Letters to the Editor for Oct. 21, 2014

Camas needs to prioritize spending

In response to the article “Camas City Hall will get a fresh coat of paint” in the Oct. 7 issue of the Post-Record, I was pleased to see that the city is maintaining its municipal building and adding a little color to the project.

However, I was deeply concerned about the second phase of this project by adding a “green wall or living wall” to the exterior of City Hall at an approximate additional cost of $30,000. Not only is this an unnecessary expenditure, but a continuing annual expense to the city to maintain this “green wall.”

There are other basic needs those funds could be spent on that would benefit the residents of Camas. One of many examples is restrooms at any of our many parks that host community events.

I am a longtime supportive resident of Camas and love living here, but it makes me want to reconsider how I will vote the next time the city asks for approval to raise my taxes for city spending.

Judy Jendro, Camas

Vote ‘yes’ on Mt. Pleasant levy

In 2010, (before my joining), a Mt. Pleasant School Board with decades of operational experience examined the Mt. Pleasant funding and budget scenario.

That board recognized the decreasing financial support from federal and state sources. It also identified the need for a certificated and licensed principal/superintendent administrator position to ensure compliance and implementation of increasing state requirements.

They determined that a $100,000 annual levy was needed to stay viable. Mt. Pleasant district residents resoundingly approved that levy for years 2012 and 2013.

In 2013, the board determined that 2014 would be a good time to utilize reserves and opted to make 2014 a “tax holiday year,” with no school levy tax collected from residents.

For 2015/2016, the financial outlook is substantially the same as it was in 2011, except that revenue has fallen further, most substantially the Washington State Levy Equalization funding formula which was reduced approximately $30,000, and expenses are up.

Mt. Pleasant is asking for a $155,000 per year, two-year levy. This rate is $3.81 per $1,000 average for the two taxing years, and it is only $2.54 annually if you factor in the tax holiday year. The average school levy in Washington State is $4.44/$1,000. Over 96 percent of Washington’s 295 school districts, covering 99.9 percent of all Washington students, depend on a levy to round out their budget.

The two year term was selected so that it can be adjusted, depending on how the Washington State Legislature deals with the McCleary Decision.

In the McCleary Decision the Washington State Supreme Court directed the Legislature that, “The Paramount duty of the state is to provide ‘ample’ support for basic education.” Ideally, the “ample” provision will reinstate funding that has been lost to Mt. Pleasant, which would factor into future levy rates.

The school is being operated very efficiently. Four teachers cover eight grades (K-7), a secretary/office manager, a single combined janitorial/maintenance/bus driver/water master position, two part-time aides and a part-time principal/superintendent.

The school is in good physical condition, with primarily maintenance required from this point forward, except the parking lot will need addressing in the next two to five years. Much of the district is in the Scenic Management Area’s restricted development zoning, meaning there can be no increase in student population growth requiring school expansion. Barring some unforeseen circumstances, there will not be a need for any capital bonds in the future.

Mt. Pleasant has an uncommon geographic configuration where it is surrounded completely by the Washougal School District. That means that should Mt. Pleasant become insolvent, it would be consolidated into WSD, and residents subject to WSD taxes and bonds. The Mt. Pleasant requested rates are lower than the WSD, which were $4.97 in 2014 and projected by ESD 112 to be $5.44 in 2015. Mt. Pleasant has no current or expected future need for bonds. WSD is currently exploring a new $50 million capital bond to meet safety, replacement, and growth needs.

Mt. Pleasant offers a unique educational opportunity — multi-grade classes in a school sized small enough that everyone can know everyone (about 60 to 70 kids). It is located in an incredibly scenic venue. The school would not be viable with only in-district children. It is a “win-win” for in- and out-of-district families. The boundary-exception children get to enroll in this special school, and their numbers count towards federal and state funding to the district, aiding residents.

We have experienced leadership in Principal/Superintendent Vicki Prendergast. She was the principal at White Salmon for over a decade, worked at ESD prior to that, and is a TPEP trainer. She is guiding the school to a STEM focus with an agricultural/environmental theme.

I trust that Mt. Pleasant residents will see the value in supporting their independent school and district by voting ‘yes’ for the levy.

Karl Kanthak, Mt. Pleasant School Board member

Vote ‘no’ on Charter

As a private citizen, I urge all Clark County voters to vote ‘no’ on Proposition No. 1, the proposed Clark County Home Rule Charter.

Using the knowledge gained from a doctoral degree in organization and leadership at the University of San Francisco, and extensive experience with federal, state and local government, I reviewed this proposal and found it seriously flawed.

It was put together by a group of former, current, and aspiring politicians who rejected sound advice from a minority opinion group within their ranks. The resulting proposed charter has the following flaws:

1 – The charter can be amended after five years, but cannot be repealed. The provision that precludes repeal suggests ulterior motives and should set off warning bells for all voters.

