Monday, July 19, 2010

City Council to Review a Procurement Ordinance Update that Streamlines Process and Improves Accountability, Encourages Use of Local Vendors

Earlier this year, I asked the City Attorney's Office to review our procurement policies and provide more incentive for local contractors and vendors to conduct business with the City.
This afternoon, council will participate in a workshop that reviews city staff's work on this effort.

The proposed updates include improvements that streamline the procurement process and make it easier to navigate, provide for greater fiscal accountability and control, and also place greater emphasis on local vendors/contractors and the local tax revenues that are generated with their participation in a contract.
I am extremely pleased that staff has worked to develop this proposal, and that they are making the effort to support local businesses and vendors, to the extent allowable by law, with City contracts and purchases. Staff has been timely and responsive to my concerns and I commend them for working with me on this commitment I've made to our citizens and business owners.
Concurrently, council is also considering land use permitting enhancements and streamlining. We are working hard to enhance the business climate and permitting process. Time is money for developers, and reducing the bureaucratic red-tape will have positive impacts on jobs growth.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

If We Must Have Tolls, We Must Fight to Make Them Equitable

This Bridge Must Not be Paid for on the Backs of Clark County Commuters
Citizens, colleagues and friends--

When I ran for the office of Mayor, I told you honestly and in good faith that I would fight against tolls on the CRC. Unlike others, who were determined to put tolls on the table first and foremost with no regard to the injustice they bring, I was determined to fight them.

I have been working for you for nearly two years, both as a city council member and as Mayor, to try to keep tolls off of the I-5 bridge, because that regressive taxing measure unfairly targets Clark County commuters.  Some 51,000+ Clark County residents cross that bridge every day for work, paying Oregon income taxes for which they receive no representation. It is unconscionable to me to think that our commuters will pay the bulk of the local cost for this bridge, even though it is a federal asset that benefits everyone in this region.

But unfortunately, not every battle can be won. It has become apparent that tolling has been widely accepted by the project partners, community advocates, business and economic leadership, and most importantly, our state legislators (who make the final decision about tolling).

This has been a difficult decision for me. I do believe in this project, support the commerce it will allow to flow, the jobs it will create, and the sheer reality that something must be done about this corridor, sooner than later. The stark truth of the matter is that I am one vote on the Project Sponsors Council. I have worked hard for you, trying in council sessions and in private meetings, to convince others to reconsider the tolling issue, to no avail.

I could continue to protest – to throw up my arms and stomp out of the room, as some of my detractors have insisted would be the only proper course. But whether I protest or not, the bridge will go on and tolls will happen.

After much thought, I’ve determined that the worst thing I could do for citizens of Vancouver is to stop participating. As much as I dislike the idea of tolls, if I refuse to participate in the discussion then our fight will have been meaningless.

A New Approach to Tolling

At yesterday’s Project Sponsors Council meeting, I proposed a new way to think about tolls. The CRC “bridge impact area” is fully five miles in both Vancouver and Portland. It is not now, nor has it ever been, just a bridge. Not only will people who cross the bridge benefit dramatically with the improvement, but all people who drive in that 5-mile area, and all people who provide or receive goods and services in the region will benefit.

And so I propose that if we must have tolls, then we must toll fairly and equitably – which means residents on both sides of the river pay their fair share.

There are many, many users of the corridor who may not cross the bridge. They will benefit from the improvements, and should thus share in the local cost. I believe that if we must have tolls, then we should assess those tolls at each on- or off-ramp of the bridge influence area so that all users of the corridor will contribute to the local financing of the improvements, not just those users crossing the Columbia River.

Now, I am sure that my colleagues on the other side of the river, and many of my constituents who were formerly pro-tolls will not be fans of this proposal. But with many more users of the system paying for the improvements, we take some of the burden off of the commuters who are already paying dearly.

And any arguments against this form of ‘corridor tolling’, I believe, highlight the inequity of a tolling system. Over the years I have spoken with and heard from quite a few detractors who say that tolls are fine, since they wouldn’t have to pay them but who, when faced with a toll that accurately represents the project influence area, now feel that tolls are unjust.

Which brings me back to my initial argument, the position I held during the campaign, and the one I continue to hold – we must not – cannot – finance this bridge on the backs of Vancouver commuters.

This project benefits every single one of us in the region. If my colleagues are determined that this federal asset will not be paid for with federal and/or state dollars, if they are determined that there must be a local financing portion and that tolls are how that portion will be paid, then I challenge them to apply tolls equitably and fairly, across the board.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Taking Care of What We Have

Last summer, as I went door to door talking with voters during my campaign for Mayor, I got to hear what was on the minds of my neighbors and constituents – directly, undiluted, and for better or for worse. Every voter had a different story to tell, but most of them echoed a similar refrain – the City needs to take care of what we already have -- show that it can be managed responsibly and well – before trying to expand and grow just for the sake of being bigger.

It’s true, a larger population means greater federal and state funding. But it also means more citizens who will expect a certain level of service that even now, the City is struggling to provide. Annexing for the sake of annexing, or simply to be able to call ourselves “second-largest” is a hollow goal, if we’re not also aiming to provide the absolute best possible service to our taxpaying citizens.

Our community is still recovering from the major east-side annexation from a decade ago. The residents who were annexed were promised city services and amenities that many of them still have not received. The City owes it to our citizens – ALL of them – to take care of their roads, sidewalks, and services – to provide safe, well-lit, well-maintained public ways.

