Tension flare over council redistricting efforts

With the Clark County Council’s deliberations over a new voting district map laboring on, tensions between council members have continued to flare. Wednesday’s public hearing to consider the 04-19-2022 proposed map was no different.

After months of wrangling over the map, many expected the council to adopt the 04-19-2022 map at the conclusion of Wednesday’s hearing. Despite comments from several local residents during public testimony to approve the 04-19-2022 map and finally resolve the ongoing dispute, Councilor Richard Rylander Jr. suggested the council consider an amended version of Map C2 created, and rejected, by the county redistricting committee last fall.

Rylander was appointed as the District 5 councilor by Gov. Jay Inslee on April 29. Rylander was among three candidates provided to the governor to choose from, and was the candidate to receive votes from Chair Karen Bowerman and Councilor Gary Medvigy following council interviews in March.

One central issue to which map is adopted is what happens with Chair Karen Bowerman’s seat. Some of the maps considered previously would move Bowerman into District 4, meaning she would have to face off against Medvigy if both choose to run for reelection. Councilor Julie Olson’s would also likely be moved into District 5, but Olson has already announced she won’t be seeking reelection in November.

Councilor Temple Lentz, who has also announced she won’t be seeking reelection, reminded her fellow councilors they voted during an April 13 meeting to recuse themselves from drawing the district boundaries and instead let staff create a map that complied with state law and honored the will of voters who approved a five-district configuration included in a November 2021 charter amendment.

Lentz said the council has now gone back on that vote without considering the map created by staff.

“It would definitely be inappropriate for us to go backward, and certainly to have councilors once again put their own personal preferences in front of the good to the community,” Lentz said.

Medvigy has said several times he did not vote to recuse himself from the process.

“Once again there is a mischaracterization of councilors going back on their vote. No one did. Perhaps Councilor Lentz has a different understanding what recusal is. I certainly have a different understanding, Medvigy said.

When Lentz, who was joining the call remotely, appeared to be laughing at Medvigy’s comment, he said, “I see you giggling like a teenage girl. If you had recused yourself you wouldn’t have just spoken. That’s what a recusal is.”

Medvigy also said a recusal is when you take yourself out of some process become of some prejudice you have or the appearance of it.

“It does seem like you do,” Medvigy said to Lentz.

When Bowerman did not respond or stop Medvigy’s criticisms of a specific councilor, which is against council policy, Lentz objected.

“I would hope in the future when a councilor makes diminishing remarks about another councilor that would be stopped,” Lentz said.

Bowerman said she would take Lentz comments to heart “to stop disparaging remarks” but also said laughing at another councilor in what appears to be “a mocking way” would also would be stopped.

Lentz responded, saying she was laughing out of shock, not in an attempt to mock Medvigy. Lentz apologized for her actions and said “it was inappropriate.”

There was no further comment from Medvigy on the matter.

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