Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Thank you Stephanie.
I know you've been following the Council and have seen/heard my remarks specifically about taxes, prioritization of programs/spending, and incenting local economic/business growth (via reduced taxes & fees).
Some interesting points in Ms. Monk's piece…
One of her more interesting comments relates to the personal responsibility and accountability that each individual needs to be aware of:
What the Greatest Generation handed down to us -- the richest, most
powerful, most self-sufficient republic in history, with the highest
standard of living any nation had ever achieved -- the baby boomers,
oblivious and self-indulgent to the end, have frittered it away.
And in turn…have raised a generation of children, many of whom feel entitled; others (or government) should provide them everything they need. Work hard for a living? No way…
I think much of our current economic situation can be very well boiled down to one noun: greed.
1. excessive desire to acquire or possess more (especially more material wealth) than one needs or deserves
2. reprehensible acquisitiveness; insatiable desire for wealth (personified as one of the deadly sins) [syn: avarice]
You may have heard the comedian George Carlin? I find his rants particularly entertaining, and quite on-point (edited for language):
"Consumption. This is the new national pastime. (Screw) baseball, it's consumption, the only true, lasting American value that's left . . . buying things . . . People spending money they don't have on things they don't need . . . So they can max out their credit cards and spend the rest of their lives paying 18 percent interest on something that cost $12.50. And they didn't like it when they got it home anyway. Not too bright, folks, not too (friggin') bright."
We eat too much, work too little, spend too much, expect too much and complain too much. Now, we need to be bailed-out…and by who? The government, of course!
Indeed, this is a generalization, but I see much of this sentiment firsthand in both my professional and representative responsibilities.
Anyway, hope you and Bill have a nice Christmas and New Year holiday!
Government gets its citizens into trouble by overstepping their responsibilities and duties on finances and the way the “people’s money” is spent. I believe you all are in the same process and marching down the same road as the Federal Government. Instead of being fiscally responsible, you continue to plunge our city into deeper debt with no apparent fiscal concern for the people who have elected you. Your hands are constantly in our pockets, increasing taxes, raising fees, designing new fees with which to finance your latest ‘pet project’.
As a citizen, I am fed up with those of you who continue to favor your political contributors and treat them with special benefits over the best interests of the city and her citizens, all at our expense. The downtown area and whatever changes or improvements to this core area seems to be your only concern. Massive amounts of money have been spent on frivolous projects. Now I suppose you’re going to tell us that WE NEED to buy the Columbian property and that it will save us money in the long run! That ploy doesn’t pass the smell test! Nor did the Hilton, nor does the new library, the new water front project, the bridge to nowhere, etc.,etc.,etc…………..
There will come a day when you will be required to be accountable for your actions. I sincerely hope that day comes sooner rather than later. Our country has been raped by elected officials at all levels. Look where it has brought us. There is a lesson to be learned. Have you learned it?
Please read the below article. It pretty much describes how government has failed the people.
PS: We have just refinanced our home mortgage so that we will be able to keep up with your next round of tax and fee increases.
Subject: The Party is Over
A little about author, Linda R. Monk, J. D..
She is a constitutional scholar, journalist, and nationally award-winning author. A graduate of Harvard Law School , she twice received the American Bar Association's
Silver Gavel Award, its highest honor for law-related media. Her books
include The Words We Live By: Your Annotated Guide to the Constitution,
Ordinary Americans: U. S. History Through the Eyes of Everyday People, and
The Bill of Rights: A User's Guide. For more than 20 years, Ms. Monk has
written commentary for newspapers nationwide, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune
THE PARTY'S OVER
By Linda Monk
The Crash of 2008, which is now wiping out trillions of dollars of our
people's wealth, is, like the Crash of 1929, likely to mark the end of one
era and the onset of another.
The new era will see a more sober and much diminished America . The
'Omnipower' and 'Indispensable Nation' we heard about in all the hubris and
braggadocio following our Cold War victory is history.
Seizing on the crisis, the left says we are witnessing the failure of
market economics, a failure of conservatism. This is nonsense. What we are
witnessing is the collapse of Gordon Gecko ('Greed Is Good!') capitalism.
What we are witnessing is what happens to a prodigal nation that ignores
history, and forgets and abandons the philosophy and principles that made it
A true conservative (Rep or Dem) cherishes prudence and believes in
fiscal responsibility, balanced budgets and a self-reliant republic.
He believes in saving for retirement and a rainy day, in deferred
gratification, in not buying on credit what you cannot afford, in living
within your means.
Is that really what got Wall Street and us into this mess -- that we
followed too religiously the gospel of Robert Taft and Russell Kirk?
'Government must save us!' cries the left, as ever.
Yet, who got us into this mess if not the government -- the Fed with its
easy money, Bush with his profligate spending, and Congress and the SEC by
liberating Wall Street and failing to step in and stop the drunken orgy?
For years, we Americans have spent more than we earned. We save
nothing. Credit card debt, consumer debt, auto debt, mortgage debt,
corporate debt -- all are at record levels. And with pensions and savings
being wiped out, much of that debt will never be repaid.
Our standard of living is inevitably going to fall. For foreigners will
not forever buy our bonds or lend us more money if they rightly fear that
they will be paid back, if at all, in cheaper dollars. We are going to have
to learn to live again within our means.
THE PARTY'S OVER!
Up through World War II, we followed the Hamiltonian idea that America
must remain economically independent of the world in order to remain
But this generation decided that was yesterday's bromide and we must
march bravely forward into a Global Economy, where we all depend on one
American companies morphed into 'Global Companies' and moved plants and
factories to Mexico , Asia, China , and India , and we began buying more
cheaply from abroad what we used to make at home: shoes, clothes, bikes,
cars, radios, TVs, planes, computers.
As the trade deficits began inexorably to rise to 6 percent of GDP, we
began vast borrowing from abroad to continue buying from abroad.
At home, propelled by tax cuts, war in Iraq and an explosion in social
spending, surpluses vanished and deficits reappeared and began to rise. The
dollar began to sink, and gold began to soar.
Yet, still, the promises of the politicians come.
Barack Obama will give us national health insurance and tax cuts for all
but that 2 percent of the nation that already carries 50 percent of the
federal income tax load.
Who are we kidding?
What we are witnessing today is how empires end. The Last Superpower is
unable to defend its borders, protect its currency, win its wars, or balance
Medicare and Social Security are headed for the cliff with unfunded
liabilities in the tens of trillions of dollars.
What we are witnessing today is nothing less than a Katrina-like failure
of government, of our political class, and of democracy itself, casting a
cloud over the viability and longevity of the system.
Notice who is managing the crisis. Not our elected leaders. Nancy Pelosi
says she had nothing to do with it.
Congress is paralyzed and heading home. President Bush is nowhere to be
Hank Paulson of Goldman Sachs and Ben Bernanke of the Fed chose to bail
out Bear Sterns but let Lehman go under. They decided to nationalize Fannie
and Freddie at a cost to taxpayers of hundreds of billions, putting the U.
S. government behind $5 trillion in mortgages.
They decided to buy AIG with $85 billion rather than see the insurance
giant sink beneath the waves. Unelected financial elite is now entrusted
with the assignment of getting us out of a disaster into which an unelected
financial elite plunged the nation.
We are just spectators.
What the Greatest Generation handed down to us -- the richest, most
powerful, most self-sufficient republic in history, with the highest
standard of living any nation had ever achieved -- the baby boomers,
oblivious and self-indulgent to the end, have frittered it away.
How do WE THE PEOPLE put the villains who are responsible under oath and
sit them down at public hearings to determine whose necks should meet the
Hypocritically, those who had oversight responsibility such as Senator
Chris Dodd [Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee] and Barney Frank
[Chairmen, House Financial Services Committee] who helped get us into this
mess are on every TV channel voicing their righteous indignation and
pompously sitting on their elevated platform glaring down at those they are
chastising and grilling, trying to pass the blame to others.
WE THE PEOPLE should be on the elevated platform in judgment and
execution of the likes of Chris Dodd, Barney Frank and the rest of the band
of thieves and conspirators who are responsible for the financial collapse
of the USA .
To name just a few of the culprits:
Henry Paulson Jr, Secretary of the Treasury
Alan Greenspan & Ben Bernanke -- Chairman Federal Reserve
Christopher Cox, SEC Chairman.
But not to worry -- YOUR PUBLIC SERVANTS who fear being voted out of
office will take their self-awarded Golden Parachute Congressional
Retirement, give WE THE PEOPLE the finger one last time and head for their
safe havens as the World Citizens they are.
However, before they waddle off into the sunset, they will go on record
one last time denouncing corporate greed, lavish salaries, and bonuses for
their key felons at Fannie May, Freddie Mac, Lehman Brothers & AIG
Meanwhile, WE THE PEOPLE fiddle while Rome burns and were too lazy and
indifferent to vote them out of office.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Issue #1) Berm Access Improvements
The action approved by a majority of city council was to provide a PORTION of the funding for the road/access improvements through the railroad berm. There is no city funding going to directly support any development activity by Gramor.
