The event began with a stunning rendition of the National Anthem by Mountain View High School student Taylor Merritt. It included an assortment of introductions, announcements, and archival film clips — shown on the Kiggins Theatre’s big screen. Then Leavitt took to the podium.
Leavitt’s friendly banter with audience member Bob Knight, President of Clark College, about the new iPad going on sale served as his ice breaker. While much of the speech was a passionate discourse of positive community features, city events, business expansions, and a laundry list of his own achievements he also touched on city council.
Leavitt boasted that Vancouver’s City Council is the most accessible body in the region, saying “Citizens have six opportunities to talk to city council a month.”
Mid-way through the presentation Leavitt moved to the subject of transportation, noting that last year he pledged to revisit the downtown parking program. He made a no excuses disclosure that he drives a car when he said he doesn’t “get a free pass on parking in downtown.” He confessed that in the past 12 months he has paid approximately 15 parking tickets.
He made no mention of whether he rides the bus.The most controversial moment, though, came when he spoke on the Columbia River Crossing Light Rail Tolling project (CRC).
“You emphatically supported my call to build that bridge,” said Leavitt, drawing a few seconds of applause and one apparent, “boo.”
While sidestepping the debt burden the CRC will load onto residents, and an earlier assertion that we are “living within our means,” Leavitt said, “Today, the federal government has approved of this project.”
Leavitt also called the CRC a vital economic artery saying, “it’s hemorrhaging and must be operated on.”
He made no mention that the citizens will be responsible for the continuous cost to operate and maintain light rail, but said, “We are extremely fortunate that the Federal Transit Administration is prepared to pay for the light rail piece.”
In a move he’s made before, he continued to lobby Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler to deplete taxpayers’ federal money to fund the CRC and called on state legislators to prioritize their work and put the CRC first.
“The CRC must be top of the list.”
In an apparent gaffe, he seemed to forget that local people also pay federal and state taxes when he said, “Let’s remember this folks, every dollar we receive from both states and the fed dollars, means that much less of a burden to our pockets locally.”
After throwing the CRC critics aside, he said, “Let’s build that bridge,” and walked off the stage, leaving many to think the speech was over, but it was merely a movie interlude, as the curtains opened for another film on the city.
When he returned to the stage he laid out plans for the future, including:
- Addressing fire ambulatory and emergency facilities
- Establishing financial policies to strengthen city services
- Establishing a strategic plan for the future of policing
- Addressing the future of parks and recreation services
- Representing and advocating for the I-5 bridge replacement
- Addressing the city’s long term street infrastructure needs
- Enhancing the city’s role in planning for jobs creation by local businesses
- Further improving ways to reach, educate and involve citizens in our community
In other promises, Mayor Leavitt noted that he would like to “explore more vibrancy in our downtown core and permanently redevelop Block 10,” as well as establishing a downtown Arts and Entertainment District, and a launch of the Riverview Gateway development.
In closing he said, “Each and everyone of us carry an obligation to assure that the city continues to remain a great place to live, work and play.”
Listen to the podcast above, or watch streaming video of the event on the City’s website at CityofVancouver.us/StateoftheCity.
State of the City 2012: Pride, Progress, Possibilities will also broadcast on CVTV (Comcast cable channel 21 and 23 in Vancouver:)Friday, March 16 7:00 p.m. channel 23
Friday, March 16 10:00 p.m. channel 21
Saturday, March 17 11:00 a.m. channel 21
Saturday, March 17 1:00 p.m. channel 23
Sunday, March 18 11:00 a.m. channel 23
Sunday, March 18 7:00 p.m. channel 21
Tuesday, March 20 10:00 p.m. channel 21
Wednesday, March 21 5:00 p.m. channel 23
Friday, March 23 8:30 p.m. channel 21