The turnout was small, but the discussion was lively as the Vancouver City Council debuted a new town hall format Tuesday night.
Likely hampered by ever-so-slightly inclement weather, the seven city councilors played host to just 10 people in addition to a troop of Boy Scouts at Clark College at Columbia Tech Center.
Each council member took a table, and residents and Scouts alike rotated from seat to seat, asking questions of their elected officials — and of each other.
At one, two business owners asked Councilor Jeanne Stewart what they could do about a bus stop that they said C-Tran moved without notifying them. Across the room, Councilor Bart Hansen sketched a pie chart to explain the city budget for part of the troop.
Mayor Tim Leavitt’s table was surrounded, with one neighborhood leader explaining a problem he was having with the city’s code enforcement team. And, of course, talk turned to the Columbia River Crossing.
Three women took turns quizzing him about the project, including when tolls would begin, and also about a story in Sunday’s Columbian about the $140 million spent in planning costs, most of which has gone to Portland consultant David Evans and Associates.
Sabrina Powell was among those at the mayor’s table for more than 30 minutes. She said she lives in Seattle but is thinking of relocating, and jumped at the chance to learn more about her prospective community.
“I’m interested in the quality of life, about adult learning and college, and I’m involved in the music community,” Powell said, adding that she liked the one-on-one format. “I think (Leavitt) is wonderful, very open and willing to listen.”
Leavitt also said that he was happy with the way things were going, citing the varied conversations.
New City Councilor Bill Turlay was at an adjacent table, where he talked about how he thinks the CRC won’t do much to alleviate traffic once it reaches the congested Rose Quarter area in Portland.
“I have no problem sitting down and talking with anyone,” he said. “I’m a little disappointed in the turnout. I would have hoped to see a larger audience.”
Several times, residents at a table also spurred a little healthy debate amongst themselves as well.
Stephanie Turlay, Bill Turlay’s wife, discussed her desire for a fireworks ban with Councilor Jeanne Harris and Leavitt. “Ban the boom!” she said to Leavitt, just as two Boy Scouts settled down at the table. Both boys smiled and shook their heads: “No way!” one said, as the other added, “It’s an American tradition!”
Civics in action
Brooke Terry, 19, and her grandmother Marilyn Hall came out because Terry is in a political science class at Clark College and wanted to see civics in action.
Hall said she was worried about the planning costs for the $3.5 billion CRC that she read about.
“It’s taken them a long time and a lot of money,” she said. “He (Leavitt) explained the process and all the different groups of people involved.”
“It was great,” Terry said of the open house. “They’re very willing to listen.”