The road/access improvements are necessary, regardless of any/what/when development occurs at the waterfront. At some point in our lifetime, the waterfront will be developed. In order for the waterfront to be developed, there needs to be adequate and safe north/south access through the berm.
The key reason the City must move forward with these access improvements now is that the Port of Vancouver and BNSF are pressing forward with rail upgrades. I am to understand that BNSF has indicated there will be no further work allowed in their right-of-way (disrupting rail commerce), anytime in the foreseeable future. In other words, now or never.
I submit that public access to our waterfront is important enough to take advantage of this window of opportunity that is available...for the long-term future of the waterfront, regardless of who ultimately develops it, and what is developed. Frankly, it's too bad our federal railroad isn't more cooperative about allowing work to occur through the berm. I suppose it's understandable that they don't want to disrupt rail traffic...and our economy will appreciate that...but having to complete the access improvements now had obviously put the City is a bit of predicament about finding money sooner than later.
Issue #2) Funding of the Access Improvements
I had expressed reservations several times in discussions at Council about City Manager's proposed funding.The short story is that construction of improved roadway access through the railroad berm to support the density of development on the waterfront that is visioned on that 26+ acres is costly....to the tune of an estimated $33 million. The City Manager was able to find $8 million readily available from road/utility money buckets. Graymor (the developer) agreed to kick-in the same amount of money that the City could come up with...$8 million. With additional State, Federal and BNSF monies, there was still a 'gap' of $7.5 million.
Fact is, I'm still bothered by the fact that City Staff felt compelled to find the additional 'gap' funding. Why not let the developers take care of that? After all, it's a measly $7.5 million, in comparison to the hundreds of millions the same developer will be investing in the project. After some back-and-forth with Staff, I was reminded that we are talking specifically about a) public access through the railroad berm, and b) the developer is spending an additional $60 million to build-out the public infrastructure on the property itself. Lastly, the 'gap' funding as finally proposed by the City Manager is manageable. The $7.5 million will be bonded for (because the money is needed now for the construction of the access), and the debt service on the bonds will be paid by REET and money from the Pavement Management Program.
I will be working to restore the REET money to the Neighborhood Traffic Safety Alliance and Parks, as well as restoring full funding (in the least) for pavement management.
Issue #3) Funding of Other City Services and Taxes
Interesting to me that there has been little discussion about Council raising utility taxes, as well as garbage taxes. Is it that citizens in Vancouver don't mind paying more taxes? Is it that citizens in Vancouver believe the City is run efficiently and more taxes are necessary? Is it that citizens want more services from the City? Was it the masterful job of the City Manager to put public safety (police and fire) in the line-of-fire of budget cuts, unless taxes were raised?
Maybe I shouldn't be so concerned about raising taxes anymore...
A majority of city council approved of increases in utility and garbage taxes to generate approximately $4.2 million in new revenues. With a gun to our temple, the City Manager laid it out that if no new taxes were approved, this $4.2 million would come out of the hides of our police and fire departments --- the other city departments simply couldn't sustain such a cut. The city's public safety departments were USED to twist the arm of Council. Some said 'Uncle' and some didn't.
My position: In 2007, the City spent $121.4 million in general funds. This $4.2 million in new taxes represents about 3.5% of the annual operating budget. Really?!? Each and every city department couldn't find 3.5% in cost savings and efficiencies to stave-off tax increases? Remember, 3.5% is 3.5 cents on every dollar.
My position: Our current economic turmoil aside, the City needs to get serious about prioritization of services, sustainable funding for services, and really creating an 'open for business' environment. There is a lot of lip-service paid to 'open for business' by those who have never had to run a business, or even work on the private-side. Without such a perspective, or with a guaranteed check every month, it's easier to raise taxes and fees of all sorts. I've recently been made aware that another business is leaving Vancouver for the more friendly confines of another city in Clark County.
I'd like to see the City (and City Council) discuss a restructuring of government and a reconsideration of tax/fee issues like the business license fee and head tax, impact fees, utility taxes.
I will advocate for the following actions (and possibly others) to stimulate economic growth and jobs in our community:#1) Remove the business head tax, #2) Eliminate traffic impact fees and concurrency analysis, #3) Reduce utility taxes, specifically for business, #4) Revisit the Cable Franchise Fee, #5) Reduce utility taxes on Senior Citizens and others that qualify as 'low income'; #6) Reduce/eliminate park impact fees; #7) Create a Utility Tax District that allows for each and every property to pay a minimal and proportional tax for road maintenance. Tax to be based on the number of trips generated by the property (for example, a homeowner might pay $5/month, whereas McDonalds might pay $500/month); #8) Create a Metropolitan Parks District (or similar), where the voters decide if and how much to support parks/recreation/trails. By taking Parks out of the city's general fund, that general fund money would then be used to beef-up staffing in Police and Fire; #9) Ask the voters to consider supporting bonds to pay for updating/new fire facilities. Most of the fire houses need upgrading in order not to crumble in an earthquake. How much sense does that make to have inadequate fire stations???; 10) Work with the County Commissioners to further combine and reduce overlap of services, resulting in further operational efficiencies; 11) Formulate a business advisory council to provide recommendations and feedback to the Mayor of Vancouver.
Issue #4) Difference between Me and the Mayor (coming)
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Local View: Vancouver City Council Must Carefully Consider New Stormwater Regulations
Tim Leavitt, Professional Civil Engineer
Vancouver City Council member
The Washington State Department of Ecology (WADOE) has mandated that #1) cities like Vancouver implement new development regulations for managing stormwater runoff for private property, and #2) the city adopt new practices for handling stormwater runoff from.
These new rules from the State may be considered as an ‘unfunded mandate’. When a Federal or State requirement is placed on a local agency (city or county) and that requirement has an associated cost to implement, but the Feds or State don’t provide any supporting money, the new rule is termed an “unfunded mandate”. Then, under threat of violation and sanctions our community is saddled with figuring out how to pay for implementing the new requirement. Seem unfair to us local folks? It is.
City Practices for Stormwater Management
Contrary to the suggestion in the recent Local View (Sunday Columbian; Bertish and Goldberg), new practices by the City to manage runoff from public property is not the primary issue of concern in the community, so let’s discharge of that in short order. Most will agree with the need for the City to improve its own practices for stormwater management. Unfortunately, many roads in the City were constructed long before there was consideration for the environment. In these cases, the rain from a storm washes over the street, carrying toxic pollutants like oils and heavy metals directly into the ground or into waters of Burnt Bridge Creek, the Columbia River, or other surface water bodies. To minimize further damage to our environment, this situation must be corrected. However, this correction will cost money…and a lot of it, contrary to the Sunday Local View. The City is mostly developed already; there is no room now for ‘planning for stormwater filtration, bioswales and low-impact development’ as was suggested.
However, it needs to be made clear that should WADOE continue to mandate the wholesale implementation of the new stormwater rules, the potential costs to the City are significant. In fact, the City of Vancouver joined some 30+ other agencies around the State to ‘discuss’ the legalities of these new rules. To date, WADOE has not budged from their position, suggesting that they’d rather have the matter taken-up in court to resolve. If no progress is made in negotiations, and the court finds in favor of WADOE, you can expect to pay more taxes to support the implementation of these rules.
The proposed new development regulations are of more pressing concern to property owners, environmentalists and the development community. WADOE developed a set of new stormwater regulations, collectively called the Western Washington Manual, to be used by engineers for designing stormwater facilities. These regulations are based on environmental conditions in the Puget Sound area of our State. Ironically, much of the Puget Sound area is exempted from these new restrictive rules because the existing high density of development.
Simply stated, some of the new rules don’t apply reasonably to our community, and the result is significant negative impact to undeveloped land in many parts of the City.
The ramifications on local environment, land-use and sprawl, and economy may be staggering if the City adopts new rules wholesale from WADOE. Designing stormwater ponds to the new rules will result in much large storm ponds, dramatically higher costs and less return on investment for each individual property. As a consequence, many properties will be rendered useless for development. Commercial and industrial properties will remain barren; resulting is less construction, less availability of services and retail, and fewer jobs. Properties will drop in value. Impact fees and tax revenues to all local and state agencies will diminish.
The new rules do not enhance the quality of stormwater runoff from a private development. Those requirements of the Western Washington Manual are already required by the City. The larger ponds are due to new rules for storage and release of stormwater runoff from development. A larger pond stores more volume of water for a longer period of time. Consequently, there are negative environmental impacts and land-use pressures to consider. Expert biologists and scientists have identified that cool, clean water is an important component of supporting a healthy environment for fish and other aquatic organisms. Lengthy storage of stormwater runoff and eventual discharge to nearby streams will result in incremental temperature increases to waters entering into our creeks and streams, very much in contradiction to the understood conditions for healthy aquatic habitat. You don’t need to be a scientist to come to such a simple and accurate realization.
