Providing ‘Clarity’ for Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart

by lewwaters

“if Clark County residents don’t support it, ‘then the states have the wrong project’.” County Commissioner Steve Stuart, September 2010

Steve Stuart 2Campaigning for reelection in 2010, Commissioner Stuart made the above comment as he “endorsed a vote on light rail” by Clark County, Washington voters. A vote that has been promised time and again and never appeared as the Vancouver City Council, C-Tran Board and others elected a “locally preferred alternative” of light rail from Portland, Oregon to be included on any newly constructed bridge across the Columbia River to replace the current Interstate Bridge.

Of course, once elected we saw that attitude disappear as fast as we saw Vancouver Mayor ‘Teflon’ Tim ‘the Liar’ Leavitt cast aside his many promises of opposing tolls be placed on the projected bridge.

As predicted on this blog here and here, elected officials show no intention of honoring the votes of the people when they grant us a vote concerning the $160 Million waste of the Columbia River Crossing project that in over ten years of “planning,” cannot even design a bridge with adequate clearance for River Traffic.

Even though likely in violation of state law, we have seen efforts to simply bypass voters in order to gain the extra funding for a project voters have indicated time and again they do not want.

First voted down by a wide margin in 1995 and in subsequent “proxy votes,” we again saw a strong rejection on a sales tax increase to fund light rail operations & maintenance, improvements on Portland’s Steel Bridge and an expansion of a Metro light rail maintenance facility in Gresham, Oregon in the last election, prompting proponents again to deny our vote was a “proxy vote” on the project itself, even though stated as such by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler who said, “This is going to be the purest opportunity to voice their opinion about light rail. It’s a big deal to me. This is where I’m going to get my marching orders.”

We also saw the “proxy vote” admitted to by C-Tran public affairs director Scott Patterson who said, “People have pretty strong feelings on high-capacity transit — especially light rail. This has been talked about for a number of years now.”

The tax measure went down in defeat within the gerrymandered sub-district set up back in 2005 that silenced over half of Clark County voters and as predicted, we now read in the Columbian, Another light rail vote on horizon? C-Tran, county seek clarity on paying for transit system where we read the words from County Commissioner Steve Stuart, “It’s always good to get clarity. To get clarity on this subject will help for us to have a better discussion.”

Commissioner Stuart, allow me to provide you with some “clarity” on this subject.

In 1995, Clark County voters rejected a measure to approve light rail by a 2 to 1 margin.

In 2002, a statewide Referendum Bill 51 that was seen largely as a back door approval of light rail was defeated statewide with Clark County voters rejecting it by a 64.70% to 35.30% vote.

In 2004 we saw a Proposition 1 tax increase also perceived to offer some funding to light rail defeated in Clark County by a 53.67% to 46.33% vote. We also saw the creation of a gerrymandered sub-district that eliminated over half of the county voters and the proposition placed in the primary election and passing by a 67.78% to 32.22% vote, but with 92,776 fewer voters allowed a voice of their views than in 2004.

And now in the 2012 election we see another tax increase to fund light rail operations and maintenance defeated within that same gerrymandered sub-district by a 56.51% to 43.49%vote

Clearly, when given the chance to vote on light rail, Clark County voters have consistently said ‘NO’ to dragging Portland’s financially failing light rail into our community.

If that is not sufficient “clarity” for Commissioner Stuart, we read from NO, “a negative used to express dissent, denial, or refusal, not in any degree or manner; not at all!”

In simple terms, it doesn’t really matter what Tim ‘the liar’ Levitt, Jim ‘da taxman’ Moeller or any of the usual slate of starry eyed deniers wish to claim, Clark County does not want Portland’s light rail.

They can waste money on all of the votes they desire, voters have repeatedly said ‘NO’ when given the chance to speak on light rail or any measure perceived to support light rail.

If this is not clear enough, I am sure that returning County Commissioner Tom Mielke and Commissioner Elect David Madore will provide even more “clarity” with the newly elected conservative majority on the County Commission, Commissioner Stuart now being the lone liberal voice on the 3-person Commission, now that sell-out Marc Boldt has been ousted.

Asking for clarity is good, Commissioner Stuart.

Listening to voters is even better. By your own words spoken in the 2010 campaign, “the states have the wrong project” with the CRC.

8 Comments to “Providing ‘Clarity’ for Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart”

  1. Lew is right Steve! No is NO.

  2. Steve, You are tap dancing around this issue. You know perfectly well that this vote is a referendum against Portland’ light rail coming into Vancouver. Starting early last year, when it was clear that no other M/O financing could be legally found, Tim Leavitt, Burkman, and Smith started watering down the November vote – Saying the vote only meant that folks didn’t want to FUND the project with sales tax. WRONG! This vote was the only chance folks had to say, “No” to light rail and the mischief that it would bring to this county. All of you – Leavitt, Burkman, Smith, Moeller, and yes, you, are being intellectually dishonest when you say you need clarity – when you obtusely say that this vote was only about funding. STOP IT! It is beneath your dignity to continue pushing this pitiful yet painfully expensive project on YOUR constituents, when they have spoken so clearly. If you, Leavitt, Burkman, Smith, and Moeller can’t respect, reflect and represent your constituents’ wishes you all need to resign your positions and appoint public servants that can.

  3. Steve, you once asked the CRC to provide a scientific study of our ability to afford light rail and its tolls. They didn’t do it. You were fine with that because you approved the FEIS without the study included. No clarity needed there.

    You once asked Oregon to pay their fair share by allowing an Oregon income tax deduction on tolls paid by Clark County commuters. They told you to take a hike.

    Clear enough?

    Sam Adams said “No tolls, no bridge. No light rail, no bridge.” You accepted that. Seems pretty clear to me, too.

