Welcoming Our New Board Members Diane Dempster, Board Vice President
Friends of Clark County is pleased to welcome Joe Zimmerman and Theresa Hardy to the Board of Directors. They were elected at our last meeting on January 12th with a unanimous vote. We are thrilled to have their expertise and dedication in the organization.
Letter Writing and Testimony Training Lea Bain
On January 13th, FOCC held our first Letter Writing and Testimony Training to great success. Outreach manager, Lea Bain, and Board Member, Sue Marshall, facilitated the training via Zoom with over 20 members joining. The folks that joined us got to ask questions and share first-hand experience with letter writing and testimony. This group of engaged Clark County residents are now equipped with more tools to keep holding their elected representatives accountable.
Many important land-use issues are up for debate in the Washington State Legislature this session as well as in the County Council. To protect our farms and natural areas, we need as many members as possible to write in and advocate for smart and sustainable growth. Join our Letter Writing Team today and we’ll send you easy and meaningful ways to engage your local leaders.
Conservation Easements An important tool to save farmland in Clark County Sue Marshall, Board Member
One of the primary barriers to new farmers getting their start is the price of land. A shrinking agricultural land base due to expanding urban boundaries and development pressure make it all the more urgent to identify and protect our remaining agricultural land base in Clark County.
An important tool toward local farmland protection is beginning to get some legs – voluntary agricultural conservation easements. These easements work by buying the development rights of a farm – the difference between the agricultural land value and the development value per acre. The land is still owned by the farmer, it can be sold on condition that the land can not be sold for development.
The result is a win/win for the farmer and the community. Farmers receive much needed cash to support future farming operations, to pay off debt, to help with retirement and succession of the farm, or whatever their needs may be. The benefits to the community are multiple – prime farmland is preserved in perpetuity, land becomes more affordable to next generation farmers, and we all benefit from local food production.
Clark County has already set aside funds to initiate agricultural conservation easements through their Legacy Lands Program and are beginning to collaborate with the Washington Farmland Trust and the Clark Conservation District to identify suitable farmland. You can support this emerging effort to protect local farmland by submitting comments in support to the Clark County Planning Commission and Council when they consider the Draft Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan 2022-2027. The draft plan is tentatively scheduled for a public hearing before the County Council on March 15, 2022.
For more information on strategies to protect and preserve farmland in Clark County, check out:
Additionally, there will be opportunities to support local farming with the update of the Comprehensive Plan – stay tuned.
Clark County Charter Amendments Jackie Lane, Board Member
This year saw a number of ballot measures (NINE!) to update the county charter. All but one of them were passed by voters. Most of these were the work of the Charter Commission, 15 people elected by us during the 2020 November election. A couple were submitted by the County Council.
The Charter Commission felt that they were not able to get everything they wanted on the 2021 ballot. Part of this was the sheer amount of work and the deadline to get final amendments to the Elections Office for the November ballot. Another consideration was not wanting to put too much on one ballot and risk confusion and/or voter fatigue. So, next year will see another round of Charter Amendments.
Here is a summary of the amendments that were on the 2021 ballot, and what to look forward to for 2022.
There were nine Proposed Charter Amendments on the 2021 November General Election Ballot. Of these, 7 were proposed by the Charter Commission. Six of these passed and are now law, one failed.
Two additional Charter amendments were proposed by the County Council. Both passed.
The 2021 Charter Amendments were:
Change the County elected offices of Assessor, Auditor, Prosecuting Attorney, Sheriff, and Treasurer from Partisan to Nonpartisan. PASSED
Candidates can still tell voters that they belong to a particular party but it is not required, and the offices are considered nonpartisan. When you think about the jobs these people do, these are non-political positions. Evidently most voters in Clark County agreed.
Change the County Council from Partisan to Nonpartisan. PASSED.
Again, candidates can still associate with one party or another. The vision is that the Councilors will focus on leading for all residents rather than representing a party’s interest. It may take some time for this to be reflected in leadership and voter behaviors. It is worth noting that City, Port, and other elected offices within the county are nonpartisan and that works just fine.
Increase County Council districts from Four to Five, and eliminate elected county-wide chair. PASSED.
This amendment improves geographic representation – if you look at the current council, three of them are nearly neighbors (and live within the new County District 4). Also, the Chair becomes a more ceremonial position, selected annually by the council from among its ranks. (and no longer gets a 20% pay bump compared to the other councilors)
– Transition plan: Upon passage, the Chair (Quiring-O’Brien) becomes the new District 5 representative until the end of her current term, a new District 5 Councilor will be on the November 22 ballot. The councilors representing Districts 1-4 will continue to do so until their current terms end (D1 and D2 are on the 2022 ballot, D3 and D4 are up in 2024).
– This amendment included a map of the proposed 5 districts with the caveat it would be modified to meet redistricting requirements because of the 2020 Census. That work has been completed and as of this writing there is a proposed map that closely aligns to the map approved by voters. In that map, Councilors Quiring-O’Brien, Medvigy, and Bowerman all reside in District 4 (see ‘transition plan’ above).
Charter Review frequency and commissioner terms: PASSED
Revises the Charter review frequency from 10 to 5 years, and increases the term from 1 to 2 years. Ten years is a long time in these fast-changing times for a fast-growing county to review the County Charter. Also, the commissioners found that trying to get the review and amendment work done in time to get changes to the next ballot was challenging. The two-year term provides for a longer process with improved public engagement.
