Clark County now has an official map of its new council districts, although the move resulted in significant public pushback.
During its May 11 meeting, the Clark County Council approved a redistricting map titled “Alternative C2” with a 3-1 vote. The approval caps off months of consideration of a number of maps which take into account the creation of a new council district approved by voters in November.
The May 11 meeting drew members of the public who testified against the approval of the latest map. The map included small adjustments from a map that was originally generated during a process involving a specific redistricting committee. The committee was unable to approve a map with four of five votes last year, putting the decision in the hands of the council.
The map that Alternative C2 is based on was not one recommended by a majority of the redistricting committee. That one was given a public hearing but failed in a deadlocked vote of 2-2. Since that time, Gov. Jay Inslee appointed a councilor to the fifth council seat, which was vacated by former council chair and district 5 representative Eileen Quiring O’Brien in March.
The district 5 appointee, Richard “Dick” Rylander, was the one to suggest the Alternative C2 map during a May 4 meeting. Rylander said he favored the map since it was created through the committee process, though he acknowledged it was not the map ultimately recommended by the committee.
“This originated with that committee who was tasked with coming up with map choices,” Rylander said.
He said the map met the needed criteria, which included deviations in population.
“In my personal opinion, I think that (Alternative) C2 is as valid a choice as any of the maps,” Rylander said
Members of the public who testified were overwhelmingly against that map’s approval.
Resident Jackie Lane said the map deviated the most from what was put in front of voters in November. The November map did not take into account 2020 Census numbers, which led to population deviations greater than redistricting criteria.
“I don’t expect you to bow to public pressure, but this hearing will tell us all who you really are,” Lane said to the council.
Most who testified were in support of a map generated by county staff on April 19. It was originally under consideration on May 4 before it failed with a 2-3 vote. Following that, the Alternative C2 map was proposed by Rylander for consideration.
League of Women Voters of Clark County Vice President Ellie Hutton read a letter from league President Nancy Halvorson, which said the league is “dismayed, disappointed and disheartened” by the council’s actions during the redistricting process.
“To introduce a new map at this point is an insult to the public and to our elections office,” Hutton read. “Doing so goes against all of the principles and rules of redistricting.”
Teresa Hardy testified by reading the letter Inslee sent to Rylander announcing his appointment.
“The public sets high professional and ethical standards for those in public office,” Hardy recounted from Inslee’s letter. “If we want to maintain its trust and its support, we must always meet and exceed those standards.”
During council testimony, those in the meeting room gallery raised their voices at times, which led council chair Karen Bowerman to call for order.
Councilor Gary Medvigy addressed allegations that the council interfered with the process for their own benefit. Unlike a number of previous maps considered, Alternative C2 would keep Bowerman in district 3 and not move her into Medvigy’s district 4.
“The allegation is just simply false that it somehow benefits a person or party. It does not,” Medvigy said. “Each of these five districts remain as competitive as they were envisioned to be.”
Medvigy restated his opinion that the approval of a map should have never been in front of the council in the first place. He said he tried to get the process in front of a court.
He noted candidate filing will begin the following week, which put pressure on the process.
“This is standing on the edge of the cliff timewise as far as adjusting all the maps and accepting those candidates that wish to file for office. We need to do this today,” Medvigy said.
Councilor Temple Lentz, who voted against Alternative C2’s approval, said other maps that had public support could have been accepted sooner.
“I think it’s clear where this is going to go today and I’m very sorry to see it,” Lentz said. “However, since we have a council that consistently talks about transparency, we are at least seeing transparently what’s occurring before us.”
Councilor Julie Olson was absent from the meeting.
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