In the current budget crunch, following through on that commitment is even harder than it was in the good years. But city staff are working hard to make it happen – even as their departments are being cut and their individual workload is increasing, they are doing their absolute best to take care of the City of Vancouver's taxpayers, and to spend your money wisely. Our staff is learning how to be more efficient and do more with less, and I am proud of their efforts. It's what MUST be done. We at the city need to show you that we are getting the most out of every dollar you pay, and we need to be sure that all of our citizens, in ALL parts of the city, are being served.

In some cases, this means letting green areas by the side of the road go untended a bit longer, so those funds can be used on services that are more critical. In some cases, it means loosening restrictions on fees and permitting in order to spur private development, which will in turn create more private as well as public revenue. And in some cases, it means looking for the best deal possible and taking action as quickly as the democratic process will allow.

I'm speaking, of course, of the City’s acquisition of the former Columbian building. The building is no longer owned, even in part, by the Campbell family or the Columbian. The City was able to purchase the building from the Bank of America at a rock-bottom price of $18.5 million. Considering it cost $41 million to build, and was appraised at $29 million, the City negotiated a great purchase price. It's now owned by Bank of America, and has an asking price of $18.5 million. Not pocket change, to be sure – but an amazingly low price for the size, quality and location of the building.
At that price, and given the building's size and location, the City will be able to move all operations to that spot. And with the combination of savings that have already been put aside for this purpose, and a long-term bond, we will actually end up spending $1 million less per year than we currently spend in rent on various buildings throughout town. In a year when we've had to trim multiple millions from city spending, the opportunity to acquire a building that meets our needs and helps us save $1 million annually is one that offers the best possible investment for our citizens.
Taking care of what we have, working to manage the resources that are currently available to us, and seizing opportunities that will help move us forward. That’s what your City leadership strives to do every day, and I intend to be sure it’s what we continue to do.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Paying Tribute on Memorial Day

Yesterday, I had the great honor and privilege of participating in the Memorial Day ceremony at the Veterans' Memorial at Fort Vancouver. It was a solemn but inspiring occasion, and I am so proud to have been one of the speakers.

Here are my comments from the day:

On thy grave the rain shall fall from the eyes of a mighty nation.
We gather today as individuals with futures of our own determination.
We gather today as shareholders of free will, free speech and freedom of religion.
Yes, we are a mighty nation, but not without significant cost.
Thousands of men and women of our armed forces have fought and died for the inalienable rights we so cherish as American citizens.
And it is at this solemn occasion that we formally honor those who have served our country and sacrificed ultimately for the might of our nation.

To our Gold Star families, President Robert Knight, Colonel Snyder, veterans and active military personnel, honored guests and my fellow citizens, I am humbled to welcome you as we come together this Memorial Day to preserve the memory of those who have fallen in the line of duty. Councilmember Smith, 40 et 8 and the Community Military Appreciation Committee…thank you for your leadership in coordinating this event.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we are reminded today that our freedoms were paid for with the lives of many others. We have a tremendous responsibility, as heirs to their legacy, to preserve this greatest of nations. It is simply not enough to be Proud Americans, but to have the courage and the character to simply do what we know is right – protect the security and freedom of our country and others around our world.
This is our obligation.
This is true respect to the memorial of our nation’s war heroes.
Those who serve our country come from all walks of life, all races and all religions. But they share one common bond -- a deep love of and loyalty to -- our country. This common bond allows diverse groups of Americans to achieve monumental goals. The men and women of our armed forces are the defenders of our liberty, and to each and every one of you, please know how proud and blessed we are of you!
There are many ways of paying tribute to these fallen heroes……..pausing for a few moments of personal silence, attending commemorative ceremonies as we are today, placing flags or flowers at gravesites or marching in parades. Whether commemorated individually or collectively, Memorial Day is a day to remember and be thankful for those who gave their lives in the service of our country.
Recently I was touched by an article that I read in the paper about a mother who lost her son in Iraq. Georgette Frank’s son, Lance Cpl. Philip Frank, age 20, was killed in Fallujuah by sniper fire on April 8, 2004. Here in her own words is what Memorial Day has come to mean to her………

Dear Friends,
In the past, I would look forward to Memorial Day. It represented the beginning of the summer and a three day weekend. Then we lost our Phil in Iraq.
Memorial Day has now become a day of reflection and remembrance. It is a day to remember all of our Fallen Heroes from all of the wars. It is a day to think about the families that will forever grieve for their lost loved one. It is a day to be thankful to those who have served and made the ultimate sacrifice. They fought and died to win the freedom and democracy that we Americans cherish so dearly. They also fought and died to bring that same freedom and democracy to the people of other countries as well.

As the family of a Fallen Hero, we are so proud of our loved ones who knowingly put themselves in harm’s way so that they could make a difference in the lives of others.
I would like to share an excerpt from a sermon by John Hagee:
“I want you to close your eyes and picture in your mind the soldier at Valley Forge, as he holds his musket in his bloody hand. He stands barefoot in the snow, starved from lack of food, wounded from months of battle and emotionally scarred by the eternity away from his family surrounded by nothing but death and the carnage of war. He stands through, with fire in his eyes and victory on his breath. He looks at us now in anger and disgust and tells us this…..“I gave you a birthright of freedom born in the Constitution and now your children graduate too illiterate to read it. I fought in the snow barefoot to give you the freedom to vote and you stay at home because it rains. I left my family destitute to give you the freedom of speech, and you remain silent on critical issues, because it might be bad for business. I orphaned my children to give you a government to serve you and it has stolen democracy from the people.

