“Just Back off Bart”

Who knew that the innocuous-sounding workshop topic of “Title 11 Update Project: Use of Public Rights-of-Way” would be the start of some of the more spirited Vancouver City Council talk I’ve heard in a while?

You see, Fill the Boot came up. It’s a hot topic, considering the current city ordinance (coupled with complaints), kicked the Vancouver fire union volunteers — who collect money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association from drivers — out of city limits.

The new code, as proposed, would allow all those who wish to use vehicle travel lanes for “expressive activity” to get a permit, and within safety regulations, perform said activity in a closed off travel lane.

But while the new ordinance would allow any First Amendment-protected activity to close off a lane for their use, Councilor Bart Hansen noted that in his view, this all had to do with Fill the Boot.

“Really when it comes right down to it, it is about Fill the Boot,” Hansen said. “Because when you’re out there in the street you’re going to be out there…”

This is when Councilor Jeanne Harris interrupts, with Councilor Jeanne Stewart on her heels.

“No it’s not,” they both interject.

City Transportation Program Development Manager Phil Wuest steps in: “It’s not just Fill the Boot, because if we approve (the ordinance) for the firefighters, the Girl Scouts can go out there to sell cookies too.”

“Ok, well how often do you see Girl Scouts out there?” Hansen countered.

“Or some other group that has a message they want to get out there,” Wuest replied.

“How often have you seen another group out there?” Hansen then asked.

Before Wuest could answer, Harris offered her take: “But we don’t legislate by specific special interests. We legislate for the greater good. So we’re not talking about Fill the Boot; that’s one example maybe, but there could be many others.”

Hansen, visibly annoyed and with an edge to his tone, said: “Is there anything else you’d like to add, Councilmember Harris?”

“I think that Bart, you just need to kind of back off,” Harris started, clearly irritated herself, before Mayor Tim Leavitt cut her off with “OK council, please. Enough about Fill the Boot.”

“Really, please,” Harris chipped in, laughing.

“We need to wrap this up, because we’re already over (time),” Leavitt said.

Watch the show for yourself here. It starts about 45 minutes in.

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