Public Safety Band-Aid Fix Coming Loose

by lewwaters

As the Vancouver City Council unanimously approved acceptance of a $2.3 Million SAFER Grant to reopen Fire Station 6, almost exactly one year ago, council member Jack Burkman was quoted, “We’ve wounded a neighborhood and now we need a Band-Aid” as he referred to the city as using a “broken business model.”

Fire Station 6 had been closed for much of 2011 due to budgeting problems in the city.

Other city council members applauded accepting the grant while reminding all of it gives the city a “temporary fix” and two years to work out a permanent solution.

Crews were hired and trained and the station was reopened on November 7, 2011 to a jubilant neighborhood, just in time for the November 8, 2011 elections where three Vancouver City Council members were up for reelection.

The biennial budget that called for closure of Fire Station 6 was passed by a 6 to 1 vote, council member Bart Hansen being that lone dissenter and who gained the endorsement of the citizen neighborhood group formed in support of the Fire Station.

Prior to Fire Station 6 actually closing, former Vancouver City Council Member Pat Jollota, attending a candlelight vigil in support of keeping the station open was quoted, “This could have been avoided. If the council had set it as a policy, fire stations will not be closed, public safety would not be compromised, staff would have had to find a way” indicating displeasure with others on the council that “felt that the drastic cuts to other departments, like transportation and parks, that would have been necessary to keep the fire station open were not acceptable.”

With no city council members up for reelection in this year’s election, Ms. Jollota’s words ring truer than ever as we read, just 9 months after Fire Station 6 was re-staffed and re-opened, Fire Station 6 may face another closure.

Although the current grant will carry the station through the end of 2013, we read “City Manager Eric Holmes told the city council in an email Friday — the deadline to apply — that Vancouver wasn’t technically qualified for the grant, and that because it has a grant now, the department wasn’t as competitive.”

It is further revealed that in order for the city to qualify for yet another grant in order to protect the public, “The city council would have to authorize a letter of intent to lay off those 13 firefighters” recently hired and trained to man Fire Station 6, disappointing the founder of the Friends of Fire Station 6, Mary Elkin, who endorsed city council member Bart Hansen. Elkin said, “I’m a little upset that no one even told the city council this was going to happen. It didn’t give them time to ask questions.”

The main question that comes to mind is, “why are we continually relying on federal temporary grants in order to keep a fire station open?”

Vancouver, Washington is the 4th largest city in the state and we are told how it is growing, even though the county remains locked in its fourth straight year of double digit unemployment.

Reflecting back on the words spoken by Pat Jollota, I am struck to also read, shortly after the Fire Station was reopened, Vancouver approves $600K contract to build waterfront park.

More recently we read, $1 million from state paves the way for waterfront park and Vancouver gets $750K for waterfront trail development.

Yes, while sweating keeping a Fire Station open, building another park in the city takes priority, as well as taking on over $20 Million in debt for a new City Hall, creating a Bus Rapid Transit System, forcing the community to accept light rail from out of state they have declined take priority.

While city parks are great to have, we also know that we already 107 parks in the city and funds to maintain those parks have dried up, letting them fall into disrepair. How does the city intend to fund maintaining yet another one?

We were informed of that this past May as we saw Vancouver mulls tax to fund parks as this same city council decided, “Vancouver voters will be asked in November to approve a tax levy of 53 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value to create a metropolitan parks district to preserve and enhance Vancouver parks and recreation services.”

As our home values steadily decrease, renters who will not be required to pay this new tax will have the privilege of deciding whether or not those of us fortunate enough to still own a home will pay more taxes to cover parks, not public safety.

The new Waterfront Park is to be part of massive new retail and housing development project along the north bank of the Columbia River where high end retail and condominiums will be offered, promising a beautiful view looking west of Oregon’s Mt. Hood.

Left out of the promise is that there is also a massive 8-story bridge planned to be constructed between that great view of Mt. Hood and those high end condominiums, leaving Clark County taxpayers stuck with paying off upwards of $10 Billion in bond interest over the next many decades and designed to give easier access to shops, businesses an entertainment facilities south of the river, outside of our community and in Portland, Oregon.

The thousands of people who live in Clark County and must commute to Portland daily will also be facing potentially as much as $8 a day in tolls to cross the new mega-bridge, or pay a fee to ride Portland’s financially failing light rail system, instead of spending their money in Vancouver and Clark County where revenues gained could help fund that fire station facing closure.

Of course, we’ll hear how money for parks cannot be used anywhere else and if we really want our safety looked out for, why just pony up for as yet unannounced new tax I am sure will be proposed soon.

I guess the thought of seeking legislative assistance for an emergency variance of some sort to divert funds where really needed is out of the question.

Or, dropping pie in the sky plans that will bankrupt the community that will build a park they cannot maintain while closing down fire stations that must rely on temporary federal grants to keep open will also not be considered.

