Stuart singled out, quizzed on tolls

Since opposing tolls on a replacement Interstate 5 bridge was a successful campaign issue for Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, another candidate is going that route.

Political newcomer Alan Svehaug is running on a no-tolls platform against Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart.

Leavitt has since conceded that tolls are an inevitable component of a new bridge and has received considerable, ahem, feedback from residents.

During the public comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting of the county commissioners, Josephine Wentzel, who sent out the press release announcing Svehaug’s candidacy, approached the board.

She first talked about Leavitt and how he’s changed his position on tolls, then warned that light rail would bring nothing but financial devastation and crime.

Looking directly at Stuart, she said the commissioners need to stand up and oppose tolling.

Unlike most people who speak during the public comment period, she didn’t bother to look at Commissioners Marc Boldt or Tom Mielke.

“You are obviously talking directly at me, so I’ll respond,” Stuart said.

Stuart said he doesn’t believe that tolling is an equitable or efficient way to collect fees.

But the state Legislature authorizes tolls and the state transportation commission sets the rates, Stuart said.

Stuart said he’ll support tolls if a majority of his constituents support them. He said he thinks it’s arrogant for a public official to say what must happen or what must not happen, as Wentzel was pushing him to do.

“What it must do is go to a vote of the people,” Stuart said.

Nobody with any authority has contemplated a public vote on tolls; Mielke has proposed an advisory vote but that idea has yet to gain traction.

After Wentzel finished speaking, Stuart couldn’t resist reminding the audience what Leavitt has learned, which is that a new bridge will not be built without tolls.

“All right, is there anyone in the audience wishing to address the board on an issue over which the board has control?” Stuart said.

— Stephanie Rice

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