Affordable housing and homeless shelters are the standout issues for Vancouver City Council Position 2 candidates Alishia Topper and Justin Forsman.
Housing is perhaps the largest facing the city. Thanks to Proposition 1 funding, approved by voters in 2016, the city is collecting $6 million annually for the next seven years to be devoted to reducing the housing crisis.
Topper said the bulk of the funding should go toward increasing the stock of affordable housing. “That’s the goal,” she said during a joint interview with The Columbian Editorial Board on Friday.
Second in line for funding is the preservation of existing affordable housing, in part to prevent situations like the mass exodus from Courtyard Village in December 2014 from reoccurring.
Topper’s position is in line with the city’s, which is actively reviewing proposed funding allocations.
Forsman, on the other hand, favors construction of additional homeless shelters.
“When I was a youth I stayed a number of times in a shelter with my father,” he said. “I know if those places hadn’t been there, we’d have been on the streets.”
The city’s plan does allocate funding toward homeless shelter construction, but only $300,000 of the $6 million in anticipated revenue. The council will consider this funding at its Oct. 9 meeting.
Aside from affordable housing and the homeless population, the candidates were asked to name their top two issues.
Forsman said congestion ranked No. 1.
“In a way we’re trying to push people it seems like onto bikes or onto public transit when I think if people have a choice they would prefer to drive,” he said.
The second issue for Forsman is homeless services.
Topper agreed with Forsman that congestion is a top issue for the council to address in 2018, specifically finding a solution for the Interstate 5 Bridge.
“The bridge is incredibly antiquated, doesn’t meet seismic standards on any level and the Department of Transportation has deemed it incredibly inadequate and unsafe,” she said.
Second on deck for Topper is how the proposed oil terminal will impact the waterfront development plan.
“I would say we need to stay on point in our waterfront development and encourage the governor to deny that project when the recommendation comes out from (the Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council),” Topper said.
Forsman said he’s against oil “because I think there’s technology out there they’re holding back” but “the decision maybe has already been made.”
Thinking forward, Forsman has one campaign issue he said may strike some as “extreme.” The candidate wants to implement a local currency backed by silver.
“If it caught on, it could branch out to the county,” he said. “It happens all the time.”
While community currencies do exist across the U.S., no city has replaced the dollar with its own currency.
When asked if she would implement a local currency Topper said, “No.”
On the topic of money, Topper said at this point, the city of Vancouver has a balanced budget.
“I’m not interested in just raising taxes for revenue,” she said. On this, Forsman agreed. But he’d take it a step further.
“I think if taxes are lower, there’s more money that’s going to be spent on the economy,” he said. “I actually think if you lower property taxes and lower other taxes, you’d make more money off sales tax than anything because more money will be spent in the community.”