Only if we really, really have to

Remember way back in January, when Portland Mayor Sam Adams said he did not want the city to be the site of a GOP presidential debate because of police costs?

In the end, the March debate was canceled because only Newt Gingrich had agreed to show — and with no Mitt Romney and no Rick Santorum, there was no point in having a debate.

But for a few fleeting moments, there was talk of moving the debate to Vancouver, according to emails provided to The Columbian as part of a larger public disclosure request.

Here’s an email from Brandon Vick, at the time chairman of the Clark County GOP:

Sent: Wednesday, January 18, 2012 12:32 PM
To: Brandon Vick
Cc: Leavitt, Tim; Hansen, Bart; Smith, Larry; Stewart, Jeanne; Burkman, Jack; Turlay, Bill; Harris, Jeanne;
Subject: Presidential Debate

Mayor Leavitt, Members of the Vancouver City Council, and Kirby Wilbur,

I want to thank you all for you quick response regarding my previous letter regarding a potential opportunity for a Presidential Debate in Vancouver, WA. I wanted to provide you with a brief update as to what I have learned regarding this potential event.

1) I have spoken with Steve Bass, CEO of the Oregon Public Broadcasting Company. Steve has expressed an interest in the possibility of moving the event to our side of the river. He wanted us
to be aware of two things. The first is that should Mitt Romney win both South Carolina and Florida with a significant margin, the chances of actually needing a debate on the West Coast would be slim to none.

Also, OPB is not the only entity that would be involved in making the
decision to move the debate so collaboration would be in order.

2) While I do not know if you were able to come up with any cost figures regarding this potential event, I have talked with a few influential donors, and believe that we would be able to raise a
healthy amount of capital for this event.

Thanks for keeping an open mind!

Brandon P. Vick

The response was far from enthusiastic. Here’s what City Manager Eric Holmes wrote to then-Police Chief Cliff Cook:

Fwd: Presidential Debate
From Holmes, Eric
Date Friday, January 20, 2012 9:28 AM
To Cook, Clifford
Subject Fwd: Presidential Debate

FYI. I told the mayor that if this came here, we would serve it. We just don’t necessarily need to invite it.

Eric J. Holmes
City Manager

Then Holmes drafted a letter to send to Mayor Leavitt and members of the city council, sharing it first with Cook.

—–Original Message—–
From: Holmes, Eric
Sent: Friday, January 20, 2012 10:30 AM
To: Cook, Clifford
Subject: Message re: presidential debate

Mayor & Council-
Recently, many or all of you were contacted by leaders of the republican party about the potential of this community hosting the
presidential debate that OPB has sponsored and is scheduled For March 19 at the OPB studios in Portland. This was prompted by media reports About Mayor Sam Adams’ concerns about the costs of security to the City of Portland.

I have had a chance to confer with Chief Cook about the City’s capacity to provide adequate security for an event such as this in
Vancouver. Chief Cook advised that VPD does not have sufficient resources to provide adequate security for such an event; regardless of costs, a multi-agency effort would be required to appropriately meet the security needs of a presidential debate event as well as continue to provide adequate safety and preparedness for the rest of the community. In addition, the date of the debate is about 7 weeks away, a short time to prepare.

Council is well aware of the fiscal challenges the city faces, so I will not go into those here. If hosting the event were a community
priority, I have confidence community leaders could could sponsors to help offset those costs.

All that said, if such an event came to Vancouver, VPD would make every effort to provide adequate security, balanced with meeting the safety needs for the rest of the community. In doing so, VPD would engage other agencies under the appropriate interlocal agreement.

I trust this gives you all a bit of background about the City’s capacity.

Eric J. Holmes
City Manager

When Cook responded to Holmes, he suggested moving the debate to the Clark County Events Center. Wonder if Sheriff Garry Lucas ever even heard about this?

RE: Message re: presidential debate
From Cook, Clifford Date Friday, January 20, 2012 1:04 PM
To Holmes, Eric
Subject RE: Message re: presidential debate

No concerns other than those we discussed previously. Has anyone touched based with the County? My recommendation is that we hold the event at the Events Center and not downtown. We can control the site much better and restrict protests to specific areas around the facility. Downtown would become a free for all due to issues surrounding public spaces. Obviously our local promoters would prefer downtown Vancouver/Hilton, but the logistics would be …..

(Yes, that’s how Cook’s email really ended. He either could not find the right words to describe the logistics or figured the right words were not appropriate for a work email.)

Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at or 360-735-4508.

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