Scanning through city council emails the other day, this phrase caught my eye: “port-a-potty vigilantes.”
The line was in a memo to City Manager Eric Holmes from Julie Hannon, director of parks and recreation, and shared with the city council. Obviously there had been questions about whether the city could or should install a portable toilet in each neighborhood park.
For those of you who have better things to do with your life than think about how local government defines amenities, a “neighborhood park” is one that’s within one-half mile of every residence, or a 10-minute walk. The city has 60 developed neighborhood parks.
Unlike larger parks, neighborhood parks do not have restrooms.
According to Hannon’s memo, she’d been asked to list pros and cons of having one portable toilet in every neighborhood park.
Hannon could only come up with one pro, the obvious one: “Provides a location for park users to use facilities. These are especially handy for children, who tend to lack pre-planning abilities,” she wrote.
And then Hannon listed the cons:
1. On-going costs for placement, rental and on-going cleaning services. If port-a-potties were placed in all 60 developed neighborhood parks, the total rental and servicing cost would be approximately $264,000 annually*.
This figure does not include “extra-call out for service” at $150.00 per call for vandalism or unit replacement.
*Based on one ADA unit per park, $150.00 per month
2. Because only one unit will be placed at each park, the unit is required to be an ADA unit. These large units often provide ideal locations for overnight transient stops or illegal and nuisance behavior.
3. Cost to lock up port-a-potties at night. Per experience, in City of Vancouver and at other cities, these generally need to be locked at night, to avoid supply theft/vandalism. The cost for this service is not included in the above fees.
4. Staff has, when port-a-potties are locked, experienced a few port-a-potty “vigilantes” who have cut locks or vandalized in protest on them being in the parks. These acts can (and have) included: tipping over units, burning units or jumping on units. If the company needs to come out to fix and repair a unit, a call-back charge is added to the monthly rental, or sometimes unit replacement costs are applied.
5. These units often smell and the smell can spread to the surrounding area. Hence, port-a-potties are sometimes not welcome near residential housing.
Based on Hannon’s memo, don’t cross your fingers hoping the city will decide to install a portable toilet in every neighborhood park. Or should I say cross your legs?]]>
Following a couple of recent instances of telephonic governance, the C-Tran Board of Directors is considering setting new rules on how — and how often — board members can call in for meetings.
A C-Tran board member has participated in a meeting by phone on two occasions this year. Former County Commissioner Steve Stuart phoned it in for his last C-Tran meeting in April, and Washougal City Councilor Connie Jo Freeman called in last month. (Both meetings, coincidentally, involved key votes on bus rapid transit.)
At its meeting last week, the board discussed a draft policy that would limit phone participation to two times per year for each member. One possible version of the rule would allow electronic attendance only under certain conditions, including if that board member’s alternate is also unable to be there in person.
The proposed rules drew a mixed reaction. Freeman said board members should be able to bring their experience to meetings even on rare occasions when they’re not able to attend in person.
“The fact that we’ve served on these boards and we have the history, and we just happen to be out of town through no fault of our own, I really would like to see that we’re able to (participate) on the board if we’re physically able to,” Freeman said.
Six of the board’s nine voting members have alternates. The three county commissioners, and the board’s non-voting labor representative, don’t. Roy Jennings, the labor representative, said he’d prefer to see other members’ alternates sit in if someone is absent.
Jennings pointed out that Freeman phoned in for last month’s meeting while her alternate, Camas City Councilor Greg Anderson, sat in the audience. If board members are allowed to call in as they wish, Jennings said, “why do we have alternates?”
In general, sitting C-Tran board members bring a better perspective than their alternates, said County Commissioner David Madore.
“Some of these issues and some of these projects have a lot of depth to them and a lot of history, and realistically, the alternates are not tuning into all those conversations,” Madore said. “The continuity we can bring, a more informed participation, is important.”
“I would think it would be better to allow the board member to decide what they think is appropriate,” Madore added.
Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow has frequently pinch-hit for La Center Mayor Jim Irish in recent years. Yacolt Town Councilor Lewis Gerhardt has also sat in for Battle Ground City Councilor Bill Ganley.
C-Tran doesn’t currently have written policies on phone participation in meetings. The board didn’t take any action last week.
All board members, by the way, were there in person.]]>
Clark County’s economic indicators appear to be on the rise, tracking similar state and national trends, according to the county’s second-quarter report.
The report is filled with ups and downs, as one might expect, as the economy continues to rebound with the county’s budget lagging a bit farther behind.
Unemployment in Clark County has dropped to 6.4 percent. By comparison, the unemployment rate in the U.S. is 6.1 percent, and both are below the Federal Reserve’s target of 6.5 percent. Retail sales between June, 30 2013 and June 30 2014 increased by 9.2 percent, while taxable retail sales in unincorporated areas jumped 8.7 percent. Median home sales have seen a jump as well, from $235,400 in the first quarter of 2014 to $244,000 in the second quarter of 2014.
Keep in mind, the county is tracking along a parallel path with other counties in Washington, so it’s not as if Clark County is doing well independent of other jurisdictions. “Sales tax receipts for most Washington counties have improved,” the report states.
The county also employs fewer people now than it has in the past, a sign for some that the county is doing more with less. In the current budget, there are 1,659 positions, a 16-person decrease from 2011-2012. The good news for the county’s economic growth hasn’t necessarily translated to county departments, however. Development service permits are still low. For the first time in two years, permit revenue from single-family housing did not cover the full cost of operations, according to a county presentation.
REET receipts have also slowed and are now behind budget for the biennium. And then there’s the facilities budget, which continues to operate at a deficit. The fund is currently $104,000 in the red.
The county concludes that the economic indicators are inconsistent, with increases to retail tax revenue driven primarily by construction, a historically volatile industry. According to the report, five economic trends have improved, four have gotten worse and 20 have stayed the same.]]>
Clark County Commissioner David Madore has a shiny new website dedicated to his east county bridge idea. Too bad there are parts of it that nobody can read.
Unless, that is, you read Latin. Even then, it’s nothing but gibberish.
The new website has gone live and, while the landing page is in English, the page outlining the project’s “vision” is a garbled mess of Latin. It’s filled with what’s known as “dummy text” — Latin words that have no meaning that typsetters use to punch-up empty space. The new website dedicated to the east county bridge appears to be replacing an older, bare-bones version of the site, which went live last year. Most of the information on the page is similar to what appeared on the older version, with the addition of references to FIGG Engineering Group, the Florida-based bridge design firm that presented its proposal for an east county bridge in July.
The webpage’s domain name is registered to MotionNET Inc., a company Madore owns.
The words — the English ones, at least — closely mirror the language Madore has been using in public meetings to sell the project, which, at this point, remains his to sell. He neglects to mention on the website or elsewhere that before the project moves forward, it will need the OK of Oregon partners, including the Port of Portland, the city of Portland and Metro, none of whom have expressed interest. Then there’s the city of Vancouver, where five of the six city councilors and the mayor have said they would not issue the necessary land-use and street permits for the bridge.
The four-lane bridge would extend from Southeast 192nd Ave. over the Columbia River, cross Government Island and land at Airport Way in Portland. An advisory vote asking residents whether they want the county to pursue the project will go before voters in November, so Madore is working to sell it as an alternative of sorts to the Columbia River Crossing.
We know what a bureaucracy with $200 million and a dozen years cannot do. It is refreshing to see what the private sector can do in months, at zero cost. They will deliver a complete design for a ready to build toll-free bridge that includes everything, start-to-finish, with a guaranteed price under $900 million.
So the talking points are there. But it appears Madore has more ambitious plans for the website than for it just to be the hosting ground for his bridge boosterism, so it’s curious that something so incomplete would go live. It’s not the sort of thing that instills a great amount of confidence among people who are looking for answers about the project. I’ll keep monitoring the website in the coming days and weeks to report what Madore replaces the dummy text with.
