Veneman talks homelessness, light rail, marijuana, park fees on CVTV
Earlier this week, the internet was treated to a video of Elisabeth Veneman interacting with another human being.
Since announcing her challenge to Clark County Councilor Julie Olson, a fellow Republican, Veneman hasn’t agreed to an interview with The Columbian and still hasn’t responded to a list of questions about how she would govern on the council.
From what I can tell from the internet, Veneman does indeed interact with people. She has been out doorbelling and also got into altercations during the Ridgefield Fourth of July Parade and at the Clark County Fair. Presumably, all of it’s in service of her slogan of “Putting Citizens First” — whatever that means.
But now there’s a video of Veneman sitting down with Marvin Case who interviewed her on CVTV (the C-SPAN of Clark County), where she gave a more detailed glimpse into what she really thinks about county government. Here are some takeaways.
Light rail on 179th Street?
During the interview, Veneman was asked about development plans for the Interstate 5 interchange near 179th Street. She immediately responded that she was concerned about her opponent’s desire to have light rail be part of the plan, citing advisory votes against the controversial means of transit.
“I wasn’t aware of the light rail component to the 179th (project),” responded Case.
Veneman said that Olson favors it “across the board.” She also mentioned how the Interstate 5 bridge is sound.
Replacing the I-5 bridge is a divisive topic in local politics, but that’s not what Case was asking about. More conservative Republicans have been steadfast against light rail and have questioned the necessity of replacing the bridge. Democrats and more moderate Republicans have advocated replacing the bridge. Olson recently voted for a resolution in favor of replacing the bridge that deliberately did not mention light rail.
Has Veneman uncovered a Secret Plot to extend light rail all the way to 179th Street?
“She is confused,” Olson said in a text. “There has never been any discussion by anyone about light rail up to 179th street. Additionally, I have been on the record since 2012 against light rail in Clark County. She also continues to confuse ‘mass transit’ which includes our bus system and bus rapid transit with light rail. They are not the same.”
A recurring issue in this year’s county council elections has been whether to lift the county’s ban on recreational cannabis businesses. Olson has expressed some openness to considering the idea.
Veneman said she’s against it, citing reports from law enforcement that more people are getting pulled over and wasn’t swayed by its potential to generate more tax revenue for the county.
That homeless lifestyle
Veneman said that while the issue of homelessness is “complicated and multifaceted” it usually comes down to lifestyle.
“A lot of times it’s a lifestyle choice,” she said. “Sometimes it’s not. There’s always that rare exception to the rule.”
She acknowledged that there are mental health and affordable housing components to the issue. But Veneman said “they are creeping over from Portland” and that there is a rise in crime in Clark County (crime, generally, isn’t increasing). She said that the county should consider a panhandling law.
Park fees and “mystery land”
Veneman has made entrance fees to the county’s parks a campaign issue.
“I hate the park fees,” said Veneman told Case. She said that they essentially amount to double taxation. She said the fees don’t keep prostitutes out and that the money goes back into the county general fund, which “goes into mystery land.”
Over the summer, Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring also argued at a council meeting during the summer that park fees don’t keep drug dealers and prostitutes out of county parks.
Veneman faulted Olson for twice voting to increase the county’s total property tax levy by 1 percent, which she said is “very disconcerting” given that Olson says she’s a “fiscal Republican.”
“The tax increases aren’t necessary,” said Veneman, who complained that her mortgage went up.
The county anticipates that the median household property tax bill will go up by about $3 as a result of the increase. This year, property owners saw their tax bills go up significantly as a result of the McCleary education funding package. But (all together now) these are are not the same thing.
County officials have complained that expenses (particularly personnel) aren’t keeping up with revenue. Veneman hasn’t responded to my question on what her plan is to lower property taxes. During the interview, Veneman offered no further details. But maybe that’s all part of “mystery land” anyway and everyone loves a good mystery.
The sheriff’s budget
The issue of funding the sheriff’s budget also came up. Veneman spoke out against “slashing” the sheriff’s budget.
Clark County Councilor Eileen Quiring used the same issue in a campaign mailer against council Chair Marc Boldt, who she successfully challenged in the primary.
(Again) all together now: The sheriff’s budget was not slashed. For 2015-2016, the sheriff’s office had a budget of $102.7 million. For 2017-2018, its budget was $112.5 million — a 9.5-percent increase over the previous budget.
Wouldn’t this mean that slashing the budget is a good thing? Maybe she could advocate slashing the entire county budget? What does that mean? I don’t know. I’m confused now.