Vancouver council candidates air views
Turlay, McEnerny-Ogle are experienced campaigners
Thursday, October 20, 2011
Background: Retired public school mathematics teacher and college instructor. Serves on Shumway Neighborhood Association (chair); Vancouver Neighborhood Alliance (chair); Clark County Historical Society (vice president); Scoutmaster for Boy Scouts of America. Former Vancouver Planning Commissioner (2002-2007).
Funds raised: $9,708.
Major endorsements: Vancouver Police Officers’ Guild; Vancouver Firefighters Union; Sierra Club; National Women’s Political Caucus; and Friends of Fire Station 6.
Background: Retired, U.S. Navy; commerce aviation; beverage broker; small-business owner. Fort Vancouver Kiwanis; United Way; Military Officers Association of America; Red River Fighterpilots Association; Navy Crusader Network; the Skyhawk Association; Forum at the Library Steering Committee; and Lutheran Church.
Funds raised: $10,163.
Major endorsements: Building Industry Association of Clark County; Sen. Don Benton; Sen. Jerome Delvin; Clint Didier; Rep. Paul Harris; Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke; and David and Donna Madore.
No one is doing any polling (or will publicly admit it anyway), but those watching Vancouver City Council races all agree the toughest call is between Anne McEnerny-Ogle and Bill Turlay for Position 6.
The two veteran campaigners — she a retired math teacher and neighborhood leader and he a Navy veteran and small-business owner — unseated incumbent Councilor Pat Campbell in the August primary. Turlay, who claimed the most votes in the three-way race, came away just over 200 votes ahead of McEnerny-Ogle.
How the rest of the voters will sway come Nov. 8 is still a mystery.
Here’s a look at a few key issues Vancouver will face as the winner takes his or her seat on the city council:
Turlay said he dislikes being called anti-Columbia River Crossing, but does acknowledge he’s against the plans expected to receive final federal approval by December — before he or his opponent would take office.
He said he’d like to see multiple bridges across the river, although the plan for one bridge project was approved by the city council in 2008.
Vancouver also lacks the density for light rail, he said, which also is the most expensive transit option. When asked about its inclusion as a matter of compromise with Portland, he said he didn’t appreciate the hard stance Portland Mayor Sam Adams took on the matter.
“No light rail, no bridge? I’m sorry Mr. Adams,” Turlay said. “Let’s keep Oregon over there and keep Vancouver over here.”
McEnerny-Ogle, as chairwoman of the Shumway Neighborhood Association, has worked with homeowners whose houses are set to be lost to highway improvements. She’s spoken about a strong need for social and environmental justice as work goes on.
But she said she’s met with CRC Director Nancy Boyd and agrees that a new bridge is necessary.
“I don’t want to lose this bridge and 15 years of work,” McEnerny-Ogle said.
She also said out that a megaproject has flexibility for changes. She said she favors tolling only to pay for the bridge construction portion that would sunset when the original debts are paid. The jury remains out on light rail.
“I like mass transit, I like high-capacity transit, but I also want our citizens to tell us what they want,” McEnerny-Ogle said.
McEnerny-Ogle said she’d work to create a business ombudsman who can help businesses walk through the city’s permitting and other requirements. While Vancouver already counsels new businesses on how to navigate the system, McEnerny-Ogle said she’s heard from owners it’s often not good enough.
“We need to strengthen the program,” she said. “There are mixed messages for small businesses and entrepreneurs. An ombudsman would be helpful in determining their business license, set-up fees … whatever’s necessary to be successful in the city.”
She also has suggested finding ways to phase permit and impact fees so that businesses aren’t faced with thousands of dollars in costs up front.
Turlay said he’s a free-market believer.
“Government restrictions are an impediment to economic development,” Turlay said, noting all of the federal laws for businesses on the books that he says hinder growth. He acknowledged there’s not much a sole city councilor can do about state and federal laws, but likened it to a “groundswell” possibility with other like-minded local politicians.
“The state legislators and federal representatives are going to listen to Bill Turlay, councilman, more so than Bill Turlay, citizen,” he said. “There are worldwide problems that may be outside my sphere of influence, but you’ve got to try.”
He also took the city’s debt on projects like parking garages, the Hilton Vancouver Washington and the waterfront to task. Such projects can’t be abandoned for a loss, but Turlay said it’s time to stop future agreements.
“I don’t want to dig the hole any deeper,” he said, adding that when you compare Vancouver’s debt with cities of similar size, it’s not excessive by any measure. “I question getting involved in things like that. They’re trying to find some economic gold mine.”
The two have fought a bumpy campaign, with issues arising on both sides.
McEnerny-Ogle served as chairwoman of the Vancouver Planning Commission, and left the board in 2006, when the city council appointed a more geographically diverse set of commissioners.
Some have charged that her departure was due to her lack of ability to work well with businesses. Public documents obtained by The Columbian included a memo that some had complained.
“Staff has received a few complaints about both incumbents,” a memo written in October 2006 read. “In the case of Commissioner McEnerny-Ogle, the complaints relate to the way she has treated applicants and their representatives. Some complained her questioning was unnecessarily harsh and demeaning, particularly related to school district personnel.”
However, Laura Hudson, community development director who co-authored the memo, said McEnerny-Ogle asked sharp questions during her time on the commission, as she should have.
“To set the record straight, staff did not say that Commissioner McEnerny-Ogle … should not be reappointed because of their behavior,” Hudson said Wednesday.
McEnerny-Ogle said her many community activities actually show that she has a track record of working well with others.
“Working with people is not always smooth,” McEnerny-Ogle said. “When there’s a difference of opinion, I try my very best to help them through the process.”
Turlay, who touts his business experience on the campaign trail, faced criticism last month, when Vancouver city officials sent the small-home-business owner a letter notifying him that he lacked a city business license. He has since obtained one.
Both McEnerny-Ogle and Turlay are familiar faces on the campaign trail. Turlay defeated now-seated Councilor Bart Hansen in an August 2009 primary, but lost in the general election to Jack Burkman. McEnerny-Ogle lost in a two-way race to Councilor Jeanne Harris the same year.
Asked as to why they want to serve on a council that is faced largely with cuts to services, and faces public rancor for a job that pays $1,781 a month, plus health benefits, each said they see themselves as able to help.
“I think my domestic and international business experience will help,” Turlay said. “I like people, I like talking to people. I like being around people, working on problems and trying to solve them.”
McEnerny-Ogle said the council needs a more united front as it continues to grapple with tight budgets.
“We are so divided,” she said. “I think I can play an important role on this council of helping this community make it through this struggle.”
Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or email@example.com or www.facebook.com/reporterdamewood or www.twitter.com/col_cityhall.