It is a question of vision, of foresight, of being able to look into the future and consider Vancouver's place in the world. And it is those traits that lead The Columbian to endorse Tim Leavitt as he seeks a second term as mayor of the city.
The race for mayor is between two men with experience in city government who share vastly different views of the future. On one hand is Leavitt, who has held the office for four years after sitting on the City Council for the previous six. On the other hand is challenger Bill Turlay, a council member since 2011. Ideally in an election, voters are presented with choices that are easily distinguishable. Such is the case with Leavitt and Turlay.
"We do have differences of perspective on the direction of our community," Leavitt said as the candidates met with The Columbian's Editorial Board. "Mr. Turlay has made it clear that he has a different vision for where our community should be, and I think it's a vision of days that have long passed. We are a regional economy."
With that, Leavitt accurately articulated the delineation between the candidates. With that, he eloquently explained why he should be re-elected as Vancouver's mayor.
The differences between Leavitt and Turlay are most sharply drawn along the lines of the Columbia River Crossing. Leavitt supports the project as currently proposed, and in his role as a C-Tran board member has positioned the city to finance the maintenance and operation of light rail should it be extended from Portland into Clark County. Turlay is opposed to light rail and believes the federal government should pay 90 percent of the cost for the construction of a new bridge.
From nearly the start of his time as mayor, the CRC has been an albatross for Leavitt. He ran four years ago largely on a platform of opposing tolls on a new bridge, then quickly reversed course once in office. "The reality is I got that wrong," Leavitt said. "Those positions were too set to allow me to move forward in the project without creating some animosity."
Yet while Turlay's supporters have seized upon Leavitt's flip-flop as a campaign issue, Turlay himself has experienced the realities of governing. After saying as a candidate that he would not raise taxes, once on the council he joined the majority in approving a property-tax increase that helped preserve staffing in the police and fire departments. "I want to tell you that on this side of the table, it looks different," Turlay said at the time.
The CRC has dominated local politics for the better part of a decade, but it would be a mistake to consider this a single-issue race. Vancouver is a vibrant, growing city with many pressing issues that extend beyond the Interstate 5 Bridge. Leavitt supports the CRC because of the impact it will have on the region, not just for the sake of having a new bridge. He believes Vancouver's strength lies in its ability to connect with Portland and be a linchpin for the region rather than a bedroom community.
"The reality is as we continue to grow, as our population expands to 750,000 in the next 20 years, there are a few things that are going to happen," he said. "One, the density and the zoning in our county is going to have to change. … Traffic congestion is going to multiply."
Under Leavitt's watch, the city has improved its credit rating, has refinanced debts, has cut spending, has moved forward on the waterfront development, and has struck a good deal on a new City Hall. Leavitt's past demonstrates that he deserves another four years as mayor. So does his vision of the future.