and an outstanding staff of 100+ people. This competent staff has enable me the freedom to work full time as county commissioner. They will continue to run this very healthy debt-free growing business, while I focus on a larger scale, bringing new leadership to our county so that our whole community can prosper and thrive.
I am now in my third year serving Clark County citizens and taking my turn as Chairman this year. NO one knows for sure if it is really possible to accomplish all of the tasks envisioned when running for office. It was a pleasure to discover that with the help of my colleagues and very capable staff, that nearly all of those original tasks were completed within the first 18 months or so.
There are still some significant challenges ahead including restoring private property rights to rural citizens and providing leadership for our bi-state community to build the new toll-free East County Bridge. It is a genuine pleasure working with others to solve problems on a community level. It is an ideal job for any problem solver who loves people!
Q: Why do you keep calling the CRC project, the CRC Light Rail Tolling Project? Why not call it a bridge project?
A: If the CRC project was truly a bridge project, I would support it. But it is not. There are two sources for federal funds for such projects, the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), that funds highways, and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA), that funds transit, including light rail. The primary funding that the CRC has been pursuing is from the FTA for light rail funds. In order to get those funds, the CRC must provide a local match. That is why the CRC requires tolls. Tolls are the local match for the light rail funds.
The proponents of this projects have not faithfully represented this project for what it fundamentally is, a light rail tolling project. In effect, it would extend TriMet’s financially troubled insolvent bureaucracy into Washington and add Clark County citizens to TriMet’s tax base. We must keep Portland and TriMet out of Clark County. Replacing a bridge with 3 through lanes that is in good health and completely paid for with one with 3 through lanes that consumes more than all available financial resources is not progress, it is moving backwards. We need to move forward with a 3rd and then a 4th bridge built by competitive private industry, one at 192nd Ave and then one west of the I-5.
The special interests that have taken over C-Tran are still overruling the citizens that they are sworn to represent. They succeeded by trickery to blindly sign an agreement that makes Portland TriMet the sole authority over C-Tran Light Rail and forces Clark County Citizens to become TriMet’s new tax base if a future version of the CRC ever gets resurrected. That disastrous contract threatens us with a $5 million penalty if we try to get out of it (which I believe is not enforceable). They have refused to try to void that contract. Those misrepresenting the majority of Clark County citizens who voted to sell us out to Portland TriMet and/or continue to do so include:
Tim Leavitt – Vancouver Mayor
Jack Burkman – Vancouver City Council
Bart Hansen – Vancouver City Council
Anne McEnerny-Ogle – Vancouver City Council
Larry Smith – Vancouver City Council
Ron Onslow – Ridgefield Mayor
Jim Irish – La Center Mayor
These will have to be replaced by individuals who will faithfully represent the citizens if we are to correct the mismanagement of C-Tran. With new leadership, Clark County citizens could have great bus and C-Van service with many more riders at a much lower cost to our community.
Q: Which specific county services do you believe should be open to competition?
A: Private businesses have competition. That is great for customers who are free to choose the best provider at the best price. It is good for business because it serves to constantly tune them up to be productive, efficient, innovative, practical, and delivering affordable reliable products and services.
We are not the first to be diagnosed with ineffective unaffordable local government. See how others have turned their city around to provide dramatically better service at dramatically lower costs here.
Everyone wins with competition. To ensure that customers don’t get abused, exploited and unfairly treated, we have laws against monopolies.
All those advantages serve as checks and balances for human nature. For those reasons, many (but not all) government services should live by the same or similar rules. The worst and most foolish thing we can do is to grant a big business a monopoly. For the same reasons, the worst and most foolish thing a government can do is to grant a monopoly to a big union or guild unnecessarily.
Departments in government should perform as well as a competitive business. If not, if that service should be open to competition with private business, then private businesses should be able to bid on that service also. Free enterprise works for many (but not all) government services.
Some services have logistical reasons that prevent a private business from performing that service. Those departments, more than any other, need proven balanced leadership to ensure that the lack of competition does not allow human nature to drive up cost for poor service. Every department that has no compelling reason to prevent competition should be evaluated.
If after a careful evaluation of a department, if it appears that private business could do a much better job at a much lower cost, then we ought to invite businesses to bid in a very open process. Experts from private industry that specialize in efficiency and performance excellence ought to be consulted to get a clear understanding of the department status.
