Have you ever been to a meeting of the Clark County Council or LaCenter city council? Or possibly a CTRAN board meeting? Would you even know where to go to attend such a meeting? If you’re like most of us, you simply don’t have time for such events and reasonably ask yourself, “what difference could I make.” You have a job that requires your presence, you have family and other things more important than watching your elected officials do the county business. After all, isn’t that why we elected them, to do our business for us? They must be reasonable people, right?
Unfortunately in the case of many political bodies, the members seem to have less concern for good governance and responsible stewardship of the public treasury than they do for promoting their personal agenda. When that agenda is detached from reality, dedicated to protecting and rewarding their political friends, and mindlessly gainsaying their political enemies, citizens need to take notice, get involved, and let these public servants know that they’re being watched.
These self-serving politicians abuse the authority of their office to act as rulers, not public servants. They seem to feel their position imbues them with some sort of wisdom beyond that of the average citizen—which is reinforced by the praise they get from special interest friends. Combined with a misplaced feeling of authority, this apparently makes them think they can justify their actions with the most shockingly stupid and illogical rationalizations, and nobody will effectively question them about it. The local old media will give them editorial support and cover, having been paid off by being awarded a paper of record contract that it neither earned nor deserved.
Therefore attending public meetings can be helpful. First it is true that earnest public servants would honestly listen and seek to be influenced by good ideas from the citizens. But considering the status of most political bodies, this influence is usually small. However, there’s a more important reason to attend that has much more impact than trying to influence politicians on discrete matters. We need to present a firm and clear ‘responsible-government’ influence at these meetings to counter the shrill voice of special interests and big-government ideology that usually dominate.
A politician’s self-interest is usually achieved in collusion with the special interests and big-government activists. This encourages an unholy synergy of these parties which results in such activists regularly showing up and dominating public meetings with their rambling and emotional rants seasoned with a high dose of personal insults. This group of civics class dropouts operate in an echo chamber where dissenting opinions are shouted down and shunned. They rally at social media sites with high-sounding names like Clark County Citizens for Good Governance, which are often nothing more than government-knows-best front groups. In the case of the county, these activists blame David Madore for everything, even if they have to lie to make him look bad. Their motives are simple: keep big-government Democrats in control by any means.
Average citizens who prefer a smaller, more responsible government are at a disadvantage in the public arena of ideas against these clowns. These big-government enthusiasts are rarely constrained by logic, reason, good manners or respectful discourse. They have a demonstrable tendency to twist the facts to support their narrative, ignore pertinent information, and even lie to promote their agenda.
Time is usually set aside at public meetings to allow the public to speak. In the case of the Clark County Council each speaker is allowed three minutes to address the Council on any topic they desire. Again using the Clark County Council as an example, these public meetings are normally attended by the usual group of suspects who use their time to heap praises on the big government majority of the Council and publicly condemn the minority, particularly David Madore. This is especially effective, because a two-minutes of lies and willful omissions can take as much as ten or fifteen minutes to disassemble and demonstrate why it’s a wrong. These comments go into the record, and often are never refuted by whatever counselor is under attack—much less anyone else. Indeed, under the new Council chair, counselors might not even be allowed time to speak in their defense against a public comment.
