Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt delivered a wide-ranging State of the City address Wednesday, calling for support for the Columbia River Crossing, hinting at upcoming measures to pay for police, fire and transportation and outlining more business development across the city.
Before about 325 people in the Evergreen High School Auditorium, Leavitt’s second State of the City was more relaxed than his speech a year ago, as the mayor touched on the difficulties of 2010 and named specific plans for his next three years in office.
While his 2010 speech previewed a year in which nearly 20 percent of the city’s employees were cut and $16 million was slashed from the general fund, Leavitt, 40, called his 2011 speech “Foundations for the Future.”
“We soon will be asked to invest in the core of our community,” Leavitt said. “And when that time comes, when you are presented with the question, when you are asked to sacrifice a bit more, I ask that each and every one of you step forward and join me in committing to the dynamic future of our city.”
Leavitt said he will ask the city council to consider instituting a “small increase” in the vehicle license fee (it may add up to $20 to a tab without a vote by citizens), a move that he said will provide a “shot in the arm” to the city’s empty coffers for new road construction. Leavitt — a senior civil engineer at PBS Engineering + Environmental –reiterated a need for infrastructure investment later and quipped, “You’re seeing a common theme here.”
Among other plans: Streamline building permits to a 60-day review and move many functions online; hunt for development on the vacant block at Washington and Eighth streets; market the area as a business destination; cut development fees and also consider disposing of numerous properties such as the soon-to-be-vacant City Hall on East 13th Street. Also in the works is a WAV, or We Are Vancouver, billing program that will allow people to make tax-deductible donations to help pay water and sewer bills for low-income families, similar to a Clark Public Utilities program.
Expect a “plan of action to fund the reconstruction and retrofitting of our deteriorating fire stations,” of which more than half fall below safety and quality standards, he said. Fully funding the police department will also be a key priority, he said, alluding to a possible emergency services levy.
“Our police department needs more and stable funding,” Leavitt said. “It’s our responsibility to ensure the safety of our community, and we’re going to be asking you to help us make that happen.”
The 55-minute speech drew a standing ovation twice: Once when Leavitt recognized the families of fallen local soldiers — including Marine Sgt. Jason Peto, who was killed in Afghanistan in December — in the audience.
The crowd rose a second time when he called out, “Let’s build that bridge!”
“There will be no third bridge through downtown Vancouver,” he said. “There will be no third bridge in east Vancouver. We will not turn our back on this five-mile corridor of our interstate. We will not turn our back on our citizens stuck in traffic every day.”
And, in a jab to CRC skeptics, he added: “And we will not be distracted by those with disingenuous motives.”
After two years, Leavitt said he is “resigned that tolling is the only practical, acceptable and sustainable means to contribute to our local share.”
But he added he will fight for commuters to get credit for regular crossings and also for fairness with Oregon, as he looked at Portland Mayor Sam Adams in the audience and said, “We’ll have to talk after this.”
Continuing on his roads and pipelines trend, Leavitt spent several minutes outlining the millions in investments that came following city construction on East Mill Plain Boulevard, and Northeast 192nd and 136th avenues. He pointed out that along the 192nd corridor alone, there will be a total of $500 million in investment and the creation of 1,000 jobs. And the city’s $44 million project to extend infrastructure to the waterfront will bring $1.3 billion of private investment, Leavitt said.
He called for investment on Fourth Plain Boulevard and lauded the Port of Vancouver for its work in powering “a significant segment of the economy in our region.”
Included in the speech was a short video of five “hometown heroes” that he said are examples of Vancouver as a place to start and grow businesses and careers. In it were: National Parks Service archaeologist Bob Cromwell; Juliet Laycoe-Hagley, a partner and family practice attorney with Laycoe & Bogdon; National Investment Finance Corp. president Darryl Horowitz; Columba Machine resident Rick Goode; and Port of Vancouver communications manager Theresa Wagner.
The mayor also took time to thank city employees for the hard work they’ve done in a down economy and amid layoffs. He said he is hopeful that 2010 was “rock bottom” and that no further layoffs will be necessary. He pointed out a move to the new City Hall building this year will save $1 million and streamline efficiencies.
But he said the reorganization isn’t done.
“I assure you ladies and gentlemen that we will not rest, we will not again become complacent and we will not accept business as usual,” Leavitt said. “I and your city council will continue to work closely with and push our city manager, leadership and city employees to creatively and efficiently provide service to our citizens.”
The State of the City address will be rebroadcast on CVTV channels 21 and 23 starting today at 12:30 p.m. (Channel 23) and 7:30 p.m. (Channel 21). A full schedule and streaming video of the speech are available at http://www.cityofvancouver.us/cvtv/cvtvindex.asp.
Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or firstname.lastname@example.org.