I don’t believe that anyone can make that decision without a careful specific analysis first. No outsider is informed enough to make that call. But I believe that the commissioners who are charged with the stewardship of county government, have the responsibility to know how each department is performing in order to best serve the customers (the citizens) with the best possible service that is cost competitive.
Hundreds of volunteers are now much more free to do meaningful work for our community as we have removed the deterrents and provided liability insurance for those serving at no cost. For 30 years, our county was awarding one vendor contracts that were nearly double the cost of the lowest qualified bidder. We’ve discontinued that practice and are now consistently awarding contracts to the lowest qualified bidders.
Q: How much will it cost to discover the performance of a department to see if it makes sense to open it up to competition?
A: Like most citizens know, we must stop wasting millions on endless “studies” as C-Tran and the CRC are doing with a stacked deck to justify a predetermined result. That pattern of dysfunction is typical of bloated bureaucracies.
Poorly performing businesses are turned around in America to become great companies. It takes committed leadership and expertise. It’s called Turnaround Management.
Turnaround management is a process dedicated to corporate renewal. It uses analysis and planning to save troubled companies and returns them to solvency. Turnaround Management involves management review, activity based costing, root failure causes analysis, and SWOT analysis to determine why the company is failing. Once analysis is completed, a long term strategic plan and restructuring plan are created.
A company or a department does not have to be failing in order to examine its performance. But we have no reference point, nothing to compare it to unless we take steps to find out. Hopefully, that discovery process will reveal a good report and be good news that we can share with the community.
What will it cost to bring in the experts? Hopefully it will not cost the county anything. The county commissioner salary is over $100,000 plus expenses. As commissioner, I will lead by example by cutting my salary by 20% and return the savings to the taxpayers. We cannot expect others to cut back without first modeling that sacrifice.
I do not plan to live on the commissioner salary. Rather, I plan to use it to help us become better informed to make smarter decisions. If consultants / paid experts are needed, I plan to pay for it out of my salary. Any remaining salary will be contributed to help people in our community such as local nonprofit organizations.
Some people will consider this as a gimmick and they are right to be skeptical. But we can know people by their track record. You see the Outreach Center here that has been serving our community at no cost since 2008. Those organizations along with many others show us that people do care and they are willing to serve others without any personal gain. Those giving servant hearted people are models for us to follow.
We too can step up and extend that servant’s heart to help in local government. Too many people in our community are hurting. If we say we care, then let’s do something to help by serving them better. Let’s lighten their load. It may be that we can lessen the burdens placed on our local businesses. Those businesses can then have a healthier environment to better thrive and prosper. Maybe then, they can afford to hire one or more new employees. Those people who can then have a precious job can get back on their feet again. I want our community to prosper and thrive as well as those on our campus. That is my hope. That is why I am running, to make a difference.
LEAN processes have significantly increased the effectiveness of several departments. New leadership for numerous departments has also encouraged cost effective efficiency and smarter ways to do government. Our costs have decreased while our services have improved.
Q: What incentives have you implemented in Clark County to encourage new construction and/or economic growth?
A: The track record of an incumbent is the best predictor of future performance. That history will reveal a status quo underperformer or a successful entrepreneur. You shall know them by their fruit. In other words, a candidate’s past actions serve as a better indicator of reality than promises or words. A number of incumbents running for re-election left their website up from 4 years ago. After four years in office, they are now running on the same issues, yet have done little during their term in office to follow through on those words.
I see the incumbent that I am challenging, published on his campaign site four years ago, a strong stand against light rail, yet as chair of C-Tran last year, he approved the Light Rail Tolling project without any objection and without a vote of the people. We need local construction jobs that make sense for our community, not exorbitantly expensive “make-work” publicly funded jobs.
Non-incumbents should also have a track record of serving our community. Our community should already know who they are because they have already been currently engaged serving others, providing jobs and helping businesses to grow.
New construction and growth happens where it is encouraged and profitable. The first priority is to remove the disincentives and deterrents. Permits cost too much, take too long, are too complex and uncertain, and too difficult. Cut the fees, simplify the process, walk it through to get it done, and allow any fees that cannot be removed to be paid when the project is complete and occupied.
