Live chat transcript: Vancouver City Council candidates Cory Barnes and Larry Smith

By Libby Clark, Columbian Web Editor

Published:

 

Vancouver City Council candidates Cory Barnes and Larry Smith took some time on Tuesday to field questions from Columbian.com users.

The chat touched on a variety of topics, including job creation and economic development. Here’s a transcript that's been edited for clarity.

The full transcript is also available at www.columbian.com/chat-archive/.

Libby Tucker:

If you haven't seen it, be sure to check out our recent coverage of the candidates, who shared their views on a range of topics from public transportation to business fees here: http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/oct/14/vancouver-council-candidates-offer-differing-visio/

Libby Tucker:

Let's get started! Will both of you please give us a little about your background and why you're running for council?

Cory Barnes:

I grew up in Vancouver and have lived here my whole life. I was manager at the Portland International Airport of aircraft fueling and transitioned a year ago to managing my friend's computer retail/repair store in Longview. I have been involved in politics locally and am very concerned about the direction our city is going in.

Libby Tucker:

This is your first council race, correct Cory?

Cory Barnes:

Yes.

Larry J. Smith:

I'm a retired military officer, 26 years. I'm a former Parks and Rec director and five years in real estate. Grandfather of two small kids that live in Vancouver. I have a son in law that works in Portland, private sector, in transportation and a daughter that works for Vancouver Clinic. I'm running because I have the experience, leadership, skills and understand of governance that our community needs.

Libby Tucker:

And Larry, this is not your first race. How long have you served on the council?

Larry J. Smith:

Eight years.

Libby Tucker:

Great! Let's get to questions from our readers.

Comment From Lynn Vaughn

Cory, I understand you own and operate a computer store in Longview, WA. Why are you not operating a store here in our city of Vancouver or even Clark County instead or also? I prefer to have my city representatives to be a part of our community "Skin In The Game" of our growth as a city. Outsiders seem to become immune to our issues and problems since they tend to focus on their own business in other cities/states.

Libby Tucker:

The question was directed to Cory, but feel free to jump in Larry. This issue of operating and influencing the council from "outside" has been a hot topic this week so far.

Cory Barnes:

Lynn, I have been a lifelong resident of Vancouver and am personally very concerned with the future of our city and the future of our families and businesses that reside here. I'm not the owner of the store. A good friend of mine asked me to work for him, and I was very excited to gain the experience from managing limited resources in a small business. My next step is to open my own business in Vancouver. Thanks for the question.

Larry J. Smith:

I've been here over 20 years. I'm an active and involved person and participate fully in our community. I believe representatives should be fully engaged in their community.

Comment From Steven Nelson

Question: When the City enters into Public/Private partnerships, how can other businesses that don't get the same benefits as those that in the P/P Partnership compete on a level playing field?

Cory Barnes:

They can't. In fact, these public/private special development partnerships are drawing $millions of dollars a year from our private sector, that would otherwise help foster private capital formation needed to grow jobs and businesses in our community.

Larry J. Smith:

Public private partnerships work in different ways. They can benefit the broad community and also benefit businesses. Each relationship is different. For example, 192nd was a partnership between high tech businesses and government. Look at the growth, success, and job creation in that area because of that partnership.

Comment From Tom Sharples

Cory, as you know the City Council recently voted to give a $1.1M property tax break to a local developer, Elie Kassab, for a project that already has two subsidies (one local, one federal), and claimed they could not make ends meet without the third subsidy. I beleive your opponent voted for that. How would you have voted? Any comments?

Cory Barnes:

I would have voted against it, regardless of any perceived future benefits. I believe that free enterprise should be the base of economic development and not specialized development deals at the cost of other development and growth. The property tax break will be reapportioned to the rest of the businesses and homes in our community. I disagree with that.

Larry J. Smith:

Good question. I supported that because it created job development that hadn't occurred since 2007 in downtown Vancouver. It creates 60 jobs. It will bring small businesses and retail which will stimulate other business growth. If we didn't do this, there would be no development until we get out of this ugly recession and that could be several years.

Libby Tucker:

Cory, what do you think of Larry's answer? Is job growth a good reason to support development deals?

