Friday, April 06, 2012

Mayor Leavitt Likes “The Dreams Of The Future Better Than The History Of The Past”

Tim Leavitt, understandably one of the poorer mayors to preside over the city of Vancouver, Washington, ended his Columbian live chat Friday, April 6, 2012 with the above quote, in part to reply to my question, “after your turn around on tolling, how can the public place trust in your words on opposing tax increases?”

The mayor made himself available for a good hour replying to several citizens concerned over the Columbia River Project and the continual problems that keep surfacing in regards to it, although it has already consumed nearly $150 Million of taxpayer funds and all there is to show for it are stacks and stacks of paper.

In my opinion, his replies were considerably less than forthcoming. I have to even wonder if he has a grasp on just what the “future” holds should this as currently planned CRC project go through.

An earlier reply to a question on why we don’t put the matter to city or county-wide vote he said,
“LRT is more efficient to operate than BRT and busses...besides that BRT simply cannot practically handle the demand. Remember that our population increases, our Port is doubling in size...and we already have unreasonable traffic jams. Alternatives must be included. And, why not tie into the 55 miles of LRT south of the river, for virtually no direct cost to us locally?”

A 2009 study showed Bus transit better than light rail for a planned project in Maryland. The study by the World Resources Institute determined, “buses would be cheaper and combat global warming better than a light-rail system.”

Too, we must wonder, if BRT simply cannot handle the demand, why is Leavitt and C-Tran proposing BRT for the Fourth Plain corridor?

The Oregon Supreme Court recently stated in a ruling that light rail to Vancouver, against the wishes of our citizens is the prime factor in Portland’s push for it to our community. Light rail will not carry a single ounce of freight to the port and ridership in most areas it has imposed on citizen’s remains far below expectations.

A January 2012 news conference hosted by saw several speakers expressing doubts on the current CRC project as well as presenting viable alternatives that actually would increase flow of freight and decrease congestion along the I-5 corridor.

Leavitt rejects it all out of hand.

But disturbing is seeing him say, “for virtually no direct cost to us locally.” This project as currently planned is projected to reach some $10 Billion when factoring in interest payments over the life of the bonds.

An expected vote by citizens on yet another sales tax increase to pay for light rail operations and maintenance is opposed by Leavitt who now says he is trying to keep taxpayers from paying more tax. Of course, this is where my original question was framed from, his swift turn around on opposing tolls after winning the election in 2009.

There is no doubt the project will hit Clark County citizens the hardest with so many having to travel to Portland daily in order to work. The daily congestion is due to those people having to travel across the I-5 Bridge to and from Portland and it is they who will end up paying the lion’s share of the bridge costs by exorbitant tolls twice a day, a point Leavitt himself once made when campaigning with,
“a toll that charges Vancouver's working class for the "privilege" of crossing the river because the current administration has done next to nothing to grow jobs here in the last two decades, with the added burden of paying Oregon income tax without receiving representation, is unequitable, undemocratic, and discriminatory.”

Of course it is going to cost us locally, directly, indirectly and in every conceivable way imaginable.

This is Leavitt’s “Dreams of the Future?” An 8-story bridge towering over the city, blocking the view to the east and extending over a mile into the city with hopeful plans to vitalize under the bridge? Is it his “dream” that future generations of citizens and businesses will be footing the bill for this project for decades as well as paying more of our hard earned money to Portland for the “privilege” of having their “choo choo train” invading our community?

Asked should we trust his opposition to raising taxes to pay for light rail maintenance and operations he responded,
“As I learned, tolling means that here locally we pay less for the project. I ask over and over if you'd prefer a property tax? ....a sales tax? ....a business and occupation tax? The answer is over and The answer over and over is....if the Feds and States can't come up with all the money, and there must be a local share, than tolls is it. That means if you don't use it, you don't pay. With tolls, that means that others (from outside our community) are paying a portion of our benefit! I know some aren't happy that I changed my position, but it is the right the least impact on our community...versus the other options. Less taxes, less impact on our citizens. That's where I've landed.”

Less taxes? With C-Tran planning on another sales tax increase this November? With the city contemplating a possible additional $20 fee yearly on car license tabs? And “less impact?” With businesses being shut down in order to demolish their buildings for 3 planned parking garages to accommodate light rail?

And again, who uses the bridge more than those forced to seek work in Portland since not enough effort is made to attract good paying jobs to Vancouver and Clark County? Of course Clark County and Vancouver citizens will be impacted by this, not to mention some expected 8 to 10 years of increased congestion as the new bridge will be built alongside the existing bridges.

Even Jefferson Smith, Democrat candidate for Portland Mayor sees problems staring us in the face in this project as currently planned and seems to be the only raising serious questions, instead of just rolling over to the special interests pushing this project at any and all costs.

Listening to him in the April 5, 2012 OPB Think Out Loud video interview, he seems to have grasp on what areal “Dream of the Future” is about.

Leavitt does not. His “dream” looks more like a nightmare.

Then too, those who forget the “history of the past” are bound to repeat those “mistakes of the past.”

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