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Recommendations for County Clerk, Port levy lid lift, and initiatives

The Enterprise endorses Renea Campbell for Klickitat County Clerk, recommends approval of the Klickitat County Port District’s request for a temporary levy lid lift, and opposes passage of Initiatives 517 and 522.

County Clerk: Ms. Campbell, a Goldendale-area resident, is the most qualified candidate in the current election for the partisan position of County Clerk, the administrator of Superior Court. The winner will serve out the remaining year of a 4-year term before having to stand for re-election in 2014. Ms. Campbell, who is running as a Republican, is an accomplished woman with an extensive background in the workings of the state’s court system. She has been putting her knowledge and 24 years of experience to work for the Clerk’s Office since her appointment in April.

Ms. Campell served for 18 years as administrator of Klickitat County’s East District Court, and in 1986 she became a non-attorney District Court Commissioner with the authority to preside over court business when a judge was not available. Her candidate’s statement in the Klickitat County Voters’ Pamphlet sums up her case for why voters should elect her over her opponent, Sherill Basse of Goldendale: “I believe that my extensive court back-ground with District Court and my training and management skills enable me to perform the duties of County Clerk capably and professionally.”

We applaud Ms. Basse for getting into the race; a contested election is always preferable to seeing someone get a free skate. Ms. Basse, who is also running as a Republican, has a lot of valuable experience and knowledge in her own right, but none of it is based in the operation of the Clerk’s Office or the Superior Court. Because of that, and because the election is for a short term, we believe the county will be best served by electing Campbell to complete the term of former Clerk Saundra Olson.

Port Levy Lid Lift: If residents of western Klickitat County want Port of Klickitat properties in Bingen and Dallesport to continue to be hubs for economic development, they must support the Port’s request to lift its property tax levy lid for a term of 6 years starting in 2014. The Port Commission is asking the district’s voters to approve a measure that would provide the district with additional revenue for development of industrial and recreational facilities on Port properties. Currently, the Port levies 17 cents per $1,000 of assessed property valuation; it used to have an Industrial Development District levy of 35 cents per $1,000, but that expired at the end of 2012.

In this election, the Port District is seeking voter authorization to raise its levy rate to 45 cents per $1,000 for collection in 2014 and approval to increase levy amounts in the remaining five years of the temporary lift by up to 3 percent per year.

The Port’s current board of commissioners has shown itself to be a wise council when it comes to investing in projects that will pay dividends for years to come in terms of expanding employment and the county’s industrial tax base. We need only point to the construction taking place at Bingen Point right now as evidence that the commissioners have been prudent in their expenditures on utilities and other infrastructure to serve Port lands and patient in their efforts to attract long-term tenants such as Insitu and Custom Interface.

The wind is at the Port’s back and we, the district’s voters, should help our Port Commissioners capitalize on that momentum by voting Yes for the temporary levy lid lift.

Initiative 517: The laws and processes currently in place for gathering signatures for initiatives and referendum have served the state well for years. They protect initiative sponsors’ free speech rights and property owners’ rights to control what takes place on their property. Now comes I-517, which, in a nutshell, would set penalties for bullying, as in interfering with or retaliating against signature-gatherers and petition signers; require that all measures receiving sufficient signatures be placed on the ballot; and extend time for gathering initiative petition signatures, if enacted by a majority of voters. In our opinion, the system is not broken. If anything, it protects voters from the kinds of frivolous initiatives that professional initiative organizers try to place on the ballot from time to time. A No vote on I-517 is the right answer to this question.

Initiative 522: This measure is well-intentioned but poorly written. It would require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale. Meat and dairy products are excluded from the proposed law’s regulations. Though we dislike the large amounts of out-of-state special interest money that has poured into the state to oppose passage of I-522, we dislike even more laws that are nothing more than half measures. I-522 is a half measure that, if enacted on Nov. 5 and allowed to go into effect on July 1, 2015, could lead to food price increases. Even though we doubt that adding a few extra lines to a label is a costly undertaking, food is already an expensive commodity, and some producers and manufacturers are threatening price increases if I-522 becomes law. We believe Washingtonians are entitled to know what they are consuming, but we also believe I-522 is flawed and unworthy of becoming the national standard other states might look to for guidance. Sponsors of I-522 need to go back to the drawing board. SB


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