Vancouver voters are fortunate to have three solid choices in the Aug. 6 primary for city council Position 2: a 12-year incumbent and two well-prepared and enthusiastic challengers from the Hough neighborhood.
Jeanne Stewart has maintained a steady watchdog role on the council, but her contributions to the council and enthusiasm for the job are on the wane. And with the arrival of two highly capable challengers, we believe it is time for a change.
Our twin recommendations for replacement begin with Alishia Topper, who has stormed out of the gate since filing week with a busy and extensive campaign that is impressive for a first-time candidate. She leads this field because of her deep familiarity with how to get things done in her community. Topper works as senior director of development at Fort Vancouver National Trust.
Ty Stober is our second endorsee for the primary (we'll make a single recommendation in this race prior to the Nov. 5 election) because of his knowledge about modern issues such as utilities and public transportation.
Stewart, who lives in the Carter Park neighborhood, has a large following in the community, and was rumored for more than a year to be a challenger to Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt. We've endorsed her in previous council races, but she has built no meaningful alliances on the council and repeatedly has clashed more than collaborated with colleagues over C-Tran, waterfront redevelopment and other key issues. Stewart was unable to compellingly explain to The Columbian's editorial board why she didn't file to run for mayor.
"This attitude (on the council) of 'get with the program or get out' is not good for our community," she said defensively at a meeting with The Columbian's editorial board. As for running for mayor: "Yes I strongly considered it. I could've run a good race." But she decided not to challenge Leavitt, her arch-nemesis on the council, because of "external issues" that she declined to disclose.
Stewart faults her council colleagues more than county commissioners for the contentious relationship between the two governing bodies, citing "a lot of human foolishness going on" that she again refused to explain.
Topper, by contrast, inserts a refreshing optimism and can-do spirit. She said Stewart "has served well, and there is a place for dissent, but eventually you need to move forward" in public service. And Topper has the record and credentials to back up her philosophy. She has served on numerous boards, and over the past year has built an inclusive and robust campaign, securing dozens of endorsements from a variety of groups. Topper lists business development, safer neighborhoods, improved parks and enhanced community pride as her chief priorities.
Stober also is making his first run at elected office, but he's a veteran advocate in public issues, having chaired the board of Equal Rights Washington and promoted passage of the state's marriage-equality law. He works as initiative manager for the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. Incumbent Stewart, he said, deserves credit for 12 years on the council, but, "All public service cannot start with the word 'No.' It has to be more constructive." Stober, an Eagle Scout and graduate of Leadership Clark County, lists economic growth, vibrant neighborhoods and modern transportation infrastructure as his top goals.
We recommend Alishia Topper and Ty Stober for Position 2 on Vancouver City Council. Ballots for the Aug. 6 primary will be mailed Wednesday.