“It’s the soldier, not the poet, who gives you the freedom of speech.
"It’s the soldier, not the campus organizer, who allows you to demonstrate.

"It’s the soldier, who salutes the flag, serves the flag, whose coffin is draped with the flag that allows the protester to burn the flag!
“Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. I ask this in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Savior. Amen.”

Take a moment this Memorial Day to share the pride that we, the families of the Fallen Heroes, feel.

I want to thank 40et8, Voiture 99 organization who hosts the Community Military Appreciation Committee, for making this memorial service and other events recognizing our military a reality.
God bless you Vicki Walz and your son Christopher.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Vancouver Needs YOU-- Participate in the "Horizons" Process Tuesday Night

It's no secret that the City of Vancouver -- like many cities throughout our region and the country -- has been dealing with an ongoing deficit for years. And when the recent recession hit, it made a bad situation even worse. If we made no changes at all, the city's General, Street and Fire operating costs are forecast to exceed operating revenues by an estimated $10 million in 2011, growing to an annual deficit of more than $18 million by 2016.

With that kind of a projection, it's clear that doing nothing simply isn't an option.

But this city belongs to all of us, and we should all have a say in how we move forward. It is clear that we will need to make dramatic changes in how we fund and operate our city. But what does that actually mean? What services and programs should the City provide? At what levels? Asking these kinds of questions, the Horizons process looks to you -- our residents, workers and business owners -- to tell us what are your priorities for our city.

The City has conducted a survey by phone, has posted a similar version of the survey online, and is now asking you to come out an participate in person or online. The "Community Views" meeting will be at 7pm, Tuesday May 11, at the Water Resources Education Center, 4600 SE Columbia Way.

If you can't make it, tune in live on CVTV Channel 23 or stream it from your computer at And you can hook in through your computer or your smartphone, to participate in voting just as if you were there.

At the meeting, participants will get a "clicker" keypad to register their priorities. All of the devices are anonymous, and allow you to give direct, immediate feedback to City staff.

If you want to participate remotely, go to and use the access code "Vancouver". Follow along during the meeting, and your responses will come in just like those of participants on-site.

Community input is incredibly important to me, as the Mayor you elected to represent you. I hope you'll join the discussion tomorrow night, in person or virtually. It's going to be hard work to make this incredibly important move forward -- but working together, we will get through it and make something even better.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Leaner, More Efficient Permit Process Will Benefit All Taxpayers

Throughout my campaign for Mayor, I heard repeatedly from residents and business owners that the City's permitting process is too expensive, too slow, and too difficult to navigate effectively. How can businesses grow, expand, or build new --- and create jobs --- when they've got to navigate a maze—and an expensive maze at that—before they can even begin?

Late last year, I met with City Staff and the Building Industry Association Officials to discuss streamlining opportunities. I and the City Council have directed Staff to find ways to streamline the permitting process without compromising safety and livability – and last night we heard a variety of proposals to do just that.

I commend City Manager Pat McDonnell not only for following through on this direction and guiding City Staff toward a number of solutions, but also for involving the community in the process. A group of local development and construction experts were convened to review the staff proposals before they came before Council, so they could offer practical, hands-on suggestions for improvements.

The proposals we heard are specifically targeted to assist small businesses, to reduce the required process for land use approvals and to introduce additional flexibility in the building plan review process. One proposal, for example, would streamline the process for new projects in key areas where there's already been a lot of planning and environmental work. These areas are not just the waterfront and Downtown, but also Fourth Plain Corridor, Section 30, and the Riverview gateway in East Vancouver.

Other proposals eliminate or modify permit, plan review or inspection requirements for minor work, such as small plumbing and electrical projects, which means time and money saved for homeowners and businesses.

Now that these proposals have gone before Council (and before we heard them they were also reviewed by the Planning Commission and the Fire Code Commission, to vet them for safety and effectiveness), they'll go to public hearings before the Planning Commission, Building and Fire Code Commission, and Council.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Speak Your Mind at the Next Vancouver "Face-to-Face"

I want to hear what you have to say, Vancouver! This city is great because of the people who live and work here -- and your City Council wants to hear directly from you. Please join us next week -- Wednesday, April 21, from 6:30-8:30pm, at the Hudson's Bay High School Commons.

For more information, the school's street address, and a summary of our last Face-to-Face in January, please visit the City website.

I really do hope to see you there. It'll be Q&A format, so we can really TALK about things. I'll lead the conversation, and my fellow City Councilmembers will be able to join the discussion, too.

Thanks for all you do to make our city the place we want to be -- I look forward to seeing you next week!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Arbor Day Celebration Wednesday April 14

Join the City of Vancouver this Wednesday from 11am-Noon for our official Arbor Day celebration!

We'll be at the Mayor's Grove in Marshall Community Park, 1009 E. McLoughlin. This year's celebration theme, "Planting Trees Today for our Children's Tomorrow," highlights the benefits of urban trees for future generations.
Featured events include a ceremonial tree planting, giveaway of free tree seedlings, children's crafts and activities, Mac Award ceremony and a presentation of awards for the City of Vancouver and Clark Public Utilities' urban forest efforts.
Vancouver will be recognized as Tree City USA for the 21st consecutive year and will also receive the prestigious Tree City USA Growth Award for further commitment to promoting urban tree canopy.

Commissioner Carol Curtis will also accept an award honoring Clark Public Utilities for TreeLine USA for the 11th consecutive year!

