During Monday’s update on the Columbia River waterfront project, the Vancouver City Council was briefed on infrastructure being built.
Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt has talked before about wanting a downtown streetcar, and in 2006 the city paid for a streetcar feasibility study. On Monday, Leavitt broached the subject again.
“We’ve talked about bicycle access and vehicle access,” he said. “You’ve heard me say many times before, if we are really looking out to the future, (we need to make sure) that there is capacity for high-capacity transit, in some form or another, (that it is) viable on this waterfront project.”
“Shall I assume that in the future there is a possibility, if it were to come to fruition, that there would be room for a light-rail oriented track?” Leavitt asked.
Yes, said Chad Eiken, the city’s development overlord.
He said plans for Columbia Way (the main east-west arterial to the 32-acre waterfront site) were designed so there’s no water line in Columbia Way because it would conflict with the voltage from any type of street car.
The ambitious waterfront development project, on the former Boise Cascade site, calls for it to be built out over the next 20 years.
About a week ago, APIL documented a concern from Sydney Reisbeck, who told commissioners how disappointed she was that an online form the county uses to gather feedback from citizens about the county’s comprehensive plan update appeared to limit responses to 450 characters — a ridiculous limitation that’s tantamount to three and a half tweets.
Of course, the 450-character limitation was just what the response form said, and there was really no way of knowing whether it was accurate. Could people write more? Who knows? But why would anyone bother to do that if they were told they couldn’t?
The commissioners essentially blamed the IT department and said the county would fix the problem. That seems to be the case. Now when you go to the county’s webpage, the form says people are allowed to use 8,000 characters. While it’s unclear whether the form actually limited people’s comments to 450 characters (or whether that was simply what the form said), the county’s Community Planning Director, Gordy Euler, said people have had lots of opportunities to provide their comments.
He explained that the online form was for people wishing to comment on the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). People may still comment, in various ways, on the Growth Management Act.
“People can make comment on the comprehensive plan at any time,” Euler said.“Anything we do, we welcome comments at any time.”
I still wonder how, exactly, such a mistake could be made. After all, 450 characters is a far cry from 8,000. For now, all the county is saying is that it was a fixable IT mistake.]]>
In today’s Letters to the Editor, a resident took issue with Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick. Specifically, he didn’t like that his assessed value went from $271,351 in 2013 to $331,317 this year, an increase of 21 percent.
Every year we write stories about how property values are calculated, and every year some people are outraged. Nothing new here.
But since it’s an election year, we’ll go ahead and give Van Nortwick a chance to respond.
Van Nortwick provided a list of comparable sales, with the man’s property at the top. (The current assessed value is listed as “sale price.”) The highlighted three-bedroom ranch-style homes that sold for $330,000 were the two Van Nortwick said were most comparable to the man’s three-bedroom ranch-style home.
As to how the man said he was treated by staff members, Van Nortwick wrote:
I talked to him today. He first called into our appraiser of the day who discussed it with him. He was told if he had concerns about the condition of his home he could provide interior photos documenting the condition, which he declined to provide. The next day one of our lead appraisers called him back to discuss it and told him that when processing the appeal he would get a call back but it would be at least 2 weeks. The two weeks would have been when we finished new construction and began reviewing appeals. Mr. Richardson indicated he thought that he would get a call back in two weeks. I apologized for the confusion and told him if I knew he was expecting a call back in two weeks we would have returned the call. We are in process right now of reviewing and putting evidence together for appeals. As always if someone wants to talk to me they can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (360)397-2092 x 4634.
When traveling, I’ve never been one to sign up for bus tours (OK, once in New York City I went on a tour of filming locations for a favorite TV show) but Friday I’m going on a bus tour for work.
It’s described by the city of Vancouver as a “mobile streets workshop,” but I’m just thinking of it as a tour of failing infrastructure that no tourist would ever take. (Although this does count as a public meeting, so if you do want to join the city council and public works employees on a C-Tran bus, call Amanda Delapena, council assistant, at 360-487-8605. Call now! Seats are limited!)
The tour will emphasize, according to a city press release, “Taking care of what we have, upgrading the arterial backbone, improving functionality, mobility, safety and livability and investing strategically in economic vitality.” As with other workshops, no action will be taken.
Did I mention I am supposed to be at City Hall at 8 a.m. sharp and the tour is four hours long ? Here’s a map of the route.
As soon as I heard of this outing, the theme song from “Gilligan’s Island,” popped in my head and I started matching the seven members of the council with the island inhabitants.
Here’s hoping it’s not really a fateful trip.