Also out of the question I am sure, is hoping for some of these elected leaders charged with looking out for the public good explaining just why it is that public safety must rely on “temporary band-aid fixes” and not unnecessary things like light rail and a 108th park in the city.

We need real leaders in office. People that have run a business or have had to pay bills and live within a budget.

We need representatives who can see that public safety must come before another park or pie in the sky taxpayer bankrupting projects taxpayers do not want in the first place.

5 Comments to “Public Safety Band-Aid Fix Coming Loose”

  1. You can’t expect a slimball like Leave-it and the Taliban City Council of Vancouver to actually put people and public safety ahead of parks, can you?

    Get real.

    (Actually, I think he should open the parks… and then toll them.)

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  2. I spoke on these issues last night at the city council. The interesting comment of the night though came from our very citizens and frequent speaker at the council meetings, Steve Herman. This man with his persistent presence arguing against the lite-rail portion of the bridge project and the tolls said that he wondered if the voters failed to pass the sales tax proposal this November why they felt that it would be okay to hunt for other funding sources to force us to pay for a project we don’t want. He reminded the Mayor specifically that when he was elected and all the votes were counted the people didn’t go around trying to find some other way of keeping him from becoming the mayor. It was an excellent analogy if you ask me. This question of the firehouse will be up before the voters at the time when our Mayor Leavitt will be running for re-election along with Burkman, Harris, and Stewart. I am telling all of you that if you see the game start you need to remember that I think it will be Leavitt who attempts to use keeping it open so he can garnish the support and the votes. We really need to get Jeanne Stewart to run for his seat.

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  3. Jeanne Stewart is the only one currently sitting on city council that I could support at this time.

    I like Bill Turlay, but don’t believe he is quite ready or even looking to be Mayor.

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  4. Parks are used like clubs by the public employee unions. Plenty of folks would volunteer to maintain parks if the unions let them. The fire dept. where I grew up (California) was all volunteer, and people competed to join.

    I support strong Government. There are some functions that can only be provided by Government, however because the public employer/employee relationship is compromised, the number of public employees must be kept as small as possible. Parks & recreation, fire protection, licensing offices, etc. can and should be privatized. Government can still subsidize the fixed assets but push the employee issues into the private sector.

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  5. Wow! I am sorry it took me so long to get back to this blog site column..
    Martin you are so right. I see the capital chronies pack processing their agenda every day.
    I am disgusted by the amount of it and its complete corruption in our government.
    At a round table for labor on Friday I was accused of being anti-labor from someone I don’t even know the name of.
    This truly shocked me since I was raised by a veteran who retired after 33 years a teamster. I told him at the time I was way impressed that he could put up with corporations control for so long. He responded that he was so glad God gave him a daughter smart enough to create other choices and not have to follow his path. I had been a BCT union member for a short few years myself until entering management and found both of the levels less than desirable. The union rep often referred to me as his favorite bakery manager because I called and spoke to him on behalf of the people who I was charged with bossing when I saw injustice. So after all my sessions of city council and county commissioners meetings where I spend my time unpaid speaking up on behalf of the people and their rights to coding and zoning for jobs sake I was shocked anyone could feel this way. When I asked why he would say this when he did’nt even know me I was told “If your running against Moeller you must be anti-labor”. That is ridiculous and like saying because I am a woman I hate men. I’m not six anymore so I got over hating boys a long time ago.
    What it is appears to be is that the people keep mixing up “labor” and “unions” as if the words mean the same thing. If we work together and put some of the positions filled by government workers back into the private sector we actually will create more jobs than previously existed. We reduce the top heavy burden by doing so and return to a system that charges the users for services not the masses for services they do not use.
    We have a lot to rework and a lot of conversations to have as we attempt to clear the fog from the brains of the citizens and laborers with regards to regulations and contracts that bind the hands of the community. It is really hard since the unions are the force in their lives with access to tell them the story slanted to union favor. My Dad’s union reps were honest and by being so they actually helped the men he worked with keep the company healthy fiscally and therefore in business which in turn kept the men employed. I don’t see that happening around here anymore.
    The unions put out the money (Moeller has raised 72k to my paultry $3600) and then a list of “Union Friendly” candidates and the future is cemented for decades.
    I have attended many interviews with companies and government agaencies as well as their union reps. I get a lot of really positive feedback from those groups with statements like “You really get it, you understand” but no money since I am on the “otherside” and endorsing or funding me might mean blowback from the Moeller camp after the election. This may very well be the hardest mountain I have yet to climb in my life. What is glaringly obvious is that it requires an entire team of citizens to climb it and they are so immobilized. God help me, I need something more than a pickaxe to chunk through the armor the system has wrapped themselves in.
    Without the “team” of citizens this may turn out to be the first mountain I have to make another attempt to master but the question here is, do we have that kind of time?

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