Part I: Fact-checking David Madore’s Columbian ad
Clark County Councilor David Madore’s campaign for Clark County council chair, the at-large position newly created after the county voted to approve the home-rule charter last November, is on full blast.
Chances are you saw the glossy, double-sided insert Madore, a Republican, took out last week in The Reflector, the Camas-Washougal Post-Record and, most surprisingly, The Columbian. There was a second flier this week, but I’ll fact-check that one next week.
There are several points in the flier that are only partially true or exaggerations of what Madore has accomplished since he took office in 2013. Since Madore won’t talk to us, we don’t know his rationale for some of these points. Nevertheless, here’s what we found:
Claim: “Madore introduced the fee waiver program which helped create thousands of local jobs and over $60 million in new construction projects locally—Clark County is now leading the state in job growth.”
Madore often boasts about the fee waiver program he and Councilor Tom Mielke championed, but seems to have all but publicly ignored an audit from the Clark County Auditor’s Office—which won a national award from the Association of Local Government Auditors in part for how objective it was—declaring it ineffective and costly.
“This award is the result of the professionalism of our team, the high quality of their work and dedication to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of Clark County government,” said Auditor Greg Kimsey, a Republican, when the award was announced earlier this year.
The audit, released last November, reports that only 115 jobs were created as a result of new development in unincorporated Clark County between June 2013 and August 2014.
Furthermore, while the program had waived $7.8 million in fees at that time, the audit says between $4.6 and $6.9 million in waivers were awarded to projects that would have been built anyway. To claim those projects as jobs created as a result of the fee waiver is an inappropriate measure of the program’s success.
“National research on job incentives programs casts doubt on the overall impact of such programs on job creation in these industries, finding in some instances that up to 90 percent of jobs credited to program incentives would have occurred anyway,” the audit reads.
According to the audit, the Department of Community Development was unable to provide data which contained total construction costs pertaining solely to projects eligible for the fee waiver, so it’s unclear whether the $60 million Madore refers to is accurate. It also remains unclear how many of those businesses were built in Clark County due exclusively to the fee waiver. The auditor’s office also did a survey of businesses who took advantage of a year-long fee holiday that ran from Oct. 2010 to Oct. 2011, and found that the fee waiver made no difference in the location or timing of two-thirds of applicants who responded.
And while Clark County is building jobs, it is not leading the state in job growth, according to Regional Economist Scott Bailey. In the 12 months ending in May, the county posted an annualized growth rate of 3.9 percent. Kittitas County, which Ellensburg is in, is leading the state, with 5.3 percent job growth from annualized growth rate in the 12 months ending in May.
Claim: David supported law enforcement. He assured funding for eight new deputies and new technology for emergency responders.
Madore voted to approve funding for eight new deputies to the sheriff’s office last December when the county—unanimously—approved the 2015-2016 budget. He’s also historically voted to approve funding for new technology for law enforcement. For example, Madore recently voted—along with his fellow councilors—to approve entering into an intergovernmental agreement with the City of Portland to develop a Records Management System, a shared database between 42 law enforcement agencies in the Portland metro area.
Claim: He defended the voters when they said no to light rail and $8.00 tolls. David was a leading voice in giving them a county-wide vote on this seriously flawed, bloated boondoggle.
Reality: Mostly true
Madore was one of the biggest opponents to the Columbia River Crossing, putting $134,000 into his own political action committee, NoTolls.com, to fight the project. He has since continued to combat anything that looks even a teeny bit like the CRC, particularly the proposed improvements to the Mill Plain Boulevard interchange on Interstate 5. So there’s no question that Madore did and continues to make every effort to support the CRC’s opponents.
fought to put five separate advisory votes supported placing five separate advisory votes on the 2013 ballot, which gave voters a chance to weigh in on light rail, bus rapid transit, a toll-free east county bridge, a toll-free Interstate bridge and a toll-free west county bridge. Those were symbolic votes and did not require the county to take any action, but have guided county policy in the post-CRC era. A previous version of this blog implied that Madore was solely responsible for pushing for those votes, when then-Commissioner Steve Stuart also argued for putting a CRC-related vote on the ballot.