Thank to sponsors US Forest Service, Washington State Department of Natural Resources and Clark Public Utilities, for helping the City of Vancouver celebrate the legacy of urban trees.

For more information and details about Vancouver's Arbor Month events, please visit the Vancouver Urban Forestry website at

Monday, March 29, 2010

Congratulations and Best Wishes to Mary White!

This week, the City bids goodbye to one of our longest-serving and most beloved employees -- Council Secretary Mary White. If you follow City Council even a little bit, then you know Mary -- she's the one who keeps things running, manages every detail, and makes sure everything gets handled properly.

Mary, we're happy to see you taking your much-deserved retirement, but we're sorry to see you go. Thank you for all you've done as a City staffer, and for all you WILL do--because we know you're going to stay involved and active in our community.

Last week, the City celebrated Mary with a retirement party that was well attended and showed how loved she is. And on Monday last week, we managed to surprise her (not an easy thing to do!) by slipping this proclamation into the agenda:

Whereas, March 1, 1980, Mary White started her employment with the City of Vancouver; and
Whereas, Mary worked in the word processing department until April 5, 1993 when she was promoted into the position of Council Secretary. Mary continues to serve her role as Council Secretary until March 31, 2010; and
Whereas, Mary has served in her role as Council Secretary with the utmost dedication, attending to the needs of Council, staff and citizens. Mary leaves a legacy of excellence, attention to detail, and friendship; and
Whereas, All employees and community members who have been honored to work with Mary will gather and celebrate on March 24, 2010 at 3:30 p.m. at City Hall Council Chambers, 210 E. 13th Street; and
Whereas, We request your RSVP’s no later than March 22, 2010 at 5 p.m. to Alexis Bafus at 487-8607 or
NOW, THEREFORE, WE, Vancouver City Council and City Manager’s Office employees, do hereby honor Mary L. White as she sets sail for new retirement adventures.

Thank you, Mary, for your time, dedication, and service!

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Fundamentals of Our City Are Strong

Thanks to all of you who came out to hear the State of the City address yesterday, and thanks as well to the many thousands of you who work hard every day to make our home a better place to live, work and play.

If you missed the address, you can find a video of it here.

And if you would like to read a complete copy of the text, here it is!

State of the City, 2010
“We Are Vancouver” presented by Mayor Timothy D. Leavitt, March 4, 2010