Our staff has done an outstanding job of streamlining the building permit processes and we’ve implemented the fee waiver program since June 2013. Clark County has been the fastest job growing community on the West Coast ever since.
Q: How do you feel about DOE’s new storm water regulations and what are you willing to so about it this time?
A: The most basic problem with the DOE is their violation of a fundamental principle. They should not be making law (which is essentially what they are doing when they create regulations with penalties). Such law and rules are the responsibility of the legislature, the elected body of representatives, not unelected bureaucrats. Hopefully, the new Governor, Rob McKenna will correct that situation.
The county has three possible choices. 1. Just do it, even if those requirements continue to kill new development and jobs. 2. Challenge some of the DOE’s policies. This is expensive, risky and has the effect of delaying projects while in limbo. Clark County is the only one of the 39 in the state to challenge the DOE. If there were other counties standing with us, we would stand a better chance and share the cost. As is, the wisdom of continuing to pursue the lawsuit is questionable. 3. The county can provide as much help and assistance to developers to ease the pain as much as possible. Without growth, the county economy will continue to stagnate. The county must shift priorities to focus on serving builders and developers. The county staff needs a paradigm shift from saying “NO” to changing the game to say “YES”.
Full compliance storm water permits are no longer a problem to obtain. Our Department of Environmental Services is now thriving.
Q: Describe your view on impact fees.
A: Eliminate them. They provide less than 1% of the annual county revenue. Yet they stand as a show stopper for many businesses and developers. They are relatively new, starting in the 1990s and continued into the mid-2000s when growth was always expected to be rampant. Clark County built plenty of infrastructure during that time, and then the economy shrunk.
The solution to the rapid growth problem has now become the problem itself. Some argue that developers should “pay their own way” and not have their expenses fall on taxpayers. In reality, property taxes are higher than ever. The $430 million per year that the county collects amounts to $1000 per year for every man, woman and child in the county. That should be sufficient to provide the necessary services and invest in infrastructure without new taxes.
The ongoing taxes paid by already developed properties provide a better long term sustainable tax base. Impact fees that deter new development kill new yearly revenue and are do exactly what we ought not to be doing at this time, killing new jobs.
Done. All fees for business building permits continue to be waived and business is booming. The revenue already received and projected to be received far exceeds all fees waived. Each new business is creating new wealth and lightening the load for all taxpayers. Our cash balances for the relevant accounts are very healthy with ample cash to meet the needs.
Q: Incumbents, what do your list as your top accomplishments during your time on the County Commissioner?
A: As a non-incumbent, I would like to list some of the accomplishments that incumbents could have done to help our community. Some impact fees were reduced for some developments that promised 10 or more jobs for two years. We would have done better to remove the fees across the board. Every job counts! The fees are too high and the permit process is still too costly, too complex and too long.
In addition, the county went backwards by raising property taxes, raising the sales tax, spending millions on HCT studies to grow the size and cost of C-Tran, rubber stamped the CRC Light Rail Tolling project and is still supporting the $1.5 million being wasted each month. All support should have been withdrawn from the CRC Light Rail Tolling project long ago.
We were joined with other faithful citizen representatives to the point where the governors of Washington and Oregon pulled the plug on the boondoggle but not before $200 million was wasted. Special interests are still trying to resurrect the zombie. So we must be vigilant to guard against those same forces from squandering our precious gas taxes.
The special interests are still scheming. A new mystery project has resurfaced that threatens to waste another $99 million for a CRC component at the I-5 / Mill Plain Interchange. That interchange is one of the best performing and efficient in the area. They argue that the interchange is so important, that we should replace it. If that flawed logic is valid, then we should also demolish the I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge and rebuild it because it is even more important. Public Information Requests are not providing sensible answers for that new boondoggle.
Q: In tough economic times, what are your priorities of county government?
A: Our top priority must go to breathing new health into our local economy by making it easy, encouraging and profitable for local private businesses to grow. Private, not public jobs are the most pressing need in our community. That includes a significant government tune-up to improve efficiency and customer service to developers. We need to withdraw all support of the flawed CRC Light Rail Tolling project and stop the $1.5 million in losses every month. Representatives need to listen to citizens. That includes giving them a vote on major issues and anything that could increase taxes. I will work to lower taxes and fees.