Furthermore, as land within the urban areas of the city is rendered useless by unnecessarily restrictive stormwater regulations, the pressure will mount to expand urban growth boundaries for larger parcels. Larger properties, located further from urban centers are typically lower valued (or otherwise stated, less expensive to purchase), and can accommodate the larger stormwater facilities needed to comply with the new regulations. The typical afflictions of sprawl will follow: need for more public infrastructure (including, of all things, more public stormwater facilities), more miles on the automobile, more greenhouse gas emissions, etc., etc.
There is an age-old contradiction between urban growth areas and environmental regulations. One issue pressures the other. As environmental regulations increase, resulting in less viable development opportunities near the urban centers, pressure mounts to expand urban growth boundaries to bring in more suitable and larger lands for needed development. The goal of minimizing environmental impact by development is thus defeated as urban sprawl and environmental degradation proceed further from the core of urban centers.
Actions and Decisions
The path toward a reasonable solution to this matter is for the City to adopt a modified version of the Western Washington Manual, such as was done recently by Clark County. After a long public process with opportunity of significant input from the community, the County adopted a modified version of the new regulations that are considered by those of us involved in these matters to be more reasonable and applicable to our area. Ecology isn’t happy about this and has threatened the County with sanctions. However, the County has taken the right steps, completing an exhaustive public process and adopting a regulation that is more practical and still effective for our area. The City should follow suit; any action otherwise would be reckless.
Lastly, either the Governor or the Legislature needs to step-in and address the ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach WADOE is taking with cities around the entire State of Washington.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
I've had some back-and-forth dialogue with one citizen (Bob) who is in disagreement with how the Vancouver Working Group (VWG) was formulated. Bob believes the members of the VWG should have been interviewed in a formal process like other City boards/commissions.
The following is a copy of our discourse:
Jesus Christ Tim! Does it not bother you at all that this just popped up on Columbia Crossing Project stationary??!! You should really try and take off the City Council hat and try to see this stuff from my point of view. Just how in the hell does this group advise City Council objectively about anything to do with the Columbia crossing Project?? Since when does the Columbia Crossing project run City Council!! Stuipd question, that last one... !!
Hey Bob --- Last night at CTRAN we received a presentation from Staff and the Consultant hired to shepherd the process with this Vancouver Working Group. The group has been put together to provide to: 1) Learn more about the light rail options (e.g., alignment and loading/offloading), and potential impacts/opportunities for downtown, and 2) Provide input and feedback about preferred options to the CRC, City of Vancouver and CTRAN. Then, the City and CTRAN will consider that feedback as each body deliberates about some of the details. It appears that the participants identified have varying degrees of support for light rail, although, they will not be asked whether or not they support light rail. That question has passed. Now, it's a matter of what works best for the community, neighborhoods and businesses affected by this project. tim
Tim; So am I to understand that you have no problem with the fact that Matt Ransom all but lied to City Council Monday, when he claimed that the Transportation Department had appointed this "group", when in fact this is really an offshoot of the Columbia Crossing Project Office?? Do you recall anything I have said to you over the past 2 years about Bold Leadership, Integrity, Clear Communications, et al?? Are you completely blind to the way this looks on this side of the City Council's podium?? You really need to go review the CVTV video of the Workshop from Monday, and listen to what was actually said before you comment too much further... Tim, do you recall the controversy over in Portland this year, about the re-naming of Interstate Avenue for Caesar Chavez? A lot of people were pissed off the most because the entire process that City Council had set up was ignored in order to favor some special interest group. That is exactly what I see going on here. The City of Vancouver, under Mayor Royce Pollard, has found a way to get light rail endorsed in this town, without ever taking the issue before the voters. And you are endorsing his efforts to date?? Your votes prove that you largely do, and your words today prove it again. City Council has chartered a wide variety of Boards and Commissions in order to advise Council on things like the amount of City Council's Paychecks. I submit that the City's involvement in the Columbia Crossing Project is at least as important as the paycheck we give you and the rest of Council, and deserves a properly appointed Citizen's review council; NOT what we have with the "Vancouver Working group". I say it again Tim, these policies will come back to haunt City Council some day, when we finally get the Federal Transit and Transportation people in here to judge for themselves what has been going on. And Jeanne Stewart is absolutely right...you must come to the voters some day for this in order to get the money to operate and maintain it. Good luck selling that in light of how the process has worked to date. Bob
Hey Bob -- I think you might be reading more into this than there is….there's no conspiracy going on with this matter.Just engaging stakeholders to help identify the best approach to building high capacity transit within the parameters of the locally preferred alternative. As part of the public outreach and engagement, the CRC suggested that the City and CTRAN Staff collaborate to identify the list of citizens of our community to participate in the Working Group. In fact, several of the members are known to been quite vocal about their opposition to light rail transit. The CRC is involved because they are funding the effort to engage in the citizens! As we heard last night at CTRAN, the group was formulated with specific intention to get differing opinions about how LRT could work in downtown and to Clark College. Nothing more, nothing less. I'm at a loss as to what you are reading into this effort as a negative to the project and the community.If you would like to participate in the Working Group, I will drop a note with Staff and it will happen… What a debacle the City of Portland created, with renaming of several streets in the City. My votes on recent issues are both supportive and in opposition to Royce (and other councilmembers).I think there are some of those that you agree with me and some that you don't. But to suggest that I have fully supported what Royce is simply incorrect. IN FACT, if you review the council decision on the locally preferred alternative, you will see that I motioned to remove all reference to accepting tolling as a funding mechanism. The entire council, with exception of the MAYOR, supported my position. He had the nerve to say to the entire community, "Tolls should be accepted". I disagreed and the council supported me. For the record, Jeanne Stewart is 'right' about the need to come to the voters for operating and maintenance monies for high capacity transit, but Bob, that has been a known, and accepted fact from the start by everybody involved. In fact, at CTRAN we (again, under my leadership as Chair of the Board), emphasized that CTRAN won't ask voters for capital $$$ to build LRT, and would ask voters for operations and maintenance. Jeanne isn't saying anything new nor anything that isn't already understood and expected by the rest of us! tim
Tim this is not about conspiracies, it is about open Public meetings, and the way the City of Vancouver goes about seeting them up. The City has an established process for forming these groups. The City has violated this process at least twice in the past month alone. That is the core issue at hand here, and putting me on a committee in violation of accepted procedures solves nothing else either! I will seek my remedies elsewhere. B
I think I see now where you're going…
However, there is a bit of misunderstanding here.
There is indeed an established process for appointing members to established boards and commissions that serve at the pleasure of the city council….like the Planning Commission, the Parking Advisory Board, etc.
But, there are many other advisory groups that are created to provide feedback to the council that aren't city-recognized and established (as in historical) advisory boards.
For example, I have personally participated in advisory boards/groups like: Development Review Fees Stakeholders Group (prior to being on Council), Haagen Park Master Plan Citizens Advisory, Pacific Park Master Citizens Advisory, Critical Areas Ordinance Advisory Group (as a Planning Commissioner), etc.
There is no specific protocol or requirements the City or City Staff must follow to create these citizen input groups. The 'Vancouver Working Group' is the same thing…
So, there is no violation of any accepted procedures and you participating is no violation either.
If there's are any legit criticisms to such groups like the 'Vancouver Working Group', it is:
A) The City or City Staff have 'stacked the deck' to favor a pre-determined outcome.
B) The City or City Staff had a pre-determined outcome before forming the group, and are simply jumping through hoops with the 'working group' to 'check the box'.
I think those are legitimate concerns to be expressed anytime a group is formed.
However, in this case, as I mentioned previously…the makeup of this group appears to be pretty balanced with both supporters and skeptics of LRT.
In any event…enough on this. I hope this makes sense now Bob. I have no reason or desire to give you any misdirection, misleading information or spin. I am all about facts and data…that is my personal inclination and driven in by my engineering background. Fact is, I'm not that good at political schmoozing and 'wheeling and dealing' because I'd rather deal with factual reality. On this matter, I'm simply trying to give you the whole picture so there's a better and correct understanding of what the working group is. You want to be more informed of what's going on in our community than most, and I appreciate that and am willing to assist in that. I've given you the facts on this issue and you can chose to do with them what you will…
Since the discussions and adoption of ALL of the local agencies of the Locally Preferred Alternative --- New Interstate 5 Bridge with Light Rail Transit -- the 39 member CRC Task Force had completed its responsibilities and was disbanded.
The CRC Project Sponsors are those public agencies that have a key role in the project and ultimately have to accept certain components. For example, the public transit agency in Clark County, CTRAN, is a Project Sponsor because CTRAN is anticipated to be the owner/operator of the light rail transit system in our community. The other Project Sponsor include: Trimet, City of Vancouver, City of Portland, Metro, RTC (Clark County Regional Transportation Council), and WSDOT & ODOT.
The Governors of both Oregon and Washington have appointed representatives from all the Project Sponsors to continue where the Task Force left off. This group is known as the Project Sponsors Council.
