The Vancouver City Council on Monday authorized City Manager Eric Holmes to tack another two years onto the contract with the Humane Society for Southwest Washington.
The city will pay an estimated $278,908 in 2015 and $292,853 in 2016, as costs for doggy and kitty lodging have been on the rise. Although, as Holmes noted in a report to the council, it’s still cheaper than or comparable to what other shelters charge in the region.
In 2012, the Humane Society increased fees from $69.76 per stray to $120 (for Vancouver and Clark County; smaller cities pay less) after calculating their cost of service per animal was approximately $200. The fee increased to $132.50 in 2013 and is now $145. It will increase to $160 next year, and $175 in 2016.
According to the contract, “animals” are “specifically defined as dogs, cats, domestic birds, domestic rabbits and small mammals, fowl, goats, pot-bellied pigs and small reptiles.” The city is only charged $50 for ferrets, rabbits and birds.
So rates are increasing, but who can say no to a face like this?
The city doesn’t have its own facility for stray or owner-surrendered animals. We can’t expect the city council to adopt them all unless we want to see them end up on a reality show. Why, Councilor Bill Turlay recently took in one stray cat, and that didn’t go well.
Here’s from an email he sent to Holmes, when Holmes was trying to schedule a time to discuss the budget: “Thank you for your patience,” Turlay wrote. “Among other calamities to hit our house was the male Lilac Point Siamese cat that “adopted” us. He wanted to dominate the house and our old Bo-Bo took exception….quite an uproar. Steph was very upset. Finally the Human Society found an ad for him on Craig’s list…..our house was a minor disaster area; however, all is calm now.”
Ha ha. He accidentally wrote “the Human Society,” which could be another name for the Clark County Jail, where people are kept until adopted by the Department of Corrections or released to a family member. (By comparison, though, it costs $81.02 a day to lodge a person at the Human Society.)
Ahem. Where was I? Oh yes, dogs and cats. As Clark County Commissioner David Madore found out, building and operating a facility would cost considerably more than contracting with the Humane Society, so that’s why the county and cities have contracts with the Humane Society.
And if reading the words “Humane Society” so often in this post makes you want to adopt a pet, well, there are plenty to choose from at the Humane Society.
The state legislature is in contempt of court for a lack of progress in fixing the way it pays for public education. State lawmakers also have to contend with the end of psychiatric boarding and may, depending on the results from next week’s election, have to deal with a new law limiting class size.
Considering the city of Vancouver’s No. 1 priority for the 2015 legislative session is, “No unfunded or underfunded mandates and no preemption of local control,” city policymakers aren’t exactly setting the bar high. But they also want state lawmakers to know how they feel.
During a Monday workshop with city’s “dynamic duo,” as Mayor Tim Leavitt called them, lobbyists Mark Brown and Jim Justin warned the council about the unpleasantness ahead.
“It has the potential to be a perfect storm,” said Brown, listing not only the McCleary and mental health rulings but the increasing costs of pensions — because retired public employees are living longer, which, Brown said, is a good thing — and cost of living increases for teachers and state employees.
“Any lobbyist who has vacation plans before next July probably isn’t a very good lobbyist,” Brown said. He said cities will have to propose narrowly focused agendas. The city is asking for a $3 million “local projects” grant for the Waterfront Park project, and has five designated priorities for transportation package including rebuilding the Mill Plain Boulevard/Interstate 5 interchange and two new interchanges on SR-500 at Falk Road/Northeast 42nd and Stapleton Road/Northeast 54th.
Then Brown said something that shocked me.
“The other dynamic that will be in play next January is hyper partisanship,” Brown said. “Hyper partisanship. Across the board. And that’s not going to make it easier to find middle ground and compromise.”
It gets worse?
Since cities are fed up with, among other things, that the state collects the majority of the new tax revenues generated from development in cities, Brown said he prepared an introduction to the city’s legislative agenda that is worded more strongly than in years past. He told the council that City Manager Eric Holmes had signed off on the intro, which Brown said has some edge to it.
“This is a completely appropriate message for us to send to our legislators, most of whom down here are in fact our friends,” Brown said. “But to let them know that things are going in the wrong direction in terms of the traditional state, local partnership. And I know that every one of you agree with that. And so do most of our local legislators, by the way.”
