Sunday, June 13, 2021
June 13, 2021

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Press Talk: Politicians behaving badly

By , Columbian Editor
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What to do with our political types?
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Remember the movie “Escape From New York?”

It was a 1981 classic Kurt Russell movie where society walled off New York City and essentially threw all the bad guys in there.

And maybe — just maybe — we all might be better off if we did the same thing with our politicians.

I mean, come on now. With so many political characters running around loose, I’m ready to head to the cellar and try to ride it out.

Frankly, two recent local issues came up that brought that classic 1981 movie to mind:

• Vancouver’s proposed waterfront project.

• A new bridge proposal to get across the Columbia River.

The waterfront project

For those not following along, Vancouver’s waterfront project is a multimillion-dollar concept to turn our Columbia River waterfront — abandoned for years — into a sweet showcase.

Hotels, parks, restaurants, housing, the works!

The project has been talked about for a long time, and some progress finally is being made. The city has pumped in millions to improve the infrastructure leading to the waterfront. Openings have been cut into the railroad berm to get access to the water.

Abutting this proposed waterfront project is the Port of Vancouver. Think of the port and this project as kissing cousins. They mostly like each other, but they don’t always get along.

Recently, they stopped kissing when the port approved an oil terminal approximately the size of Yacolt. It’s big! Logic would tell you that will attract more oil. And that oil will get here by train.

Enter the waterfront project.

Let’s be honest. No one would like these incessant trains rumbling by their homes under any circumstances. When they are loaded with oil — which tends to blow up on occasion — well, welcome to the nightmare.

So the guy trying to put together this waterfront project — Barry Cain — has noted on numerous occasions that he strongly opposes the port’s decision to allow this gargantuan oil terminal to be built. I mean, if that wouldn’t suppress waterfront sales, I don’t know what would.

Nonetheless, because they are neighbors, Cain needs to purchase a few parcels of land from the port — land the port has little use for — to help his project.

Enter Brian Wolfe.

Wolfe is a port commissioner and has taken considerable heat for his support of the oil terminal. And, frankly, he’s been stewing for some time over the fact that Cain has so publicly opposed it.

When the sale of this land came up at the port commission meeting this week, Wolfe was ready to unload.

“So, my struggle is, why do we keep doing business with a group that’s antagonistic toward us?” Wolfe said. “I almost share (Commissioner Jerry Oliver’s) premonition that this is a failed project, because all we hear from (the) developer is how bad oil trains are” to his development.

“If (the waterfront project) ain’t gonna happen,” Wolfe added, “we might want to saw it off now.”

Oh my!

I asked Wolfe — whom I’ve found to be a good guy — about his comments. To his credit, he has some regret over it.

“I always regret it when my spontaneity gets me in trouble. Maybe I should buy one of your (Don’t Do Stupid Stuff) mugs. My friends here around the office enjoyed giving me a bad time.”

The bridge

Also this week, bad behavior continued with our local state legislators. This time, it had to do with a proposal to try to get something going again to replace the aging Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River.

We all know a multibillion-dollar proposal (the Columbia River Crossing) was killed last year when local Republican legislators refused to get behind a bridge project that included light rail. This upset a lot of Democrats.

But the death of the CRC didn’t eliminate the need for a new bridge. Republicans understood this and now have come up with an alternative. Rep. Liz Pike and Sen. Ann Rivers are two of the main players in this new proposal. It would not immediately include light rail. But no sooner did they make the idea public than Democratic Sen. Annette Cleveland was shooting it down.

“We are going back to square one” with the Republican proposal, she said.

News flash to Sen. Cleveland: Right now we are at square zero.

Look, I don’t know if this new proposal is workable or not. What I do know is, we had better begin talking about solutions to an I-5 Bridge replacement rather than wallowing in the muck of the failed CRC.

Yes, it’s understood that Republicans derailed the earlier bridge proposal, mostly because of light rail. And yes, it’s understood Democrats were livid. Yes, it’s even understood that it’s human nature for Democrats to look for payback. “You killed my idea, now I’ll kill yours.”

But someone has to break the gridlock. The Democrats could seize the moral high ground here and say, “Let’s talk. Let’s honestly listen to each other.”

Because when you think about it, what’s the alternative? What are the options for port commissioners, and state legislators and the rest of the rowdy bunch of political pokeweeds?

I guess we could reserve a room for them behind the walls of New York City.

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