The Governor appointees include (in no particular order):
Fred Hansen, Trimet (CEO)
Steve Stuart, RTC (Clark County Commissioner)
David Bragdon, Metro (Board President)
Tim Leavitt, CTRAN (Vancouver City Council)
Paula Hammond, WSDOT (Director)
Royce Pollard, City of Vancouver (Mayor)
Sam Adams, City of Portland (Mayor elect)
Matt Garrett, ODOT (Director)
The primary purpose of this group (facilitated by co-chairs Henry Hewitt and Hal Dengerink), is to reach decisions on the project design refinement. More specifically, this group is to advise the departments of transportation on project development. Recommendations will be made after considering technical information, receiving input from advisory groups and reviewing public comments. This group is charged with advising the project on these issues:
- Completion of the Environmental Impact Statement
- Project design
- Project timeline
- Sustainable construction methods
- Compliance with greenhouse gas emission reduction goals
- Financial plan
The primary issue of consideration (and significant to the project) at this time is the number of lanes to be included in the project. The project is proposing a varying number of traffic lanes throughout the project, based on the locations of on-ramps and off-ramps. As you might suspect, there's a real issue with providing adequate merging and traffic weaving distance so drivers can SAFELY enter and exit the interstate.
My observation is that there appears to be a misconception about the number of lanes and the purpose of the lanes. At the December Project Sponsors Council meeting, Staff completed a detailed presentation about the number of lanes. There has been much talk (or malicious rumoring) that the project will construct twelve (12) new lanes of traffic. This inaccurate rumor has incited some opposition to the roadway portion of the project. Unfortunately, the suggestion that the CRC project is constructing 12 lanes of traffic is not entirely accurate. Indeed, there are 12 lanes for a short distance on only the bridge to accommodate the three (3) through lanes (as exist now) and the merging/weaving activities for the nearby on-ramps and off-ramps. There is NOT 12 lanes of traffic funnelling from Washington into Oregon!!!
The December presentation demonstrated the safety and design issues resulting in the proposed number of lanes throughout the project. Any reduction in the number of merging/weaving lanes will result in freeway conditions that are not safe for traffic at speed. At this point, I have no reason or inclination to support anything less than the safest conditions a new project will provide for automobile and truck drivers.
Updates to come as our meetings continue...
Thursday, July 31, 2008
Vancouver City Council
On Monday, July 7th, the Vancouver City Council took up the issue and had much conversation. When it was all said and done, the votes were as follows:
A) 7-0 for a replacement bridge, with preference for the stacked transit option.
B) 5-2 for light rail, with council members Pat Campbell and Jeanne Stewart voting against that form of high-capacity transit.
C) 5-2 for ending the light-rail line at the former visitors center east of Interstate 5. Stewart and Councilwoman Jeanne Harris voted against the Clark College terminus.
Regarding the issue of tolling a new bridge, I again expressed my continued sentiments about tolling...that it is a last option and the Feds should be stepping up to pay for this project. Consequently, I requested a deletion of language in the resolution referring to tolls as a local match for the costs. ALL but One...the Mayor...supported and voted for my amendment.
It is baffeling to me that anybody would assume right from the start that tolling (on the backs of 60,000 Clark County residents) is necessary to reconstruct a federal asset. I believe the appropriate approach is to design a project that meets the budget provided by the Feds and State, then determine if our community is ready/willing to support anything more with tolls.
The feds and state bureaucrats are promoting tolls, with the support of some local elected officials, in order to reduce their costs...or in other words are telling us citizens that all the federal income tax, all the federal gas tax, all the other federal taxes that we pay aren't enough to rebuild federal infrastructure! Time to reprioritize federal spending...immediately.
On top of that, Clark County has long been a donating County to the State of Washington budget. We have for many years been contributing more to the State budget than we receive back in benefits from the State. Now is the time for the State to return the favor to Clark County and pony-up more funding for the bridge project.
C-TRAN Board of Directors
On Tuesday, July 8th, the C-TRAN Board of Directors also took up the issue and had extensive dialogue. When it was all said and done, the votes were as follows:
A) 8-1 in support of a replacement bridge and light rail transit to the Clark College terminus (Harris opposed).
The board is comprised of nine (9) elected officials, representing the entirety of Clark County.
More to come on this...
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Our neighbors to the south are pressing hard on their positions. As I see it, there is both good and bad for Clark County in those conditions set forth by particularly by the Portland City Council.
The Good: As I've expressed previously, it's time to perform some 'reverse engineering' on the CRC project. For me, tolling is not an acceptable 'given' for the project financing. The feds need to step-up to the plate and recondition this derelict federal asset. In lieu of the feds coming to the table with the money they should, the CRC engineers then must revisit the proposed improvements and design a project that meets minimal, and likely not all the needed improvements in order to minimize (if not eliminate) the need for tolling. Simply put, tolling of the I5 Bridge is simply too much burden for Clark County citizens...paying Oregon income tax, paying Washington sales tax and commuting to Portland for work. Now, add a toll. Unfortunately, utilizing public transit (to avoid a toll) is simply not practical nor convenient for many who commute to Portland. So, the good in the Portland City Council message is that the project should be scaled back in size and cost. How it's scaled back is the question, and eliminating the tolls is a must.
The Bad: Portland really believes that light rail is the only option commuters should consider for getting to work in Portland. By proposing a scaled back bridge wiht only three lanes, the intended congestion relief is for all purposes removed. We have three lanes now, with no merging/weaving/acceleration/deceleration lanes...which results in much of the congestion. As most of you know all too well, rounding from SR14 westbound onto I5 south, you are dropped right into three fast-moving travel lanes immediately, with little distance to merge before hitting the bridge. Extremely dangerous. On the northbound commute, heading east on SR14, the exit is immediately off the bridge. Again, extremely dangerous. There are certain aspects of this bridge crossing and interchange improvements that MUST be completed. The rhetoric coming from the south side of the river doesn't seem to be understanding of this...but we'll see.
Much more dialogue and decision points remain. The LPA votes are another narrowing step in the process. I look forward to working with all the partners, both north and south of the river, to bring forward a viable project that meets the needs of our region, as well as assists in smooth commerce for the entire west coast.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
This decision point has not come without significant study, process and public input....all mandated by the federal National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
While discussions and studies of improving the I-5 corridor have been occurring for decades, the recent Columbia River Crossing (CRC) effort has been ongoing for some three years now. The CRC Task Force (comprised of 39 members; a comprehensive representation of stakeholders throughout the study area), has been meeting for some three years now. To comply with the NEPA process and perform exhaustive analysis of improvement alternatives that meet the Need and Purpose Statement of the project, some $70 million has been spent. The results of this ongoing study have been the topic of discussion for the CRC Task Force, as well as primary points of discussion for the C-TRAN Board of Directors and Vancouver City Council (and other agencies).
The CRC Task Force members are to be commended for their dedication to staying with the process. Many of the members are volunteering their time; many of the members are paid agency representatives who had to squeeze this responsibility in with everything else. At every task force meeting (I'm pretty sure), public testimony was taken. The suggestion by some opponents to the project that there has been little or no public involvement or dissemination of information is ludicrous. There have been many, many public meetings, workshops, open houses, individual and neighborhood meetings; I wouldn't even hazard to guess at how many public meetings and hours I've personally invested over the past three years...and that is only as a councilmember and C-TRAN Board Member.
However, the CRC process is far from over. There are more discussions, negotiations, oversight and decisions to be made before one shovel of dirt is turned over. I look forward to more diligence from the CRC to resolve outstanding issues....and I believe there are a number of outstanding issues that must be resolved. I am supportive of the CRC project Purpose and Need. I am supportive of freeway corridor improvements, including an improved crossing and interchanges. I am supportive of the inclusion of high capacity transit, with a connection to the light rail system in Portland.
The shortcomings I see are as follows:
I expressed reservations about tolling as early as Summer of 2007. That sentiment has not changed.
See...the context has been set that tolls are necessary for a project to be completed. I don't accept this premise. Tolling has been a topic of discussion by some local officials for several years now, hoping to create a sense of inevitability. Consequently, the CRC design consultants have done a wonderful job in proposing a bridge and associated improvements assuming tolling is a funding source for the project.
Tolling should NOT be an accepted condition of the project. The project should be FIRST considered and designed without placement of a toll on the bridge. The project should be designed within the funding provided by the Federal Government, and to a lesser extent, funding from the States of WA, OR and CA.
The Interstate 5 is a federal asset, and a vital international trade corridor for the west coast. Remember, the primary purpose of the project is to improve freight mobility throughout and into/out of the bridge influence area! Why should the citizens of Clark County be disproportionately burdened with tolling, when the feds, the states and the CRC know full well that some 60,000+ residents of Clark County cross the bridge at least twice a day. Don't forget those who have to come back over to Clark County in the middle of the day to pickup kids, get to the doctor, or simply want to have lunch at home with their significant other. At a toll of $2.50/crossing (as has been bounced around), that person will pay to the bridge $10 for the day!
