Charter review commission candidates sound off

52 candidates running for 15-member commission; 10 from Camas-Washougal

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Voters will soon decide who will sit on the first Clark County Home Rule Charter Review Commission.

After three failed attempts (in 1982, 1997 and 2002), the Home Rule Charter won voter approval in November 2014, changing the county’s form of government from a three-member commission to a five-member council — with an appointed county manager — and giving county voters the ability to propose initiatives and referendum on the ballot.

The new charter contained a provision that a 15-member, nonpartisan charter review commission would form five years after its adoption to review how the county’s new form of government is working and propose ideas about which parts of the charter might need to change.

Lindsey Shafar, senior policy analyst in the county manager’s office, told the League of Women Voters of Clark County at a May committee meeting that the new review commission will decide if the 5-year-old Home Rule Charter is meeting the needs of Clark County residents.

“This charter review commission is really going to set the path for what future charter review commissions are going to look like,” Shafer told the League of Women Voters. “So it’s very open ended … if they just want to rip the whole charter to shreds and start over, they can.”

The commission is expected to last one year, or until the commissioners have completed their work. Any of the commissioners’ proposed amendments to the Home Rule Charter would need to garner voter approval in the 2021 general election.

Of the 52 candidates vying for a seat on the 15-member commission, 10 are Camas-Washougal residents.

The review commission will include three members from each of the coun ty’s four districts and three “at-large” members.

The League of Women Voters held online candidate forums throughout October to help educate voters on the candidates running for the charter review commission.

Former Camas Mayor Nan Henriksen, who helped draft the county charter in 2014, said during the League’s Oct. 14 candidate forum that the charter review commission will be responsible for proposing necessary amendments to the charter, a guiding set of rules that Henriksen called “a living document” passed by voters in 2015 that gave Clark County residents more local control over their county government and was meant to be flexible, allowing for amendments to show “changing conditions and changing values in the county over time.”

Following is an overview of how candidates running for the three District 4 seats (positions 1, 2 and 3) responded to the League of Women Voters’ questions:

District 4, Position 1

Greg Cheney: An attorney who lives in Battle Ground, Cheney said he was raised in Clark County and is now a father “raising two small boys here with (his) wife.”

He described himself as “a bit of a policy nerd,” and said he would bring a depth of knowledge and “a common-sense ability to listen and hear others, even if I may disagree with them,” if elected to the charter review commission.

“If you are looking for a partisan on the review committee, that’s not me,” Cheney, who currently serves as a member of the Battle Ground Planning Commission, said.

Thomas Hernandez: Hernandez, a student at Clark College who described himself as a “Gen-Zer and first-time candidate,” said he would bring knowledge of campaign work from his time as a community organizer on local and national campaigns to the charter review commission.

“When our government is responsive to our needs, there is nothing we can’t accomplish,” Hernandez said.

He added that, if elected, he would want to take a closer look at how the charter might be more inclusive, with non-discrimination language.

“I would want to get rid of corruption,” Hernandez added. “I do not see anything (in the charter) that prevents county candidates or elected officials from receiving money from big companies or developers … (who want to) deliver an outcome that will benefit them.”

Hernandez also is in favor of increasing the number of county councilors “to accommodate a growing county,” and to have the county manager position be an elected, instead of an appointed, position.

“Appointed (managers) have shown (in other municipalities and counties) that they are not responsible to the people,” he said.

Chuck Miller: Miller, of Camas, also was unable to attend the League’s candidate forum. In July, Miller, the president of the conservative Washington Citizens for Responsible Government group, did not return the Post-Record’s request for comment about his run for the charter review commission.

Deanna Rusch: Former Camas City Councilwoman Deanna Rusch is running in the District 4, Position 1 race, but was unable to attend the League’s candidate forum. Read more about Rusch’s bid for the county charter review commission in the Post-Record’s July 2 article featuring the 10 Camas-Washougal residents running for commission.

Dick Rylander: Rylander, an executive in residence at the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), and a former associate professor at the University of Portland’s business school, has been the chairman of the Clark County Clean Water Commission since 2018. He also has “started multiple small businesses,” Rylander said.

“I know what it’s like to deal with government on both sides of the spectrum,” he said, adding that he works “more than 400 hours per year” helping young startup business entrepreneurs work with the government to raise money through his position with OHSU.

