So when you hear that state and local governments are facing tough times, this is what it means to communities. From The Columbian’s Michael Andersen:
What will change the most?
Probably public health, code enforcement, drug and mental health treatment and (don’t scoff) the county’s internal computer team.
The public health department will change radically, laying off a third of its staff by the end of 2009 and instead trying to recruit nonprofits to do the same work for less pay. The county will lose three of its seven code enforcement officers. Nobody knows yet where the cuts will come in drug and mental health treatment, because they depend on state decisions next year. And with five positions cut from the computer team, all the county’s computers will crash more and employees won’t be trained as well in using computers.
Will any county services improve?
The county sheriff’s road patrols will add four new deputy positions in 2010. The sheriff says that’s not enough to keep up with the population, so it’s an open question.
One thing worth noticing is that large portions of relatively urban areas are not incorporated in Clark County. We’re basically an unincorporated city being governed by county government, replete with all the resulting tension between urban and rural needs.
This area includes Salmon Creek, Felida and Hazel Dell, if you know the geography here. Lots of houses, schools and shopping areas were built in these places in the last fifteen years, but because of historical animosity towards Vancouver, the odds are the city will never be able to annex. Past efforts to form a separate city have failed miserably.
So we’re stuck being governed by a three-member county commission, the same system of government that we had at statehood. Right now control of that body is technically still in doubt as we await the results of an automatic recount in a county commission race, a recount which is being held up by a computer glitch. Most observers expect, though, that Republican Tom Mielke will hang on to win by about 200 votes.
We have all the challenges of other urbanized areas: traffic, crime, a need for more family wage jobs, etc. But our form of government is the same as when everyone grew peaches for a living. Don’t know if there were a ton of untreated mentally ill folks wandering around peach orchards back in the day, but it looks like one possible future for life in Clark County. Such are the costs of the Bush Depression.