We are losing in a game of 'chicken' with State and Federal agency representatives. Insinuations and comments suggesting that there is less money than expected to come to this project is further stage setting for local share...such as tolls. Nonsense! It's time for our state, and particularly our federal representatives (WA, OR and CA) and businesses up-and-down the west coast, as well as the governments and businesses of Canada and Mexico that rely on the I-5 corridor for trade and freight movement, to make the necessary push in Washington DC to get this darned project funded in full!
Improvements to the bridge influence area must be prioritized. Some of the 'wish list' improvements may need to be dropped from further consideration, in order to eliminate tolls as a funding option. Some of the interchange improvements desired may need to be eliminated. I suppose the Feds will at some point need to determine what is appropriate for their funding and what is 'desirable' from the States and locals.
#2) Political and Practical Reality
The wrangling and negotiating positions from some of the sponsoring agencies have become more clear in recent weeks. Elected officials and agency directors in WA must stand strong in defining our negotiating positions also.
I understand there is a sentiment expressed by some that if there is no light rail included in the project, then there is no project. Irresponsible to say...particularly prior to release of the DEIS study. Now, the data shows that indeed light rail would result in better ridership numbers, less impact to downtown Vancouver and less in ongoing operating and maintenance costs.
However, there is also a sentiment expressed that Clark County should feel privileged to be connecting to the light rail investment of Portland. Thus, the Tri-Met position is that Clark County is to bear the costs for any capital costs (beyond what the Feds will pay) and all operation & maintenance costs for the entire extension of LRT from the present terminus at the Expo Center (Delta Park) into Vancouver.
Really?!? Such sentiment is clearly an ideal position, because it demonstrates a lack of sensitivity both politically and pragmatically. I believe it's accurate to assert that many former residents of Portland who have moved to Clark County have done so because they (among other dislikes of 'liberal' politics) don't believe that paying for light rail transit is a privilege.
Now, please let me be clear. I'm not bashing Portland. I'm not bashing liberal politics. I am saying that the demographics of Clark County appear to be gaining in conservative leanings, and from anecdotal evidence, the folks I've talked to in Clark County that came from Portland have expressed displeasure with the liberal politics. Again, I am supportive of extending LRT into Clark County, with conditions.
The position that the C-TRAN Board of Directors has taken is that the costs of any extension of high capacity transit be split at the dividing line between Oregon and Washington. Let's not forget, however, that every citizen of Clark County that works in Portland already contributes to Tri-Met via a payroll tax deduction. Let's not forget that the extension of LRT into Clark County provides significant advantage to Tri-Met via increased ridership, allowing for a more 'rosey' picture when pursuing federal monies for more LRT investment.
My position will remain steadfast that the cost-sharing for operations & maintenance will be split equitably between the two transit agencies...and in the least will be split at the state line. The issue of capital cost sharing is moot for me, since I continue to support an LRT project that will cost no more than the Feds are willing to pay.
More to come...
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Mind you, I have not personally seen the resolution...my rant here is based on the Oregonian article.
The new proposed bridge and adjacent interchanges will provide a continuation of the three (3) through travel lanes that now presently exist on the Washington side of the Columbia. Ironically enough, Oregon is presently fixing their freeway bottleneck at Delta Park by constructing an additional lane. I don't know for sure, so I ask....Did those Metro councilors oppose that action?
The additional lanes beyond three on the new bridge are provided to help with the merging and weaving of traffic on an off the freeway between Vancouver and Delta Park. Indeed, these new merging lanes will help decrease the growing congestion (associated with the growth of our community) through the bridge influence area, as will some form of high capacity transit.
Some important 'big-picture' aspects of this project seem to be missing from the thinking of such a resolution:
- Let's not forget that, as noted in the Oregonian article, that the I-5 bridge is considered one of the worst bottlenecks on the west coast.
- Let's not forget that the population of the Portland Metro Area is anticipated to double in the next 30 some years.
- Let's not forget that any project to improve the bridge influence area should allow for the freedom of the citizens of Clark County and Portland to either drive their own vehicle or ride high capacity transit.
- Let's not forget that one of the primary goals of this project is to improve the mobility of freight and goods, so as to improve our business climate in our region (e.g., create more jobs!)
- Let's not forget that Europeans have been paying high gas prices for a long time now...and they seem to have adjusted their driving habits accordingly. Having been across the Atlantic Ocean several times over the past couple years, I'll attest there are many cars still on the roads, paying the high gas rates. The suggestion that driving here will drop dramatically, thus no need for improvements to the bridge, doesn't appear to have merit.
- Let's not forget that moving vehicles release less greenhouse gas than vehicles stalled in traffic jams.
- Let's not forget that reducing pollution of all forms is a laudible goal. However, utilizing the Interstate freeway system as the guinea pig for the mother of all environmental projects is short-sided. Those Metro councilors should work on something more feasible...like removing all the asphalt paved roads in Portland and planting grass like the Lewis & Clark Trail...note the sarcasm here, please. Social engineering, of the magnitude suggested by the proposed resolution is simply irresponsible.
- Let's not forget that some 60,000 residents from Clark County commute to Portland businesses every day, and pay an Oregon income tax of which they realize less benefit than those living in Portland.
- Let's not forget that the Portland housing market could not realistically house all those citizens and families that would need to move to Portland to get to work, if no improvements are made in the bridge influence area. Given the housing prices in Portland, I don't believe citizens in Clark County would desire to live in "affordable" subsidized housing.
Corky Collier, E.D. for the Columbia Corridor Association responded brilliantly, "For Oregon to say Clark County needs light rail and not a bridge is just a little bit on the arrogant side," Collier said. "This is teamwork. We're trying to put this project together as a group."
If we don't move forward, we fail our region and the west coast. All the more reason that our federal delegation (Oregon and Washington) as well as California, and representatives from Mexico and Canada must be outspoken advocates for the CRC project. Our local communities should not carry the burden of this project (read: no tolls).Thank you for your proposed resolution....Liberty, Collette and Hosticka. Your idealism is intoxicating. Once practical heads prevail and our community moves forward with a reasonable project, I hope you will be able to look back in comfort that you did your best to represent the fringe thinking. I hope you will then be able to look forward, for the future of our region and the west coast.
Saturday, May 24, 2008
The author of the letter makes a closing statement that, "buses make a lot more sense and are more cost effective (than light rail)." This statement is based on an uninformed understanding of operating efficiencies of public transit, as suggested in the letter. My purpose for responding to this letter is not to advocate for a transit option...but to simply provide a factual background for decision making.
The letter states that light rail ridership will only produce enough revenue to cover less than 25 percent of (the) operating costs. Because of that low percentage of cost recovery, the author insinuates that politicians are making a bad decision to support light rail and instead should support buses.
The argument presented is without merit and nonfactual.
So, let's get it straight:
#1) The national average fairbox recovery for bus transit systems is around 20%. That means that on average, BUS systems recover 20% of the operating costs from the rider. Locally, C-TRAN does BETTER than the national average, recovering around 23% of the operating costs.
#2) If a light rail transit recovers 25% of it's operating costs from ridership, then it is MORE efficient in cost recovery than bus systems nationwide and in comparison to our own C-TRAN.
In the scenario detailed by the author, light rail transit should be the preferred option for politicians wanting to support more efficient (by cost recovery) public transit.
#3) In the DEIS document for the CRC project, a comparison of estimated operating costs for light rail versus a bus rapid transit system provided. Please refer to Page 3-72 and Page 4-39. As noted on Page 3-72, the cost of operating a bus system is between 30-42% higher than a light rail system. Furthermore, as noted on Page 4-39, the cost of operating a bus system for an alignment to Clark College is $2.2-2.3 million more per year than a light rail system to the same destination. The cost of operating a bus system is MORE than operating a light rail system!
Clearly, the author prefers a bus system over a light rail system. I don't argue the opinion, just the incorrect basis for the opinion. There are other reasons to support a bus system over a light rail system that do have substantive merit...
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Indeed, the economic conditions don't lend well to tax-payer support. However, the support campaign couldn't just "pull the plug"...once the machine is started, there's really no turning back.
As I mentioned in our recent joint meeting with the Evergreen School Board, I viewed their measure as the litmus test for our community under these current economic conditions. The support campaign worked tirelessly, and there has been significant public support for the school district in recent years. Conventional wisdom would suggest that the current proposed capital improvement measure should have passed. However, the current economic conditions clearly have the attention of the tax payer, and even supporting schools and our children's education is not enough to part with the pocketbook.
Other local public agencies should take seriously the message from the resounding defeat of the school measure. In addition, the recent defeat of the public safety communication sales tax increase (CRESA) and the Port of Vancouver property tax levy are also both messages to be heeded. It's hard to believe that until the economy improves, until the public's perception of and satisfaction with government (particularly federal) inproves, until food prices come down, and until gas prices come down (if ever), there doesn't appear to be room in the checking account to pay more taxes.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Prior to 2003, the City's revenues included a local Business & Occupation Tax (B&O), state monies from the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax (MVET -- vehicle registration), and property tax increase of up to some 6%/year. However, the availability of those revenues to support city services were either eliminated or significantly cut: the City Council eliminated the local B&O Tax; and the voters of Washington cut the MVET and capped the property tax increase to 1%/year.