Good morning friends, honored guests and fellow citizens:
As you know, I grew up in here in Vancouver.
It is very emotional and humbling for me to be standing here before you this morning. 
I share your dreams for our community.
I have attended our schools and played in our parks.
And I love Vancouver too much to accept anything less than the best.
We have worked too hard and come too far to go backwards now.
I come before you this morning to report on the State of the City, and to speak both frankly and candidly to the residents of our community, the fine employees of our city, and those at all levels of our government.
I’d like to thank my predecessor, Mayor Royce Pollard, as well as councilmember Pat Jollota for over 20 years of dedicated service to our community.
Now, we enter into a new decade, and for all intents and purposes, with a new City Council.
Your council is comprised of fellow citizens, with diverse perspectives, who are both compassionate and devoted individuals.
Much like the city around us, your council is evolving and adjusting.
Some say we’re experiencing growing pains.
Some say we’re just plain painful.
But regardless, I am confident we will negotiate this transition period effectively, and move on to the important and pressing business of our City.
Indeed the hurdles we face today and into the near future are high, but I am convinced that the fruits of our labor will come to bear…if… we remain vigilant and…if…we pursue a dialogue that is respectful, forthright and constructive.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is your Vancouver City Council: Jeanne Harris, Jeanne Stewart, Larry Smith, Pat Campbell, Jack Burkman, and Bart Hansen.
Thank you for your commitment to our community.
And to our City employees and City Manager Pat McDonnell:
I commend you for a faithfulness in carrying out your duties with integrity, given both the dramatic economic downturn and ever-increasing public scrutiny.
Although our resources have diminished, there is no less demand for your work.
No less need for police protection, for road repair, for water and sewer, parks and recreation, and fighting fires.
And through it all, you remain dedicated to our community.
2009 will go down in history as one of the most economically brutal years of the 21st Century.
Those conditions continue today, and have resulted in devastating effects on families, businesses and public agencies, like our City.
The collision of three financial factors – limitations on taxing, loss of sales taxes to Oregon retail purchases, and the economic recession – have mandated both dramatic cuts to and prioritization of city services.
Within the past two years, the City has trimmed $15.5 million in expenses, programs and staff.
And in 2010, we have already cut another $6 million.
And even more devastating is a projected shortfall of $10-12 million over the next two years.
Significant strides have been made to reduce expenses and increase efficiencies, while minimizing noticeable and negative impacts on our community.
In addition to layoffs, a hiring freeze, and the reduction of most travel and training, many city employees have generously and appropriately declined cost of living increases.
Health care benefits have been reduced, merit increases have been frozen, and some staff are accepting voluntary furloughs.
But even with these measures, this economic downturn has intensified the rate of cuts necessary to keep a balanced budget.
The realities are staggering and simply cannot be sugarcoated.
Further deficits equate to more layoffs and more cuts in service.
The hard truth is this: our streets will be dirtier, medians and park lands brown and unkempt, and public access to police buildings limited.
We’ll see restrictions on land use reviews and code changes,
The elimination of some crime prevention programs,
And more reliance on ambulances for medical response, instead of fire department emergency teams.
Without delay, extraordinary action is needed…action by way of policy decisions from your City Council, and implementation through the City Manager.
First, foremost and unequivocally, we will maintain the financial stability of your City.
While it is impossible for me to speak candidly and paint a rosy financial picture, I am pleased to report that the foundation, the very fundamentals of our city, remain strong.
And without hesitation, we remain focused on a vision of prosperity.
And we can achieve this vision because of the strength of our community.
This place we call home is just 2 hours from mountains for skiing and hiking.
Beaches of the Pacific Ocean for picnics and kite flying.
Desert lands and pristine rivers for fishing and camping.
Pacific Northwest wine country and rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula.
We enjoy the amenities of a progressive metropolitan area, but cherish the fact that
We are a community of rich history, tradition…and diversity.
With low crime, strong schools, a bustling Port, and a robust public transit system.
Active, engaged neighborhoods and business associations.
Heralded parks, trails and the beauty of native lands.
And because we know that we are blessed to be in this wonderful place, it is with unwavering pride that we exclaim, “We Are Vancouver!”
It has been proven time and again that no challenge is too great for those who aspire to work together.
With individual fates linked and our futures intertwined, this morning I ask you to rededicate yourself in service to the common good of our community.
“We Are Vancouver” … means that all citizens have a role to play for our future.
“We Are Vancouver” … means that the 9-year old and the 90-year old, and everyone in between, share equal importance, equal responsibility and equal obligation in this effort.
“We Are Vancouver” … means that whether we rise or fall, it will be together.
The sum of our efforts are greater and of more impact than individual ambitions.
As we begin this new decade, we are writing a new chapter in the history of our community.
As a City, we must remain true to the people served and to the organization itself.
Which means we cannot be too timid to undertake calculated risks in pursuit of the proper objectives.
We must begin this era with bold action to protect our community, preserve our foundation and blaze a path toward a sustainable future.
Now is not the time for the faint of heart.
Now is not the time for petty politics and shortness in perspective.
Let it be understood… we will take the right actions for the right reasons.
It’s hard to believe, but the way our city works hasn’t changed
much-at-all since we were first incorporated in 1857.
We must completely re-think these old notions of how government is run.
And right now, we do have a unique opportunity to take a fresh look at how our local government does business.
This is much more than an assessment of expenses versus revenues.
You have made it loud and clear that we need to be a more viable, streamlined and sustainable organization.
And I agree.
This change is not going to be simple or straightforward, and undoubtedly it will be uncomfortable.
But it is clear that “business as usual” will not deliver the outcomes our community deserves.
At this point, we don’t know what this change in local government will look like.
But what do we know?
Forging ahead, we must work together.
In recent months, a high-level budgeting and prioritization process known as Horizons has been undertaken by city staff.
The Horizons process will prioritize spending, help streamline services, and outline a strategy for sustainable funding of core city programs.
It will be presented to the City Manager and City Council for approval.
The end result will be a very different way of looking at government.
Because the changes that lie ahead will affect each and every one of us, we ALL share the responsibility to get involved.
We will be asking for your involvement in the process – and I urge you to participate.
We as a city have no greater asset than the heart, soul and diversity of our citizens.
It is our people – those who choose with passion to live, work and play here… who make Vancouver.
Indeed, We. Are. Vancouver.
Watch CVTV's "We Are Vancouver" video
In our community, we support each other…and are there for one another.
The stories of compassion, partnership and patriotism are too many to count or credit, but I want to share a select few:
Just this week, our very own Clark County Amphitheatre donated 150 thousand dollars in musical instruments to seven schools in Southwest Washington.
Kazoodles Toy Store recently dedicated a percentage of their sales to local charities.
Some 300 children of low-income families received much needed and free dental attention, thanks to an incredible partnership between local dental providers, educators and the Ronald McDonald Foundation.
During the second Saturday of each month, local congregations tackle a community involvement project, motivating some 500 volunteers and donations of materials from over 30 local businesses.
This past Fall, their effort was focused on a mobile home park in the Rose Village Neighborhood.
They built ramps and awnings, repaired gutters and siding, and performed painting and landscaping.
Our neighborhood associations have stepped up as well, giving generously to the people and schools around them.
And of course, there are many local non-profits like the YWCA, Parks Foundation and the Free Clinic – all working diligently and tirelessly to meet a growing need for support.
One of our newer non-profits, Americans Building Community, or ABC, has engaged businesses, churches, schools and community organizations to improve the livability of neighborhoods within the Fourth Plain corridor.
In 2009 ABC harnessed the energy of over 850 volunteers to paint or repair more than 50 homes.
This year, on Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, which has become a national day of service, ABC partnered with the Watershed Council, the City’s Urban Forestry program and Neighbors on Watch.
They coordinated the efforts of 400 hundred eager volunteers to plant 5000 trees along Burnt Bridge Creek near Fort Vancouver High School.
Residents in the corridor are actively involved in these projects, and are working together to renew community spirit and pride.
This is a welcome reminder that volunteering … making a difference for the greater good.…this is patriotism at its finest.
Individually and collectively, we all make a difference …
And tremendous work is accomplished when so many join hands.
We. Are. Vancouver!
Looking toward the future, several matters require immediate and bold action.
Stimulating business growth, jobs creation, and economic commerce must be priority number one.
We cannot wait until the recovery to recover.
A skilled work force and similar industries, low operating costs, site availability, and incentive packages.
These are the conditions that attract and keep the best companies.
In these areas, there is significant opportunity to improve our standing and competitiveness in the marketplace.