True, he’s only Mayor “Pro Tem,” but I think if the council was ever stranded on an island, Councilor Larry Smith would take charge. He gets to be the Skipper.
Councilor Bart “Boy Scout” Hansen would be eager to help. He’s Gilligan.
The most obvious match? Councilor Jack Burkman as the Professor.
Thurston Howell III and Councilor Bill Turlay — both old, both conservatives.
Sorry, Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle. I know this is a stretch. Someone needed to be Lovey.
Councilor Alishia Topper gets to be smart, practical Mary Ann.
Let’s see. Who is left? Oh, right. The stardom-seeking glamorous one.
Last month, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and Camas Mayor Scott Higgins sent a request to the U.S. Postal Service. They asked that approximately 880 addresses with a Camas ZIP code (98607) be changed to accurately reflect the homes are within Vancouver city limits, and that eight addresses within Camas city limits with a Vancouver ZIP code (98682) be given a Camas ZIP code.
The mayors also sent a letter to residents, explaining why they made the request.
Some residents freaked out. Or, as Vancouver’s neighborhoods program manager Judi Bailey wrote in an email to Leavitt, “vehemently opposed” the change.
Jan Bader, the city’s policy director, wrote in an email to me that concerns “included impact on school district boundaries (this wouldn’t impact the boundaries since they don’t follow the city limits anyway), hassle of changing addresses on all sorts of forms, concerns about impact on property taxes (we confirmed that your zip code is not a factor in assessing your property taxes), impact on insurance rates and possible delays in mail delivery while a new zip code was implemented.”
Two weeks ago, I heard from one resident who wanted the newspaper to write a story about the proposed change. I told him he bought a home in Vancouver city limits and I didn’t think it was worth a story that the mayors wanted ZIP codes to accurately reflect where people live.
Here was his response, which I’m sharing to illustrate why some Vancouver residents were so upset about potentially losing their Camas ZIP code.
“Actually, it’s a little more complicated than that, as the city name for my address is Camas, the zip code is Camas, and our taxes for school district are paid to Camas schools. However, we do pay a portion of our taxes to the city of Vancouver for general funds, as you could see on the attached doc I submitted.
If this passes, and our homes get a new zip code and city name attached to them, it can directly impact our home’s value (as home values in Camas’ 98607 are much higher than in Vancouver’s 98682), increase our insurance rates due to the new zip code (home insurance rates are higher in 98682). This change could also make it very difficult for someone looking for a home for sale in the Camas school district (highest rated district in Clark County and one of the top in the state) to find one of these 880 homes, especially if they’re using one of the common real estate search engines which use city name or zip code. This could have a direct negative impact on our ability to sell our homes if and when we choose to do so.
We all bought homes in what was listed as Camas, with a zip code of 98607, which is Camas, many of us with kids with the intent of ensuring we were in the Camas school district. This change could impact those issues forever, potentially leading down a slippery slope where Vancouver next decides to annex these homes into a Vancouver (i.e. Evergreen) school district.
Just thought it was well worth reporting on, especially as it may have an impact of upwards of 1,000 school aged kids in Clark County.”
But he and other Vancouver residents concerned about losing their Camas status can rest easy, because the Postal Service denied the request. And given the opposition from residents, Leavitt and Higgins decided not to appeal the decision, Bader said.
Local dudes Jim Mains and Gary Bock released a new Vancouver Side video today, and it’s pro-county charter. Mains was a freeholder, as were video co-stars Temple Lentz and Joe Zarelli.
In the game “Government Connections,” the contestant (Lentz) is given the choice between current government (Bock, playing an increasingly twitchy version of someone obviously modeled after Clark County Commissioner David Madore) and new government (Zarelli, the former state lawmaker who served as vice-chairman of the freeholders.)
Flip-flopping, or the appearance of it, is nothing new in politics. The term allegedly dates as far back as 1890, when a New York City district attorney candidate, John W. Goff, accused his political opponent of committing a “great flip-flop” in once denouncing the Tammany Society for “bossism” before becoming its candidate three years later.
And who can forget John Kerry’s supposed flip-flopping? It was such an issue that during the 2004 presidential race his opponents made it seem as if he were the principle shareholder in Okabashi. Indeed, where ever there are politicians, with their paper-thin values wafting in the political winds like that plastic bag in “American Beauty,” there will be accusations of flip-flopping.
Take for example Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke. He was for a home rule charter before he was against it.