What is unclear, however, is where that $8 toll number came from. According to the Oregon Department of Transportation’s investment-grade revenue analysis of the project, peak-hour tolls for passenger vehicles with a tolling pass would have started at $2.50 each trip—so $5 round trip—and gone up to $3.25 each trip—$7.50 cents round trip—by 2022. Prices went up depending on how many axles the vehicle had, but let’s assume Madore is talking about the average commuter who travels to and from Portland every day.
Now, if you didn’t have a pass, the price to travel across the bridge came closer and even surpasses Madore’s claim—but again, only at peak hours. A round trip across the river in 2016 would have cost $8.04 in 2016, going up to $10.04 cents in 2022. I think, however, it’s likely safe to assume that your average daily commuter would have bought a pass, though we’ll never know because the CRC is a dead issue.
Claim: Balanced the budget without raising taxes.
Madore did vote—along with his fellow councilors—to implement a budget free of property tax increases. The state allows counties to raise property taxes by 1 percent to increase revenue, but Madore fought the issue and it was not included in the budget. As a side note, I’m surprised Madore didn’t say something like “Supported a balanced budget without raising taxes,” the way he wrote the point on law enforcement. Madore, after all, is not the sole author of the budget or solely responsible for balancing the budget, but let’s chalk that up to political pontification.
Claim: Councilor Madore has supported sound financial practices: Paying off millions in inherited County debt, stopping external lines of credit, all county spending open to public view
Reality: True on all counts
The county’s deputy treasurer, John Payne, said all three of Madore’s claims are true.
This year, the county called $7.75 million in debt, plus an additional $840,000 loan. Those loans were costing the county between 4.3 and 5 percent interest. The county used its general fund to pay off about $4.04 million of that, while refinancing the rest through the Bank of America at a substantially lower interest rate of .83 percent. The loans were called in June, Payne said.
Furthermore, Madore also voted to eliminate a $5 million external line of credit. So say a department gets a grant, but that grant hasn’t arrived yet. That department could borrow from that line of credit to tide it over until the grand comes through. Instead, $5 million has been allocated from the general fund for such purposes.
Madore was also the leading voice in creating Clark County’s open checkbook, which is a tool I use frequently to see where the county spends its money. The Auditor’s Office created the system at Madore’s encouragement.
Keep in mind all three current county councilors, all of whom are running for county chair, voted for these policies.
There is one other claim on the opposite side of the flier, which is otherwise personal information I won’t touch here, that is inaccurate.
Claim: Please vote to keep David Madore, a proven leader, as county council chair in the August 4, 2015 primary election
Reality: Mostly false
Madore is not running for the same position he has now. Yes, Madore is currently chair of the board, but that’s not the same chair the home-rule charter created. Madore was voted into his current seat, which allows him to oversee and manage county meetings, by his fellow councilors in January. He has no extra powers or responsibilities other than presiding over the meetings.
The position Madore is running for has never existed in Clark County, and therefore has no incumbent. The new chair will be voted in county-wide—previously all commissioners were voted upon at-large in the general election, but now only the chair is an at-large seat—and will serve as the county’s spokesman to “articulate council policies, vision, strategies and plans,” according to the charter. The chair will also be the county’s spokesperson before all state and federal agencies. They also get paid a bit more than their fellow councilors–$63,600 versus $53,000—to reflect the added responsibilities of the role.
Now, I have seen some claims on Facebook and Twitter that Madore’s claims of false incumbency are actually illegal. RCW 42.17A.335 says that “Political advertising or an electioneering communication that falsely represents that a candidate is the incumbent for the office sought when in fact the candidate is not the incumbent.”
I read the phrase to PDC spokeswoman Lori Anderson, who said the state tends to be pretty liberal with that law in favor of those who imply false incumbency. She also said under PDC rules, the word “keep” is not considered one of those words that implies incumbency. If Madore asks people to “re-elect” him to that position, then you’d have an issue.
Madore is running against fellow Republicans and Councilors Jeanne Stewart and Tom Mielke, as well as former Commissioner Marc Boldt, an independent, and Battle Ground City Councilor Mike Dalesandro, a Democrat. Ballots will be winging their way to voter’s homes on July 17.