Council has a ‘serious conversation’

mielkeClark County councilor Tom “Enough is enough is enough taxes” Mielke sure hates the idea of paying more than his fair share of the pie when it comes to taxes—even when he’s wrong.

Councilor Jeanne Stewart at Wednesday’s meeting suggested that the county consider participating in the Regional Disaster Preparedness Organization. The RDPO is a partnership of government, non-government and private stakeholders in the Portland metro area that allows all of us to share resources in the event of any kind of large scale disaster.

Stewart currently sits on the RDPO board, but said that the county doesn’t actually pay anything into that organization. Evidently, she said, the county decided to withdraw its dues several years ago after concerns over how the organization was run.

Now, however, she said the organization has worked those problems out, and she’s interested in the council considering paying its dues again. She backed up her suggestion with documentation she said she emailed to her fellow councilors.

A reasonable request to consider, right?

Mielke, however, jumped on the numbers. According to preliminary information from Stewart, the county would pay about $28,000 annually into the fund, and the city would pay about $13,000 based on the structure of the county. Mielke, meanwhile, doesn’t think it’s fair that the county pay twice as much as the city when the population is so much smaller in unincorporated areas.

Mielke seems to forget that those of us who are citizens of the cities are also citizens of Clark County, but I’ll get to that later.

After about 15 minutes of back and forth, which included a half-hearted jab at the Regional Transportation Council by Councilor David Madore, Stewart had an “enough is enough is enough” moment of her own.

“I’m wondering why,” Stewart said. “If you had concerns about this, because this has taken a lot of time and effort, when I sent you both copies of the PowerPoint that showed what corrections (RDPO) made, I didn’t get any feedback about ‘this seems inadequate’ or whatever, and we did have discussions about it so I was surprised to hear that the concern is all of a sudden here,” Stewart said.

“No, it’s just that it was never a serious conversation we were having,” Mielke replied.

Cue my jaw dropping.

“Well, it was serious on my part,” Stewart said.

“Oh,” Mielke responded. “Well, it wasn’t serious on mine.”

“Apparently,” Stewart said.

I love when Stewart gets sassy.

What’s funny about this is the county got a lesson on where its money comes from two weeks ago. Mielke made similar complaints during board time earlier this month. I woefully failed to write about this, but it’s pertinent now.

At that meeting, Mielke went on another rant to Deputy County Manager Bob Stevens about how the county is paying more than its fair share on shared resources.

“We haven’t had any real good friendliness in operation with (Vancouver), and yet we’re picking up all these bills for them,” Mielke said.

It took Budget Bob, a nickname affectionately bestowed upon him by Madore, to save the day.

Stevens pointed out that 62 percent of Clark County’s general fund revenue is tax-based, and of that 62 percent, more than half of that comes from the cities when they pay their property taxes or sales taxes. Vancouver and the other cities’ residents all have a “dog in the hunt” for all county services, Stevens said.

“What I’m saying is most of the money we have to spend in the general fund as tax money, is most of that comes from incorporated area,” Stevens said.

“So when we collect taxes from the whole county, that includes the cities?” Mielke asked.

Yes, Councilor Mielke, yes it does. Oy vey.

If you’re curious to hear either board time, the recordings are both available on The Grid.

Update: Turns out I don’t know my idioms. Vancouver has a “dog in the hunt,” for county services. I used an incorrect phrase.

Kaitlin Gillespie

Kaitlin Gillespie

I'm the education reporter at The Columbian. Get in touch at or 360-735-4517.

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