The longest tenured commissioner has made his views on the proposed charter abundantly clear. He doesn’t like it. Specifically, he doesn’t like that it calls for the commissioners’ pay to drop to $53,000 a year (“that sucks”) or that there would be an appointed county manager overseeing daily operations. But according to this 2011 interview between Mielke and David Madore — who was merely a gimlet-eyed political naif back then, with a website and a dream of killing the CRC — a new charter would have done great things. The interview was recorded after voters killed an attempt to move the freeholder process forward.
It went down in flames. It had a little history to it. We’d promised the people we’d put this on for a vote this year after some classes explaining what a charter is and is not. But it was only the first step. It wasn’t about charter yet; it was about allowing freeholders this year …. It came up, and in the last two weeks — after this whole year — in the last two weeks, a whole bunch of negative things came up. I think it’s been turned into a political thing because of the effects it would have.
– Mielke, 2011
At the time, Mielke supported the charter, particularly the addition of an initiative and referendum process and the ability for district voters to elect their board representatives directly. Both of those changes are part of the currently proposed home rule charter.
So, what are Mielke’s concerns with the new charter? He explains in a new video.
I voted for a freeholder process with a goal of producing a home rule charter that would improve the governance of Clark County and increase the public’s access to their elective representatives. For more than 20 years, supporting a charter was part of the Republican platform. For 35 years, the citizens of Clark County were not well represented. I believe a charter form of government, crafted with the citizens in mind, had the potential to enhance voter representation in Clark County.
I am now saddened and deeply disappointed by what the charter has become. The proposed charter is a missed opportunity, but it is worse than that. It has been hijacked. If passed, this charter would harm Clark County citizens for generations. Whereas I was looking for a better democracy, the board of freeholders got it exactly backwards.
Yes, the commissioners do have a great deal of power to make decisions and serve the citizens of Clark County. But we have to be regularly elected and replaced …. I was shocked to discover that the charter would transfer power from an elected commissioner to an unelected county executive. I was equally disheartened to see the charter only authorizes the at-large council chair to speak publicly for the entire county council, effectively putting the other four councilors under a gag order. I am absolutely against the freeholders’ proposed charter and I am therefore urging you and every voter in Clark County to join me in voting no on the proposed charter in November.
– Mielke 2014
It’s important to note that, while the Clark County Republicans voted to oppose the charter, plenty of prominent Republicans do support it. They include former legislator Joe Zarelli and Sheriff Garry Lucas, along with Auditor Greg Kimsey, Republicans all. State Rep. Ann Rivers, a Republican, was a freeholder and supported the charter, too. As did former Republican Commissioner Marc Boldt.The charter also includes an initiative and referendum process as well as a means for voters to directly elect their board representatives by district in the general election (with the exception of the board chair). Both of those additions Mielke touted in 2011 as giving the public more control over government.
His description of the role of the board chair also smacks of purposeful obtuseness. The charter does not “place a gag order” on the other elected board members; it simply says the chairperson will be in charge of acting as a spokesperson for the board’s vision and represent the board in front of the governor, Legislature and federal authorities.
So, is Mielke a flip-flopper? There are enough differences with the current iteration of the charter that he could make the case that he isn’t. Basically, his opposition to it boils down to a couple of main points: While Mielke hasn’t made it part of his official stance against the charter, he has groused publicly about the pay cut (he currently makes around $102,000 a year). He also opposes the addition of a county manager, who would have more direct control over department heads.
But despite accusations of flip-flopping, it seems Mielke has his message and he’s sticking to it …. well, for now at least.]]>
We’ve received questions from people unhappy with the state of Vancouver city parks this summer, and we’ve tried to explain, more than once, why parks aren’t green and sparkling clean in our weekly “What’s up with that?” feature in the Neighbors section.
As I wrote in response to one city resident frustrated her property taxes weren’t going to keep her local park green:
Yes, you pay property taxes for city services. But 2001′s Initiative 747 capped annual property tax increases at 1 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, and now property taxes don’t support as many services as they used to. Parks are ranked behind fire, police and public works in terms of important city services. The fire department gets 25 cents of every $1 of city property tax revenue, the police department gets 24 cents and public works gets 15 cents. Those are the big three, and every other department fights for the leftovers.
Of every $1 dollar in property taxes the city takes in, 6 cents goes to parks and recreation. When the Vancouver City Council sought public input prior to the 2009-10 budget, which included citywide cuts, the residents who responded didn’t rate “watering neighborhood parks” a priority.