“Instead of having particular stances or positions, I propose people elected to represent you (on the charter review commission) go into this with an open mind to figure out what’s working and what’s not working,” Rylander said.

Dave Stiles: Stiles, of Amboy, also was not present at the League’s candidate forum. To learn more about the U.S. Army veteran, visit the Clark County Voters’ Pamphlet.

District 4, Position 2

Brent Boger: Boger, a Washougal City Council member since 2012 and chairman of the Clark County Republican Party from 2002 to 2006, said his experience as an attorney and elected official would serve him well if elected to the commission.

Boger said he believes the charter’s rules pertaining to open communication between the county’s five elected councilors and the appointed county manager needs to be reviewed.

“All communications between a councilor and staff should be permitted so long as the councilors do not give staff direction,” Boger said.

He added that he views the current charter “creates a county manager system on steroids.”

The county charter references the council members’ “relationship with other branches” in Section 2.6, stating “Council members shall not interfere in the administration of the executive branch. They shall not issue orders to or direct, either publicly or privately, any officer, agent, employee, contractor or vendor subject to the direction and supervision of the county manager or other elected official.”

The section also states that council members may still refer a citizen complaint or request for information to the county manager “or another elected official;” submit a request to the county manager to work with department heads “to investigate a constituent issue;” and request information or “advice pertinent to the legislative deliberations and actions of the council from any officer, agent, employee, contractor or vendor subject to the direction and supervision of the county manager or other elected official.”

Glenn Kincaid: Washougal-area resident Glenn Kincaid, 57, said he has lived in Clark County for 45 years, been a general contractor for the past 31 years and would “bring honesty and experience” to the charter review commission.

“I’ve watched this charter work against us before. I want to correct these issues,” he said.

Kincaid referenced David Madore, the longtime Republican Clark County councilor ousted by voters in 2016, saying “David Madore got every one of us a 1-percent property tax rebate and that was the end of him. He was run out of office for it. They lied about him and teamed up on him. I want that ability fixed.”

Kincaid, who said he served “four years on the Clark County Republican Party’s executive board,” asked voters, in a reference perhaps directed toward Boger, who had spoken before Kincaid during the Oct. 14 candidate forum: “Do you want a crooked little lawyer or a proven, tireless business builder?”

John Latta: Latta, who moved to Washougal with his wife, Mimi, from the Tri-Cities in 2015 after retiring from his engineering career, said he has long been involved in voter education and outreach efforts, working with organizations such as the Washougal Senior Association and League of Women Voters and using a parliamentary-type of procedure to “make sure all voices are heard.”

A United States Navy veteran, Latta said he was proud that, in our country, “liberty and justice for all is one of our shared goals,” and promised to “listen to ideas with an open mind and support fairness and participation in our local government.”

Although he said he believes the original freeholders “did a good job” with the charter, therefore not requiring too many changes to the charter, Latta did say he would likely want to keep the five-member county council, but make the chair position one that is appointed by the elected members. He also would like to see a preamble to the charter to act as “guidance for those making future changes or additions.”

“My overall aim is for people to feel more connected to their local governments,” Latta said.

District 4, Position 3

Greg Anderson: Anderson, a 23-year Camas City Council member, has lived and worked in Clark County for 30 years. If elected to the commission, he has promised to come into the process with an open mind, be “very respectful of others’ views” and be willing to “collaborate and compromise as appropriate.”

“I believe all input and ideas have value and need to be understood and worked through,” Anderson, who describes himself as “a good listener,” said. “I will have no preconceived ideas coming into this process.”

Anderson said some of the issues he may want to take a closer look at in the charter include the possibility of having the charter review process occur more often than every 10 years after this initial review and looking into a set term limit for the county manager.

“This would likely lead to better accountability to the community,” Anderson said of imposing term limits for the county manager position.

Liz Pike: Pike, a three-term Republican state legislator who retired in 2018, said she “has proven experience working across the aisle (with Democrats) … to get things done.”

“As one of the elected members of Clark County’s original charter commission, I have intrinsic knowledge of the process used to create (the county home rule charter),” Pike said.

Pike added that she believes all members of the charter review commission will “bring a unique perspective” and that listening to one another will “contribute to the success of the charter review process.”

If elected, Pike said she would advocate for allowing the county councilors to have the authority to directly communicate with county staff.

“The current prohibition prevents staff and elected officials from being able to fully serve our citizens,” Pike said.