The result of these changes? City staff estimate some $107 million in taxes lost to the City over the period of 2001-2008 ($67 million lost B&O; $40 million lost from WA State Initiatives).
The result of that loss of revenues? Described by city staff as a "structural deficit". The short story is that revenues (taxes/fees) aren't keeping up with the expenses. Since I've been a councilmember, every budget process (occuring every 2 years) has been led by a discussion of prioritization and cuts. In this coming biennium, the City has a $6 million deficit
Indeed, much prioritization and cuts in programs have resulted in the time I've been involved in budgeting for the City. The cuts have occurred in departments/services/programs that have been deemed less important. Over the past five years, in general the city council has prioritized funding Police, Fire and Transportation. Budgets for programs like Parks & Recreation received large cuts; other programs were eliminated and the Community Service Department was altogether shelved. All told, since 2001 the City has cut programs and positions to the tune of $14 million to balance the general budget.
During the same period, the city council did also raise taxes/fees....nibbling around the edges. Utility taxes were increased; garbage fees were increased; development and building permit fees were increased; the business license fee was increased; and a business employee head-tax was implemented. These increases don't cover the entire lost monies. As a result, the severity of cuts in services was lessened.
The city council has very few choices of its own for raising taxes/fees. Available options at this time include:
#1) $20 license registration fee -- generating some $2-3 million/year
#2) 4% Utility Tax (water/sewer/stormwater) -- generating some $2.4 million/year
#3) B&O Tax -- generating upwards of $8-10 million per year @ maximum rate
Other new revenue choices, requiring voter approval, that have been put on the table include:
#1) Additional license registration fee -- up to $100.
#2) Levy Lid Lift -- increase in property tax.
#3) Transportation Benefit District -- special levy on property for transportation projects.
#4) Maintenance & Operations (M&O) -- special levy on property for city operations (typically fire and/or police).
#5) Capital Facilities Bonds -- levy on property for new city buildings (new fire stations).
No solution will come without some pain, whether cuts in service or increases in taxes. The current economic conditions don't bode well for support of additional taxes/fees; the current growth issues don't bode well for cuts in service. Further discussion with the entire council, city staff and the public must ensue.
The Leavitt Plan
Ultimately, the City of Vancouver must balance an investment of limited resources into key services/programs that keep our community safe, stimulate job growth and maintain as best as possible our fine quality of life.
Given the current economic conditions and options available to the city, I will offer the following interim budget plan for consideration by the council:
#1) Reduce the transportation capital improvement program (TIP). PRESENTLY, the city is barely able to keep up with the maintenance of our existing roads. Limit new road construction to a priority of projects included in the Business License Fee surcharge/Head Tax, and, limit new construction to only projects that have matching private investment (e.g., new development presently in progress). No new roadway capacity projects to be funded/constructed. Re-alocate a portion of the general fund TIP monies to prioritize maintenance of our existing roadways. City to continue working on alternative and sustained funding options with the State Legislature and City Council. Ultimately, eliminate the Business License Fee surcharge and head tax and replace with a street utility tax.
Rationale: The City is presently struggling to patch together a roadway capital projects program, with some $400 million in capital projects identified as "needed". The City is presently struggling to maintain the existing roadways and medians. Maintain what we have, for the time-being, until appropriate funding is in-place for new construction and maintenance. New capital projects for increased capacity are low priority under current fiscal circumstances.
#2) Re-alocate general fund TIP money into development of after-school programs for our children and teen-agers. Working with community partners (e.g., school districts, ESD 112, non-profits and business), develop a comprehensive after-school program for junior high and high school students. Program to include educational, recreational and vocational components.
Rationale: City recreational/parks programs have absorbed large cuts in previous budget processes. There is a clear and demonstrated need through statistics from the schools, the health department and the police department to keep kids engaged after the school day ends. Lack of after school programs, from the 2 or 3-6pm timeframe is becomming a significant issue in our community.
to be continued....
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Comments made by at least two of the Commissioners suggest that they are not considerate of either the public process for the CRC, nor the ridiculous traffic congestion experienced by Clark County commuters.
The following is an email I received today about the Portland Commissioners comments, and my response:
Good Morning Mayor, Councilmember and City Manager:
Any thoughts on KATU reporting that Randy Leonard of Portland City Council will not "allow" a new bridge that does not have light rail. So far as I'm hearing from my members they are pretty upset by the appearance that Portland City Council is trying to extent their governing power across the bridge.
Our official position is still that the mode of HCT is not the issue, but the corridors are. At this time my board has not directed me to have our Government Affairs Committee consider a change in that position due to angry comments by our membership, however I do see that as a distinct possibility due to the fact that this is already an emotionally charged issue with property rights implications.
Good Morning (xxxxx) --
Indeed, recent remarks by a few from the south side of the river have sounded inconsiderate...not just of our community, but also of the CRC's Public Process (Draft Environmental Impact Statement).
Commissioner Leonard's suggestion that rails be put into the bridge is either a result of his lack of awareness or simply a disregard for the public process. I'm hoping the prior...a lack of awareness...
More concerning to me is Commissioner Sten's remark, "Let's face it, the bridge serves Vancouver more than Portland."
The expression of such sentiment leads me to believe the either Sten is not in touch with the business community in Portland, or, the business community has yet to speak up on the issue. With some 60k citizens of Clark County crossing the I-5 bridge each morning to work in the Rose City and surrounding suburbs, how does Sten determine that the bridge serves Vancouver more than Portland? Is the Clark County workforce of no value to employers in Portland?
Emotions may be charged, but I'm confident the (xxxxx) leadership will make prudent decisions.
We'll keep working with the "uninformed" in Portland in hopes that they'll come around to an important public process.
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
The mother protecting her four-year old son from the truth about a favorite uncle’s death by homicide can be considered an honest white lie. The cashier stealing from the register and lying about a shortage as an honest error can be considered a deliberate lie. Insider trading or cover-up of real financials by Kenneth Lay and others can be considered a deliberate lie of larger magnitude. New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, posing as ‘Client 9’ and soliciting a high-end ‘call service’ for prostitution with questionable financial transactions is a deliberate and hypocritical lie. A politician considered by many to be riding high with significant future opportunities...brought down by his own ego.
Spitzer’s deceit is the most disturbing form of lying…both because of the hypocrisy and his position in our society. Portraying himself as a righteous individual, he asked for your vote; he asked for your trust; he betrayed his family and the public.
Several years back, I recall watching news stories and hearing interviews with then New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer. My initial reaction, quite candidly, was that Spitzer came across as too confident, crossing that fine-line into arrogance. The adjective ‘blow-hard’ came to mind. Spitzer struck me as a public official who strived for the limelight and cameras, centered in his own stardom as what apparently was considered a successful career convicting bad guys. Spitzer eagerly portrayed himself as New York’s moral compass and gloated about putting prostitution ring criminals behind bars.
Now, here is New York’s governor apologizing for his illegal and hypocritical behavior…only AFTER he was outed by the FBI. The preliminary news reports suggest solicitation of prostitution, money laundering and tax evasion. I really want to exclaim, “I knew it!”, but would have more credibility if I had written about my disdain for Spitzer previous to these developments.
I am sorry for his wife, children and family, and the citizens of New York. Here is a public official they were led to believe was an honest and morally centered family man. After lying to his wife and family, Spitzer’s deceit began with luring and convincing the citizens of New York to place their trust in him with their vote for governor. The lies continued then as governor, with an ongoing charade of high family values and personal integrity. I wonder how Spitzer was able to look himself in the mirror every morning; how he was able to smile to his wife and children; how he was able to rant and rail against moral ineptitude (as he did on the news show 60 Minutes a few years ago) without blinking an eye. His sham ended with an investigation and discovery by federal investigators of covert illegal activities; the IRS contacted the FBI after suspicious financial transactions.
It’s not difficult to understand why the public is generally skeptical and mis-trusting of elected officials. Because elected officials ask to be entrusted and consequently live under the public microscope, every action is subject to significant public scrutiny. Mis-deeds are highly publicized, and oftentimes rightfully so. Individuals like President Richard Nixon, President Bill Clinton, Senator Larry Craig, Senator Tom Delay, Governor Neil Goldschmidt; Spokane Mayor Jim West have set a high bar for creating public mis-trust. This list goes on and on…and now, Governor Elliot Spitzer.
Had Spitzer broken the law by simply hiring a prostitute, he may have been able to survive politically. In that case, an immediate apology to his family and the citizens of New York would likely have nipped in the bud pressure to resign, effectively ending his public career. HOWEVER, reports to-date indicate that Spitzer was meticulous in preparation and planning of his illegal actions; HOWEVER, Spitzer set himself up as the moral compass for the public to entrust. Because of the deliberate nature of his actions and because of his hypocrisy, Spitzer should not, and I suspect will not recover from his deeds.