At county council meetings is a typical culprit is former county commissioner, prominent Democrat and former union member Ed Barnes. Mr. Barnes is a master at using public forums to weave a political narrative that has only a nodding acquaintance with reality. For example, at the April 19 Council meeting, he served up this three-minute oratorical mess (if not well rested, please don’t attempt to read this):
My name is Ed Barnes and I live at 4009 NE. 50th Ave. I want to remind everybody in the audience and also the commissioners that the prosecuting attorney’s office. . . those people were elected by the public and they represent not only you folks but they represent us as citizens to make sure that we’re represented properly and do the proper things. So anyway I hope with that the commissioners will not . . .uh, or the counselors will not vote to spend any of the taxpayers money for the screw ups that David Madore has done over the last two years in here so. . .uh, with that, uh, David you talk about truth. Last Tuesday you made a comment about the Cowlitz Indians and the sewage problem out there that it was their fault and not you guys’ fault that the problem is there. If you’d hadn’t a sued them and done what you guys have done, they would already have that sewer line up to the Cowlitz casino from the LaCenter sewage treatment plant and we wouldn’t be having this argument but you guys keep suing him all the time and keep going to court so it’s you guys’ fault and not the Cowlitz’s fault and you need to apologize to them for that comment that you made last Tuesday. Those people don’t deserve that. They’re trying to create good living wage jobs on the side of the river, and the same way with the land bank will create living wage jobs on the side of the river. The other thing that’s gonna happen if you keep it up you’re gonna have the ACLU, you’re gonna have the NAACP and other groups of people are going to be filing more suits against this county for discrimination against a class of people and that . . . I remember when I sat on the Council with you, David, you kept mentioning about a little old lady that you met when you are out there campaigning that you promised her that you were going to do anything that was gonna raise taxes. You’re spending money like crazy! Everywhere. You go out and hire private consultants and then you raise heck here this morning on lookin’ about hirin’ more people to defend the county’s best interests, the taxpayers best interests. It just seems like maybe instead of you spending all this money on candidates you can’t get elected, you oughtta spend it on. . . On trying to figure out ways to create living wage jobs on the side of the river and forget about the fee waiver program it’s a failure, too. So anyway I just… I just think that it’s absolutely imperative that the… That the county… County Council do what’s right. I appreciate what Marc Julie and Jeannie do for… What the efforts that they’ve made for… To kind of correct some of the madness that’s goin’ on in this county. So… Anyway thank you very much and I enjoyed serving the public and that and don’t forget April 26 out in the mezzanine out here from 11:30 to 1:00 to, uh, to let the public knowing the people know how we feel good about the public employees we hire here for the County, whether union or nonunion. Thank you Mr. Chairman.
To listen to this without being conversant with the facts, you get the idea that David Madore is a pretty bad guy. Mr. Barnes conveniently ignored a number of things in his diatribe. For example, the city of LaCenter violated county planning policies when it proposed to extend the sewer line past the city’s urban growth boundary. He ignores the fact that the 152 acre property hadn’t even been designated as the Cowlitz tribe reservation until 2000, that the Cowlitz headquarters is in Longview, and that the positioning of this “reservation” is cynically designed to draw gambling customers from the Portland Vancouver region. Mr. Barnes claims that the casino would bring living wage jobs to the area, but ignores the fact that such a casino would devastate the LaCenter gambling industry. Mr. Barnes, the retired business manager of the IBEW local 48, is advocating the casino on behalf of the unions, as this project is projected to bring in 4400 construction jobs over two years if approved.
Like a typical union thug, Mr. Barnes couldn’t resist threatening his opponents with lawsuits from an alphabet soup collection of special interest groups.
Mr. Barnes goes on to suggest that the fee waiver program is ineffective and insinuates that the County Council has done nothing toward addressing unemployment in the county. When you’re allowed to create your own facts without being challenged, you can ignore things like the county adding 5100 new jobs in 2014, thanks largely to the pro-growth, small government policies of the county commissioners of that time. Mr. Barnes, as do most liberals, has this misconception that government creates jobs. The recent experience of Clark County shows that private businesses create jobs, and the role of government is to promote and stay out of the way of private businesses.
You understand. Barnes is full of baloney. The reason that Mr. Barnes gets away with proclaiming this sort of nonsense in a public forum is that he’s not challenged. His voice and others like him reinforce the authoritarian delusions held by the majority of the County Council and senior bureaucrats. The best way to counter this nonsense is for regular citizens to take some time to attend these meetings, address the Council and make their concerns known and generally promote responsible government. The false narratives promoted by the big-government activists need to be publicly challenged and deconstructed. This is far more effective if people stepped forward who aren’t part of the usual crowd who make time to attend these meetings regularly. If competent and resolute citizens consistently present facts, then these big-government and special interest activists will tend to disperse, as they’re uncomfortable in an environment where their nonsense is effectively challenged.
We at ClarkCounty.info encourage you to attend our County and city public meetings. We post the meeting dates and the times here on this website. All public meetings are public record. If you can’t attend the meeting personally, you can watch them on line in most cases. For Clark County, you can see meetings on CVTV and get the minutes and the agenda from the Clark County grid. You can write to your Council members and express your concerns to the ClarkCounty.gov website.
Please, make your voice heard!