The two candidates running for Vancouver City Council Position 5 sat down with The Columbian’s Editorial Board this week to make their pitch for why they’d be the best fit to lead the city.
Ty Stober, the incumbent, is being challenged by David Regan, a local bail bondsman.
Both men expressed a deep love for Vancouver and a desire to see the community thrive.
“My interest in running for Vancouver City Council comes out of a passion for the city,” Stober said. “The decisions we make about parks and public safety affect the way people feel about our community.”
Regan said he wants to help build and preserve a wonderful place to raise his family.
“There’s a lot of reasons why I want to see this community grow and flourish,” Regan said. “I have a 2 1/2 -year-old son. The decisions we make today are going to affect him.”
On A Stronger Vancouver:
A Stronger Vancouver is a sweeping package of new programs and services that would impact everything from pedestrian safety to firefighter response times. It would also lay out a plan for the next decade of capital projects, including building a new operations center and several parks.
As written, it’s expected to cost the city about $30 million per year, a cost that would be covered through a combination of property taxes, business taxes and miscellaneous fees.
Regan said he agreed with certain provisions in A Stronger Vancouver, especially on the programs and services side. But he disagreed with many of the capital projects laid out in the proposal, including new parks. He’s also adamantly against imposing a Business and Occupation, or B&O, tax.
If he had to vote on the Stronger Vancouver package as it’s written today, he’d vote no, he said.
“I could definitely see why Stronger Vancouver was initially warranted,” Regan said. “I’m not sure I can at this point support the entire package.”
Stober cited the thorough and arduous process undertaken to reach this point in the Stronger Vancouver package — years of outreach and financial analysis. The package marks a necessary investment in the future of the community, he said, and will make Vancouver more robust and resilient to economic downturns.
If Stober had to vote on implementing the package today, he’d vote in favor, he said,
“I’ve lived through at least three recessions in Clark County,” Stober said. “I’m tired, as a county, to always be the hardest hit and the longest to recover.”
There’s been a rapid evolution of how the city sees its role in dealing with homelessness, Stober said.
Even just five years ago, the city saw homelessness as the purview of the county and service providers such as Share. That’s since changed with the opening of the Navigation Center and creation of a new homelessness services manager at City Hall.
That transition has been rocky at times, Stober said, but it’s been necessary — especially the Navigation Center, which opened in November and has drawn intense criticism from its neighbors.
“If I had to take the vote over again, I’d take the vote over again,” Stober said. “There are a lot of people being helped by the Navigation Center, (but) there is a lot of room for improvement.”
Regan said he’d like to see Vancouver implement a model similar to a pilot program in Everett, where social workers ride along with police officers to help de-escalate situations and connect people living outside with services.
He said the city’s affordable housing fund, approved by voters in 2016 with Proposition 1, doesn’t go far enough to address the homelessness crisis because housing is just one piece of the puzzle. Homeless service providers need to foster relationships with the human beings they help, he said, and people experiencing homelessness need to take a more active role in being accountable for their lives.
“I believe it’s more of a heart perspective,” Regan said. “With homeless services, you have to have the right person behind the desk.”
On annexing Clark County Fire District 6 (Hazel Dell):
Regan: “I would need to see data, whether or not we should annex that area.”
Stober: It’s a complicated question, he said. “Annexation goes back to those traditional tensions between the city and the county.”
On supporting a 1 percent property tax increase next year:
On bringing e-scooters to Vancouver:
Both candidates were apprehensive about the idea of public, pay-as-you-go electric scooters.
“They’re fun, don’t get me wrong,” Regan said. “But somebody has to pay the bill when 50 scooters end up in the Columbia River.”
“I hate to stand in the way of progress, however, I have major concerns in how they end up being used,” Stober said. “In our downtown core, we don’t have wide sidewalks, and we don’t have protected bike lanes.”
On the city’s plan for The Heights District:
“I am envisioning a vibrant community core,” Stober said, citing restaurants, coffee shops and parks.
But he’s worried about gentrification — about sweeping investments making the area so desirable, housing costs push out the longtime residents meant to enjoy the changes.
Regan said there is “a right way and a wrong way” to develop an area without impacting its residents, and the city’s approach to the Heights District has “created a disconnect” between the city’s citizens and decision makers.