I am baffled by the actions of elected officials like these. The arrogance and sense of entitlement to believe that they are above the law; the lack of moral and ethical fortitude deserving of the public trust; the lack of simple common sense and consideration of the citizens they serve; the lack of respect for the rules and laws that we are all bound to. Making an honest mistake and admitting to that is acceptable to me; deceitful, deliberate and hypocritical dishonesty is not. It’s truly disturbing.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
There is much press about the City's investment of money and resources in downtown Vancouver. While the revitalization of the 'heart' of our city is important for the entirety of Vancouver, the reality is that the city spends more resources on the east side of our city. Those projects simply don't get the attention that downtown seems to receive.
The City of Vancouver made significant investments in capital infrastructure between 2002 and 2007. This report is a summary of the 2002-2007 capital projects separated into East and West using Andresen Street as a dividing line.
The total investment in capital projects from 2002-2007 is approximately $243.3 million. Of this total, $158.3 million was spent on the East side and $85.0 million was spent on the West side.
The City’s capital expenditures generally fall into the following four major project types:
- Public Works
- General Governmental
Each type is explained in more detail below.
Capital projects in Transportation include planning, development and construction of infrastructure such as roads, bridges, traffic signals, street lights, bike lanes and pedestrian walkways. The total investment in Transportation from 2002-2007 was $122.5 million, including state, federal grants and other external sources of funding.
The split here is $80.9 million or 66% for projects in East Vancouver and $41.6 million or 34% for projects in West Vancouver.
Major East side transportation projects:
SE 192nd Avenue from SE 1st to SR 14 Interchange $27.7 million
Burton Road Corridor from 86th Avenue to 112th Avenue $9.8 million
NE 138th Avenue from 18th Street to 28th Street $8.6 million
NE 28th Street – 112th Avenue to 142nd Avenue $5.2 million
Major West side transportation projects:
Confluences Land Bridge (Federal, state, private funding) $11.2 million
Fruit Valley Road Corridor $7.1 million
Various Fourth Plain Projects $3.8 million
6th Street Traffic and Pedestrian Improvement $2.5 million
NW 26th Street Bypass Planning Study $2.0 million
Capital projects in Public Works include comprehensive planning, engineering design, and project management of various infrastructure and facilities in the water, wastewater, and surface water management areas. The total investment in Public Works from 2002-2007 was $48.2 million, with $31.9 million or 66% for projects in East Vancouver and $16.3 million or 34% for projects in West Vancouver.
Major East side public works projects:
Burnt Bridge Creek Regional Wetland Bank and
Greenway Trails – East $5.8 million
Land Acquisition for Public Works East Operations Center $4.8 million
Major West side public works projects:
Burnt Bridge Creek Regional Wetland Bank and
Greenway Trails – West $3.9 million
Pretreatment Lagoon Land $2.8 million
Capital projects in Parks include planning and development of the park system including neighborhood parks, community parks, and trails. Capital expenditures are also made for land acquisition and construction of community centers. Although Parks provides planning, acquisition, and development services for Clark County, only projects within the City limits are included in this report. The total investment in Parks from 2002-2007 was $50.9 million, with $35.7 million or 70% for projects in East Vancouver and $15.2 million or 30% for projects in West Vancouver.
Major East side parks projects:
Firstenburg Community Center $24.6 million
Haagen Community Park Phase II $1.9 million Fisher Basin Park $1.1 million
Major West side parks projects:
Marshall/Luepke Community Center Remodel $9.7 million
Marshall Community Park $1.5 million
Property Acquisition in Park District 1 $1.5 million
Capital projects in General Governmental include major repairs of existing facilities and construction of new facilities for Public Safety and the Vancouver National Historic Reserve. The total investment in General Governmental from 2002-2007 was $21.7 million, with $9.7 million or 45% for projects in East Vancouver and $11.9 million or 55% for projects in West Vancouver.
Major East side general governmental projects:
East Police Precinct $8 million
Fire Station 87 on Andresen (1/2 of total investment) $1.45 million
Major West side general governmental projects:
Vancouver National Historic Reserve - West Barracks $4.6 million Fire Station 87 on Andresen (1/2 of total investment) $1.45 million
At this point, there is a shortfall in funding of the needed roadway improvements to the tune of some $15 million from the expected public participation. City Staff and the City Council are working with other public partners, including the County and the State to assist in supporting the funding shortfall. The City Council is also beginning discussions about other potential funding sources.
The following is correspondence and request for response I recently received regarding this issue:
The truth finally emerges!!Just where in hell does the City of Vancouver envision raising $40 Million for their initial investment at Boise?? \The estimate to synchronize the traffic lights on Mill Plain is only $20 Million, and the City has been tried (and failed) to fund that for at least 5 years.The City doesn't have the $400,000 it needs right now to fund the Gang Task Force for this year, or the $1 Million they need for it next year...how can anyone justify even considering spending any public money on what is a private development at the Boise Cascade site??And why in hell would anyone work to deliberately create the kind of traffic congestion in Downtown Vancouver, other than to eventually try to use those 20,000 additional car trips to justify even more outrageous spending in Downtown?? Do you think they might try and build a streetcar line once they gat all of those car trips?? I sure do!!This whole project is a house of cards, and the City can't afford to pay that kind of money into Gramor's project without some sort of significant tax increase, and that means a ballot measure that wouldn't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing. Why continue this charade??Still very much a developing debacle at Boise Cascade. This isn't about development, it's about money and power in The 'Couv.
Yes, disappointing that we didn't get any financial support from the State.
Interesting to see how Graymor proceeds...with the public participation in the project continuing to struggle to find solid ground.
With the present challenges of funding programs like the gang taskforce, it is difficult to keep an eye on the long-range picture.
I'm certain we'll have serious conversations about reprioritizing to support the police department.
However, I also think there needs to be resources focused on the prevention/intervention aspects of gangs.
(I'm working on some of those types of projects now...)
The government and police department can't be expected to curb gang activity through enforcement only.
The costs to hire all the police and build all the jail space needed would bankrupt the public.
Anyway, I digress there....
Here's how I see the Boise site:
For every $1 of public money invested in the infrastructure of the Boise Site, it's estimated that $30 of private money will be spent on the development.
The project will have office spaces, housing, restaurants, shops, etc., to the tune of some $1.3 billion investment by private development.
Lots of jobs (during construction and afterwards, keeping folks on our side of the river), housing (building homes where the water/sewer/etc. is in place or nearby...reducing sprawl and ultimate costs to the public), shopping (helping keep retail spending on our side of the river), and public access to the waterfront (trails, open space...presently not available because Boise is a private property on the river).
All of this bodes well for the sustainable future of our community. More jobs, more housing, more shopping opportunities, more public access...resulting in more tax $$$ to the City, C-TRAN, County, Library, State, etc.
If I recall correctly, the project at full build out will result 1 million square feet of office space, 10 acres of public space and around 2,500 residential units.
Really important to me is the approximate 2,500 new permanent jobs that will be located there.
The estimate is that at buildout, this project will generate $235 million in new state and local taxes over the following 25 years...helping future city councils pay for those police/fire/etc.
Another $150 million in taxes is estimated to go to the State.
OVERALL, a pretty good return to the public for a few million now....in my opinion.
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Myopia (mahy-oh-pee-u) noun.
1. Ophthalmology. a condition of the eye in which parallel rays are focused in front of the retina, objects being seen distinctly only when near to the eye; nearsightedness
2. lack of foresight or discernment; obtuseness.
3. narrow-mindedness; intolerance.
Item number two is the working definition for today's blog.
Two entries recently appeared in the fish wrap south of the Columbia River regarding the Columbia River Crossing project, the content and quotes of which demonstrate a clear myopic attitude of certain individuals about regional/national transportation issues and business/commerce.
First, a Sunday, February 24th article, entitled Bridging the Global Warming Gap by Dylan Rivera includes comments from a Metro council member: "the region should scrap the proposal entirely. Toll the existing bridge -- and change nothing else for a while -- to see how that reduces congestion and carbon emissions. Follow up with light rail and river navigation enhancements that would be less costly than the $4.2 billion proposal on the table."
Response: Really appreciate the idealism here; the goal of reducing carbon emissions is and 'creating' a sustainable community is laudable and I support that position, to a reasonable extent. Constantly pushing the envelope is necessary to, in the least, incite conversation.
However, it's entirely unrealistic...and bad public policy for the entire WEST COAST of the good ol' USA to suggest that the blinding red beacon of the Interstate 5 Bridge and associated interchanges not be improved. This bridge should not become the "great sustainable experiment". A 'do nothing' alternative is unacceptable.
Public safety alone is a compelling enough reason to fix the corridor. The CURRENT bridges were constructed in 1917 and 1958! In 1917, the bridge was constructed for horse-drawn carriages and Model T Fords...the speed limit was 35 miles per hour. The interchanges and on-ramps/off-ramps are dangerous...as evidenced by the high frequency of accidents. Tolling the bridge with no improvements does not address the woefully inadequate interchange issues. The CRC studies already completed show that tolling has some, but limited impact on usage; the argument that there will be less traffic, thus less safety concern doesn't carry.