If he replaces it with anything. Once translated, it’s pretty entertaining. And it may even contain a hidden message or two.
This can be a fun, pretty easy. Wow, now I need to compare. No drink or use the arrows to push the advantage. Airplane tank kits, chemical regional football soccer television. I really, except high school, the guys it would be nice to be honest, the keyboard of life around the world. No, my mass, customers and the (???) that, it’s just not right now. I’d storage, various unseemly, planning a program aimed at one-time. Rather, it’s pain or the soft environment from the across the country, nor the near future. It’s free and life is in the UK, however, the consumer, and to help you. But Iraqis are expected to push domestic life, but always the winner of revenue. Unfortunately, I hate to put a gate element of the bed sheets. Wow, either before, a value that law enforcement and, in the main, but the package. Until funny laugh, but it’s just not available, the consumer or salad. But a sustainable economy.
– Caesar Madorius
For those who may have seen this Facebook post by State. Rep Liz Pike …
and wondered what resolution she was talking about, I’ve posted a link to it below. I don’t believe the resolution will actually be brought to a vote, however. Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt sent an email Friday to councilors with a draft resolution, and hasn’t heard enough support to merit putting it on an agenda.
From: Leavitt, Tim
Sent: Friday, August 08, 2014 9:06 AM
To: Larry.Smith@cityofvancouver.us; Burkman Jack; Hansen, Bart; Turlay, Bill; McEnerny-Ogle, Anne; Topper, Alishia
Subject: CRC Thank You Resolution
Good Morning Council,
Attached please find a copy of a proposed resolution regarding the CRC, brought forward by Bob
Schaefer. After an initial meeting with Bob, and then subsequent conversation, I asked him to make contact with council members to present this document and ask for your input.
Bob has indicated to me that each councilmember he has spoken with and presented this document to is supportive.
If this is the case, please respond back to me (no need to REPLY ALL) that you are interested in placing this resolution on an upcoming agenda for discussion and action.
Timothy D. Leavitt| Mayor
From APIL’s perspective, it’s too bad if the resolution doesn’t go to a vote. It’s not just a “thank you” resolution. It’s a passive aggressive way of showing Clark County Commissioner David Madore and the Madoristas that the Columbia River Crossing wasn’t, as Madore calls it, a “top-down” project, as it lists every group involved in the years-long megaproject and all of the CRC supporters. Including city of Vancouver voters, judging by this paragraph:
“WHEREAS, in November 2013 Vancouver voters re-elected Mayor Tim Leavitt and Councilman Jack Burkman, and elected Councilwoman Alishia Topper and Councilwoman Anne McEnerny-Ogle, selecting them over candidates, including one longtime incumbent, who had declared their opposition to the CRC,”
Obviously, we here at APIL encourage passive-aggressive resolutions, such as when Madore and Tom Mielke trolled the city council by passing a resolution defining “integrity” and then mailed it to 341 people, as if they cared. I mean, if public officials focused on setting policies that moved the community forward – what would we have to blog about?
By the way, we all know what Leavitt did with his copy of the integrity resolution.
As promised, here’s a link to the 22-page draft resolution.
Modified copy of CRC Resolution]]>
At Tuesday’s Board of County Commissioners meeting, a Vancouver resident pressed David Madore for details on how he plans to finance his four-lane bridge. (You know, the one he said in January would be built within five years. The one that starts and ends in areas where county commissioners don’t have jurisdiction. The one located in a spot where regional transportation planners identified would need a bridge, but not until Clark County’s population hits 1 million. The one he compares to the megaproject CRC.)
“You guys are way ahead of yourselves … in moving forward with a proposal, because there is no financing plan … we need to see a financing plan before you put this out to the public,” said Craig Dewey.