Good policies and priorities are always appropriate in troubling times and in prosperous times. We will continue to practice sound financial principles, live within our means, pay off inherited debt, keep a lid on taxes, while providing all the necessary services so the next generation can inherit a more prosperous future.
Q: Do you support any version of a state income tax?
A: This question is better directed to legislators since this issue lies outside the authority of county commissioners. Yet since we all have influence, here is my answer:
No. Washington State already has a high state sales tax and a Business and Occupation tax plus a host of other taxes. Adding an income tax would result in a brain drain and a compelling reason for businesses to flee our state in the same way that they are escaping from California. Many are fleeing to Texas which successfully competes as the #1 state for business friendly policies including no state income tax.
Still True. We will continue to strongly oppose any new taxes, especially a state income tax or capital gains tax.
Q: Do you support Jim Moeller and seven other democrat legislators suing the people to overturn their will at the polls?
A: No. I-1053 was approved by 64% of voters last November. It won 39 of 39 counties and 44 of 49 legislative districts. Suing the people to overturn the will of the people makes a mockery of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth”.
That suit is over and citizens prevailed. Thank God.
Q: Do you support the people’s right to initiative and referendum?
A: Yes. Washington State does not allow citizens to recall dishonest politicians except for proven criminal activity. Once elected, such politicians can vote multiple times on multiple boards and commissions while preventing citizens from voting even once. Without the right to recall, politicians can ignore citizens for the duration of their term (typically 4 years). The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees citizens their right to petition their government for a redress of grievances. A petition or referendum may be the only tool left to citizens.
The new Charter added a glaring potential problem that threatens to grind county government to a halt. With just 100 signatures (that’s all), newly passed ordinances will be instantly inoperative for around 9 months. Thus 0.02% of the citizens can stall new ordinances while the Charter specified time allows time for more signatures to be gathered even if no effort is made to do so. So far, that trouble has not occurred. But we remain vulnerable.
Q: What Tim Eyman initiatives have you supported?
A: Tim Eyman has often served as a check and balance for excessive government spending. Most of his initiatives have been helpful to citizens. For that reason, I supported most of them. Let me name a few that I supported:
I-1033 – limits tax revenue to inflation and population
I-1053 – Reinstates 2/3 Legislature majority required to raise taxes
I-1125 – Restricts toll rate increases and prevents tolls from being misspent.
Tim Eyman is championing another initiative to require our legislature to require a 2/3 majority to raise taxes again because even though voters passed that initiative multiple times and by the largest majority of any initiative in state history, the rascals in our legislature ignored it again. This time, it will make that requirement part of our state constitution. I support that initiative (I-1366).
Q: Do you support increasing taxes and/or fees?
A: No. The county is already collecting $430 million each year in taxes and fees. That already amounts to $1000 for every man, woman and child in the county. We don’t need higher taxes and fees that kill local private jobs. We need a tune-up, higher efficiency, and smarter priorities. Taxpayers have tightened their belts to become leaner. We need to redefine how we do local government and adopt the same sound principles that work to prosper businesses.
Q: Do you support the Cowlitz/Paskenta/Mohegan/Barnett megacasino?
A: No. Minimum wage paid by a casino that pays no tax is not the solution to local private jobs. The solution to great local jobs are healthy local private businesses that produce products and services while supporting our local economy with the same taxes as other local businesses.
Clark County has continued to oppose that project as it violated the state Growth Management Act and the Clean Water Act. The project proposes to create a new sovereign nation in Clark County that would pay no taxes nor be subject to most of the laws of our county, our state, nor our nation. The courts are fighting this in court.
Q: Do you support C-Tran’s efforts to limit voter input to their tax increases?
A: No. C-Tran’s voting district was already gerrymandered in 2005 by Tim Leavitt, Jeanne Harris and others on the C-Tran Board after a county-wide vote in 2004 defeated a C-Tran sales tax increase. As a result, an octopus shaped sub-district was formed that included the stores that collected sales tax for C-Tran. But the citizens that shop in those stores were permanently excluded from further C-Tran votes. The size and cost of C-Tran has exploded since then. The most recent vote (prop 1) increased C-Tran taxes by 40% for the same service, effectively worsening efficiency by 40%. Over the past year, C-Tran spent millions on “studies” for high capacity transit without a vote. C-Tran created underperforming service on Fourth Plain to justify the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). No busses have been added to Fourth Plain since 2008 even though during peak hour, when all buses are out, 17 buses are left sitting in the C-Tran lot at a cost from $220,000 to $680,000 each. BRT will remove bus stops on Fourth Plain to save time, abandon existing buses (that are already paid for) to buy million dollar super buses that in many places of the world are considered too dangerous for pedestrian safety.
