Candidates detail proposals for improving city if elected to the council
VANCOUVER — Two candidates are running for the Vancouver City Council Position 2 seat in the upcoming November election. The position is currently occupied by Alishia Topper, who is seeking re-election.
Topper is challenged by Justin Forsman. Forsman ran unsuccessfully for a position on the Vancouver City Council in 2015, and unsuccessfully ran for the 49th Legislative District senate position in 2016.
At a League of Women Voters of Clark County general election candidate forum on Oct. 12, Topper and Forsman had the opportunity to answer questions about their views on issues facing the city of Vancouver.
Candidates were first asked to give an assessment of Vancouver’s support of small businesses, and what more they believed could be done to help small business development.
Topper said that the city currently focuses on partnerships with nonprofit organizations and agencies that focus on supporting small businesses and bringing businesses to Vancouver.
“Yes we could do more, we can always do more,” Topper said.
She said that one way the city could encourage small business growth going forward is to find state grants and federal opportunities for assistance to encourage development. Topper said that she did not believe the only way to promote business in Vancouver is through incentives for business owners.
According to Forsman, the current environment in Vancouver for small businesses is “very restricting.” He said that the city currently has many restrictions in place that make it difficult to start small businesses.
“It just seems that if we were easier on businesses,” Forsman said, “that more businesses would come here.”
Forsman also said that he would like the city to implement tax incentives for local businesses that hire locally.
The candidates were then asked to describe what transportation project they believe is most needed in the city, besides the construction of a new Interstate 5 bridge.
Topper said that congestion “is beginning to choke our infrastructure.” She pointed to State Route 14 as an example of motorists trying to bypass highways and consequently overloading other roads and creating livability issues in neighborhoods along some corridors.
According to Topper, the city needs to look at recommendations in a recently completed West Side Mobility Study to determine ways to reduce traffic seeking to bypass Interstate 5.
Forsman said that he would like Vancouver to expand lanes to help accommodate for the increased use of roads. He also said that the city should incorporate more flashing yellow traffic signals. Finally, Forsman said that if elected, he would want to see proposals made for a third bridge over the Columbia River.
The city of Vancouver is currently considering regulations dictating the storage and parking of boats and RVs within the city limits. Candidates had the opportunity to describe what their recommendations for boat and RV parking are.
Forsman said that many RVs are occupied by those who are homeless or on low income.
“When we tow these motor homes, we put these people on the street,” Forsman said. He recommended that the city create an area for such motor homes to park that does not disturb the community.
Topper said that she supports prohibiting street parking for boats and RVs. According to Topper, if the vehicle is parked in a driveway, “it should not be impeding on sidewalks, it shouldn’t overhang into streets.”
She also recommended homeowners potentially create screens such as foliage so that neighbors do not have to look at their boat or RV.
Both candidates were asked to ask a question of interest that may not be widely known, and then answer that question.
“What is your vision for the historic barracks?” Topper said, referring to a project in the city to restore barracks along Officers Row.
According to Topper, the post hospital is under utilized and could become a tourism draw. She said that she wants to see the historic post hospital converted into a “thriving arts center and having mixed use within that building.”
Forsman said that his question was “do you know that the city of Vancouver fluoridates its water and had done so since 1960?”
According to Forsman, the Vancouver community needs to know the potential harmful health effects of fluoridation and address whether the city should continue to fluoridate its water.
Some public spaces in Vancouver, such as medians, roadsides and parks have faced difficulties keeping them attractively maintained. Candidates were asked to describe ways to maintain those areas, as well as how such maintenance could be financed.
Topper said that “we have started to address that issue.” According to Topper, it can be difficult to leverage volunteer help or use community members that want to assist in cleaning up the public spaces because it is the city’s responsibility to maintain them.
The city faces barriers to using volunteer labor from some union and labor contracts that restrict volunteer labor, Topper said.
Using funds generated from Vancouver’s transportation benefit district, Topper said that the city recently hired three full time employees to maintain public areas. However, she noted that three employees will not be enough to address all of Vancouver’s public areas, and that the city needs to continue to explore ways to keep the areas maintained.
Forsman said that to maintain the public areas, the city should look to find areas where resources are not needed and divert those funds to the maintenance of public places.