Karen Bowerman for Clark County, WA Council District 3

PUBLIC SAFETY

Public safety is a critical responsibility of the county. There are several major areas of concern.

The first deals with street violence that our neighbors in Portland and Seattle have been facing this year. Originally protests focused on a message about police reform. However when violence replaced peaceful protest, meaningful discussion was drowned out. Our Clark County Sheriff and Vancouver City Police that had sent officers to Portland under mutual-aid agreements, now decline to do so, in part because of lack of legal consequence for some of the people being arrested. Therein lays a message for every community and its elected officials. Politicians must understand their responsibility for real law and order.

Second, we must be prepared to address how the county will address its aging facilities, particularly in light of huge revenue loss as a result of the pandemic combined with the great up-front and maintenance costs of county jail upgrades or replacements.

Prevention is another focus for public safety on several fronts, from senior wellness checks to substance abuse prevention and protecting our county from sex/kidnap offenders. Corrections has expanded from incarceration supervision to a corrections-based supervision that connects inmates being released with community resources to help reduce recidivism. The court system also has therapeutic specialty courts to help treat citizens’ underlying issues such as mental health or substance abuse. Such prevention efforts should constantly focus on effectiveness measures including recidivism.

HOMELESSNESS

This “Just A Minute” video was recorded back in early June on the subject of homelessness. I note that when a county responds to homelessness, politicians must enforce the laws AND be compassionate at the same time. The two are not incompatible. By enforcing the laws, sanitation and safety of public places would be addressed. By compassion, I’m referring to caring yet tough intervention that recognizes the person and helps him or her deal with the root cause of the situation whether drugs, spousal abuse, mental illness or unemployment.

PROPERTY TAXES

It always amazes me that Washington, one of only seven states in the U.S. with no income tax, ranks very high in total tax burden. Property tax is part of the culprit, and Clark County ranks 4th highest among Washington’s 39 counties in 2020 median property tax (TaxRates.org).

There is a 1% cap on the annual growth in a jurisdiction’s property tax budget, unless voters approve a new levy. So how did Clark County do in the 2020 budget? Property tax went up 1.97% along with additional road tax of 1%. How did they manage that with a 1% cap? The answer is that there was still .97 in banked capacity which the County Council took with the 1% cap!

As a result of significant recent losses in Clark County’s general fund revenue because of the pandemic, there will be push from some for increasing taxes next year as much as possible, including from my opponent. In fact, my opponent said it is very important to approve the maximum tax increase again in order to keep systems running (Columbian editorial interview). Some systems must be kept running such as the funding of public safety, but tax dollars need not be increased if belt tightening is done in areas such as code reform to eliminate codes beyond those that are required.

I will vote against excessive taxation and against your tax dollars being increased just so government can grow without analysis of value contributed to our residents.

TRAFFIC CONGESTION

You have undoubtedly hit choked traffic going “across the river,” so I need not describe the frustration involved in daily battling congestion on the roads that our 70,000 Washington commuters endure. Traffic congestion reduces quality of life, and the problem cannot be solved without improved infrastructure. Repairing the I-5 bridge, which is of importance for safety, does not add capacity for automobiles.

For many years we have known there are not enough auto lanes, not enough bridges, and not enough capacity. I will be your voice pushing for new east-west transportation corridors and a third crossing of the Columbia River with improved freight mobility. I am not a voice for light rail to solve the traffic congestion problem, and that is a separate issue and a separate analysis.

Some elected officials say that tolls would spread traffic over the day, thus relieving congestion. However people now spread their trips from early morning to late evening to no avail, and that is without tolls. Adding tolls does not relieve congestion and they present an additional burden to Clark County’s commuters who already pay income tax to Oregon. I will work relentlessly for increased capacity to help relieve congestion and to stop Oregon’s tolling scheme which is now well into the planning stage.

© 2020 Paid for by Friends of Karen Bowerman

P O Box 871314 | Vancouver WA 98687