Here’s the sharp, edgy intro:
“The City of Vancouver is very concerned over recent actions that have negatively impacted the state-city partnership. We are very aware of the fiscal challenge facing the State. However addressing your funding needs by taking away operating and capital funds from cities and ending virtually all state sponsored economic and community development programs is shortsighted and fails to recognize that cities provide the means by which we grow our economy and generate more revenue for the State. Your future is tied to our future and strong cities will equal a strong State of Washington.”
Looks like another honorable mention certificate will be en route to All Politics is Local.
Our little blog was again named a finalist in Editor & Publisher’s EPPY Awards for Best News/Political Blog with under a million unique monthly visitors. We won the contest last year after being finalists in 2011 and 2012. We thought we raised our game with the addition of the sock puppets. Our hopes were high for a repeat.
We found out today that we lost. I was disappointed until I clicked on the winning blogs by The Center for Public Integrity. While our blog is where we try to have fun, these “blog posts” would be front-page articles in The Columbian. Obviously any organization with integrity in its title isn’t going to have children voicing sock puppet re-enactments of public meetings. Or poking fun at noted wordsmith Tom Mielke. Or matching members of the Vancouver City Council up with the castaways from Gilligan’s Island.
Instead they are writing blog posts such as, “How Washington starves its election watchdog.”
I felt a little better after I saw it was illustrated with a cartoon.
Best News/Political Blog with under 1 million unique monthly visitors
All Politics is Local – The Columbian
Consider the Source & Primary Source – The Center for Public Integrity (W)
Ear to the Ground – Truthdig
The Spot – The Denver Post
In two and a half hours of debate about climate change, Kyle Dittmer may have uttered the most pressing question of all.
“Why are we even having a debate about this issue?” He asked.
Dittmer, a hydrologist-meteorologist with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, raised the point in noting that the vast majority of scientists — some 97 percent — acknowledge that climate change and global warming are happening, and human activity is the primary cause. But that didn’t stop local activist Don Steinke and Vancouver City Councilor Bill Turlay from organizing a formal debate to settle the issue once and for all in Vancouver.
The debate took place Thursday night in the Vancouver Community Library. The United Nations headquarters in New York must have already been booked for that evening.
In Don Steinke’s corner, arguing in favor of man-made climate change, were Dittmer, activist and researcher Ryan Rittenhouse, and Daphne Wysham, a climate policy fellow at the Center for Sustainable Economy.
Team Turlay, making the case against human-caused climate change, included Don Easterbrook, a geology professor emeritus at Western Washington University; Nils-Axel Morner, a retired professor at Stockholm University; and Gordon Fulks, a physicist. All three have a Ph.D.
Taking umbrage to the term “climate denier,” Easterbrook recast the debate in his remarks. The question is not what the climate is doing, he said, but why it is doing it.
“Let’s agree on something offhand: Global climate change is real,” Easterbrook said.”Global warming is real. So is global cooling.”
Easterbrook went on to list 10 “proven facts” in his presentation. Among them: No warming has occurred in the past 18 years, and carbon dioxide represents too small a percentage of the earth’s atmosphere to affect temperature in a significant way. He said natural cycles have affected the climate for millions of years, and pointed to recent cooling in Antarctica.
Easterbrook ended his presentation this way:
“Global cooling is a far greater hazard than global warming,” he said. “The thing I would leave you with is, be afraid of global cooling, not global warming.”
Dittmer noted the vast majority of the world’s glaciers are shrinking, not growing. And while data from the past two decades show cooling, temperatures from the past 100 years reveal a clear warming trend, Rittenhouse said.
“We can often get lost in the data and the graphs … to suit what our perception is,” Rittenhouse said.
Perception, he added, is a big factor fueling the so-called controversy surrounding climate change.
“The media is not representing this issue accurately. We’re not even representing it honestly here,” Rittenhouse said. “What we’re doing here is we’re having a political, philosophical debate. We are not having a scientific debate here.”
Maybe Steinke should have been allowed 97 panelists to counter Turlay’s team of three to make things realistic.
“The scientific debate is in the peer reviewed literature,” Rittenhouse said. “It is settled, and it has been settled for quite a long time now.”
The event appeared to draw a good crowd in the library’s Columbia Room. (If you missed it, you can watch it online via CVTV.) I’m guessing not too many people changed their minds on climate change.
