Bart Hansen is an incumbent … of sorts. In late January, he was appointed to fill the vacancy created on the Vancouver City Council when voters elevated Tim Leavitt from councilor to replace long-time Mayor Royce Pollard. So Hansen has about six months on the job, after emerging from a process that included 15 other applicants.
Voters have a chance this year to retain Hansen, who faces two challengers in the Aug. 17 primary (ballots will be mailed July 28). The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 2 general election, and The Columbian views the two best choices as Hansen and challenger John Jenkins, respectively. Jenkins is making his second bid for the council. Like Hansen, he failed to make it out of last year’s primary race for the council seat vacated by Pat Jollota. That race was won by Jack Burkman, who ultimately voted for Hansen as Leavitt’s replacement.
Hansen’s most significant political attribute might be the fact that he is endorsed by both Leavitt and Pollard, the two bitter combatants in last year’s mayoral race. But more compelling has been his six months work on the council, where he has invigorated a ruling body traditionally controlled by older public servants who are often retired. Hansen, 35, is the council’s youngest member and the only one who is married with two young children. That perspective carries value, and although Hansen in many cases has maneuvered subtly through his first six months as a newcomer, it’s clear that he takes seriously his role as representative of young families.
In budget discussions, Hansen has strongly advocated preserving jobs in the police and fire departments. He says further consolidation of the region’s city and county agencies (such as parks and transportation) should be explored to reduce costs. Although Hansen believes city workers should share in the sacrifices commanded by the Great Recession (“to maintain their jobs, they should do more in contract concessions”) he is reluctant to specify reductions in pay and benefits that might come up during negotiations with unions.
Hansen strongly supports a new Interstate 5 bridge and the proposed extension of light rail into Vancouver “if it pencils out and the voters approve.” On tolls, the most divisive issue of the mayoral race, Hansen says, “Yes, if the tolls are reasonable. There must be a local contribution, and the user-pay theory works best in this case.” Therein lies the most glaring difference between Hansen and Jenkins, who is adamantly anti-light rail and fiercely opposed to tolls. Asked if he had to choose between a new bridge with tolls or no new bridge, Jenkins chose the latter.
Although we don’t think Jenkins is nearly as strong as Hansen, if you’re looking for a second choice, Jenkins is someone who brings a much different flavor to the race. He’s not sure on some issues — he flip-flopped on us when it came to a question about tolls, for example — and he doesn’t appear well-versed on other issues. But he’s a strong believer in his views, we feel he believes he has the best interests on the city in mind and he keeps at it, even after he’s been defeated.
The third candidate, Jack King O’Neal, has made little to no effort during the campaign and told The Columbian earlier this year: “I’m not running against the guy who’s in there right now. I’ll kind of leave it to the voters. I’m going to do my thing and see what happens on (primary) night.” What happens that night should be the advancement of Hansen and Jenkins to the Nov. 2 general election.