Story hits close to home for Holmes

As we’ve previously bragged, a team of meeting mavens — myself, Marissa Harshman and Eric Florip — won an inaugural Word War last month. As we imbibed, we crafted a fictional tale about a city manager who has the difficult task of convincing a city council to cut down the Old Apple Tree to make it into a casket for a former councilwoman.

Well, what I didn’t mention in the post about our award was that the real Vancouver city manager, Eric Holmes, was in the audience and was laughing as Marissa read our story aloud. (Elizabeth Holmes, Eric’s wife, is co-creator of Broadsheet 360, which hosted the event.)

I bring all of this up because when I returned to work yesterday from vacation, I found a copy of Cityvision, a publication by the Association of Washington Cities, on my desk. The cover story was headlined, “Talk of the Town: citizen stories and city perspectives give outreach efforts the potential to promote progress.” The story dealt with two controversial topics – where sex offenders can live after they’ve served their time, and the Columbia River Crossing.

Back to Word War. Here’s what we wrote about Vern, our fictional city manager (one of the story prompts we were given to incorporate into our tale was, “bridge to nowhere.”)

And then there were the gadflies who came to every meeting to complain about a project the city had no real authority over. They’d been making their case for nine years now, undeterred by the fact that the project — they called it the “bridge to nowhere” — was gaining the favor of the state and federal agencies that held real sway. Vern had long since memorized their arguments. But there they were, every single week, perhaps under the impression that repetition was their strongest rhetorical weapon.

And here’s what Holmes said in Cityvision about, as the reporter put it, “a vocal minority of local residents who remain vehemently opposed to bridge tolls (never mind that bridge tolls paid for both original spans) and light rail (despite transit’s critical role in the city’s comprehensive land-use and downtown redevelopment plans.)”

Here’s Vern’s, I mean Eric’s, quote: “The series of input mechanisms to give people a voice has wound down as it should have, because a decision has been made. But those who have concerns continue to look for a forum, and the outlet they have found is our city council meetings.” The reporter wrote that Holmes expects anywhere from two to 12 CRC critics to show up at any given meeting. “It’s interesting that much of the discourse at the local level seems to be occurring absent any acknowledgment that this is not a city street improvement project. It’s a federal project.”

Sure, he uses fancier and more polite words than Vern, but we pretty much nailed it, didn’t we?

Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

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

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