2 – The charter replaces a stable, working form of government with a 125 year history in Clark County. Thirty-three of 39 counties in our state use this form of government. Why tamper with success?

3 – Six Washington State counties have adopted charters (Clallam, King, Pierce, Snohomish, San Juan and Whatcom). Four others (Clark, Jefferson, Spokane and Thurston) have explored or rejected this approach. Clark County has rejected it at the polls three times, the latest in 2002.

As a general rule, charter counties have less respect for property rights, larger governments, higher taxes, more debt and more regulation.

Are you ready to sign up for that? Only Clallam County, among charter counties, has escaped this fate.

4 – The charter proposal shifts authority significantly from the officials you elect to unelected bureaucrats, and diffuses responsibility. These outcomes do not bode well for accountability. As a former project manager for the Little Hoover Commission in California, whose task is to report to the governor and legislature on the effectiveness and efficiency of government operations, these aspects of the charter proposal are a red flag for me. They ought to be for you. Authority and responsibility go together in any well-structured organization. They don’t in this charter.

5 – The wording of the proposed charter suggests that local initiatives will be better received under this new form of government. That has not been the case in most charter counties, and certainly not at the state level.

Bottom line – this charter proposal is good for politicians and the bureaucracy, but not good for tax payers. It concentrates authority among unelected bureaucrats and diffuses accountability – a bad combination in any organization.

Personally, I do not trust the group that voted to approve this charter proposal for the November 2014 ballot. They are politicians looking after their own interests and those of special interest groups whose causes they have historically supported. Their approach to this charter is to get the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent,” then add changes later. This is the approach used by proponents of change who do not wish to reveal their entire agenda to the voters. The charter provision that reveals that intent is the inability to repeal the charter.

The minority among the freeholders who opposed many of the problematic provisions of this charter are elected leaders I trust. Kudos to them for their participation in this endeavor, and for their steadfast opposition to the more problematic provisions. It is unfortunate that their concerns were not addressed in the final proposal.

Dave Shoemaker, Washougal city councilman

Be informed about Charter

The proposed Home Rule Charter provides better representation, local control and greater checks and balances.

Opponents mistakenly claim the charter will “take away your voice, building a wall between you and your elected representatives.”

The charter does not prevent a councilor from asking staff questions, or requesting information, on behalf of a constituent.

The charter creates three small, but important, changes from the Clark County Commissioners’ rules of practice.

Now, a commissioner who wants to use staff time is requested to discuss this with the administrator and get a second vote. The charter creates a separation of power by prohibiting councilors from giving orders, or directions, to staff.

Now, administrator hires are subject to the “advice and consent” of the commissioners. The charter gives that authority to the manager, who is hired/fired by the council.

Now, department heads report to the commissioners through the administrator. The charter requires department heads to report only to the manager. The council hires/fires the manager.

The charter requires the manager to serve at-will, now there is no such requirement regarding the administrator.

The charter’s council-manager structure serves the long term interests of our community better than the commissioner structure. This was recognized by the Camas City Council in their unanimous formal support of the charter.

Charter information starts on page 58 of the voters’ pamphlet. Please become informed and consider joining me in voting “yes.”

Greg Kimsey, Vancouver

Atkins for Clark County sheriff

I have known Chuck Atkins professionally for more than 25 years. I find him to be a competent and compassionate professional law enforcement executive. In my opinion, Chuck is clearly the best candidate to lead the sheriff’s office and local law enforcement into the future.

Please join me and others of the Clark County law enforcement community in supporting Chuck Atkins as the top choice for sheriff in the upcoming election.

Don Chaney Camas Police Chief- retired

Washougal needs another officer

We will vote ‘yes’ for fire and EMS. We will vote ‘yes’ for public safety. We hope you will, too.

The economic downturn hit our city. The details are mind numbing, but, in short, Washougal’s property tax levy (revenue) has been cut significantly, and yet costs (fuel, vehicles, medical insurance, paving) have continued to go up.

Over the past few years, we have moved to cut costs.

Combining our fire and emergency medical service (ambulance) with Camas has saved money, but we still need to renew the long-standing 10 cents per thousand fire and EMS levy.

We have held vacant, one, and sometimes two, police positions. Our cops handle vastly more calls per officer than any other department in Clark County.

We really need at least one more officer.

We have a similar problem in code enforcement (health and safety violations as opposed to crimes).

Passage of the 10 cent public safety levy will give us one more officer, and add needed support to code enforcement.

If you have questions or comments, please write, or call, us, or any other council member. Please, vote.

Paul Greenlee, Dave Shoemaker, Joyce Lindsay, Washougal city council members