How Many Ways Can the Leavitt Cabal Squeeze Taxpayers?

by lewwaters

It seems there is hardly ever a city council meeting in Vancouver that we don’t hear of BRT, LPA, CRC, LRT, C-Tran or any other maze of abbreviated acronym for any number of projects favored by Vancouver Mayor, Tim Leavitt and 4 other members of the city council, Jack Burkman, Jeanne Harris, Bart Hansen and Larry Smith.

Rarely do we hear relevant questions coming from any of them as to just how they expect citizens to pay for all of these “pie in the sky” projects apparently believing each is the only thing citizens will be paying for.

Public hearings have all of the appearance to be shams, held only to satisfy a legal requirement to allow citizens to speak while those same citizen concerns remain ignored by the cabal as they ram full speed ahead with little or no clue on just how these many projects favored by the council majority will be paid for.

Only two council members seem willing to get down to the nitty gritty of asking how such projects will be paid for with both, Jeanne Stewart and Bill Turlay being kept in a minority as the rest come across as their minds being firmly made up to forge ahead long before any public hearings are held.

We saw this again at the Monday May 21, 2012 council meeting where the council once again approved yet another Locally Preferred Alternative, this time for the Fourth Plain Bus Rapid Transit System proposed.

Once again, we saw a majority of citizens express concerns only to be ignored while the few who spoke favorably of the project were listened to.

One such speaker, Forensic Accountant Tiffany Couch who has exposed several concerns with the finances of the Columbia River Crossing Project, spoke of similar concerns over questionable numbers being presented that do not add up as well as concerns over claims of funding from the federal government “COULD,” not “will” account for “up to 80% of the expense.

Others expressed concern over the safety record of the lengthened “articulated buses” planned for the project that has seen most other cities abandoning their use.

Council member Jack Burkman expressed that “the federal application process means that a locally preferred alternative must be chosen in order to get in line. The city council can change its mind down the road if it thinks things are too shaky.”

The bolded sentence is of importance as we have seen with the other “locally preferred alternative,” Light Rail dragged over from Portland’s financially troubled MaxLine has been seeing several “shaky” moments with the members of the Leavitt Cabal serving on the C-Tran Board unwilling to give citizens a promised vote on paying for operations and maintenance or deviating from the plan to force light rail on Clark County.

Council members Turlay & Stewart, standing up for citizens, voted against the new LPA citing it was “fiscally irresponsible” to proceed without a clearer picture of financing.

One idea heard for paying for the first LPA, Light Rail is Voters might be asked to approve light rail head tax where every business owner would have to pay a $1 per employee tax every month along with cutting bus service across the Interstate Bridge.

The Cabal knows another sales tax increase is not favored by citizens and is “exploring” other means to fund Light Rail looking to circumvent voters if at all possible.

At a time we are seeking business growth in the community, adding yet another tax is the opposite of what ought to be done. Council member Jeanne Stewart drove this point him as she said, “So we’re going to go to the voters and ask them if they think every employer should pay. How is this better for business? That’s the tax they’ve done in Portland, and Portland has not done well.”

That citizens remain opposed to the Light Rail Locally Approved Alternative doesn’t enter Leavitt’s mind.

As Leavitt’s Cabal seeks to hang yet another albatross around the necks of taxpayers, we see they also favor yet another property tax increase “to create a metropolitan parks district to preserve and enhance Vancouver parks and recreation services.” The levy would add “53 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value” on homes within the city limits. Apparently, taxpayers are viewed as mere ATM machines to the cabal.

Returning to the concerns over more and more taxes to pay for pet projects, it is also distressing to see governor candidate, so called Republican Rob McKenna expressing a favorable view on a tax package “to fund the state’s multi-billion dollar transportation needs.”

McKenna believes tolling and raising gas taxes must remain on the table while his Democrat opponent, Jay Inslee declines to express a definitive stand at this time. Given Inslee’s congressional record on tax increases, it is safe to assume he would support hanging any number of taxes on our backs to ensure projects in the Puget Sound area remain funded at our expense.