Those comments also suggest that business and commerce aren't important in the I-5 corridor. Any concern about the impacts to Portland businesses if the 60,000 employees from Clark County have an even more challenging time getting to work? Do these comments reflect the perspective of Portland business owners? What about commerce/freight and delivery traffic in our region and up/down the West Coast? What about maritime commerce? We are aware that the maritime navigation is dangerous and requires bridge lifts that further inhibit efficient traffic circulation. No doubt the negative economic impacts of tolling the existing bridge with no improvements would ripple throughout our side of the country.
If one were to expand the argument of this myopic scenario with more obtuseness...tolling the existing bridge with no road/safety/capacity improvements indeed would be BENEFICIAL to Clark County. Commute times would increase exponentially, as expected with our population growth and modeled by the CRC. Business in Portland would suffer. So, either business would expand into Clark County...or residents would move to Portland. My guess is business would move to Clark County. There's more shovel-ready commercial & industrial property; there's more tax advantages to business and residents; and our school system is in much better shape. Either way, Clark County wins. More business, more tax base; less population, less drain on agency resources, less sprawl, etc., etc., etc.
Next, on Tuesday, February 26, an Oregonian editorial writer presented a piece called Building A Bridget to the past? The piece included mis-statements of facts and a backwards perspective of the objectives of the project, including the following:
Apparently, I need a little help with the math on the Columbia River Crossing:
The $4 billion bridge will shave 10 minutes off the commute to Clark County...
Those 10-12 lanes at the state line will funnel into four lanes at the Rose Garden . . . and still reduce the legendary I-5 bottleneck?
"You have a bridge that is unsafe and seismically unsound," said (Chris) Smith, who is running for a seat on the Portland City Council, "but I don't know the answer is to build something that encourages more commuting from Clark County."
Particularly when that county has a much more leisurely philosophy about taxes, land use and sprawl. "If I had $4 billion to invest," Smith said, "I might put it into affordable housing in Portland, not economic development in Vancouver."
Response: I'll tell you that indeed, assistance with the math is needed. I know there is criticism of the level of education in math and science in our country, but please...
There are NOT 10 lanes of traffic feeding at the state line feeding into the bottleneck at the Rose Garden!!! Indeed, the addition is entirely unaccurate. The CRC project, in truth, will result in THREE (3) lanes of through traffic extending to the Rose Garden. A closer look at the proposed project would reveal that the road improvements are restricted to adding needed merge lanes, primarily in downtown Vancouver and at Jantzen Beach, onto the three through lanes.
Fortunately, CRC study results show that some 70% of the vehicle trips in the bridge influence area get on and off the freeway prior to the bottleneck at the Rose Garden. At the Rose Garden those other 30% of vehicle trips will start to slow and backup. It's hard to see how it could be accomplished now, but leaders in Oregon should look at widening I-5 in that area. The freeway varies from 2 to 3 lanes until after the Marquam Bridge, where it returns to three lanes.
Why is there a suggestion that the commute to Clark County will be shaved by 10 minutes. While this may be the case, it is more important for business owners in Portland that rely on Clark County employees to learn that current travel time INTO Portland during the morning commute will be preserved into the next couple decades. I suppose it wasn't the authors intent to emphasize that aspect of the improvement project...for fear of weakening his arguments.
Not encouraging more traffic from Clark County? Portland businesses don't want reasonable access for some 1/2 million citizens from Clark County to shop, eat, work and recreate in Portland? Any 'expert' in transportation issues recognizes the vital link between transportation and economic vitality. Don't improve the bridge and interchanges: Allow for more difficulty for Washingtonians to get to Oregon; allow more difficulty for local business to haul freight and goods between the two states; allow more difficulty for interstate and international business commerce on the West Coast. The result? Loss of business competitive advantage; loss of economic growth and business expansion; loss of jobs.
It's a difficult project to wrap your arms around, as apparent by some of the remarks by others noted here. There is a lot of information; the process has been ongoing for several years now. One simply cannot take a 'sound bite' of information and draw conclusions....that is simply irresponsible, particularly by public officials and media types.
The CRC project is more than just moving people; more than sustainablilty; more than maritime traffic. The CRC project is about FUTURE community vitality, livability and properity. The citizens of our region deserves leadership that will keep an eye on this future.
Friday, February 22, 2008
As both a Vancouver Councilmember and Chair of the C-TRAN Board of Directors, much of my effort over the past couple years has been spent in some capacity related to this issue and working to insure these significant decisions are the most beneficial for our community. The purpose of this blog is to give you some background and opinion from my perspective. I appreciate and will consider your feedback as it comes time for me to weigh-in on behalf of the citizens of the City and C-TRAN.
The Columbia River Crossing (CRC) Task Force, comprised of 39 members has been meeting to discuss and learn about the proposed improvements for over 2 years now. More detail of the CRC may be found at: http://www.columbiarivercrossing.org/
In short, the Task Force was created by the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) to engage key local stakeholders in the Portland-Vancouver Metro area in a dialogue about the options available to meet the objectives of improving the efficiency of transit (marine, automobile and truck) and safety of the corridor.
Specifically, the Purpose and Need of the CRC is described as:
To address the transportation problems on I-5, a mix of bridge, public transit and highway solutions are needed. If we do not move forward with a comprehensive long-term solution now, the problems will only get worse. This project will improve:
- Travel safety and traffic operations at the I-5 river crossing and nearby interchanges
- Connectivity, reliability, travel times and operations of the public transportation systems in the project area
- Freight mobility and address interstate travel and commerce needs in the project area
- Structural integrity of the I-5 river crossing
Aside from the CRC, local agencies in our community such as the Vancouver City Council, the C-TRAN Board of Directors and the Regional Transportation Council (RTC) have held numerous public meetings over the past couple years to receive updates and discuss progress of the project.
The process began with some 20+ options to consider for meeting the goals of the project. After much analysis, discussion and input from the various stakeholders, the CRC is close to releasing the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) for public consumption, review and comment. The release date is now expected toward the end of March. This document describes in detail the improvement alternatives (four) agreed upon by the CRC to move forward in the process, including a replacement bridge or a supplemental bridge; bus rapid transit or light rail. Options for the high capacity transit alignment are also proposed.
Improvements to meet the goals of the CRC will be costly and require federal support to meet the funding needs. A conglomerate of technical experts (planners, scientists, engineers, public information, etc.) was contracted with to complete laborious analysis of feasible alternatives that met strict federal guidelines for funding, and state and local desires for improvements. The analysis and data these technical experts have prepared has been the basis for the discussions over the past couple years. These alternatives meet, by CRC accounts, the minimum requirements for federal funding of such a mega-project, with cost estimates (depending ultimately on the alternative chosen) as high as $4.25 billion.
Still early in the process, funding opportunities have not been fully vetted. The general expectation is that a third of the funding will be federal, a third will be State/Local and a third will be via tolls on the bridge. Details yet to come.
Alternatives being Considered
There are two (2) bridge alternatives and two (2) high capacity transit (HCT) alternatives being considered in the DEIS. A 'No-build' option is also part of the DEIS.
The bridge options include either #1) a replacement for the existing spans (circa 1917 and 1958), or #2) a supplemental bridge built west of the existing spans.
For HCT, the alternatives are either #1) bus-rapid transit or #2) light rail. In addition, there are two alignments under consideration: #1) A 'Vancouver' alignment that resides west of I-5 the entire length, or #2) An 'I-5' alignment that crosses to the east of I-5 along McGloughlin or 16th Street.
Early analysis and assessment by the CRC consultant team has resulted in the following general findings:
#1) A replacement bridge more effectively meets the need and purpose of the project.
#2) Light Rail transit is more costly to construct, less costly to operate, more efficient connection to Portland HCT system, and more efficient movement of transit riders.
Feedback To Date
My communication with neighbors, residents and business owners in Vancouver and Clark County has been extensive, and aside from many individual conversations, includes meetings and presentations with Uptown Village business owners, neighborhood and other representatives at a recent Light Rail Forum sponsored by 15 Vancouver neighborhood associations, the East Vancouver Business Association, and the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce political action committee. I anticipate many more opportunities for dialogue about the CRC in the coming months. In the next week, I will be meeting/presenting/discussing the CRC with the Vancouver Rotary Club (225 members) and the Vancouver Chamber of Commerce general membership.
The feedback I have received thusfar can be summarized as follows:
- Comfortable with replacing the existing bridge and interchanges.
- Comfortable with light rail instead of bus rapid transit.
- Discomfort with light rail through the Uptown Village area, particularly on Main Street.
- Discomfort or misunderstanding about the potential costs to Vancouver/Clark County associated the CRC project.
- Discomfort with the imposition of a toll on the bridge.
Response and Opinion
Details to come...