And so, I call on our community leaders and state legislators to continue support and funding for our public schools and the Skills Center, for the growth and expansion of Clark Community College, and for the ongoing development of an innovation and research node around the Washington State University Vancouver campus.
I challenge those in the business of economic development, financing, and local permitting to focus effort immediately on lending and fast-track permitting for shovel-ready and accessible land supply.
I challenge our state legislators and the Governor’s Office to continue creating incentives that entice long-term employers to locate here.
I challenge our city council to seriously consider the temporary relief from permitting fees, business license fees, and utility taxes to both incoming companies and growing local businesses.
Already, I am pleased to report that the City is preparing to implement steps to make conducting business here a little easier:
-The permitting process for certain land development projects will be simplified.
-Plan reviews and permitting requirements for certain small residential projects will be eliminated.
-And city staff will be working proactively with those who wish to purchase or lease building space, identifying issues at the front-end to avoid more expensive problems down the line.
With City support, it will be the private, job-creating and tax-paying sector that leads the way toward economic recovery. Period.
And as we work together to boot-strap our community out of recession and back into prosperity, I am taking on the challenges you issued to me … to make City Hall more accessible and more responsive to you, and to restore your confidence in all city departments.
To increase access, we have already held a successful Town Hall at the Cascade Park Library.
As I promised you, we will hold more of those across the city on a quarterly basis.
Our next town hall is scheduled for April 12 and I hope to see all of you there.
Also, your City Council will be visible at more events.
We govern as a team, and you deserve to know each and every one of them.
I also intend to increase the use of social media, CVTV and FVTV to create even more opportunities for you to get involved and share what’s on your mind.
To be more responsive, I have proposed increasing citizen’s communication opportunities at our weekly Council meetings.
I will also ask the City Manager to expand the Business Leadership Advisory Council. This group will provide feedback and recommendations about financial and business matters facing the city.
Now, restoring confidence…that will take time.
The men and women of this city organization take their reputation very seriously, especially our Vancouver Police department.
Recent news of internal discord and lawsuits overshadow the fact that our officers and staff work hard every day to protect and serve.
I challenge leadership at all levels of the department to regain focus and perspective.
To reestablish consistent and systematic accountability throughout the ranks.
And immediately implement the Matrix recommendations.
Our city needs a strong and unified police force.
This we all seem to agree on.
And now, I’ll take a few moments to review a little project known as the Columbia River Crossing.
The CRC has been in the news a lot lately, but sensationalized stories and uninformed editorializing is not productive.
So, I'm going to speak simply and directly to you, the citizens of Vancouver, to provide clarity.
For three years, a 39 member task force, composed of a broad cross-section of community, business, neighborhood and elected officials, worked on potential options for improving the Interstate 5 corridor.
Nearly unanimously, that task force recommended the construction of a replacement bridge and extension of light rail into Vancouver.
Afterwards, each sponsoring agency adopted resolutions in support of that recommendation – a replacement bridge and light rail transit.
So, let me be perfectly clear here:
The Project Sponsors Council will not be revisiting the preferred alternative of a replacement bridge and light rail.
These are decisions that have been made and will not be reconsidered.
But those adopted resolutions did include some 140 conditions of support, many of them conflicting with one another.
And although broad discussions about an improvement at the Crossing have occurred for some 15 plus years, only recently have we been presented with detailed designs of a replacement bridge and interchange improvements.
Thus, it is understandable that critical questions are now coming forward as we analyze and absorb the impacts these proposed designs would have on our communities.
Only within the past three months has tangible progress been made to address those 140 conditions, due in large part to a commitment of increased communication amongst the project partners.
Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Oregon Metro President David Bragdon are to be commended for their spirit of cooperation, as locally elected officials from both sides of the Columbia River.
Members of the Project Sponsors Council are in agreement and understanding that both philosophically and legally, we are partners in this project.
We have an obligation to each other and to our constituents to work through our differences and bring a project to fruition.
As partners, we are in agreement that an improvement project must be made – an improvement that best prepares our region for the future and best protects our communities from unnecessary negative impacts.
We will continue to ask critical questions of the assumptions, performance and intent of the various designs that have been presented.
And, we will continue to strive for a stronger collaboration with our State and Federal colleagues, including identifying additional federal monies to support construction of this project.
Vancouver does not own this project.
Portland does not own this project.
This is a roadway of international significance.
And failure to do what is right is not an option.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I want you to walk away this morning feeling that “We are Vancouver” is more than just the theme of a speech.
I want you to adopt it as your personal philosophy.
Use it as a motto to help all of us get through this economic crisis together.
“We Are Vancouver” is a commitment to change – a promise to do things differently, and to get involved in shaping our future.
Communities that rely on the same old ways of doing business will fail.
Communities that are nimble and adjust with the times will succeed and prosper.
The state of our city is strong.
And the men and women of the City of Vancouver are working every day to make it even stronger.
Yes, we have a lot of work ahead of us.
But we also have a lot to look forward to.
Thanks to Bank of America and staff at the Fort Vancouver National Trust, this year we welcome back the city’s marquee event.
A brand new, family-oriented celebration…Independence Day at Fort Vancouver. 
A new main library is under construction in our downtown.
Business owners are uniting to work together – like the Urban Entrepreneurs Network, the Latino Business Alliance and the Fourth Plain Business Coalition.
In late July, our community will enjoy the first annual international food festival on Fourth Plain.
And, our Visitors and Convention folks have been hard at work.
This June, Vancouver will host both the Washington State Democratic and Republican conventions, the Association of Washington Cities’ annual conference, and the State Municipal Attorney’s Association meeting.
Thousands will be visiting Vancouver with these events.
Long-time investors and builders of our community are still bullish, and for just cause.
We are well on our way to having a world-class, show-stopping development right at our front door on the former Boise Cascade site.
The east entry into downtown Vancouver is graced with a dazzling new Angelo office building.
And plans are underway by Prestige Development for additional improvements in the area.
The Killian’s Grand Central Station is bustling, as is development in the far northeast corner of our city.
Construction projects worth more than $495 million are poised to sprout on more than 1,122 acres along 192nd from State Highway 14 to Northeast 18th Street.
A new Costco store, two medical office buildings, housing for families, apartments for seniors, a bank branch, and the proposed 150-acre campus of offices for Fisher Investments are among this year's projects.
And properties like Evergreen Landing, Section 30 and the former Vanalco site are poised to take off.
Thanks to our Congressional delegation, the Vancouver Police Department will have a state-of-the-art records management system, allowing for improved coordination with regional law enforcement authorities.
And, I’m happy to announce that Vancouver is applying to be a Google Fiber Community.
Google has announced they will build and test an experimental ultra-high speed network in several communities.
This network would deliver internet speeds 100 times faster than what is available today. 
Not only would this help solidify Vancouver’s position in the Silicon Forest, it will drive job growth and give people another reason to live, work and … most importantly … stay here in the Vancouver-Clark County region.
On the sustainability front, our city is pursuing funding for the development of an ash recycling system – the first of its kind in the United States.
Significant quantities of energy will be captured and returned to the grid…and ash will be recycled, sold for construction and kept out of landfills.
Very importantly, working relationships continue to improve and strengthen with our Clark County Commissioners, Mayors and City Council members throughout our community…and yes, even with our colleagues south of the river.
In conclusion, I believe in the people, the institutions, and the businesses that make up this place we call home.
After all, you have made Vancouver one of the most desirable places to live and work.
And it is you who will assure continued success in our future.
So today, despite our challenges, I remain an optimist.
Vancouver is resilient.
Our people are resourceful and our opportunities for success are unlimited.
Working together, we will meet any challenge, and ensure a community that offers our children
…and their children …
a place to fulfill their highest hopes and aspirations.
Let history show that in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges… Vancouver did not stand still.
Let history show that Vancouver embraced opportunities to change for the better.
And let history show that the people of Vancouver worked together to lift each other up and out of this economic crisis.
You have entrusted me to take care of our community, and you have my commitment that I will serve you with every ounce of passion and enthusiasm I have.
I am excited about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us.
Let us be the architects of change – not its victim.
I know we can do it…all of us working together because
We. Are. Vancouver!
Thank you and God Bless!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Moving the CRC Project Forward