Formation of a “Transportation Benefit District” remains a possibility in order for the cabal to add more gas tax to our gas even as we already see some of the highest gas tax in the nation as well discussions of adding $20 to car license renewals have been heard.

There seems to be no end to the creative ways the state, county & city can come up with to confiscate more and more of our hard earned tax dollars for projects we could do without for the time being.

Although not the sole official leading citizens towards insolvency, Tim Leavitt is at the helm after lying through his teeth to get elected in 2009 by falsely claiming to fight tolls across the new bridge.

Former Mayor Royce Pollard, defeated by Leavitt, upon hearing of Leavitt “evolving” view on tolls expressed sentiments felt by many as he said, “I want to puke.”

I am firmly convinced Leavitt will go down in city history as one of the most inept Mayors ever elected, the “Jimmy Carter” of Vancouver, provided the city will able to survive his term.

14 Comments to “How Many Ways Can the Leavitt Cabal Squeeze Taxpayers?”

  1. Larry Smith is every bit as much to blame for all of this as Leavitt. Bart Hansen is a noob sock puppet that does what he is told, so I hold him less accountable, but Larry Smith is getting far too easy of a ride on all of this.

    The question Lew, is how do they think they are going to come up with the 30% share of Bus Loot Rail?? And that is only if “the Feds” give the City the other 70%, Anyone who has been paying attention knows that “The Feds” are insolvent, owe more money than is possible to pay back, and will not back a bus loot rail feeder for an imaginary loot rail line.

    With funding for the Columbia Crossing Project in question there is no need for a Bus Loot Rail system to feed it. If C-Tran truly has ridership issues along Fourth Plain then it is probably largely Clark College students going to and from classes, and perhaps C-Tran can move one of those big empty buses over there to help during peak hours.

    And they want to put a Parks District, appoint City Council to oversee it and impose a tax on homeowners to pay for programs at Firstenburg and Marshall and some park maintenance. )n a $200,000 house it will be almost $110 a year, until they need more money and raise the assessed value and/or increase the dollar per thousand tax. Once the voters let them do it, they don’t need further permission to raise it later.

    And by the way, what ever happened to only one question per ballot measure??

    This is all such an incredible mess….

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  2. I attended last night’s City Council meeting. Tiffany’s public comment was compelling. She talked about population growth projections of 50% by 2035, and yet C-Tran projects ridership increases along the Fourth Plain Corridor at 300%. There is a huge disconnect that translates into revenue projections that are, in all liklihood, off substantially. What will that mean? Another sales tax increase, fare increase, reduced services? For what? A $40-65M project, that we don’t need. Tiffany asked for a “Time out”, so the Council could go over some number crunching. Didn’t happen. Tim Leavitt, Larry Smith, Bart Hansen, Jack Burkman couldn’t wait to vote in the Fourth Plain Locally Preferred Alternative. They couldn’t wait one week – so they would have a better understanding of the numbers? It is distressing. As I have said many times…”These guys are making million dollar decisions in an informational vacuum.” The pitiful part is…as evidenced last night…THEY! don’t care. Thank goodness for the level thinking of Bill Turlay and Jeanne Stewart. Thank you, Tiffany for shining a light. Thanks, Lew, for the blog on this.

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  3. The new bendy busses cost $1 Million dollars each. They are 60′ long are unable to negotiate downtown streets without modification of the curbs and traffic lanes.

    Jeanie Stewart also said that the city will be responsible for $7 to $13 Million of the cost for this project. That does not include M&O of the Busses. These are articulating busses they are much more expensive to service and maintain yet the cabal did not present or suggest that they had done their jobs to provide the Council with that information.

    This is Light rail II build it now no-matter what it will cost and with no “adult” oversight or sensible plan.

    I get the feeling that local residents are just about fed up with the dictatorship of Larry, Jack, and Leavitt.

    Thanks for posting this article Lew.

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  4. My thoughts concerning the City “leadership” America, and my country that I no longer recognize as “the land of the free”

    Crony Socialism- this is legal plunder. Taking from the poor an middle class and re-distributing our property to the “elite” ruling class the labor Unions who continue to vote for Democrats knowing quite well that Leavitt, rising to Marxist status, will continue to ram projects through that will put money in their pockets! Leavitt is a pocket pawn of leftists.
    welcome to Leavittville!