Cory Barnes:

No. Job growth should come from the private sector, not government insider deals. Instead other struggling businesses now have to subsidize Kassab's special hand-out and it puts everyone else at a disadvantage.

Comment From Tom Sharples

Larry, did you just take their word for it, that they couldn't make it pencil out, or did anyone at your end do some due diligence? I've been involved with property rehabbing for quite a few years, and to me, this didn't pass the smell test.

Larry J. Smith:

A detailed analysis was done by Paul Lewis who used to be the budget manager for both the city and county. It demonstrated that it made more money for the community by granting the tax break than letting the property stay empty.

Comment From Steven Nelson

A follow up to Mr. Smith regarding his answer on Public Private Partnerships. I don't believe your answer addressed the question. I was asking about competition not benefits. Should the City be in the business of picking winners and losers?

Larry J. Smith:

There is no development downtown right now because of the economy. This stimulated one project and we look at them case by case. You are right, we have to careful and cautious.

Comment From Tom Sharples

Larry, was that the choice? It's inconceivable that a sophisticated developer like Kassab couldn't figure out how to trim another $100K / year out of the budget without begging more from the taxpayer!

How do you know Kassab wouldn't have done the project anyway?

Larry J. Smith:

There was an independent advising group of private business people that looked at the project and said the development would not work without the city. I don't remember the name off hand. Paul Lewis requested it be done.

Paul requested the group to look at the project.

Cory Barnes:

What's important here is the contrast in principles between Larry and I on whether it's the city's job to bring us jobs or whether we should focus on a positive environment for business growth and job creation. We should spend our time revising city ordinances that get in the way of our citizens creating new jobs.

Comment From Tom Sharples

How do I get a copy?

Larry J. Smith:

Send an email to larry.smith@cityofvancouver.us and I'll get it for you and the staff report to go with it.

Comment From Lynn Vaughn

Why are local citizens with law enforcement experience unable to assist the local police departments as a volunteer to obtain information/facts, locate witnesses/evidence, and help solve some of our local crimes which continue to go unsolved due to case load. If the crime is not solved within the first 24 hours it becomes a cold case and the criminal gets away.

Larry J. Smith:

Hi Lynn. How's business? We try to use volunteers and have to be careful with privacy and legal concerns. We use volunteers for patrols. The NOW volunteers do this.

Comment From Lynn Vaughn

I am a former Criminal Investigator and able to assist in many cases I am sure. I spoke the Chief of Police and got the answer of "UNION" !!! So our police are overworked, our taxpayers are over taxed... where do we draw the line in allowing qualified local citizens to help them when we are certainly able to do so.

Cory Barnes:

Lynn, I agree with your concerns. I'm not familiar with the particular facts regarding your question and I am interested in seeing city ordinances removed that inhibit citizens helping with community concerns. One unrelated example is the ordinance prohibiting Neighborhoods from keeping medians and parks free of weeds. Why do we have to rely on a Parks and Rec Department that is short on funding?

Larry J. Smith:

Yes we have unions. The state law requires that. We are working the unions and the whole concept of community policing and how that is done in our community.

Comment From Lynn Vaughn

Thanks to you both for your comment. Seems being a citizen in a community that has crime going unsolved is pretty bad for our city and families.

Comment From Debra Kalz

To both candidates - we have been running in a deficit in regards to the financing of The Hilton Hotel - which we own and they run I believe. At what point do we say it's not working and do something else about it?

Cory Barnes:

Debra, the point is long over-due. This is one my major concerns along with other citizen-subsidized ventures that are costing our community $ millions per year. Did you know we own eight parking garages that we have to pay the financing on, also?

Larry J. Smith:

The Hilton is not owned by the city. It is owned by another government agency. That is the Public Facilities District. The Downtown Redevelopment Authority manages the contract with the Hilton. Yes, it runs a deficit. It was set up that way. Convention centers don't pay their own way. That's why the state gives back some sales tax and lodging tax covers the rest.

Comment From Debra Kalz

Yes, plus are buying six more spaces for the library not planned for.