The Columbia River Crossing project is an incredibly important, incredibly volatile effort that links federal government, two states, and many local cities and county areas. All of the stakeholders involved have agreed that an improvement project for the I-5 corridor is absolutely necessary to insure the economic vitality, public safety, and environmental stewardship of our future.

While there are many aspects of the proposed project that local stakeholders agree on, several important matters remain unresolved in the eyes of the local elected officials.

And because of these differences, progress on the project ground to a halt in December.

Seeing this, I personally contacted the three other local elected officials that serve on the CRC Project Sponsors Council: Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Portland Mayor Sam Adams, and Metro Council President David Bragdon.

We have met several times, informally, over the last couple months. The purpose of these meetings has been to chart a course for addressing outstanding concerns and moving the project forward. These meetings were held in public locations, both in Vancouver and Portland.

Through these conversations, each of us clarified specific issues to be addressed, and then co-authored a letter to Governors Gregoire and Kulongoski, the two individuals who appointed us to the CRC Project Sponsors Council.

In this letter, the full text of which is available here, we indicated that the project as currently proposed still results in unacceptable impacts to certain aspects of our region. To be clear, the matters of concern primarily reside within Oregon. I respect the concerns expressed by Mayor Adams and President Bragdon about impacts to Hayden Island, in particular.

We stated that in order for us to best represent our constituents, we are requesting a stronger partnership with our State and Federal stakeholders, including a stronger local role in shaping the CRC project. We remain committed to finding a solution that is appropriately designed, financed and managed.

The Vancouver City Council has taken several formal actions regarding the CRC project – most important of which is the formal resolution endorsing the Locally Preferred Alternative (LPA). That resolution states the Council’s wishes for a replacement bridge with light rail transit. 

In our letter to the Governors, support for the LPA was re-affirmed, and we explicitly asked for more support of local involvement in the planning. I signed that letter in good faith with the three other elected officials, acting in what I believed—and still do believe—to be the best interests of the people of Vancouver. We MUST have an improvement to the I-5 corridor to maintain freight access, be environmentally conscious, increase mobility and commerce, and be considerate of the impacts to our communities on both sides of the river.

Accusations to the contrary, from the community at large and from my fellow council members, are baseless. I’m hopeful the remarks of consternation are due to lack of attention to the project, to the process and to the letter. Otherwise, ulterior and disingenuous motives may be at play.

I will not tolerate grandstanding by those who seek to use this moment as an effort to dismantle this project and the years and millions of dollars invested in the environmental assessment, public involvement, and design effort. As the tough decisions near, those who seek to scuttle this effort will increase in volume and tenacity. Leadership must stand strong and united in moving forward, effectively.