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  5. The last of London’s bendy buses was taken off the roads on Friday night. (December 2011)

    The vehicles were used on 12 routes over the past decade but Mayor Boris Johnson called them “cumbersome machines” which were too big for narrow streets and encouraged fare-dodgers.

    Transport for London (TfL) predicted it would increase its takings by £7.4m because fare-evasion would now become harder.

    The “hop-on, hop-off” style of the bendy buses, with few checks on tickets, had encouraged thousands of people to avoid paying.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-16091997

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  6. I spent last year in Britain using mass transit – MANY people fare-cheat. Lots of other problems too. Still, it worked out for me, and I don’t know what I’d done otherwise? Freedom of movement is EXPENSIVE – a society needs to be able to decide for themselves whether they’re going to support it or not? That’s why it’s important we VOTE on light rail, buses, etc.

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  7. “Freedom of movement is EXPENSIVE ”
    YUP!
    And light rail is the MOST expensive.
    Buses next.
    And, guess what, CARS ARE THE CHEAPEST, FASTEST and most convenient.
    see DebunkingPortland.com

    Even better, in a few years cars will be usable by children, blind people and other people that cannot drive today.

    Thanks
    JK

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  8. I can see it now…each rider will be charged a fee for sitting on the window seat or the aisle seat…seniors/physically challenged charged a fee for sitting up front. If you want a hand strap while standing in the aisle…BOOM!!! Another fee. Then there will be the fee for attaching the bicycle on the front of the buses and a fee for sitting on the miniscule benches at the bus stops. Ah yes, then there’ll be the fee for the paper to print out bus passes and a fee to sign up for internet service to C-Tran. Don’t forget the fee for a smile by the bus driver as well. You can’t expect a freebie any more. Asking for information from the driver as you deboard??? Another fee. Before you know it…you’ll have your barcode or microchip implant instead of a bus pass so they can debit your account.

    Sarcasm ended

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  9. I left out the fee for bringing a stroller/walker/scooter/grocery cart on board and a fee for a crying baby or fussy child.

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  10. I find it very interesting to see that CVTV is not including citizen comments on the BRT LPA from the Monday evening council meeting in their archives.

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  11. Lew they never put in complete statements from the citizens with the exception of the “pals” that are staged from identity clark county, or the downtown business association, or the citizens forum that Leavitt mind scrubbed. Mine usually is listed as Carolyn Crain spoke (in opposition is occassionaly written) on lite rail. The truth is that the latest survey shows just 78% of people asked, who usually vote in at least general elections, are against lite rail. They do not want the vote this year since there will be a special parks district on the ballot and if they ask for another transportation tax for C-tran with the stats against them they are screwed and they know it. What is interesting is the dance. First it is an LPA for HCT, that means a Locally Preferred Alternative for High Capacity Transit, which is a Nancy Pelosi type move, first we have to vote for an LPA in order to know what an LPA will cost and do for us, then we’ll spend millions doing the planning aka propaganda outreach, afterwhich the LPA which was just a vote to move the research forward will become the mandatory future plan for this community because after all, YOU voted for an LPA! Actually Tim Leavitt voted and signed for the HCT with the very clear statement that the local citizens were not going to pay a dime in capital expenses and would vote on any form of O & M funding period end. I have some thoughts and a few words for him but really they are wasted energy. Tiffany was awesome and eloquent last night saying that the “numbers” weren’t numbers at all which has been my point for weeks. Debbie and Margaret both spoke out on the issues of O & M on articulated buses being fraught with high cost parts as well as the fact that London and China have gotten rid of them. The honor system proved to be a financial disaster as Margaret pointed out. Penny brought evidence to the fact that the “bendy” buses have a higher ratio of accidents involving pedestrians, bicyclist, and autos only to be told there were no studies when in fact she held the results of several in her hands. Lynda Wilson spoke up only to be cut off being told by Leavitt that the BRT and LRT are not connected. This was a lie as all members of both C-tran and the city council know that there has been no vote to sever the two. You can’t sever the two since the BRT is completely reliant on LRT for commuters and lanes planned in the downtown Vancouver core. I believe that this is a HITLER move: tell the lie long enough and they will believe it! Act assumptive and they will hesitate to challenge! Terry spoke out against it to be poo pooed by Leavitt as well. Last I heard the Mall doesn’t want the parking garage to be there at all so that is why the issue exists of no capital expense for the structure at the Mall. Where will people park? The experts suggested that the plan needs to include a pay- to- park option, oh by the way the experts are an association of “APTA” public transportation suppliers aka bus companies. How’s that for good. We didn’t get that out of them Monday night either. That is why I took and handed them all a clothes pin for their noses… this is BIG MONEY wanting your money! The only hope is to elect our current conservatives like Ann and Don and Paul as well as add the new ones to the system up in Olympia in order to effect the change and block the funding for this fiasco.

