Real Solutions to Community Challenges

Quality of Life, Strong Businesses, and an Inviting City

These are exciting times for Vancouver. Projects are coming off the shelves and becoming reality as we emerge from the recession. Small businesses are growing and families are once again able to invest in their homes, their children, and their quality of life. We are fortunate to have a city council that works well together, and to have city staff who are willing to re-shape policies and procedures to meet the changing needs of our growing community. Change is inevitable, but it must be thoughtful and planned to be as effective as possible for our citizens.

My sister and I recently took a memory tour of the Idaho and Montana towns where we grew up. We saw a number of towns and cities that were welcoming, fresh, vibrant and thriving. Those cities and states don’t have more resources than we do, but they’d found creative and effective ways to use their resources to make themselves inviting. These places are attracting business, tourists, and families because those people and business owners feel welcomed, supported, and hopeful. That can be our future, too. The City of Vancouver has made great strides in the last number of years, but we still have a lot of work to do.

Public Safety

The members of the Vancouver City Council are the stewards of our beautiful city. The council’s overarching responsibility is to protect and preserve the safety and security of its citizens. That safety reaches into every aspect of our city, from our homes to our businesses to the streets and parks all around us. As a former elementary school principal, I understand the need to be good stewards and create a community that serves many diverse interests. A well-trained, well-resourced police and fire force is crucial to our community’s livability. Well-maintained streets provide safer driving and timely travel for emergency vehicles.

Due to the recession and state level taxation limitations the city has experienced painfully decreased services in order to maintain a balanced budget. The result is that services are being provided at a basic level, but resources are stretched thin. Our police and fire forces do an incredible job with the resources available, and our citizens can comfortably know that in an emergency, first responders will be there.

The COV recently convened a Community Resource Team, a 20-member steering committee to make recommendations to the City Council for funding for the future needs of the police department. I represented Vancouver’s Downtown Association on that intensive study. Two recommendations are now before the Council to fund a multi-year, sustainable funding strategy that does not rely on reductions in other general funds service areas.

In 2015, the City Council approved a new funding stream that will generate $7 million annually for street maintenance, repairs, replacement and capital projects. Street maintenance is a critical factor in safety and the livability of our community.

Each of these new funding packages were possible through a variety of funding sources. But there are few resources remaining to address the condition of our parks, fire department and other service departments. The City Council must find a way to remedy the structural deficit which comes about when expenditures exceed revenues.

As a community, we must talk about what our citizens want, what kind of community we want to be, and how we can pay for it. We must work together to find solutions that work for the entire community. We must have a strong foundation to take us into the future.

Good Jobs for a Great Workforce

The key to Vancouver’s economic sustainability is a strong base of family-wage-earning jobs. As a former elementary school principal, I know how much we want to retain our young educated people. And with 20 years of experience running a business in Vancouver, I know that we want all families and individuals to have the opportunity to enjoy a good quality of life in a thriving city.

While the City of Vancouver is not directly responsible for creating jobs, we can contribute to this effort in a number of ways.

First, the infrastructure to support business must be in place. Development along the 192nd Avenue corridor and is excellent example. The city’s foresight and investment in infrastructure has brought in both very large companies and many smaller retail stores, along with offices providing services to the citizens. This growth and diversity of offerings has been critical to Vancouver’s re-bound from the recession.

The development along the Columbia River is exciting for our community. It connects 35 acres to the historic downtown and will provide jobs, restaurants, shops, housing and a beautiful park giving access to the river for all of our citizens. The city’s investment in the infrastructure of this unique waterfront development will eventually realize a $1.5 billion development when completed.

I also believe that impressions matter. As new residents or business owners visit our community, they need to see an inviting city, with welcoming entries, well-maintained streets and parks, and a sense of safety. Visitors as well as residents must see a vibrant and vital city where they believe their business and their families can thrive. Our community is strong and has so much to offer, but I believe we need to put a little work into polishing our image.

The process for permitting must be consistent, efficient and friendly to those with aspirations of opening a new business. The city has developed the pre-lease program that has been well received by many. I’ve often heard comments that opening a business here is much easier than in Portland and we’ve gained businesses because of that fact. This is a strong direction, and we must continue in this way.

These times are exciting. With projects coming off the shelves, post-recession, there is a buzz in the air. We see machinery and laborers working to construct new buildings, we hear of new businesses opening, and people are talking about the possibilities. Our city government must do all it can to promote and encourage growth that will increase well-paying jobs.

Homeless in Our City

Increased homelessness is not unique to Vancouver. Across the nation cities are addressing this fairly new societal phenomenon. The increase is due to a mix of circumstances. Lagging zoning codes slowing the development of affordable housing, gentrification, lack of mental and physical health services, the past housing bubble and the widening disparity in wealth.

Vancouver has three generalized segments of homelessness. Those that have short-term need due to domestic violence or actively looking for affordable housing, young adults hanging out in the city center and the chronically homeless due to mental or physical illness.

The Vancouver City Council has taken strong leadership in working with community partners to provide housing for it’s people to give them the opportunities to live, work and prosper. The city, community partners and government partners must strategize the solutions collaboratively to end homelessness and provide affordable housing choices for all community members.

The City Council declared a housing emergency in April of 2016 and voted unanimously to place the Proposition 1 levy on the November ballot that will collect taxes for seven years to create a locally controlled fund to create, sustain and supplement affordable housing.

Affordable housing is a critical piece to building a strong and prosperous community. I commend the Council for taking a strong leadership position in finding solutions to this complex problem.