In any case, somebody should probably call the U.N. and tell them we took care of it.]]>
Swapping out Jeanne Stewart and Jeanne Harris for Alishia Topper and Anne McEnerny-Ogle, as city of Vancouver voters did last year, has created a noticeable difference on the council. You get the sense that they all actually enjoy each other’s company.
Last year, the council couldn’t even all agree on a basic set of guidelines on how to behave.
Now, they are down with being downright “jovial.” On Monday, the council had a workshop with Jan Bader, the city’s program and policy development manager, to review a draft “strategic direction” plan called Vision 2020 (get it?). Earlier this year, the council spent one full day and three half-days with two professional facilitators, talking about values, hopes for the council and dreams for the city. They discussed high-level goals as well as practical matters, such as what type of atmosphere they want to create at weekly meetings.
I didn’t attend the facilitated discussions because my tolerance for that kind of talk from public officials is low. I prefer to wait until there’s action, or at least a specific outline for action that includes a funding source, before I write a story that, let’s face it, only my editor and Jack Burkman will read.
Anyway. The city paid $30,900 to Molly Rodriquez Keating and Alanna Hein to facilitate the discussions. I asked City Manager Eric Holmes why he or Bader didn’t facilitate the sessions. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that it puts him in a difficult spot to try and lead his seven bosses in productive talks because they are his bosses.
Apparently professional facilitators have polite ways of telling a person to stop talking about some issue nobody else wants to hear about. If Holmes had that ability, Councilor Bill Turlay would stop forwarding him emails about the myths of climate change.
More important, Holmes said by taking himself and Bader out of the process they aren’t guiding the council to adopt what they believe should be the council’s priorities and policies.
You can read the draft report here. It includes bold, good-luck-with-that goals such as “Strive to build the strongest most durable economy in the region,” and “Become an international destination for the creative sector” and, perhaps the boldest of all, “create community gathering spaces … (including) a focal point in east Vancouver.”
My favorite line is on Page 13, under the goal “Offer premiere historical/cultural experiences for residents and visitors.” One of the specific goals: “A minor league sports team.”
Gee. If only a team would express interest in moving to the city. (And while it was former Commissioner Marc Boldt who balked, killing the effort to bring the Yakima Bears to Vancouver, Boldt cited a lack of support from the city council in his decision.)
Clark County Commissioner David Madore did something this week he rarely does: He apologized.
Not to me, but I’ll get to that.
The apology stemmed from something he wrote on his Facebook page, where he curates a blog on which he cheerleads for certain county projects and blasts public officials with whom he disagrees. In the post, Madore, who uses the word “transparency” as if it were a conjunction, wrote that the county’s Chief Civil Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Chris Horne had told him that the prosecuting attorney’s office hadn’t read or vetted, checked or approved the proposed home rule charter, and that it might not be legal under state law.
Problem is that’s not correct. A county attorney sat in on all of the board of freeholder meetings, a simple enough fact to check. The offending post was reworded to clarify that Madore had “misspoke.”
When Vancouver resident Michele Wollert asked Madore about the erroneous Facebook message during the public comments period at this week’s commissioners meeting, he was forced to address it publicly.
“I did misspeak when I said what I did, and I apologize for that. I did talk with Chris Horne. The degree of vetting is really what’s in question. There are other discussions involved. But, bottom line, I misspoke, and I apologize.”
This isn’t the first time that Madore’s words have written checks that the facts couldn’t cash. When he was running for commissioner, he said the size of county government had increased. That wasn’t true, either. The county budget had actually decreased during Boldt’s time in office. At the time, Madore issued the following apology:
“I messed up! I made a statement on a previous flier that turned out to be flat-out wrong. I said Marc Boldt doubled the size of government during his terms in office. Not true. It was an unintentional error. I am responsible and I apologize. I will always tell the truth as best I understand it. If I err, I will make it right, publicly. We serve, not for ourselves, but for our community, our families and our grandkids. We must model leadership, character and integrity, even when we get it wrong.”
But, of course, Madore has made plenty of claims on Facebook that have been questioned as factually iffy since he took office. His way around having to address people’s concerns about the facts is that he doesn’t allow his critics to post comments to his Facebook page. Instead, he bans them and labels them members of a hate group that’s out to get him. The list of banned posters is some 600 names long.
Well, make that 601.
Apparently I belong to that hate group now because I asked a simple question. Keep in mind that Madore told my colleague, Stephanie Rice, that he would only communicate through Facebook after she contacted him by phone for a story about how the county’s budget director disputed claims Madore had made on Facebook.
