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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Paulsen, Tess run for Vancouver council

Incumbent sees city’s growth as driving concern

By Calley Hair for The Columbian
Published: October 8, 2021, 6:02am

Two candidates are on the ballot for Vancouver City Council’s Position 2 seat, though the challenger has all but conceded a month before the election.

Kara Tess has not been actively campaigning against incumbent Erik Paulsen.

According to Judie Stanton, former president of the League of Women Voters of Clark County, Tess dropped out of a Sept. 29 candidate forum a few hours before it was scheduled to start. During the primary season, Tess had dropped out of a similar forum at the last minute.

In her Sept. 29 text message to Stanton, Tess cited health reasons and said she would be “likely dropping out of the race entirely.”

Tess declined to be interviewed for this story. In an Oct. 5 email, she said she will “continue to run for office, and look forward to working with Erik in some capacity when he wins.”

In an interview, Paulsen said he prides himself on his ability to help the other six members of the city council find common ground. If granted a second term, he’d take the opportunity to build on that reputation, he said.

“I feel like what I bring to council is an ability to listen to all of my colleagues without bias, and to listen respectfully but critically,” Paulsen said. “It’s really just a question of what are you looking for: Are you looking for misalignment or alignment? I look for alignment.”

Paulsen also highlighted a few of the challenges the city will face in the next few years. Most are linked to a single truth: the city is growing rapidly, and its government will need to ensure that Vancouver’s emergency services, parks and transportation systems can keep pace.

State government imposes rules on how municipalities can collect revenue through taxes and fees. Many of the available levers are regressive, Paulsen said, so the city council will be left with the task of determining how to equitably cover the cost of adding services.

Whenever possible, he said, he likes to look for ways to collect revenue that directly connects to a benefit – a tax on ticket sales to cover the city’s arts and culture program, for example, or a gas tax to help fund street repair.

“I think you need to look at where there’s clear, broad public benefit. Increasing the property taxes probably makes sense, because all of us in some way pay property taxes,” Paulsen said, citing homeowners, business owners and renters. “That’s the least-worst, in terms of regressiveness, in my opinion.”

Paulsen also expressed his desire to expand first responder programs that could supplement the police department, especially on calls that involve an unhoused person or someone with mental illness. The purview of law enforcement has expanded in a way that could be harmful to both the officers and the community, he said.

“I do think we need to calibrate what’s an appropriate staffing level from a uniformed officer perspective, and also understand that we have asked our law enforcement officers to take on responsibility for things that in a way have expanded over time,” Paulsen said.

In an interview with Clark/Vancouver Television ahead of the primary election, Tess pledged to be a city councilor who listens to the views of her constituents and puts them ahead of her own. She also laid out the three pillars of her candidacy: decreasing homelessness, increasing wages and updating transportation.

“I believe every single human being deserves shelter, food, clean water, but I also think that until we can address individually the root cause of any homeless person, we’re not going to make any progress. It’s just a Band-Aid,” Tess said.