On the Council I will continue to support the work and investment that will find solutions to this challenge that defines the true nature of a community. A healthy community cares and supports those in need.

Parking

A crane in the air, the buzz of new eateries and breweries opening, and more employers coming into downtown is exciting. Growth is what we all have been waiting for but with that growth comes change and sometimes frustration. One of the frustrations we are experiencing is parking?

None of us likes finding a spot, digging out the change, operating the pay station or having to walk over a block to our destination. But meters and getting visitors to the correct places to park is critical to downtown economic vitality.

Providing parking is expensive for developers, building owners, and tenants. Vancouver’s downtown is furthered challenged because of the limitation of space due to I-5, the railroad and the river. I believe our parking is at a critical point a plan for increased parking must be put in place. The city has recently raised on-street and permit parking rates which could encourage developers to include parking spaces in their new buildings. The rates on the streets must be competitive to rates charged in parking buildings for that to pencil.

Some innovative approaches must be developed that fit the uniqueness of our downtown. The recent opening of The Vine will provide some relief. I would suggest that the city identify a parcel of land close to downtown along the Vine that would provide employee parking.

The time is now is find some solutions. Businesses will not be able to locate downtown if they can’t provide parking options for employees or customers.

Parks and Public Spaces

Access to safe parks and recreation are key to a higher quality of life. In my experience running small businesses in Vancouver, I know that this quality of life and access to open space is important for business owners as well as residents. We have a big investment in our park and recreation assets, and our network of parks, trails, and recreation centers is a jewel that we must protect and maintain.

Additionally, we must work to balance the need for growth with the need to protect our environment. Our county/city is a fast-growing area and council must work with developers and economic drivers to implement sensible growth, to protect our natural resources and watershed in a practical way.

Tesoro/Savage Oil Terminal

The proposed Tesoro/Savage oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver is an issue that has the potential to impact our community for generations. Although, with my 20 years of experience running a small business in Vancouver, I believe that encouraging jobs and economic development in Vancouver is of critical importance, I also believe that City Council must work to protect the citizens of our community from overwhelming threats.

At this time, the risk of a potential disaster on the train tracks or at the terminal is too great for me to support it. While the Vancouver City Council does not have the authority to make the decision on whether or not the terminal will be built, I support the council’s resolution not to support it until it is deemed safe.

I do understand why many members of our community find the project attractive. Jobs are key to Vancouver’s sustainability, and family-wage jobs earned at the port are critical to our economic stability. I believe that Vancouver City Council, in tandem with Port leadership and economic development agencies, must work diligently to create an environment that encourages sensible projects that strengthen our workforce without threatening our community’s safety.

I also believe that Vancouver City Council must work, NOW, with our public safety agencies to ensure that our first responders are equipped and trained to address the safety issues. If the oil terminal is built, we must be prepared to keep our community as safe as possible. And, frankly, this is not an issue for the future. Right now, at this moment, we have oil trains going through our city. We should be addressing the possibility of a disaster NOW. Among other steps, our community needs to continue to pressure Congress to raise the level of safety on railroad cars carrying hazardous liquids and the condition of the rail tracks.

Public Restrooms

Vancouver’s challenge for public restrooms came graphically to light at the March 27 City Council meeting.  Frustrations across the spectrum from homelessness advocates to weary downtown residents to concerned business people for the need to address public toilets were heard loud and clear.

The increase in our homeless numbers, due to a variety of reasons, concentrated in the downtown core have people worried about human decency, sanitation, quality of life and property values. The need for public restrooms is critical. I would suggest that the need is not just for the homeless but also for shoppers and tourists.  Our store, Divine Consign, located on Main Street has carried the burden of the lack of public restrooms for tourists and shoppers. We have endured the expense and upkeep.

One restroom at Esther Short Park to meet the demand of the park, downtown shoppers and many users along the waterfront is not sufficient.

The most successful city in addressing the universal problem is right across the river with a product named the Portland Loo. The Loo is a simple, sturdy flush-toilet kiosk. It is environmentally -friendly, clean and safe. Learn more about the Loo at theloo.biz

 This is one possible solution our community should discuss. Status quo is not acceptable for the homeless, shoppers, people enjoying the outdoors or tourists.      

 

 This is one possible solution our community should discuss. Status quo is not acceptable for the homeless, shoppers, people enjoying the outdoors or tourists.      

Vancouver’s challenge for public restrooms came graphically to light at the March 28 City Council meeting.  Frustrations across the spectrum from homelessness advocates to weary downtown residents to concerned business people for the need to address public toilets were heard loud and clear.

The increase in our homeless numbers, due to a variety of reasons, concentrated in the downtown core have people worried about human decency, sanitation, quality of life and property values. The need for public restrooms is critical. I would suggest that the need is not just for the homeless but also for shoppers and tourists.  Our store, Divine Consign, located on Main Street has carried the burden of the lack of public restrooms for tourists and shoppers. We have endured the expense and upkeep.

One restroom at Esther Short Park to meet the demand of the park, downtown shoppers and many users along the waterfront is not sufficient.

The most successful city in addressing the universal problem is right across the river with a product named the Portland Loo. The Loo is a simple, sturdy flush-toilet kiosk. It is environmentally -friendly, clean and safe. Learn more about the Loo at theloo.biz

 This is one possible solution our community should discuss. Status quo is not acceptable for the homeless, shoppers, people enjoying the outdoors or tourists.