County unsure if it can hold bridge vote
Vancouver City Councilor Pat Campbell is seeking a backer on the council to help him put a discussion of a citywide vote on the Columbia River Crossing on the agenda.
With C-Tran likely pushing a vote on a sales tax for operations and maintenance of light rail on the CRC to next year, Campbell said a nonbinding advisory vote this November “might settle it a little bit.”
“People have been promised a vote,” Campbell said Monday.
Campbell wrote an e-mail to Councilor Jeanne Stewart on Friday, following an editorial by The Columbian calling for a countywide vote on whether or not the CRC should be built, and asked that she join him in putting discussion of such a vote to the seven-member body. Council policy requires that two councilors back a topic before it is placed on the agenda; the mayor and city manager may do so unilaterally.
“I believe this creates an opportune time for two council members to get this on the council’s agenda,” he wrote to Stewart, who has recently been vocal in her opposition to light rail on the bridge.
Stewart, Campbell said, had not responded as of Monday evening. Stewart could not be reached immediately for comment Monday evening; she is in Washington D.C. for a National League of Cities meeting and a committee meeting of the Transportation and Infrastructure Steering Committee.
Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt said that if two council members want to bring an issue forward, it has to be addressed. He also said that a discussion about which jurisdiction — the state, the county or the city — should put a vote forward is worth having.
He seemed lukewarm on the idea of one city voting on a project that he said will benefit the entire West Coast. He also noted that a local vote on a federal multi-state transportation project “could be setting some kind of precedent.”
“I think it would be very arrogant for somebody to suggest that the city of Vancouver should provide an advisory or binding vote,” Leavitt said. “To vote on a project whose scope is well beyond the citizens of our community … to think that the people who live within the city of Vancouver should dictate the fate of this project is extremely shortsighted.”
The mayor agreed that Vancouver will be the most affected by a new Interstate 5 bridge, but said that the city council agreed on a locally preferred alternative for the project 2½ years ago, and that the city is “working diligently with the folks who are paying the bill, the state and the feds, to make sure impacts on our city are minimized.”
Campbell acknowledged that should the city council be the ones to forward a November vote, it would be limited to Vancouver residents.
“Our boundaries are the city (limits), but I thought we should discuss it,” he said.