Comment From Debra Kalz

I'd say the City Council are not financial experts and as such should not vote on expenditures for the city.

Larry J. Smith:

We are a local government that hires skilled experts who provide us with current information about the community and about financial impacts.

Cory Barnes:

Larry, what is your position on municipal corporations like the PFD that finance businesses at the expense of the surrounding community. Also, what is your opinion of the numerous developmental authorities that are committees of unelected appointed individuals, and how do we citizens hold them accountable for their choices?

Larry J. Smith:

The state legislature said we have to use a PFD if we want some of our sales tax money to be given back.

Comment From Steven Nelson

If the City is looking for development that pencils out downtown, why is it fighting the Bio-Mass plant?

Larry J. Smith:

We are still waiting for information to decide if it pencils out. They haven't applied for development so we don't know. We do know our zoning code is confusing. We are going to go back and review to see if it is appropriate as it now stands for downtown.

Cory Barnes:

I'm not sure about Larry's response. He voted to put a moratorium on further downtown development in the area where biomass would go. The city is directly trying to kill a project before receiving enough information and input from citizens. What is the city afraid of?

Larry J. Smith:

Cory, even the project says the zoning code is confusing. That's why they asked a hearings examiner to look at it.

Libby Tucker:

Time flies! And we haven't even gotten to the CRC yet!

Comment From Dee Little

chanting C R C ! C R C !! CRC!!!

Comment From Tom Sharples

I have another question for both candidates - one can't help but get the impression that the city council and the agencies that it attends, are doing everything they can to prevent the citizens of Clark County from voting on the CRC and light-rail, until it's too late. Comments please?

Cory Barnes:

Dee, we deserve a vote on light-rail extension into Vancouver. Larry voted on the C-Tran Board in Sept. 2010 to have a measure placed on this year's ballot. He voted to send the Final Record of Decision to the Federal Government supporting bridge tolls and Light-rail without our citizens getting a vote. We deserve that vote and Larry should not have voted to move this project forward until the citizens' input was received.

Comment From Tom Sharples

(chanting)We want a vote now! We want a vote now!

Larry J. Smith:

There is no legal way to have a CRC vote. The columbian had a great article on this. It is a state project. I support a CTRAN vote on light rail funding next year.

Comment From Dee Little

to each of you: how would you convince a voter to support your position on light rail?

Cory Barnes:

The current city council decided not to move forward with a vote this election because they are afraid of what the outcome will be. Also, they are very interested in creating a gerrymandered sub-district that would have a higher chance of voting yes without the proper input from all of our citizens, that would have to pay for the $millions in light-rail maintenance costs every year.

Larry J. Smith:

The project has not been approved. The federal government does that. The FEIS says we understand the environment problems and how much they will cost to take care of.

Comment From Dee Little

sorry, larry. if local politicians support it, then local voters should be able to override that.

Cory Barnes:

Dee, I believe our citizens have the right to decide on whether to bring light-rail to Vancouver.

Larry J. Smith:

Dee Little. There are many things the local voters should be able to override. There are many things the federal government does that we should be able to override. We have to follow the laws we have. The laws don't let us do that.

Comment From Bob Travis

Corey, I'd like to hear you respond to the story regarding unpaid tickets if you don't mind....

Libby Tucker:

Background on Bob's question: http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/oct/05/vancouver-council-candidate-nabbed-driving-suspend/

Cory Barnes:

I am very apologetic and remorseful for my personal faults in regards to my driving record and not paying the fines. All fines are paid and up-to-date and my license has been restored.

Libby Tucker:

Well, we're at the end of our chat session. Any last comments from the candidates? Cory, a response for Bob?

Libby Tucker:

We have a handful of questions from readers still that I will post. The candidates can feel free to answer them here or in the comments to the story we post tonight online about the live chat.

Larry J. Smith:

Thanks for the opportunity and time. I always like to engage the citizens in important conversations. Thank you Libby and Cory. Best

Cory Barnes:

Thanks to everyone who submitted questions.

Libby Tucker:

Thanks, Cory.

Libby Tucker:

And thanks Larry for your time.

Libby Tucker:

Great discussion everyone!