Commissioner Ed Barnes agreed with Dewey that there has been a lack of transparency by Madore and Tom Mielke, and reiterated he won’t support a third bridge because the problem continues to be on Interstate 5.
Madore countered that FIGG Engineering Group and PLC Construction have the financing planned. They are able to stand behind the project, and are pre-qualified, he said.
“The finance plan, we were way ahead of anything that the CRC did … The money is there. All we need to do is have each state say, ‘Yes,’” Madore said.
In response to Madore’s claims, Vancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman emailed a public disclosure request to the county: “I request a copy of the proposal for an East County Bridge presented by Figg Engineering to the Board of County Commissioners or to any Commissioner.”
An assistant in the commissioners’ office emailed Burkman links to a slide presentation made at the July 25 meeting and to a CVTV video of the event.
Burkman wrote back: “At today’s meeting Commissioner Madore stated that he has a complete proposal, including financing plan. That is what I am requesting.”
The assistant replied that everything the county has is online.
Then Burkman received a letter from Madore:
From: Madore, David
Sent: Tuesday, August 05, 2014 12:50 PM
To: ‘firstname.lastname@example.org‘; Madore, David
Subject: East County Bridge
Councilman Jack Burkman,
I am pleased to hear that you are interested in our community’s opportunity to move forward with vision and leadership as we consider the tangible grand turnkey proposal that has been offered to us.
We now have the sound counsel of an expert transportation architect, an appropriate design, a competent bridge building company that has committed to build the project within five years of the green light, a known maximum price, a package that includes all permits, compliances, processes, connections, the whole kitchen sink, and available pre-approved financing.
As stated in the presentation and Q&A time, this project, like the CRC, does not include any federal highway funds. And like the CRC, any bi-state bridge would be paid for by the two states. But unlike the CRC, the total cost of this project is less than the down payment alone that the states were willing to pay for the CRC project.
The financing is very simple. Oregon and Washington would pay for this bi-state bridge either in cash or in payments, as preferred by the states. The CRC required a local match for $850 million in FTA funds and billions in debt above the $900 million down payment. This project eliminates the FTA local match, the billions in debt, and therefore does not need to tolls that were necessary to cover those expenses.
This bottom up process is the reverse of the CRC top down process. As we begin by presenting a vision that was already encouraged by the citizens, and a now that know the bridge can be built, we can progressively include a larger circle of citizens, community local leaders, legislators, Ports, DOTs, MPOs and finally our two governors.
The design / build / transportation architect team is available for Q&A times and meetings. More meetings and brainstorming sessions are on the horizon. I welcome you and your colleagues to help our community to find a way to move forward.
If you have any questions, I invite your call. My cell # is 360-601-3056.
I’ll finish this post with a nod to #tbt, and include this quote from Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt’s 2011 State of the City Address:
“Finally, Leavitt fiercely called for support of the Columbia River Crossing project, dismissing proposals for a third bridge and saying people with “disingenuous motives” are trying to distract from the project.”]]>
Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt led the city council last week in saying goodbye to Ted Gathe, who retired July 31 after 25 years with the city, 20 of which were spent as the city attorney.
“Our beloved City Attorney Ted Gathe is leaving us,” Leavitt said during a special presentation at the end of the July 28 council meeting. He asked Gathe if he was going to shed a tear.
“No, I’m not going to shed a tear,” Gathe said. “I am a little melancholy.”
Leavitt said it has been a pleasure to work with Gathe and he appreciated Gathe’s advice on important and difficult issues facing the community.
“I think you’re the longest-lasting relationship I’ve had in the past decade,” joked Leavitt, which got a laugh.
“It’s really heartbreaking for me to see you go,” Leavitt said.
Gathe thanked the city council and said he was grateful for the good fortune to spend the bulk of his career with the city. He said his job caused him to be “a little bit stressed on occasion” but he was never bored. The council gave him side-by-side framed pictures of Vancouver from the year he started (1989) and 2014. Councilors also presented Gathe with a gift basket that included bottles of wine. (The councilors paid for the gifts themselves.)
