Clark County Council district map is another delay
Rick Bannan / email@example.com
A finalized map of Clark County Council’s new districts will have to wait another week for approval as councilors voted to revert to an earlier map under consideration in a protracted process to accommodate a new district.
At a special meeting on April 27, the council voted 4-0 to move a newly developed alternative district map to a public hearing on May 4. The meeting was originally called to hear public testimony on a different map, originally proposed by a now disbanded redistricting committee, although the council was deadlocked 2-2 on its approval.
The council has been scrambling to make adjustments to the map after voters approved an amendment to the county’s home rule charter, which increased the number of councilor districts from four to five. The amendment also made the former position of chairman of the general council a position appointed by council members.
Councilor Temple Lentz mentioned the number of proposed changes to the menu over several weeks. The council asked staff to create a map that kept current councilors in their districts. The map presented to voters in the November 2021 election would have put three councilors when voting in a single district. Since then, former County Council Chairwoman Eileen Quiring O’Brien, one of the three, has resigned, leaving the newly created District 5 seat vacant. Governor Jay Inslee on Friday named Richard “Dick” Rylander to the District 5 headquarters.
This map received public backlash for the perceived gerrymandering as it was aimed at keeping councilors in their respective districts. The county council then asked staff to create another map based more closely on the one that was placed before voters in November. This map was eventually replaced by the map under consideration on April 27 that had originally been proposed by the redistricting committee.
Lentz expressed frustration with the apparent corruption of the council’s redistricting process, which she said was evident in the map that attempted to keep councilors in their current districts.
“Redistricting should not be about politicians. It should be about people voting,” Lentz said.
Council chair Karen Bowerman ‘vehemently’ disagreed that the map put before the council on April 27 worked for politicians. Bowerman noted that the card would put her at a disadvantage going forward at the end of her term as she would be placed in Councilman Gary Medvigy’s district.
One thing councilors and the public could agree on was the failure of the process. Public testimony called the county redistricting a “wreck” and like the movie “Groundhog Day” with its number of reboots.
Lentz said the criticism the board has received is “entirely justified.” She said the only map that attempted to “get the train back on track” as far as the process was concerned was the alternative map originally considered on April 19.
Councilor Julie Olson agreed that the process went off the rails from the start.
“I won’t support anything other than this (alternative) map at this point,” Olson said.
Medvigy said the criticism the board received was “unfair, baseless, meaningless, intellectually dishonest.” He pointed to the failure of the county redistricting committee to approve a map based on what was required by the county charter. This failure ultimately put the map process in the council’s lap.
“We didn’t interfere in that. It was handed over to us because of a bad charter that created a redistricting committee that was really deadlocked,” Medvigy said.
Although another voter-approved amendment makes councilman positions nonpartisan, Medvigy pointed to the map approved in the other amendment, which he said would knowingly put three of the council’s four Republicans in a single district.
“The result couldn’t have been more partisan,” Medvigy said of the voter-approved map.