Local politics in many cases is far more important to your daily life experience than state or national politics. Too many voters focus on the big elections for President, US Senator, House Rep and even Governors and state legislators. Voters should not ignore or take lightly the importance of the politicians that have the most direct impact on our daily lives. These local politicians are also the most approachable. Don’t get me wrong, obviously voting for all the various seats is important, but pay close attention to county council and city council seats as well as Mayor.
In Vancouver the city council and Mayor are non-partisan seats. Certainly various candidates have views that align with one party or another, but the election is not about party it is about local issues and the important dynamics of the city and county governance. national politics really has little in common with local politics, the issues are much different.
Next month Clark County has a primary election in which we choose the people that will either occupy an office or run off in November’s General Election. There are three candidates vying for the top seat in Vancouver including our sitting Mayor, Anne McEnemy-Ogle. The Columbian newspaper endorsed Mayor Anne this past weekend. I am still on the fence about Mayor Anne, however I tend to agree in part with the Columbian that one of the challengers does not seem qualified at all and the other is a little vague on important policy issues. Mayor Anne is probably our best choice. Read over your ballot carefully and choose wisely. On the City Council we have four candidates vying for the ‘Position 1’ including incumbent John Blom. Postion 2 has three candidates including the incumbent Erik Paulsen.
I cannot express enough that partisan politics should not invade local government. This is our last vestige of community spirit in politics. Whether one is a Democrat or Republican or independent should not carry weight at the local level and Vancouver council and Mayor seats are thus non-partisan.
Some candidates/council members are attacking the MTFE (Multi-Family Tax Exemption) program which I believe has a proven track record of creating MORE tax revenue and positive investment in Vancouver for over 20 years now. I wrote an article on that here. The biggest complaint is centered around using a regional income rather than immediate local income for the rental portion of the agreement. This program was NEVER intended to be a subsidy for low income residents. It is designed to help elevate incomes and investment in the community to MATCH the regional success. To bring underdeveloped areas up to the standards of the region. This means building nicer projects that attract business, jobs, and people in middle and upper income brackets with rents that are sub-market and attractive. This program also allows the developer to charge full market rate in exchange for a valuable community benefit such as a building a public space, or other meaningful infrastructure that benefits the community at large.
Any candidate or sitting council member that doesn’t see the benefit of the MFTE program ought not to be serving on the council or as Mayor in my opinion. The positive effects of this program have been transformative beyond the imaginations of those who started implementing it back in the 1990s. Those tax exemptions have proven to return to the city in multitudes with increased property valuations and growth in jobs that more than pay for the “breaks” the developer received. It has been demonstrably effective. It should be noted that Former Mayor Pollard and Former Mayor Leavitt had strong political differences and were likely in opposite political parties, yet both clearly saw the value and utility of the MFTE program in Vancouver.
Vancouver already has excellent stewardship over subsidized housing and income limited development with numerous entities involved including the historically famous Vancouver Housing Authority which dates to WWII. The council members and candidates against the MFTE program are likely ignorant ideologues that would rather see Vancouver regress back to the awful 1990s when Downtown was the butt of every joke in the entire metro area than a private developer getting a single penny in tax breaks. That kind of partisan ideological decision making is what ruined Portland. Vancouver doesn’t need any of that, nor will citizens on the north shore of the Columbia River let you stay in office when you take that approach.
Lastly Vancouver should not emulate Portland with regards to the homeless problem. Portland has failed miserably and to the point that the city may start to lose population. People are leaving Portland at such a rapid pace that nearby cities including Vancouver are seeing tremendous demand for housing coming from Portland. Homelessness is a sensitive issue but it should not be allowed to fester like it has in Portland. Homeless camps are an environmental disaster that would never be tolerated if committed by local homeowners, renters, or private business. The litter, human waste and even dangerous chemicals used in homeless camps ultimately end up in our streams, the Columbia River, and eventually the ocean. This is an affront to all the years of efforts by conservation groups at helping bring the salmon runs back, cleaning up super fund sites, and monitoring private industry. Portland has turned a blind eye, we cannot.
Many homeless people represent a real danger to themselves, other homeless people, and other members of the general community. That is not to say that compassionate efforts to help people transition back into society are not warranted, they absolutely are, but some people refuse to accept the help. These that refuse to take the helping hand from our generous governments, churches, and non-profits, cannot be allowed to destroy our environment and commit violence or vandalism that makes the city unsafe. City Council and Mayor, we are watching you, very closely.