On Monday at 3pm, the Council and I will discuss the current state of the CRC project with City staff. We will also discuss the letter I co-authored. We will continue to move forward with a majority of supporters, if not a consensus.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Yes to Schools

If you live in the Vancouver or Evergreen School District, you should by now have received a ballot that asks for your vote to continue the current operating levy.

I urge you to vote YES on that ballot, and send it in.

It's true that times are tough right now, and I am well aware that we need to make our public services more efficient and effective. Every single one of us in public service needs to make better use of your tax dollars and do much more with what we have.

But while we work to do exactly that, we need to remember our responsibility to our children and future generations. A good education is critical to fostering an active, engaged citizenry and a prosperous community. Whether you have children in the schools or not, the quality and effectiveness of our schools affects us all.

These levies are simple replacement levies – our schools aren't asking for new tax monies. They are asking us to continue support for operations and maintenance. For some, due to the tough economic times, your taxes will actually decrease even with the continued levy.

Our community is strong now because of historical support for our schools – they are widely recognized as top-notch, and one of the top reasons people move here from across the river and across the country. I'm proud to be a product of the Vancouver School District, and many other community leaders are able to say the same.

Let's keep our schools strong and our children ready to succeed – please vote YES for Vancouver and Evergreen Schools.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Join Us for a Town Hall Meeting on Wednesday!

During the campaign, one of the things I heard most often from citizens was a feeling of being disconnected from city government. Because of that, one of the first pledges I made to you was to hold regular town-hall meetings where YOU get to tell US what you're thinking.

The first of those meetings will be next week, Wednesday January 20, at the new library in Cascade Park.

This is a City function, where YOURS is the most important voice. What is and isn't working for you? How can we, as your representatives, serve you better? I and your councilmembers will be there to listen to you and answer your questions, and provide a greater link between our vibrant neighborhoods and City Hall.

Here is the information released by the City:

Face to Face with Mayor Leavitt and the Vancouver City Council

Mayor Tim Leavitt will host an opportunity for informal conversation between the public and the Vancouver City Council from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., on Wednesday, Jan. 20, at the Cascade Park Library Community Room, 600 NE 136th Ave.

"It is important to me to provide an opportunity for Vancouver's citizens to talk to us about what is on their minds in a more casual setting," said Mayor Leavitt.
Light refreshments will be served. Questions will be taken at the meeting or may be submitted ahead of the meeting at

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Next Chapter Begins

Last night, I officially began my term as your new Mayor.

I and my fellow councilmembers Burkman, Harris and Stewart were sworn in, and as a council we selected Larry Smith as Mayor Pro Tem.

We're beginning a new chapter in Vancouver's history, in the midst of great optimism mixed with great anxiety. Our community faces numerous and critical challenges, but we have weathered storms like this before and we will persevere.

The new year brings with it a renewed sense of faith, a conviction in our collective ability to succeed, and a celebration of new beginnings.

I am both humbled by the enormity of the task at hand, and honored to be selected by our citizens to lead the City Council and our community. Your City Council is composed of fellow citizens, compassionate and dutiful individuals who understand that the people's perspective is best represented with respectful, candid, and constructive discourse.

As Henry Ford said, "Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success."

I am pleased to be working with these colleagues as we face very serious decisions about the direction of our community.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, and I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and doing that work with each and every one of you.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Term Begins Tonight!

I'm looking forward to starting my new job as your Mayor tonight. I and the rest of City Council will be sworn in at the start of the council meeting, in Council Chambers at City Hall, at 7pm. We'll do it first thing after the pledge, and then we'll have a few minutes after to visit with you, before we dive in to this exciting new term! You are all welcome and invited, and I hope to see you there.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year, and a New Term

Happy New Year, Vancouver!

We had a great New Year's Eve event last night at the Heathman. Thanks to all of you who attended and helped make our first annual NYE Bash a huge success! And for those of you who didn't make it -- we'll catch you next year!

I'm looking forward to starting my new job as your Mayor on Monday. I and the rest of City Council will be sworn in at the start of the council meeting on Monday, January 4, at 7pm. We'll do it first thing after the pledge, and then we'll have a few minutes after to visit with you, before we dive in to this exciting new term! You are all welcome and invited, and I hope to see you there!

A big thanks to our community nonprofit organizations who were selected as beneficiaries for all of last night's proceeds. The Parks Foundation of Clark County and Community Choices are both very close to my heart and do incredible work to help make our community a healthier, greener, safer and more beautiful place to live, where each of us can thrive. And not only do they work hard at their "real" jobs, but Cheri Martin and Sharon Pesut, Executive Directors of the Parks Foundation and Community Choices respectively, threw their heart and soul, staff time and late nights of their own into helping make this event a resounding success. Thanks to both of you and your Boards, staff, volunteers and supporters.

And thanks, as well, to The Heathman Lodge for hosting us and pulling out all the stops for this event. Incredible food, great service, and an absolutely wonderful staff. We also received many, many donations for raffle prizes, decorations, and consumables from so many local businesses and individuals -- thanks to ALL of you!

DJ Randy Mueller spun us through the night, and our volunteer team that included Sharon and Cheri, RaeAnn Clark, Maija Mercer, Lisa Goodrich, and Roy and Cindy Heikkala are the ones who really made the magic happen.

I am continually honored and humbled to represent this incredible community on our City Council -- and I look forward to continuing that service as your Mayor!

Happy New Year, and best wishes to all!