  4. Lew, I was reading through your hyperlinks and saw that Jeff Hamm had stated that C-Tran would enter into a separate contract with Tri-Met drivers whereby we would pay their salaries but not their unfunded pensions. So we’ll have $4 billion light rail infrastructure sitting there waiting for the Tri-Met union to sign off on a perfectly reasonable contract offer? Hmmm.

  5. Trolley cars (now called “light rail”) were pulled up in most cities around the country by the end of the 1950s. They were inflexible, expensive to operate, and were unable to keep up schedules when there were traffic accidents (that busses could navigate around). In all cases, the removed trolley cars were replaced by bus systems — that were often mismanaged by the public agencies that took them on. In many cases, the busses blindly followed the same routes as the removed trolleys — not taking into account the expansion of suburbs and changes in traffic patterns. This led to a lot of underutilized bus routes.

    In the 1980s, new “light rail” (and some “heavy rail”) systems brought trolley cars back to many communities. In some cases, these new transit systems studied traffic patterns and created new routes that reflected the traffic patterns at the time they were designed. As such, these “new” trolley cars were “successful” — at first. But traffic patterns _always_ evolve over time. With new centers of business and commerce appearing off the rail routes — that become “impossible” to directly serve, requiring “feeder busses” — that make schedules excessively long as riders must make multiple transfers to reach a destinations. Proving, once again, that rail-based transit systems are inflexible and expensive to operate. Still, politicians in many communities continue to support these boondoggles simply because they pay off union supporters (where the unions provide funding to elect politicians) and they pay off rent-seeking crony “capitalists” who also provide funding to supporting candidates. The tax payer gets less than what they pay for — and worse, to meet budgets (resources are never enough) the accompanying bus transit systems are starved for capital improvement and operating budget since the rail systems absorb so much of the available tax money.

    IF (and I’m not convinced this is the case) Vancouver needs ‘improved’ transit, it can be provided with various bus-based transit solutions with users getting better service and tax payers receiving much more value for the funds extracted from them. Unfortunately, this solution does not result in the big payoffs to the rent-seeker crony capitalists and tends to have less payoff to the unions. Bus solutions also tend to be much less disruptive to ‘innocent’ businesses and residents along the various routes, as the destruction of properties for right of way and station construction is rarely required for busses that can travel over existing roads. For “express” service, only a limited amount of exclusive use lanes are necessary to avoid traffic congestion and provide service that is equal or _better_ than that which can be provided by rail-based transit.

    Indeed, in the San Francisco Bay Area, before BART was built, the AC Transit (serving much of the East Bay Area) had more than 50 local and express (commute hours only) routes serving the San Francisco transit terminal, reaching into the more established suburbs. Once BART was completed, the AC Transit routes that did not exactly parallel the trains continued to operate with nearly the same volume of business as before BART — only political pressure forced AC to reduce service in an attempt to force more riders onto BART trains. As usual, there were unintended consequences that the central planners did not anticipate. Riders would drive to BART parking lots (one promise was “free parking” at suburban stations — a promise that was eventually rescinded). But instead of riding BART, many riders chose to join “casual car pools” where strangers would pick up passengers near BART stations and DRIVE them to San Francisco using the “HOV” (carpool) Lanes (which required 3 people per car for routes feeding the SF-Oakland Bridge). This was so efficient that BART (eventually) had to react by requiring those using parking lots to enter the paid area of the station to record the parking space used to avoid a parking ticket. This, of course only caused casual car poolers to move their cars to surrounding streets in residential areas. The morning casual car poolers generally rode BART one way toward home in the afternoon at the end of the work day. I note that EVEN WITH TRAFFIC, the casual car poolers “beat” the BART train by 10 or 20 minuets in each direction that they had a ride with a motorist.

    Subsequently, BART has had to engage in very expensive line extensions to serve portions of their tax area where the initial service did not originally go… in part, because the feeder bus lines were so inefficient that they did not provide adequate schedules, with the required transfers. This is considered one of the most successful “new” rail transit systems in the whole U.S. It is a financial flop, requiring massive taxpayer subsidy — essentially taxing the poor and non-working through sales taxes (and real estate taxes that end up being paid by renters as well as home owners) to subsidize middle-class workers. (This is another big flaw in using trolley cars — it usually takes funding away from busses that are extensively used by “the poor” to subsidize travel by more well-to-do commuters.)

    There is no transit need in Vancouver and Clark County that can not easily be fulfilled by very modest improvements to the existing bus service (at far lower cost than even the most basic trolley car system). “Bus Rapid Transit” (using exclusive roadway/or restricted lanes during commute hours) can easily fulfill any unmet transit requirements and also meet any Federal “strings” (for improved transit) attached to funding for a new bridge (if one is truly required — see the report on a low-cost alternative involving improvements to the freight rail bridge west of the Interstate bridge).

  6. Before the November deadline, an initative petition for a citizen vote on light rail, was delivered to the County Auditor, Greg Kimsey/Elections. To date, these signatures have not been verified. I called and asked why this job had not been completed, and I was told that it was because of the general election. Well, it’s over a month later and still nothing has been completed on the signature verifications.
    It’s time to make some phone calls to the Elections Department and ask when they will complete the job. Perhaps Steve or Tim would like to use some of their influence to see if they could get the Elections people to step it up a little! ……do ya think?

  7. Update on previous comment by me. I have seen a Receipt dated May 3, 2012, signed by Carrie Lewellen of the City of Vancouver, receiving 250 pages of initative petition signatures. The City has some tall explaining to do! Here we are , 7 months later and they can’t get the job done? Something doesn’t smell right!!!

  8. I am curious to know if Steve would like a job as one of Jay Inslee’s captains in his cabinet?

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