Several months ago, during an interview with The Columbian’s Editorial Board, Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle laid out a detailed vision for the future.
Asked what she expects in the city over the next 10 years, McEnerny-Ogle said:
“In the last decade we’ve grown by nearly 30,000 individuals and I was just looking at the numbers, we are just a smidgen under 195,000,” she said. “So if we continue at this rate and with annexation we could be the second-largest city in the state of Washington, which means a whole other opportunity for us. …
“In 10 years I’ll expect the Vancouver Clinic to completely build out their entire campus on the east side of 192nd, and then a whole new set of developments on the west side of that. Going up to Section 30, Hewlett-Packard will have their R&D campus completely built out by then, we should have 3,000 jobs at that little facility as it is. But then I expect the rest of Section 30 to be filling in. That industrial opportunity will be incredible in a number of different jobs.
“In 10 years I hope to have the I-5 Bridge ready for a ribbon cutting and our third BRT (Bus Rapid Transit line) going north and south through I-5 will have been implemented. We’ll have stronger transit and an entire C-Tran process throughout the entire county. And we’ll continue going up not out in residential, with two-, three- and four-story construction going up.”
That thoughtful, extemporaneous analysis helps explain why McEnerny-Ogle was reelected Tuesday with about two-thirds of the vote. It also helps explain how Vancouver has outgrown the pejorative of “Vantucky” that once was attached to it and now is known as “The Couve” — a moniker that better reflects the vibrancy of the city.
Such analysis also highlights the opportunities facing the city. As The Columbian wrote editorially in July: “Whether we want to grow or not, Vancouver has been discovered. Now is our chance to transform our community. It’s our opportunity; we need to seize it.”
Tuesday’s reelection of McEnerny-Ogle and three eminently qualified city council members helps position Vancouver to seize that opportunity.
But there will be roadblocks. Primary among them is increasing homelessness, reflecting a lack of affordable housing and services for those suffering from mental illness or addiction. Those are not the only reasons people become homeless, but they are contributing factors.
The city’s plan to create a series of homeless encampments is a reasonable-but-risky approach. Success in providing help for those who need it and in mitigating the health and sanitation issues created by rampant homelessness will be important for helping Vancouver achieve its potential.
So, too, will wise development that provides jobs, boosts the economy and adds to the aesthetics of the city. The Waterfront Vancouver is an example of such development, and proposals for nearby construction are cause for excitement. And with continued development in east Vancouver and ambitious plans for the Heights District, the city is remaking itself well beyond the downtown core.
An effective climate plan that includes robust transit is essential for making the most of that development. Doing our part to address climate change is not only a moral imperative but will attract businesses that recognize its importance.
Other challenges are certain to come up. But as Vancouver prepares to seize its opportunity, its leadership is starting with a clear vision for the future.