Do you see a trend emerging?
Knowing how Madore felt, and respecting his wishes, I posted the following question to his Facebook page for a story I was working on. I did this out of goodwill, so the commissioner could respond to some claims being made about him.
In response, he deleted my message and blocked me from commenting again. In essence, he silenced my voice, which was merely asking a question that was already making the rounds in the media.
When I asked Madore Wednesday why he not only didn’t answer the question but then blocked me, he mumbled something about not giving “matches to arsonists.” I told him I thought he owed me an explanation as to why he would ban me for asking a question. His response: He walked away.]]>
I’ve recently reported that there’s an anti-charter commercial making the rounds, paid for by the Don’t Lose Your Voice PAC. People curious about the commercial can view it and other anti-charter videos curated by the group on the political action committee’s website, http://www.votenocharter.com/.
It’s also embedded here:
It’s a pretty slick commercial that sticks to the PAC’s message that the charter would build a wall between constituents and their government. Pro-charter factions, like Auditor Greg Kimsey, find the argument “ludicrous,” and have said so publicly. But still, a “wall separating officials from the citizens” is the prevailing message for folks who believe the charter would do bad things.
The commercial represents county government as a collection of blocks stacked together — basically, county government as the game Jenga. The blocks are stacked in a dimly lit warehouse straight out of a “Saw” movie (although with fewer dismembered body parts).
A disembodied voice chimes in, as the camera pans past the blocks. “This represents Clark County government. It’s thriving and stable.”
Then the camera zips over to another set of blocks. These are red and the word “charter” is stenciled on them. “Yet special interests want your vote for a charter that would bring harmful changes to county government,” the voice says.
The red blocks disassemble and slither their way to the other set, representing county government, where they insert themselves. “This charter builds a wall of separation between your elected representatives and county staff and transfers unprecedented power to an unelected county manager not accountable to you,” the voice continues.
At this point, the blocks are stacked high and teetering. “This charter (dramatic pause) doesn’t stack up.” Then all the blocks fall over.
The commercial was produced by a company called Pachyderm Productions. The company doesn’t show up on the secretary of state’s website. However, a search of previous videos produced by Pachyderm Productions indicates they’ve been at this for a while. A few weeks ago the same folks posted an anti-charter video in what appears to be on ongoing series called “Morning Coffee with the Rohans.”
From what I can tell, the series tells the story of two coffee-swilling insomniacs who have awkward conversations about local political issues in their bathrobes. The anti-charter episode of “Morning Coffee with the Rohans” has the titular couple reading the charter and barking lines like, “You know what it sounds like! It sounds like someone is sitting here and promising you something like free health care and free phones,” followed by unconvincing laughter.
A search of previous episodes of “Morning Coffee with the Rohans” revealed another good one from a year ago. It’s centered around the berobed protagonists talking about who they should vote for in the Vancouver City Council races. It features some pretty hilarious humor. (Sample joke: “I was at that new open-carry coffee shop, Stand Your Grounds, and I saw these Columbians in the trash.” I hope you can continue reading this post with those tears of laughter streaming down your face.)
The best line comes at the end of the video, when the Rohans give their endorsements for city council candidates. The male Rohan tells his wife that his research indicates they should vote for Micheline Doan, Frank Decker and Jeanne Stewart. His endorsement of Stewart is, in a word, bizarre.
“You know the great thing about Jeanne?” the male Rohan barks in his joke-telling voice. “You don’t have to rub a magic lamp to get your wishes.”
A group of a dozen or so community leaders and activists opposed to the oil-by-rail terminal proposed for the Port of Vancouver have taken their campaign to the streets with signs that say “Danger: Blast Zone.”
The anti-oil train campaign placed signs along the railroad tracks next to Fruit Valley Road and Lakeshore Avenue, where Vancouver and unincorporated Clark County meet.
Several mile-long unit trains loaded with highly volatile Bakken crude are already traveling that route daily.
Clark County code enforcement told the campaign the signs violate the rules and must be removed, while the city of Vancouver deems the signs to be protected political speech.
Paul Scarpelli, who heads Clark County’s code enforcement office, said campaigns wishing to place political signs must file an application with the community development department. The county received “a basketful of complaints” — which he clarified to be four — about the oil train signs. People who hope to sell their nearby homes were among those who objected.