Requiring the adoption of an Ethics Code and Autonomous review process. PASSED.
The County Council has until July 31st to adopt a Code of Ethics ordinance for employees and elected officials. The Code of Ethics must include penalties for violations; establish an autonomous Ethics Review Commission comprised of independent reviewers to investigate complaints of potential violations of the Ethics Code; and create an Ethics Oversight Office in the County manager’s office to accept and investigate complaints.
Create a department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). FAILED
This would have created a Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, as well as a commission appointed by the County Manager. A revised amendment will appear on the 2022 November ballot.
Minor wording and corrections PASSED.
This just cleaned up some language without making any material changes.
Updated procedures for processing Initiative, mini-initiative, and referenda petitions. PASSED.
This amendment was requested by the Auditors office to clarify and make minor corrections.
Eligibility to vote on initiatives, mini-initiatives, and referenda that are limited in scope to the Unincorporated areas of Clark County. PASSED.
This amendment limits who can vote or sign on to initiatives, mini-initiatives, and referenda that are limited in scope to the Unincorporated areas of Clark County to residents of unincorporated Clark County. City residents would not be able to sign those petitions or vote on those ballot measures. An example would be a citizen initiative to limit fireworks in the unincorporated county (most cities already limit or prohibit certain fireworks). City residents would not get to either sign the petition or vote on it.
Proposed 2022 Charter Ballot Measures. Note that these are abbreviated descriptions and we will all want to get full descriptions and do research before the November election!
Ranked Choice Voting (RCV):
This amendment would allow voters the option to rank up to six candidates for each county office. If no candidate receives more than 50% of first choice votes, the last place candidate is eliminated. Voters whose first choice is eliminated would have their second choice counted instead. This process of elimination would continue until there is a winner (or winners if used to get to top two in a primary). It is worth noting that there are bills being considered at the state level to use RCV in the Presidential Primary and to allow RCV locally. If the local option passes, we might not need primaries if 6 or fewer people file to run for an office.
County Manager Consultation:
This amendment would require the County Council to consult with the Elected department heads (Assessor, Auditor, Prosecuting Attorney, Sheriff, and Treasurer) before selecting a new County Manager. Note that this is consultation only, the County Council still makes the final selection.
This amendment would add a Preamble to the County Charter. The Preamble would acknowledge the area’s rich heritage, introduce the Charter and the structure, governance, benefits, rights and responsibilities it provides.
County Elected Position Vacancies: This amendment would define how vacancies would be filled for the elected officials:
Assessor, Auditor, Prosecuting Attorney, Sheriff, and Treasurer. It would temporarily fill with a pre-designated professional manager from the office until the next General Election (18 months or less)
County Councilor – Shall be appointed by the remaining county Council, after having noticed and accepted applications from the public, until the next general election.
Initiative and Referendum: Changes the initiative and referendum signature percentage requirements from 10 percent to 8 percent and allows for the transfer of signatures from the initiative process to the mini-initiative process.
Diversity and Inclusion:
Establish a Diversity and Inclusion Officer Position, and Establish a Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Commission.
2022 Legislative Session Update Lea Bain
Washington State started the 2022 Legislative Session on January 10th for a short 60-day session. Our friends at Futurewise are hard at work on three major changes to the Growth Management Act: HB1099, funding HB1220, and SB5042.
HB1099 passed the House of Representatives on January 21st with a party-line vote of 57-41. This bill ensures Washington cities and counties are planning for climate-resilient communities while reducing our contributions to the climate crisis. Our land-use planning should work to achieve environmental justice and not worsen existing environmental health disparities. HB1099 has been referred to the Senate Housing and Local Government Committee and is scheduled for Public Hearing on Tuesday, Feb 1st at 8AM. Sign in here at least one hour before to join the hearing.
HB1220 was a housing equity bill passed in 2021 to end income and race-based discrimination in Washington’s housing policy that have caused harm and displacement in our communities for too long. Last year, legislators failed to appropriate the funding local governments need to execute the law. To implement this work, and to do it well with the voices of impacted communities centered, we have to give financial support to our local jurisdictions and to community organizations. Email your legislators now and ask them to support this funding.
On Jan 26th, the Washington State Legislature Senate voted YES on SB5042 with a vote of 27-20! This bill aims to close the GMA’s ‘sprawl loophole’ which is needed to protect farmland, forests, and critical habitats from unnecessary sprawl. We still have a fight ahead to get SB5042 passed in the House. Please take one minute to tell your Representatives to vote YES on SB5042. You can also follow along as it makes its way through the House here.
Tuesday, February 22-24 Watershed Alliance of SWWA’s annual free Environmental Film Series Featuring Spawning Grounds: A feature documentary about a rapidly developing community’s struggles to protect a rare Native salmon in one of America’s first Urban Wildlife Refuges. Register here.
Tuesday, March 1
10:00AM Growth Management Comprehensive Plan Public Hearing – Hua-Symes Comp Plan revision to rezone from Rural 20 to Rural 5 along the East Fork of the Lewis River – Defrees Comp Plan revision to rezone Rural 20 to Rural 5 along the upper East Fork of the Lewis River
We envision a flourishing Clark County thriving with local farms, healthy forests, clean water, protected wildlife habitats and neighborhoods that are vibrant and diverse with parks and natural areas accessible to all. We cannot do it without you.