Incumbent Topper, Forsman seek council seat

Candidates talk key issues for Vancouver City Council Position 2 race

By Katy Sword, Columbian staff writer




Name: Alishia Topper.

Age: 39.

Political experience: Current city councilor.

Endorsement: State Representative Sharon Wylie.

Funds raised: $6,871.70



Name: Justin Forsman.

Age: 29.

Political experience: Ran for City Council in 2015 and for 49th District in 2016.

Endorsement: Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson.

Funds raised: $0.


Vancouver Races

Mayor: Anne McEnerny-Ogle, Jonathan Sauerwein (write-in)

Position 1: Maureen McGoldrick, Scott Campbell (deceased)

Position 2: Alishia Topper (incumbent), Justin Forsman

Position 3: Michelle Beardshear and Linda Glover 

Two candidates are vying for Vancouver City Council Position 2. The position is currently occupied by Alishia Topper, who seeks re-election. The position will pay $1,947 a month in 2018. Councilors enact ordinances or resolutions, adopt rules, regulations and the budget, as well as appoint or remove the city manager, approve salaries, control indebtedness and issue bonds.

Justin Forsman is running against Topper for the position. Topper and Forsman were not on the August primary ballot because they were the only two candidates for the position.

Here’s what they had to say about a few key issues. Responses have been edited for clarity.

Most important issue

Topper: The most important issue facing Vancouver is the affordable housing crisis. With vacancy rates at historic lows and fast rising rents, everyone in the city is affected, especially our most vulnerable — seniors, veterans, the disabled and the working poor.

With homelessness on the rise, city leadership and our elected officials need to take action and help find solutions. I will continue to make this a priority and do all that I can to help.

Forsman: Keeping people in their homes and getting people without homes into homes.

Solution to homelessness

Forsman: My plan is to focus on employment and housing for those who are poor or homeless. (This includes) tax incentives for local businesses that hire locally or homeless in general, investigating and seizing illegally foreclosed properties by banks that did not own the deed (in order to) reissue these homes to the general public. (I would also) allocate land for those who wish to remain homeless.

Topper: In order to reduce homelessness, my plan focuses on four main priorities. 1. Ensure developers build more affordable housing. 2. Through partnerships, increase available land for building creative solutions like tiny homes and cluster housing. 3. Change zoning codes to make it easier to make rents and home ownership more affordable. 4. Work to keep affordable housing affordable by keeping those rents low with rental assistance and housing preservation.

Plan to encourage affordable housing development

Topper: To attract new developers I will ensure our policies and permitting are predictable, reliable and transparent. I will also work to ensure staff are reaching out to the housing development community and ensure there is a full understanding of all the policy changes and incentives available to build affordable housing in our city.

Forsman: (I would attract new developers) by changing ordinances to allow expanded development, allow buildings to be made higher, allow houses to be smaller and proposals for a number of homeless shelters to be built.


Forsman: Public transit seems to be working great in our community the way it is, however we can’t say the same for those who choose to drive on a daily basis. Let’s make their commute as effective as our public transit. Many have voted against mass transit and I feel at this point it is not something for us to consider.

Topper: As we grow our economy and as population increases, I believe the demand on public transportation will grow. I believe our region would benefit from expanded Bus Rapid Transit and should continue to be open to other multi-modal transportation options.


Topper: I would help fix traffic congestion by supporting a long-term Interstate 5 Bridge replacement plan. In the interim, I will work to find solutions to make our current street infrastructure more efficient for commuters by optimizing current capacity.

Forsman: The ideal ways I see to (fix) this situation of congestion are to expand lanes in areas that are expandable in the city and on the highways, build a third bridge and/or new freeway system, convert turning lane red light intersection signals into flashing yellow lights, establish better timed signals and maintain potholes more efficiently.


Topper: My vision for the Vancouver waterfront is for it to be a world-class neighborhood with an award winning public-park on the Columbia River, blocks that support thousands of jobs that fuel our economy, bustling tourism, and mixed-income housing options for people to live and create community.

Forsman: A place for local venders, entertainment, excitement for those locally and out of town, places to park … a place for children.  The usual stuff.


Forsman: I feel the City could divert certain spending and allocate funds towards areas they lack the revenue for. I am not in favor of implementing new taxes, I will vote against any and all proposed taxes and will fight hard to lower and remove any taxes on the public that I can within reason.

I do have an idea that could benefit the city and the local community. A localized currency backed by silver. This currency could be traded within the city, could be later implemented on the entire Clark County level

Topper: Currently the City of Vancouver has a balanced budget and I don’t believe the city needs additional revenue at this time. If the citizens express the desire for additional or higher levels of service, I would expect giving voters the right to weigh-in on that decision.

Business and operations tax

Topper: It is difficult for me to fully support because it taxes businesses on gross receipts. If you’re a small business or a large business with narrow profit margins, a local B&O tax could potentially hinder growth. Consideration of re-implementing a local business and operations tax should be discussed with businesses to fully understand the impact and potential unintended consequences.

Forsman:  I am against any new form of taxes, or any increases to existing ones. My view is similar to John F Kennedy’s, that lowering taxes will put more money in the pockets of the general public, allowing them to spend that money locally and will promote and boost the local and national economy.

First thing you’d do if you win?

Forsman: 1. Find homes for those without living on the streets, and help keep those in homes currently from becoming homeless. 2. Remove fluoride from our drinking water. 3. Fix the traffic congestion. 4. Require VPD to wear personal body cameras. 5. Focus on ways to lower the cost for our citizens and enhance the prosperity for local businesses. 6. Investigate local governmental corruption.

Topper: (I would) thank voters for the honor to represent them. Then I will get to work on affordable housing solutions, reducing crime, and reducing traffic congestion.

What should voters know about you?

Topper: Here’s a fact for City Council, personal, and professional. For City Council, I am dedicated to hearing both sides of an issue. A personal fact, I’ve run a half-mile in 2 minutes and 4 seconds. And a professional fact is that I have a master’s degree in Public Administration.

Forsman: I am strongly in favor of defending the rights of the individual and rights of the general public. I was in foster care at age 12, and became a ward of the state until age 18. I am vice president to a nonprofit, the Broken Pole Fishing Hole 4 Wounded Veterans, a fishing retreat designed for veterans to focus on fishing and not the stresses around them.