Scarpelli said the signs are not political speech because there’s no ballot measure about oil trains before voters. Further, he said, the design violates a state law that prohibits signs “simulating directional, warning, or danger sign or light likely to be mistaken for such a sign or bearing any such words as ‘danger,’ ‘stop,’ ‘slow,’ ‘turn,’ or similar words.”
Chad Eiken, Vancouver’s development overlord, said his department turned to the city’s legal team. “Their position is that the anti-oil train signs are political signs and can’t be removed unless they violate our guidelines,” he said. “In their opinion, it’s a matter of free speech under the First Amendment.”
The Vancouver City Council has gone on record opposing the $210 million oil terminal proposed by Tesoro Corp. and Savage Companies, which would handle an average of 360,000 barrels of oil a day.
Vancouver resident Linda McLain, one of the organizers of the anti-oil train campaign, said the group has “no problem with the county.” The campaign placed only five or so signs outside city limits and those have all been stolen, she said.
“We have had approximately 200 signs stolen out of the 250 we bought. It is very bizarre — we put them up and within hours they are gone,” McLain said. “There’s obviously someone who doesn’t want those signs up.”
The campaign is a small group of people from all walks of life, according to its web site, which is deliberately vague. But these are the people who show up during the port commission’s public comment period to voice their opposition to the oil terminal project, said McLain and another organizer, Michael Piper. They contributed $1,200 of their own money to buy the signs.
Piper takes credit for the idea, a tactic he said he swiped from his days with Greenpeace opposing the so-called “white trains” that carried nuclear material.
During an Oct. 6 workshop about how the city’s taxicab ordinance should be expanded to include Uber and other transportation network companies, a few councilors did indicate they were less than impressed with Uber.
The company started operating in Vancouver in the summer. Subsequently, it was notified that its smartphone-based ride service, featuring a network of drivers who use their personal vehicles and charge flat fees, doesn’t fit under the city’s taxicab ordinance. As Assistant City Attorney Brent Boger opined in a July 25 memo, Uber is undeniably a taxi service and needs to comply with city regulations.
Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said she was a little concerned that Uber continued operating in Vancouver despite the letter describing the city’s legal stance.
“As good of a company as they are … I’m wondering if there is good faith there,” she said.
Councilor Alishia Topper said she used Uber to get to Portland. She said it was incredibly efficient and the business model makes sense.
One negative thing did happen, she said. Knowing the Rose City doesn’t allow Uber, she knew her driver wouldn’t be able to come pick her up in Portland and bring her back to Vancouver. She asked her driver what her options were for getting back home.
“He says, ‘Well, for the right price, I can come back and get you.’ And he handed me his own transportation card,” Topper said. She said she’s heard from two other people who had Uber drivers make the same offer.
“I don’t think it was an isolated incident,” Topper said.
She said the city needs to ask Uber about what it does to stop drivers from going rogue and starting their own transportation networks.
Mayor Tim Leavitt asked Boger what steps the city could take to stop Uber from operating.
Boger said the city could do a sting or get an injunction from a judge. Leavitt said he didn’t like either of those ideas and just wants to amend the city’s taxi ordinance as quickly as possible.
The council was also told the Vancouver Police Department has greater priorities than cracking down on taxicab code violators.
But it might be a good idea for Uber drivers to memorize the names and faces of city councilors and not do anything to further harm the company’s reputation among the city’s policymakers.
Political observers were waiting for County Commissioner David Madore to throw his money behind one of this year’s campaigns. He has so far given money to several Republican candidates, but he waited until recently before really dipping into his bank account to fund a campaign (like he did with his own run for county commissioner in 2012).
According to the state’s Public Disclosure Commission, Madore has given the Political Action Committee that’s opposing the proposed home rule charter, Don’t Lose Your Voice, $37,000 in two contributions last week. Previously, Clyde Holland, a local real estate developer and chairman of Holland Partner Group, donated $27,500. The PAC now has collected $81,700 in contributions.
Madore’s influx of cash means the Don’t Lose Your Vote PAC has almost generated as much money as the pro-charter PAC, ClarkForward. That PAC has taken in a little more than $91,588, including in-kind contributions. The pro-charter PAC has it’s own deep-pocketed donors, including David Nierenberg, Ed Lynch and Ken Fisher.
More information will be added to this blog post.]]>