Sunday, September 27, 2009

Giving the Fourth Plain Corridor the Attention It Deserves

Growing up here in Vancouver, my brother and I spent a large part of our childhoods in and around the Fourth Plain Corridor. We lived in an apartment complex in Minnehaha. We rode the C-Tran bus to Leverich Park during the summers, going to City summer camp. On the weekends, our parents would take us to Golden Skate and the old Aqua Chutes. I attended Fort Vancouver High School, and after our football games we would hang out at Uncle Milt’s Pizza, listen to the organ play, and pal around with the Pink Panther...remember him?

It's a great honor for me to be a part of the Fourth Plain Corridor Revitalization Task Force, working with a strong, dedicated group of volunteers, from all walks of life, who are working collectively to re-energize this area. Downtown and Esther Short Park may be the “heart” of Vancouver, but Fourth Plain is the backbone. It's a truly international culture that spans all generations and income levels. This is Vancouver's hidden treasure, and we need to bring it out into the light.

Our schools, gathering places, nonprofits and businesses along this strip are suffering the kind of urban problems that you'd normally only see in larger cities.

We have gang and graffiti issues, language barriers, serious poverty, and a real lack of resources for this area.

86% of students at Washington Elementary and 80% at Roosevelt qualify for free/reduced price lunch—those schools are #1 and #4 in the Vancouver School District for students eligible for subsidized lunches. Both schools qualify for Title I federal funding assistance, which is directly tied to poverty levels.

Businesses along the corridor suffer from high crime activity and serious safety concerns, both for themselves and their customers. While millions upon millions of dollars in real funds and tax abatements have been invested in the downtown and riverfront areas, next to nothing has been allocated for this part of the city, and private investment has not been encouraged, either.

And while it can be a pretty depressing picture, there are also many great things happening.

For example, the Re-Store building supply store choosing to locate here, and the Free Clinic continuing to expand its offerings to meet growing demands. Volunteer programs are modeling effective ways to work together to fix up homes and public spaces.

And then there's the task force -- this incredible group of caring volunteers who get together regularly to strategize and put into action plans to improve this area, one small step at a time. I've been grateful for the opportunity to get directly involved, supporting efforts of the Second Saturday volunteer events that Ray Garza has organized, including much-needed repairs in the mobile home park in Rose Village. Working with a professional landscaper who donated volunteer support for the recent street cleanup. And planting flowers in the Washington State display at I-5 and Fourth Plain.

It was a distinct honor, two years ago, to work with Representative Bill Fromhold when local funding for summer camps was cut. Together, Rep. Fromhold and I secured $25,000 from the State Legislature in order to restore this program for our neighborhood children in Evergreen and Waterworks Parks.

And a couple months back, I had the pleasure of shoveling and hauling bark dust to assist with the gateway garden project at 39th & P Streets, led by the Americans Building Community group.

In fact, the name of Mark & Patti Maggiora’s ABC organization gets at the heart of what's going on here: it's Deliberate Community Building. Neighborhood leaders, property owners, non-profits and local businesses -- working to re-create a sense of community and personal investment in this area.

And now, under a new administration, it'll be time to give these efforts the City support and backing they need and deserve.

Indeed, my opponent and I do agree that this election is not about promises for the future, but about a record of leadership and action. And while my opponent has suddenly begun making new promises when he's had 20 years and hasn't done a thing, I've actually been out working with, talking with, and making plans for the future with the people who care the most about this area.

It’s easy to dismiss promises, when those of the past have not been met.

And it IS action that speaks louder that words.

So what action is needed now? City support for these great efforts is long overdue. The Fourth Plain Subarea Plan has been on the shelf now for over two years. It is time right now for the City and other public agencies to engage and take action –- no more of the wait, wait, wait until yet another project in some other area of town is completed.

It's time for our government to start thinking about more than just the money. Return on investment also needs to include quality of life.

A $10,000 investment from the city might not make a drop in the bucket downtown, but along this corridor, to a small business owner, it could mean the difference between staying open and closing forever. And a successful business here will provide a consistent, long-term asset for the community as well as a source of revenue for the City.

My vision for the Fourth Plain corridor is an area that comes back into its full vibrance and diversity, where residents, business owners and visitors can feel safe and excited to be here -- whether they're coming home from work, going out to dinner, or taking the kids to the park after school.

Burying power lines, repairing tattered roads, working with businesses to help them pave the way toward prosperity and success. Whether that means fighting for transportation dollars for improvements that actually light up the street after dark. Or creating a renovation/improvement business loan program. Or developing a cultural center to provide meaningful and engaging activities for our youth. Or purposefully designing culturally competent gang outreach programs. Or partnering with groups like ABC and others to re-dress our neighborhoods and residential streets.

The first thing I will do for this area as Mayor will not be to issue edicts and ultimatums, but to hold a series of forums, here in the corridor, so that we can talk about what YOU need and what YOU want to see happen here.

There is a lot we can do, and it's far past time for the City to step up and start doing it. As your next Mayor, I look forward to working with each and every one of you here to make that happen.

No comments: