Stewart: “The citizens have been duped”

The Vancouver City Council spent two hours discussing the Columbia River Crossing’s draft Final Environmental Impact Statement Monday afternoon.

The councilors, in general, provided Nancy Boyd, CRC project director, and Heather Wills, CRC environmental manager, with positive feedback on the statement.

Councilor Jeanne Stewart was the only one to speak out against the FEIS.

Stewart said the citizens were promised a vote on whether light rail is necessary. That decision, Boyd said, was made in 2008 when the council selected the locally preferred alternative, which included a new bridge with light rail.

Things grew tense between Stewart and Mayor Tim Leavitt when the mayor interrupted Stewart when she again brought up a public vote.

“Mrs. Stewart, we have five other council members that would like to ask questions,” Leavitt said.

“And we have 20 minutes,” she responded, referring to how much time was left in the workshop.

“I know. That’s my point,” Leavitt said.

“This is precisely what the problem with this is, the citizens have been duped into believing they would have a say in whether light rail proceeded, and instead the decision will be made and we’ll be on at the tail end,” she said.

“Mrs. Stewart, please,” the mayor interrupted.

Stewart ended her turn to speak with, “It isn’t right.”

When it was his turn to speak, Councilor Pat Campbell said he played devil’s advocate to the project when elected to office. But, he said, the entire council voted in 2008 to adopt the locally preferred alternative.

“That’s democracy,” Campbell said. “We were elected to represent our constituency.”

Councilors Jack Burkman and Bart Hansen are the only members who weren’t on the council at the time of the vote, he said.

While he wasn’t on the council when the vote took place in 2008, Burkman said Monday he would have voted in favor of the locally preferred alternative.

“The locally preferred alternative has a bridge and has light rail,” Burkman said.
“Honestly, I’m sorry that it’s been interpreted that the vote on light rail funding is a vote on light rail because I do not, to the best of my knowledge, know anyone that has said that specifically,” Burkman said. “It wouldn’t make sense.”

By the end of the workshop, a majority the councilors came to a consensus that they supported the FEIS.

Although no vote was taken, Stewart said she considers the council’s directive as taking action.

City attorney Ted Gathe said city policy prohibits “formal action.” Giving its members a directive is not “formal action,” he said.

Stewart made a similar accusation few months ago and received the same response from Gathe.

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