Saturday, September 19, 2009

Roads Dividing Our Community: A tale of two different neighborhoods

Tale #1: Reconnecting Downtown Vancouver with the Historic Reserve

An important piece of the proposed improvements of the Columbia River Crossing include the ‘Community Connector,’ otherwise known as a ‘cap’ or ‘lid’ over the freeway, located at the Evergreen Blvd. overpass.

As part of the environmental mitigation for the Columbia River Crossing project, a cap over a section the new freeway will be incorporated into the design. Years ago, the I-5 corridor ripped through downtown Vancouver and separated the core downtown area from the Historic Reserve and the Clark College area. This cap will be a beautiful park space that will provide the mandatory environmental mitigation to offset the impacts of the massive pavement project.

But even more important, it will return a link between the two sides of downtown. From the Reserve running west over the freeway, and meeting up with the new library, we'll see a pleasant, walkable connection between east and west, past and present.

I fully support this cap, and think that it will be an important part of the bridge project, even as the cost is scaled down and we find an affordable project that doesn't penalize our citizens for having to commute to Portland for work.

Tale #2: Dividing Neighborhoods and Killing Joe’s Farm

As our population has grown over the years, 18th Street has become an increasingly congested and dangerous thoroughfare. An improvement project has been envisioned for decades now, including safe pedestrian and bike passage, as well as five (5) lanes for vehicular traffic.

Unfortunately, the proposed five-lane project cannot be accommodated without gutting Joe's Place Farms and isolating the Landover-Sharmel neighborhood. In no uncertain terms, Joe Beaudoin testified at a recent City Council meeting, if the project moves forward as presently designed, Joe’s Place Farms will be no more.

If you haven't been to Joe's Place, at 112th Avenue and 18th Street, I strongly encourage you to go. Whether you prefer fresh-picked blueberries in the summer or pumpkins and hot apple cider in the fall, Joe and Gayle have an incredible spread and bring a little piece of the country right into the heart of our city.

In both the Landover-Sharmel and First Place neighborhoods, Vancouver's strong sense of community and livability is regularly on display. Not just in the great people you meet if you visit, but in exciting projects like the new neighborhood entryway, that was collaboratively created and constructed by neighbors, friends, and students, with support from the Bonneville Power Administration. Many residents, particularly in Landover-Sharmel, have called that neighborhood their home for decades, and have enjoyed one of the last bastions of ‘rural’ feel in our city.

Joe's Place and those neighborhoods are just two of the great gems that make up our community and remind me why I love this town so much.

Unfortunately, both are threatened by a street-widening project that will, physically, tear the community apart.

Tim’s Response: We Can Do BETTER!

Doorbelling over the past five months, I have listened to many stories of frustration about the lack of attention from our current mayor, the disappointment with continual development of subdivisions and strip malls, and the anger over obligations promised but never delivered upon after annexation some 10+ years ago.

On several occasions, my opponent has publicly stated that “East Vancouver is on auto-pilot,” Revealing his lack of regard for the city’s east side. But it’s not just words that expose his unfortunate attitude about 2/3 of our city; his actions are even more revealing!

While I have been fighting for reconsideration and reduction of the proposed five-lane arterial; while I’ve been fighting to preserve the integrity of the Landover-Sharmel neighborhood; while I’ve been fighting for sustainability, urban forestry (many old growth trees will be removed due to the scale of the widening), and preservation of Joe’s Place Farms and the healthy eating afforded by urban farming; and while I’ve been fighting to prioritize walking, biking and connection of a regional trail system FIRST, before increasing vehicle traffic and congestion….the current mayor hasn’t blinked an eye at the thought of ending Joe’s Place Farms and forever changing the unique character of the Landover-Sharmel neighborhood.

We can do better for our neighborhoods, for sustainability, for urban forestry and for the viability of Joe’s Place.

Just because “this is how we’ve always done it”, doesn’t mean it is the right way to do it for the future. We need fresh eyes and fresh perspective to face the challenges of today as well as tomorrow. This is what we can do. This will move Vancouver forward and to a stronger sense of community.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tolling is NOT the Only Answer!

In the Editorial section of the September 9 Columbian, Tom Koenninger writes that tolls on the new I-5 crossing are a foregone conclusion, and insinuates that anyone who claims otherwise is a fool or a liar.

Indeed, since Mr. Koenninger and the current Mayor of Vancouver, among others, have been stubbornly trying to force tolls onto our community for years now, one can hardly expect that they'd suddenly come to their senses.

It's because of this hard-headed refusal to do what is right for our community, and to defend the very people who need it most, that I am running for Mayor. Our community really does deserve better ideas, better leadership, and a stronger commitment to our citizens.

We DO need to replace this bridge. But we must also fight against tolls to pay for it. Mr. Pollard calls this viewpoint “naive.” To that I counter: if fighting for our community's common good, if refusing the status-quo, if actively seeking creative solutions to problems our incumbent officials have been unable to solve makes me na├»ve...then I suppose I am guilty as charged.

The only relevant comment in Mr. Koenninger’s opinion piece is that from Paula Hammond, Washington Department of Transportation: “No state money has been assigned for the project.”

To expound on that: No Washington State money, no Oregon State money, and no Federal money.

We're looking at plans to improve a $4 billion interstate asset, and not a single elected official has managed to secure federal or state funding. Instead, my opponent and his supporters have our community in their crosshairs –- how high can they set the tolls before our citizens can no longer handle it?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is a federal asset that benefits every single person living in this region. Governor Gregoire insists that we must have “user fees,” but her understanding of who exactly the “users” are is flatly incorrect. One-third of Vancouver's population commutes to Oregon each day. Not because they get a kick out of sitting in traffic, but because their home state has not created sufficient family-wage jobs. Incumbent politicians and Koenninger now want to burden these same people with the entire cost of the bridge project. They can't secure federal funding; they can't secure state funding; the only thing they can secure is a commitment from Pollard to tax our working class into perpetuity for the "privilege" of having to commute.

As Mayor, I will not roll over and abandon our community right when it most needs to be defended. Unlike our current Mayor, I will not continue to add bells and whistles and push for 12 lanes at all costs, when I know that we can't afford it.

I WILL support and work toward plan modifications that make the project effective but affordable.

I WILL continue to argue for federal and state funding commitments, and

I WILL seek equitable, reasonable revenue streams to fund a manageable local commitment.

The days of 'spend first, ask questions later' are long behind us, as our current economic situation has shown. Now more than ever, we need leadership that recognizes the regressive inequity of tolling; that is interested in supporting, not penalizing our citizens; and that understands that we shouldn't be spending the public's money without a much better idea of where it's going and what it's buying.