Is today’s gridlock turning off tomorrow’s leaders?
Wednesday, July 31, 2013
With beautiful mid-summer days in full swing, it would be easy to completely forget about the so-called important issues we normally wrestle with locally in Camas, Washougal and throughout Clark County.
Especially if you are a young person 18 to 25 years of age.
Really, do we think many of our 18- to 25-year-olds, currently enjoying days at the river, trips to the beach, concerts in Portland or getting prepared for college in the fall are going to give scant attention, right now, to the issues that may affect them considerably in years to come?
More disturbing, though, is this thought: What if they are actually paying attention, reading the papers and web sites about local issues and the political decision makers involved with shaping their future and just want no part of any of it, even the voting process?
What if these young people see so many power struggles, so much political posturing, nastiness and gridlock at all levels that they are deciding not to waste their time getting involved in public service.
Well, based on what has dominated the news locally over the past year or so, who can blame them?
For those of us paying attention and simultaneously holding our noses, the stench is everywhere. From the beginning to the untimely end of the Columbia River Crossing (CRC), to the Clark County Commissioners hiring of Don Benton as director of environmental services, it feels like an epidemic of stupidity, mostly at taxpayer expense.
The CRC, which cost approximately $175 million to study without a shovel being turned, was the topper. Most all of us need no reminder of the painful details. But when the state Legislature adjourned without passing any transportation funding package for any project throughout the state, it attained a new level of ineptness.
Likewise at the county level, the recent hiring of Benton as director of Clark County environmental services by County commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke, has left most people shaking their heads in disbelief. Definitely cronyism at its worst.
Sadly, in Camas and Washougal where common sense often prevails, we are seeing more signs of public servants becoming posturing politicians, both individually and as a group.
Camas resident Liz Pike was an example of that.
Pike, now serving in Olympia as a state representative, managed to make headlines in her first year by (1) proposing to allow teachers to carry guns in school, (2) airing a Facebook rant that effectively told the state’s teachers that they should all go find other jobs if they didn’t like their pay and (3) racking up the second highest total of all Clark County state reps and senators of free meals accepted from lobbyists — $672.
Liz is a likeable person, and she did apologize to the state’s teachers. But even she probably wishes her first year in the legislature would have had more positive accomplishments.
The Washougal City Council, however, in my book takes the prize for the political body hardest to understand. I have to ask, is its goal to work for the people or are its members simply bored and need to bask in headlines?
A couple of years ago this council seemed obsessed on crafting a policy on immigration reform, as if its voice on the issue was critical. Then this past spring the council again felt the need to make its voice heard to oppose the CRC, an issue they had no control over.
Now, this council is spending an inordinate amount of time arguing about whether the city should change to a council-manager form of government. All this despite the fact that the city has gotten clean audits the past three years and that many of the problems of the Stacee Sellers mayoral reign that ended in 2009, have been addressed.
Yes, no one should blame our young people if they see how many of our local governments and politicians operate and just say “to hell with it!” Sadly, it will be the rest of us that will lose if they take their talents away from local public service.
Mike Gallagher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.