While Gathe retired from the city, he hasn’t stopped practicing law. He started Aug. 1 on a contract basis for the Vancouver Housing Authority, and will do work for the Columbia Land Trust and Hough Foundation.
On Monday, new City Attorney Bronson Potter was sworn in by Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey.
Potter was hired as chief assistant city attorney last year after 22 years at the Clark County Prosecutor’s Office. In his last five years with the county he was chief civil deputy prosecutor and lead counsel to the Board of County Commissioners.
Kimsey said Monday was a very special swearing-in for him because Bronson has been his best friend for more than 30 years. Awwww.
“Hiring Bronson was the best personnel decision that Mr. Gathe ever made,” Kimsey said prior to administering the oath. “Clark County’s loss is the city of Vancouver’s gain. Bronson is an extremely capable and dedicated public servant with an outstanding work ethic. When you ask Bronson a question, or his opinion on an issue, he’s not going to tell you what you think you want to hear. He’s going to tell you what you need to hear.”
If you would never allow Commissioner David Madore to attach a bridge to Southeast 192nd Avenue … JUMP!
I’m joking. This photo was taken Monday at Esther Short Park and the council (plus City Manager Eric Holmes, whose face is blocked by Larry Smith’s arm) only jumped because photographer Steven Lane asked them to jump. When I later saw that only Turlay didn’t leave the ground, I decided to make a joke about the fact that Turlay is the only member of the council who thinks Madore’s bridge idea has merit.
Alishia Topper’s jump is impressive, isn’t it?
Despite being generally satisfied with their jobs, Clark County employees say they view the county as “an increasingly political organization where favoritism, cronyism and pressure to conform appear to influence how policies and procedures may be implemented,” according to a work environment survey.
The county released the findings last week in its “FYI Online” newsletter, a vehicle that’s typically dedicated to promoting county programs and workplace issues. The study found that employees were skeptical of the county’s ability to “negotiate honestly and keep commitments to its employees.”
Conducted by Armando X. Estrada, an industrial psychologist for the Department of Defense, the study is the third of its kind that the county has conducted since 2008. The most recent study measured how employees viewed several issues within the county, including cohesion, inclusion and organizational climate.
“Across the board, there are signs of concerns,” Estrada concluded, according to the county’s newsletter.
Top concerns for employees include fairness with regard to compensation as well as promotion and a lack of cohesion among top leaders, a list that includes directors, deputy directors and elected leaders. No names were included with the survey, however.
Other key findings show that minority employees feel they are harassed more frequently than their coworkers. Women feel they’re subjected to sexism at a higher rate than men, 12.8 percent to 4.8 percent. The highest rate of harassment was reported among the county’s non-heterosexual employees, 26.5 percent of whom said they’d been subjected to negative remarks or behavior. It’s important to point out that only 4 percent of county employees characterize themselves as not heterosexual.
The survey presents a peek inside a governmental organization that, for the past year and a half, has seen several of its senior-most employees quit. Those names include Bill Barron as county administrator, Bronson Potter as senior deputy prosecuting attorney, Kelly Sills as economic development director, Glen Olson as deputy county administrator, Pete Capell as public works director and Jim Dickman as budget director, among others.
Estrada’s report also outlines several ways in which the county might be able to improve employee morale. They include considering how to incorporate employee input into organizational decision making and conducting periodic trainings on performance evaluations.
It wasn’t all bad news. The study also found that current employees view their jobs more favorably than alternatives and are not likely to quit. Estrada presented his findings to county employees at a presentation in late July.]]>
Reading through Vancouver city council emails, it’s good to see Councilor Bill Turlay lets his fellow council members and the city manager know what’s what. I mean, who are you going to believe? Turlay, who once flew planes “where weather is made” or a bunch of scientists who work for the federal government?
The email that Turlay forwarded was from Gordon Fulks; Turlay subscribes to his “global warming realists” group.