Clark County citizens are already paying approx. $380,000 per year to Portland’s financially troubled TriMet, which is outside C-Tran’s legal service area. C-Tran and RTC are allowing Portland TriMet to have a major role in setting Clark County planning. The TriMet bureaucracy has $1.3 billion in unfunded liabilities. Their plan is to add Clark County to their tax base through the CRC and C-Tran. Clark County citizens would be wise to keep Portland TriMet out of Clark County. The C-Tran Board, which has a history of disenfranchising citizens, should be held accountable. Citizens were denied a vote on the CRC and so far have been denied a vote on BRT.
The taxpayers that are bound to pay for C-Tran should not be denied a vote. The C-Tran district should be restored to being county wide and every citizen should be allowed to vote like they were when they defeated light rail in a county wide vote in 1994.
Two lawsuits have by filed citizen who are suing C-Tran for allegedly violating multiple state laws. No agency is above the law. I support the citizens of Clark County who deserve to have honest forthright affordable effective bus and C-Van service. Community support is key to a successful transit agency. So far, taxpayers who trusted C-Tran to use the new taxes entrusted to them, are being betrayed. That battle will continue until either they are forced to comply or new leadership is elected to faithfully represent the citizens of our community.
Q: Do you support replacing the I-5 Bridge in the same location?
A: No. If the CRC Light Rail Tolling Project was fundamentally a bridge replacement project, I would be more inclined to support it. But as it is, I do not support the project since it is fundamentally a Light Rail Tolling project that uses tolls as the local match for FTA funds. FTA (Federal Transit Administration) funds transit, mainly light rail in contrast to the FHWA, Federal Highway Administration that funds highways.
The I-5 Bridge is not, nor has it ever been listed on the list of structurally deficient bridges. It is certified safe with no weight limitations added by the authorities. Rather than demolishing a structurally sound bridge with many decades of useful life remaining, our community would be well served by building a third and forth bridge. See the Q&A references here to view the certifying documentation.
Q: Do you support light rail?
A: Absolutely not for Clark County. It is not appropriate for our lower density. Portland TriMet is expecting citizens to fall for the same false promises that they made to Portland citizens, that light rail would solve Portland’s traffic congestion problems. For 30 years, Portland has been spending gas taxes on light rail instead of highway improvements. Their $5 billion experiment has resulted in a traffic congestion disaster. Instead of widening their highways, they consumed the space reserved for extra traffic lanes, on light rail, on the I-205, the I-5, and the I-84. We all see the results of their failed experiment and their promises that light rail would solve their traffic congestion problems.
We provided a county-wide vote so every voter in Clark County could say if they support or oppose light rail. 223 out of 228 precincts opposed light rail. I am not aware of a more dramatic landslide in any election. See the results here.
Q: Do you support tolls?
A: No. Washington State pays one of the highest gas taxes in the nation. We chose to pay a high gas tax to avoid tolls. We see how WSDOT is wasting our present taxes on the CRC, with millions with no bids being given to David Evans every month with not even a valid set of plans to show for it. If they have been wasteful with our present taxes, shall we then add double taxation for them to waste more? 67% of all our state gas taxes now go for nothing but debt service due to foolish management that maximizes debt. Adding tolls on top is equivalent to giving a wild-spending teenager another credit card because the first one was maxed out.
If we allow tolls on any bridge, the tolls will eventually be added to the others the same way that tolls on the SR-520 triggered tolls on the I-90 up north. it would be foolish for a parent to had their irresponsible teenager another credit card because he maxed out the first one. We have one of the highest gas taxes in the nation to pay for our highways. And contrary to the misinformation that claims that our gas tax revenue is declining due to cars getting better mileage, that revenue continues to climb every year as our population grows. That documentation too is provided on the toll free East County Bridge website.
Q: If you support any of these issues, what would it take for you to oppose them?
