Unequal application of hearing rules

At last week’s joint hearing of the Clark County council and Planning Commission to hear feedback on the Comprehensive Growth Management Plan update, Councilor David Madore set some basic ground rules.

First, speakers only have three minutes. Second, if you’ve spoken once, there would be no need to speak at the second hearing, held last night. The instructions, given by Madore, were to give someone else a chance.

Everything went very well last week. The hearing was, perhaps, the best and most boring county meeting I’ve ever attended. It was lovely. People were following the rules. Madore was politely asking people to stop once their time was up.

I didn’t attend last night’s meeting, but watched some of it live and more this morning. To my surprise, and in clear violation of the rules Madore set, Carol Levanen stood to speak. Just like she did last week.

Levanen is the executive secretary of Clark County Citizens United, a land-use advocacy group that has been fighting for Alternative 4 of the plan update. Alternative 4, as you will recall, was written by Madore himself in response to comments like those made by Levanen.

When she stood up, it caused a bit of drama.

Here’s the exchange:

Deputy prosecuting attorney Chris Cook: I’m wondering if people are testifying both at the last hearing and this hearing.

Madore: Is there a legal reason they cannot testify last week and this week?

Cook: No, there is certainly nothing in the law. I don’t recall whether you announced last week that people would only be testifying only once but I think you did.

Acting County Manager Mark McCauley: He did. He did.

Madore: O.K. It is not a hard and fast rule and if the citizens have taken the time to come down here more than once I will not somehow disallow that. Carol?

Levanen: This is different testimony. I think you were saying that so the people didn’t have to say it twice.

County councilor Jeanne Stewart: And the other point here is though there may have been other people that were here last week who would have wanted to come back again and testify but didn’t because the council said if you testify last week we didn’t expect that you would testify again next week. If we said that, I don’t know now how to resolve this but it isn’t fair to the other people who might have wanted to come and get their last word in tonight too, or at least the last word in this forum.

Levanen: This is not an individual testimony. This is for Clark County Citizens United. There’s a number of people involved in this organization.

Cook: I believe that was also your statement last time that you were testifying on behalf of CCCU.

Madore: This is not a repeat. This is not an election. It’s simply ensuring that we have as much diversity and input as would help us do a better jobs.

Levanen: I don’t think legally you can prevent me from giving testimony tonight.

Madore: Go ahead.

Later, in the same meeting, Susan Rasmussen, president of Clark County Citizens United, also spoke again. She too spoke last week. There was no discussion when she got up.

There is zero chance that these two women have not been heard. They have been at council meeting after council meeting for as long as I can remember. They have attended every comprehensive plan related workshop, at least all the ones I’ve attended. They have submitted countless emails as well as written testimony. You can’t help but admire their persistence.

But the fact is Madore set rules. He’s responsible for upholding those rules. He’s responsible for applying those rules fairly. And Thursday, he failed to do so.

Kaitlin Gillespie

Kaitlin Gillespie

I'm the education reporter at The Columbian. Get in touch at kaitlin.gillespie@columbian.com or 360-735-4517.

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