Loretta Callahan, Vancouver Public Works spokeswoman, said the city’s 14-member grounds maintenance staff is responsible for 83 parks totaling 517 acres, plus 50 acres in 11 open-space properties. Also on their to-do list: 58 properties such as city facilities, water stations, fire stations and an airpark totaling 271 acres; three cemeteries totaling 70 acres; more than 70 miles of trails and walks and many miles of street medians and rights of way.
The subject of park maintenance came up Monday during council communications. Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle noted recent letters to the editor criticizing the trashy appearance of street medians and parks.
She also pointed out, in response to criticism of trash on freeways, that the state is responsible for picking up that garbage. Also, drivers of pickup trucks, please cover your crap (my word, not hers, she was more polite) to keep it from flying out of the bed.
McEnerny-Ogle offered a suggestion to residents unhappy with the way their little section of the world looks: On Saturday, spend an hour volunteering as part of the Clark County Connects Day of Service and food drive.
(Some neighborhood groups have also stepped up to take care of parks. If that sounds enticing visit www.cityofvancouver.us/parksrec/page/adopt-park)
Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt knows people are frustrated. This time of year, “the sun is shining and the grass is brown and you see the garbage much more clearly.” He’s complained about how parks and medians look, too.
“I know staff is doing the best they can,” Leavitt said. But the city prioritizes public safety first, then infrastructure. Keeping parks green lands way down the list.
He added that in 2012, city voters overwhelmingly rejected a dedicated tax for parks and recreation expenses.
“We, as a council, asked our community a couple of years back if they were willing to support a more robust operations and maintenance of parks program, and the voters of our community said resoundingly ‘No,’” Leavitt said.
The parks proposal, which would have cost the owner of a $200,000 home an additional $70 in annual taxes, failed 66 to 34 percent.
The Association of Washington Business Policy Summit is Sept. 16-18 at Suncadia Resort in Cle Elum, and Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt is scheduled to participate in a panel discussion titled, “When Local Politics Impact State Politics,” which will be moderated by Paul Read, publisher of the Journal of Business. Leavitt joins the Spokane and Bellevue mayors on the panel.
I saw the press release today, but I was less interested in the fact that Leavitt is participating than the fact that I’m sure Vancouver City Councilor Bill Turlay would have loved to have been asked to participate in a different panel discussion, “Climate Change: What Are The Options?”
At the end of the council meeting Monday, Turlay used his time during council communications to talk about how climate change is not man-made. He shared some things he’s read on the Internet and assured the other councilors he’d keep forwarding them articles.
He also said he wants the city to have a public meeting about climate change.
“Let’s have a good old-fashioned debate,” he said. Hear from both sides, “slow down and talk it over,” and see exactly what climate science says and doesn’t say.
Heck, go crazy. Invite the Sierra Club! Turlay will talk to anyone.
I encourage you to watch the video. It’s about seven minutes long.
Here’s a link to Gov. Jay Inslee’s executive order, plus related comments and an Associated Press story published in The Columbian about the executive order.
Here’s a briefing on Inslee’s climate initiative that was prepared by Mark Brown, the city’s lobbyist, after Inslee’s announcement. City Manager Eric Holmes emailed the briefing to the council today:
“Governor Jay Inslee announced Tuesday that he has taken several actions designed to allow Washington to meet greenhouse gas targets for 2020 and beyond. He issued a far reaching Executive Order that sets state agencies back on a task for a goal established in 2008 that has largely been ignored as the state struggled through the Great Recession,” Brown wrote.
“While most of the Executive Order will not require legislative approval, key parts of it, such as implementing a carbon pollution market based program, will. The Governor’s actions set the stage for climate change and clean energy to join transportation and K-12 education funding as huge challenges for the 2015 legislative session.”
“Key points are summarized below. Portions in italics may have an effect on City operations,” Brown wrote.
“The Governor created a Carbon Emissions Reduction Task Force. This group, which held its first meeting shortly after the Governor’s announcement, is to provide recommendations on the design and implementation of a market based carbon emission limit program. The task force is to complete its work in time for the 2015 Legislature to consider their recommendations.”
“The task force is co-chaired by Rod Brown of Cascadia Law Group and Ada Healey of Vulcan. Other members are: King County Executive Dow Constantine, Perry England of MacDonald-Miller, Adam Glickman of SEIU Healthcare, KC Golden of Climate Solutions, Jay Gordon of the Washington Dairy Federation, Kimberly Harris of Puget Sound Energy, Jeff Johnson of the State Labor Council, Renee Klein of the American Lung Association, Dennis McLerran of the Region 10 EPA, Colin Moseley of Green Diamond Resources, Dave Myers of the Building Trades Council, Mark Reddermann of Energy Northwest, Fawn Sharp of the Quinault Nation, Virinder Singh of EDF Renewables, Rich Stolz of OneAmerica, Brad Tilden of Alaska Air Group, Remy Trupin of the Washington Budget and Policy Center, Steve Wright of Chelan PUD, and Chris Youngmark of United Steelworkers.”