A: The only thing that would cause me to reverse my positions is if a county wide vote of the people in a general election resulted in a clear majority for a position different than mine. In that case, I would yield to the will of the people. Their will would trump mine. I would buy in and support their wishes. My focus then would be to make the project as efficient and workable as possible.
Q: I strongly support light rail and tolls for a new bridge. That’s how we paid for the I-5 Bridge. Why don’t you support that solution?
A: Thank you for your letter expressing your support of the CRC Light Rail Tolling project. I certainly respect your opinion and understand that you are not alone. I see that you feel strongly about it. Yet, I feel that I owe you a response especially during this time when elected officials are so nonresponsive.
If the CRC project was a bridge project, I would support it. But it is not. It is a light rail project with tolls to pay for light rail. The bridge is the cheese in the mousetrap. The mousetrap is light rail funded by tolls.
It is true that both spans of the I-5 Bridge were paid for by tolls before we adopted gas taxes to pay for highways. In contrast, a more up to date major project that demonstrates how highways and bridges are supposed to be built with gas taxes, is the I-205 Glenn Jackson Bridge over the Columbia River. It was built only 30 years ago, debt free and paid for entirely by cash with gas taxes as it should have been. That toll free freeway and bridge properly applied the road user fees (gas taxes) collected for such projects.
Gas taxes have gone up dramatically since then and are more than adequate not only to maintain existing highways and bridges, but provide for new construction if not misappropriated to no-bid exorbitant non-highway projects.
Light Rail is sold as the solution to congestion. So Portland spent their gas taxes on Light Rail instead of highways for the last 3 decades. Portland promised Light Rail as the solution to congestion alongside the I-5 south of the bridge, and again alongside the I-84, and again alongside the I-205 South of the Glenn Jackson.
All three mega-projects have been completed long ago. Has light rail solved the congestion problem along those three light rail projects? Or are all three of these light rail areas a congestion disaster? The record clearly speaks for itself. Instead of adding extra freeway lanes in the space reserved for extra lanes, they built light rail so people would abandon their cars and take light rail.
The social engineering experiment is an obvious dismal failure. Yet the promoters are still selling light rail as the congestion solution on yet another section of freeway, this time into Clark County. The wishful thinking dream has proved to be a fantasy that has turned to a nightmare for the motorists who continue to pay gas tax user fees for highways.
The difference between the Glenn Jackson era of actually building highly productive practical highway infrastructure and today’s era of inept bureaucracies that waste our precious gas taxes on no-bid inappropriate failures is leadership. The Glenn Jackson Bridge is named well, after the man who provided the kind of leadership that is sadly lacking today. I think you will agree that we need courageous leadership that can make smarter decisions and do more of the right projects with less cost.
We need new infrastructure that actually works the same way that a healthy human body needs clear clean arteries and veins for our lifeblood for vitality. The solution is not a tourniquet to restrict the flow through our carotid arteries with tolls that discourage interstate commerce. Rather the solution is to ensure that we have great highways and bridges that actually move the vehicles that carry the commerce of our economy.
As the Willamette has 13 bridges across it and the Columbia has two for our metropolis, we need a third bridge paid for with the user fees drivers already pay. Handing a blank check to an inept bureaucracy that funnels those taxes without bids to favored contractors is a corrupt process doomed to failure. And fail it has. After a dozen years of nonsense and $150 million lost, we still do not have even a set of plans for a bridge.
Regardless of the arguments for and against this project, I believe that no politicians should force the citizens most impacted to pay for it whether they like it or not. The role of government is serve people, not the other way around. That principle forms the foundation of our American form of government of the people, by the people and for the people. Elected representatives derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. Therefore, if after I am elected, I come to believe that new project is good, but very costly for the people, I would become a tyrant if I forced it upon the people without their consent.
Again, I respect your freedom to voice your opinions. I hope that at least you can understand that there are sound reasons to support an alternative view. There are many other issues entrusted to the stewardship of county commissioners. Hopefully we can find plenty of other areas where we can agree.
Anytime we are opposed to a project or a direction, we ought to provide a better alternative. I submit that we can and must do better by improving and building new highways and bridges. We cannot afford not to. The toll free East County Bridge provides a wealth of information to support that future. If there are better ideas, then by all means, let’s talk about them.
I invite you to email me any other questions. I will summarize and post relevant questions and answers as we address them. I also welcome your phone call. My cell is 360-601-3056.