Mayor presses his case in State of City address

Leavitt calls for optimism and CRC project, hints at second term

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

Published:

Updated: March 16, 2012, 8:09 PM

 

With strong words for Columbia River Crossing opponents, optimism for the city’s economic future and more than a subtle hint he’ll seek a second term, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt delivered the 2012 State of the City address Friday at Kiggins Theatre.

Leavitt, whose term expires at the end of 2013, referenced the work he wants to accomplish “in the coming years” and finished his 45-minute speech by saying: “I’ll tell you this, friends, for as long as you allow me to be your mayor, I will not give up!”

Afterward, Leavitt said there’s a “very strong possibility” he’ll run for a second term.

City Councilors Larry Smith and Jeanne Stewart have both expressed interest in the position.

But for now, the stage belongs to Leavitt. And in his Friday address, titled “Pride, Progress and Possibilities,” Leavitt started by praising past generations.

“Without question, we are a community that radiates a tremendous amount of pride,” he said. “And let’s be clear, ours is a pride that is grounded in the humility and authenticity of our roots. We are founded on the spirit of our Native American ancestors, who for many generations lived and traded here. We gain our tenacity from pioneers and first families, those who trekked across untamed lands of our great country to discover and settle this beautiful place. We draw courage from the generations of soldiers who made Vancouver their home and served our country. And we have acquired resolve from those before us who successfully weathered many challenges,” Leavitt said.

Leavitt chose to give the address at the Kiggins Theatre, which opened in 1936 and was named in honor of four-term Mayor J.P. Kiggins.

During the address, attendees watched a few short clips on the movie screen made by CVTV about Vancouver’s past, present and future.

The Kiggins’ current owner, Bill Leigh, has spent more than $400,000 restoring the landmark theater at 1011 Main St. The 340-seat theater had only a few empty seats Friday, and before Leavitt took the stage, Lee Rafferty, executive director of the Vancouver Downtown Association, sung his praises.

“It is a distinct honor to have this event in our downtown,” Rafferty said.

Among examples of goals, Leavitt included work on redeveloping a vacant block at West Eighth and Columbia Streets.

“I pledged we would work toward redevelopment of the empty block 10, here near the heart of downtown,” Leavitt said. “In this economy, that has been difficult. But we know that reuse of this property could enhance downtown. So, I’ll soon be working with a group of stakeholders to re-energize the block.”

He also mentioned efforts to rebuild or relocate aging fire stations and preserve grant-funded positions in the Vancouver Police Department.

He drew the biggest round of applause when he brought up the Columbia River Crossing and said, “Build that bridge!”

The federal government has approved the project.

“The project is immensely complex with many, many interests. Nearly two dozen public agencies, from federal to local, are involved, and that’s in addition to local Native American tribes, a dozen neighborhoods, hundreds of businesses and over 1 million residents in the Vancouver-Portland metro area. Do you get my point?”

He singled out CRC advocates, including U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, Gov. Chris Gregoire and state legislators Jim Moeller, Sharon Wylie and Craig Pridemore.

“These leaders understand that the bridge is a vital economic artery. It is hemorrhaging and must be operated on,” Leavitt said.

“The strength of our heart — that is, the vitality of our community, our quality of life and the opportunity for increased jobs and businesses — relies on an improved bridge, interchanges and connection to the 55 miles of light rail system,” Leavitt said.

“We’re extremely fortunate that the Federal Transit Administration is prepared to pay for construction of the light rail,” Leavitt said. “We’re also fortunate that several hundred million dollars is anticipated from the Federal Highway Administration.”

Then he called on U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler to “focus her energy on bringing back to our community these much-needed federal dollars. It is high time that Southwest Washington realized its just due with federal financial support, and we rest that responsibility in the hands of our Congresswoman.”

Herrera Beutler has said she believes the Interstate 5 Bridge needs to be replaced, but she has not endorsed the CRC.

Leavitt said Friday that “every dollar that comes from both states and the federal government means less burden and less cost to our pockets here, locally.”

He went on to say that “some people still want you to believe that a new bridge or new interchanges are not needed, or that public transit and light rail are a waste of money, or that this project can be constructed without one of the pieces. Or that this project can be constructed without some local skin in the game. These people are long on criticism and short on solutions. And, frankly, none of their so-called solutions are feasible. Period. The studies, the evidence and the need for this investment in our future are crystal clear.”

Leavitt finished his address by saying he’s optimistic about the future, and Vancouver residents should be, too.

“Like those that came before us, we have pioneering spirit. We are resilient. We will innovate. We will persevere.”

Stephanie Rice: 360-735-4508 or stephanie.rice@columbian.com.