“The task force is charged with designing a program that balances the energy sources of the state with measures to offset cost impacts to consumers and workers, particularly low-income households and energy intensive businesses,” Brown wrote.
“Other components of the Governor’s order covered coal-fired electricity, clean transportation, clean technology and energy efficiency.”
“The Governor has directed his agencies to work with utilities to reduce and eliminate over time the use of electrical power produced from coal. This includes both from the one in-state coal-fired plant and electricity purchased by utilities from out of state plants. Inslee has asked the Utilities and Transportation Commission to assist this effort through its jurisdictional authority and has also asked the Northwest Power and Conservation Council to pursue reduction in coal fired electricity in its next Power Plan for the region.”
“WSDOT has been charged by the Governor to work with local, regional and federal agencies to develop an action plan to advance electric vehicle use including strategies for both financial and non-financial incentives for consumers and businesses. The department is also tasked with advancing the build out of the electric vehicle charging network along state highways and at key destinations.”
“The department is also charged to consult with the Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board and the Transportation Improvement Board to review existing grant programs to identify opportunities to increase state investment in multimodal transportation. The department is also charged with making changes to its corridor work to prioritize strategies that foster choices, innovative land use and reduce transportation emissions.”
“The Washington State University Energy Program and the Department of Commerce are tasked with creating a new program to assist deployment of new renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. The two agencies are also charged with advancing solar power in the state by examining current laws, rules and policies to determine where changes may be needed to encourage greater use of solar.”
“Commerce and WSU will work with the State Building Code Council and others develop and implement a new statewide program to significantly improve energy performance of public and private buildings.”
“This new program must include a way that consumers and businesses can have easy access to energy use, efficiency and cost information, improved access to financing for upgrades, support for low-income weatherization assistance and setting minimum standards for energy efficiency and the upgrade of all street lighting in the state to more energy efficient technology.”
“In addition to the wide-ranging Executive Order, the Governor’s Office also released a lengthy policy document that details the issues the order is attempting to address and the Governor’s views of the consequences of not taking action. That policy document is attached here,” Brown wrote.]]>
“Dancing with the Local Stars” was Saturday, and before I get into who won and how much money was raised, you really need to see Vancouver Fire Marshal Heidi Scarpelli’s entrance (and thanks to Paul Montague for posting pictures from the event on Facebook.)
Scarpelli was escorted by deputy fire marshal Zane Norris and Tim Bias, an insurance agent. I think Vancouver Fire Chief Joe Molina needs to make this type of entrance at city council meetings.
Scott Campbell, or, as I think of him, The Other Scott Campbell, won the event by raising the most money. Maybe it’s because he’s in waste management and money attracts money — that Tony Soprano always had a lot of cash, didn’t he? — but Campbell raised a whopping $66,000. That’s a record for the annual event, which started in 2006. In all, the eight dancers raised $154,000. Proceeds benefit the Fort Vancouver National Trust.
Here’s Mr. Campbell, whose performance was deemed “Most Charismatic” by the audience of nearly 400 at Hilton Vancouver Washington. He performed a tango with Christina Mullen; all of the dance partners are Arthur Murray instructors.
Scarpelli won “Best Costume,” while Patty Westby of Westby & Associates won for “Best Overall Dance Performance” and Vancouver police Sgt. Dave Henderson won “Fan Favorite.” “Best Natural Talent,” went to Katie Atkins-Castillo of Life Pilates Vancouver LLC while Dan Wyatt, owner of the Kiggins Theater won “Most Creative Performance.”
Wyatt went for a “Star Wars” theme. (I am not sure who was in the Chewbacca costume, but I heard he or she moved remarkably well.)
To the surprise of nobody in the newsroom, Editor Lou was awarded “Most Outrageous Performance.” His pre-dance skit included protesters.
Finally, there was local historian, former city councilor and all-around treasure Pat Jollota, who won “Best Entrance.” She makes a pretty good Queen of England, don’t you think?
In a news release issued today by the Trust, Campbell (governmental and community affairs manager for Waste Connections), said he was humbled by the support.
“A heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you who supported the Fort Vancouver National Trust and my quest to be crowned champion of Dancing with the Local Stars,” Campbell said. “So many to thank in the community. I am very humbled and could not have achieved this goal without their support.”