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  12. I thought it worth bumping this thread to the top, as City Council has a full blown Parks and Rec crisis on their hands and the only thing they can agree to do about it is ask the taxpayers to create a new tax district, put City Council in charge of it, and start out by charging $.35 per thousand of value on homeowners to partially pay to restore some of the freebees at the City run recreation centers.

    I’ve been on a tear about maintenance in our neighborhood park for a couple of years now, and there is absolutely nothing that I am aware of in this proposal that will improve the condition of our park, turn the water back on so the grass doesn’t die, or mow the grass and trim the shrubbery on a regular basis.

    In addition, Pete Mayer, the current director of Parks and Rec has announced his immediate departure for the East Coast and new digs, and his assistant let Council know last week that he has no interest in taking the job even temporarily while a new director is sought.

    And the job has got to be a flippin’ nightmare with the budget cuts, constant complaints from people like me, and demands from City Council to do the impossible with next to nothing.

    So Council punted Monday night and will ask for more tax dollars to pour down the black hole at Parks and Rec, while the Parks part continue to deteriorate and will look worse and worse now that Summer has arrived. The problem is they don’t have any cogent leadership at P&R to even run the place much less run a campaign to sell homeowners on the idea of raising their taxes yet again, to pay for things that will do nothing to improve or even maintain what we already have.

    I’m busy as hell with a construction project this year and I have little time for volunteer parks maintenance right now and we’ll have to see how bad things get before I jump in again on my own like I did last year. But in my view there is nothing in this tax measure but trouble down the road. Once this tax district is established and a new property tax begun, it will never, ever go away and will do nothing but increase without any further input from the locals. If the tax doesn’t go up, your assessment certainly will.

    In either case, homeowners are eventually going to be completely on the hook for Parks and Rec which will free up Council to spend money on other things, like the waterfront project, loot rail, bus loot rail, a streetcar, a cap over I-5….the list is ambitious and nearly endless….

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  13. Several in the audience last night were making this same point, Bob. Just let citizen volunteers, through neighborhood associations if need be, take care of their own neighborhood parks.

    It doesn’t have to just be one person and get this parks volunteer coordinator, or whatever in the hell the title is, out of the middle.

    Screw the city unions, if we want our parks taken care of, get out of the way and let those who will want to do it, do it.

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  14. But that’s just the problem Lew. When Council voted to ban smoking in the City Parks, they slipped in a single line that makes any kind of maintenance in a City park illegal, and you can be excluded from the park for doing anything on your own now, no matter how bad it gets.

    Everyone focused on the smoking ban and they still don’t realize what else was in that measure. That whole bill laid the groundwork for this ballot measure in November. If it passes it will be nothing more than a way to rehire staff at the community centers and let homeowners pay the bill for it no matter how much they spend. And when people bitch enough about how bad the parks continue to be, the answer will again be “Sorry, no money for that, but we will be glad to increase the tax to $1.50 per thousand to pay for it”.

    Personally, I think we could all save a lot of money if we did away with the City Parks and Rec and returned responsibility for the Parks to the County. The money they save on administration would go a long way toward keeping the grass mowed.

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