Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke’s evenings are important. Tuesdays in particular, apparently. I can understand this. It’s a good night for TV. I mean, maybe Mielke is a fan of Fargo. That show is fantastic. (edit: It was mentioned by other APIL contributors that Mielke probably watches something like Ice Truckers or Duck Dynasty. Those shows always seem to be on.)
Mielke, the commission chairman, made his aversion to long evening meetings clear this week. The commissioners’ last evening meeting, about expanding mining operations in areas of the county near homes, was a four-hour affair because of all the public testimony. The sad irony for the commissioners and staff who endured the meeting is that it never actually ended because Mielke adjourned it abruptly. It was, even more than most government meetings, a weird exercise in existentialism.
That means the whole public testimony process will start over. Neighbors on Livingston Mountain are among the most opposed to expanding mining operations, saying it would decrease property values, add more trucks to narrow roads and impact the environment. They’ve already provided testimony to the planning commission, which sided with their concerns and voted last fall to recommend not approving an expansion of mining.
At Wednesday’s board time meeting, Mielke said he would not subject himself — or county staff — to another protracted night-time kvetch fest. The commissioners were presented a couple of options at the meeting. They could have scheduled the meeting for July 1, a night meeting, or July 8, a day meeting.
When County Administrator Mark McCauley suggested finishing the hearing on July 1, Mielke said, “I don’t want that day.”
He added: “In the bylaws, I think I have that choice.”
Why the opposition? Because he wants to limit public testimony. And that’s easier to do if you hold a meeting during the day, when people are at work.
“If there was something different, I would probably agree to that,” Mielke said. “I don’t think we’re going to hear anything different that we haven’t heard seven times before. I don’t see the need to put our staff through that.”
Mielke was alone in his support for pushing the meeting back a week to decrease the amount of public involvement.
Commissioner David Madore said he’d prefer to hold an evening meeting, so people would have another opportunity to weigh in on the proposal. “There are so many neighbors that work during the day who have diligently been there each time,” he said. “Hopefully, with one last meeting, we’ll be able to make a decision on it and get ‘er done.”
But Mielke was unyielding. When Commissioner Ed Barnes, a labor leader, said he wouldn’t mind holding a night meeting to hear people who hadn’t already provided testimony, Mielke responded:
“You don’t mind giving up your union meeting? I kind of object to giving up my evening to hear the same thing over again. I respect having people here. I respect taking action on it. But I don’t see the need in doing that.”
Mielke, who has the ability to make a unilateral decision on scheduling, picked July 8, the 10 a.m. meeting, to wrap the hearing on the surface mining overlay maps.
I started working for The Columbian in 2012 and currently cover Clark County. I'm a 2007 graduate of The University of Oregon. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org