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Housing, homelessness top agenda for Vancouver City Council Position 1 candidates

The five people running for the office answered questions at a League of Women Voters candidate forum last week

VANCOUVER — Homelessness and housing were the main topics at a League of Women Voters of Clark County forum for the five candidates running for Vancouver City Council Position 1.

It was the first time the four women and one man had been in the same space, this time at the Vancouver Central Library, to answer questions ahead of the August 7 primary election.

The five candidates for Vancouver’s City Council Position 1 speak at a League of Women Voters forum at Vancouver Central Library. Photo by Mike Schultz
The five candidates for Vancouver’s City Council Position 1 speak at a League of Women Voters forum at Vancouver Central Library. Photo by Mike Schultz

Most of the candidates are familiar faces to anyone who’s followed politics within the city of Vancouver recently. Laurie Lebowsky bears the title of incumbent by virtue of having been selected for the position by the current city council following the death of Scott Campbell prior to the November election. One of the people Campbell posthumously defeated was Maureen McGoldrick, who is running again. Outside of events like this, the retired attorney has made few public appearances during her campaign.

Two other candidates, Camas City Planner Sarah Fox and community activist Mary Elkin, were among the six finalists for the seat now held by Lebowsky. Adam Shetler is a political newcomer who has focused primarily on homeless issues.

The 45-minute session included five questions, focusing on things like the cost of housing, the homeless crisis, police staffing, and traffic issues. Here is a selection of some of how the candidates answered those questions. To see the full response to each question, check out the video below.

“What role should the city play in controlling the increasing cost of housing rents, and in the eviction process? What legal role can the city play?”

Sarah Fox: “I think that we have, right now, a pretty good program in place to protect our renters. As far as controlling increases, the grant programs that the city is implementing with Proposition 1 is part of that, that I’d like to see play out for another year or two before we make any adjustments to that. But that makes sure that those properties that accepted those grant programs will provide some affordable housing for an established period of time.”

Sarah Fox, a candidate for Vancouver City Council Position 1, speaks at a League of Women Voters candidate forum. Photo by Mike Schultz
Sarah Fox, a candidate for Vancouver City Council Position 1, speaks at a League of Women Voters candidate forum. Photo by Mike Schultz

Maureen McGoldrick: “Unfortunately rent control is against state law, because now would be a very good time for it … I would like to ask cooperation from the courts, and maybe monitor the courts. Also we can do at least an ordinance preventing evictions for certain reasons. For example, for retaliation, if a complaint was lodged against the landlord for failure to repair or bad conditions, some states have it that they cannot evict them (in those cases) for the next three years.”

Mary Elkin: “Obviously the city council cannot set what rents are for tenants. What the city council can do is set up a fair and equitable process for everybody. That’s why I was really glad to see last December when the city council set the 30 day limit for letting people know when they were going to have a rent increase, and 60 days notice before they have an eviction.”

Adam Shetler: “I’m not sure on that question.”

Laurie Lebowsky: “One thing we can do is provide more housing. Vancouver has some of the lowest vacancy rates in the country. We’ve experienced some of the steepest increase in rents. So it’s more housing options at every level of income in our city … I want to assure the affordable housing fund, passed by our voters, is run transparently and taxpayer money is spent wisely.”

“What specific plans are there for spending the money from the Proposition 1 tax? How has it been spent so far? How effective do you think these plans will be?

McGoldrick: “They gave away $700,000 on a $1.8 million building. $900,000 on a $2.2 million dollar building from that fund, and that means we paid for forty percent of that. Yet it’s illegal to enforce any affordable housing on that, because it’s not in writing. So it has to be enforced.”

Maureen McGoldrick, a candidate for Vancouver City Council Position 1, speaks at a League of Women Voters candidate forum. Photo by Mike Schultz
Maureen McGoldrick, a candidate for Vancouver City Council Position 1, speaks at a League of Women Voters candidate forum. Photo by Mike Schultz

Elkin: “The first year we I think we allocated, what, about 237 low income units with that, and we were expecting about 40. So, that’s pretty exciting, I think … I would like to really see us try to focus on getting some private partnerships in place, so that we can leverage this money and make it more effective.” (Focus on helping Salvation Army get a shelter going on the east side

Shetler: “I think they’re spending it wisely, and I think it’s a good idea.”

Lebowsky: “We are going to be having 1,200 units coming online very soon. So I believe that the program is working. It can always be improved. I would support locating a cottage housing development in the four years as one of the goals on city council.”

Fox: “The effectiveness of the program has yet to be seen. The first report was out in 2017, we’re still working through adjusting and providing grants in 2018. I think that, as we work through finalizing our homeless data reports, we will refine some of these goals.”

“Do you think police service levels are adequate? If they need to be improved, how should any increases be funded?”

Elkin: “I know right now we are staffed below what the city council has funded for, because there’s a back-up as far as officers going through the academy … We could definitely use a beat officer here in downtown Vancouver. That is something I would like to see added.”

Mary Elkin, a candidate for Vancouver City Council Position 1, speaks at a League of Women Voters candidate forum. Photo by Mike Schultz
Mary Elkin, a candidate for Vancouver City Council Position 1, speaks at a League of Women Voters candidate forum. Photo by Mike Schultz

Shetler: “I think the police are doing OK for Vancouver.”

Lebowsky: “We’re dealing with a population increase, and we’re dealing with retirement. It’s about the safety of our people. I would support lobbying and working with our state legislators and having a police academy located either more close to Vancouver, or even in Vancouver. I believe that would help as far as training.”

Fox: “What we’re having a problem with is filling these positions. We have the funding, from what I understand, but we’re having a hard time attracting qualified talent and being able to train them and fill these positions, and them retain them as well for a career here in the Vancouver police department.”

McGoldrick: “It’s very possible that we could insist that if they go through the training, or if we’re waiting for training we outsource it to someplace like LAPD or San Francisco, and give them a contract to stay for X number of years if they get our training.”

“What are the biggest traffic issues in Vancouver, and how should they be addressed?”

Shetler: “Where my brother lives they need probably a flashing red light because there’s been a lot of accidents along 136th, behind the Safeway.”

Adam Shetler, a candidate for Vancouver City Council Position 1, speaks at a League of Women Voters candidate forum. Photo by Mike Schultz
Adam Shetler, a candidate for Vancouver City Council Position 1, speaks at a League of Women Voters candidate forum. Photo by Mike Schultz

Lebowsky: “The number one traffic issue right now is the I-5 bridge, which is why I’m the best person for city council. With my 25 years of experience in transportation, both at the state level and county, and local level. We need to get Oregon back to the table to negotiate a new bridge on I-5.” (Also need to look at more choices for mobility, and possible public/private partnerships with ride-sharing services, etc.

Fox: “Our biggest traffic problems are on state and Federal highways that the city doesn’t have full control over … We need to continue to put pressure on our state leadership. That’s the group that really will have the most effect on what happens here in Southwest Washington. And what tends to happen is our state leaders focus more on what’s happening in Seattle and Olympia than they do in Southwest Washington.”

McGoldrick: “We need to make it easier to get on and off (the freeways), maybe longer ramps, whatever it takes to stop these boondoggles of getting on and off.”

Elkin: “East Mill Plain Boulevard is very, very congested. I know they’re looking at making Mill Plain the next Bus Rapid Transit area, going all the way out to 192nd Avenue. And I think that would eventually eliminate a lot of the congestion we have on our east side.”

City Councilor Laurie Lebowsky speaks at a League of Women Voters candidate forum. Photo by Mike Schultz
City Councilor Laurie Lebowsky speaks at a League of Women Voters candidate forum. Photo by Mike Schultz

Here is a list of the websites for each candidate:

Laurie Lebowsky:
ElectLebowsky.com

Sarah Fox:
Fox4citycouncil.com

Maureen McGoldrick:
No website listed

Mary Elkin:
ElectMaryElkin.com

Adam Shetler
No website listed

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About The Author

Chris Brown comes to Clark County Today with 15 years of local news experience as a reporter, editor, and anchor at KXL News Radio and KOIN-6 TV in Portland. In 2016, he won an Oregon Association of Broadcaster's award for Best Investigative Reporting for a series on America's Violent Youth. He has also been awarded by the Associated Press for Best Breaking News coverage as editor of Portland's Morning News following the 2015 school shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. The second oldest of eight home-schooled children, Brown graduated from high school two years early. After several odd jobs, he earned an internship at KXL Radio, eventually working his way into a full-time job. Brown has lived in Clark County his entire life, and is very excited at the opportunity to now focus full-time on the significant stories happening in his own back yard, rather than across “the river.’’ After a few years in Vancouver, he recently moved back to Battle Ground with his wife and two young daughters. When he's not working to report what's happening in Clark County, Brown enjoys spending time with his family, playing music, taking pictures, or working in the yard. He also actually does enjoy long walks on the beach, and sunsets.

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