City council race is contest of familiar faces

Hansen, Jenkins have honed their opinions on several issues

The Columbian - Local News
by ,

Bart Hansen and John Jenkins have been opponents in a Vancouver City Council primary before, and not long ago.

When Councilor Pat Jollota announced her retirement last year, both the men put their names in to replace her. Both failed to garner votes to make it to the general election, and Councilor Jack Burkman ultimately took that spot.

Both tried again, asking the council to appoint them to Mayor Tim Leavitt’s vacated seat. That time, Hansen got the job, in a 4-2 vote by the council.

Since swearing-in seven months ago, Hansen’s made the preservation of public safety jobs, despite Vancouver’s ailing budget, his top priority. Jenkins has made his campaign a referendum on the Columbia River Crossing, which he staunchly opposes.

Joining them is newcomer Jack King O’Neal III, who did not return calls or e-mails for an interview. He said in June that he doesn’t plan to actively campaign, but in the voters’ pamphlet said: “I aim to cut needless spending, and create jobs that invest in the economy and future of our city.”

Whoever wins in November will have just a year until another election — the city charter gives voters another chance to pick a councilor in 2011, when Leavitt’s seat would have expired. But Hansen and Jenkins both have ideas on what they’d like to do in those 12 months. Both also said they would run again.

On the bridge

Vancouver is set to cut $10 million from its general fund this year, including about 10 police positions and 18 firefighters. At the same time, work continues on the proposed Interstate 5 Bridge replacement, to the tune of nearly $100 million so far (none of that planning money comes from the city’s coffers).

Hansen can’t take the idea of the former; Jenkins bristles at the latter.

“There are more people who are the silent majority that are in my camp,” Jenkins said, over black coffee at the Java House this week. “That’s no tolls, no light rail, and not this bridge.”

Jenkins believes that the costs are climbing far too high and believes any tolls on the bridge would be permanent and placed on the backs of those who cannot afford them. He thinks that a “third bridge” option should be back on the table.

Hansen has a similar take on the bridge as many of his fellow council members. An avid user of public transportation (he rides the bus every day to work), he supports the current plan for light rail and bridge.

“I don’t think anybody supports tolls, but we need to build a new bridge,” he said. “I won’t hold up the project because of it.”

He said that the true scope of the project isn’t known yet and to talk tolls is to “put the cart before the horse.” He also noted how small a role a city councilor plays in the overall scheme of federal, state and multitudes of local voices. Leavitt and Councilor Jeanne Harris represent C-Tran and the city council, respectively, on the project sponsors council.

Jenkins, however, said his election to the council could start a wave that would put a majority of the seven members against the bridge as it is, and affect change.

“My one voice won’t change things immediately. Over the course of time … by being vocal, it will make a difference,” he said.

On the budget

Hansen said that there’s been one defining moment of his seven months serving on the city council:

“Saying no to the budget,” because it contains cuts to public safety, he said. “It’s difficult when you’re the only council member that says no to something. But I slept well that night.”

The city would have to close community centers and shelve much of its street maintenance work, among many other cuts, should public safety come out of the budget process unscathed. But Hansen said the city needs to evaluate what it wants to be, and he said citizens have overwhelmingly said they want thriving police and fire departments.

He also lists transportation, clean drinking water and sewers among services that Vancouver should prioritize.

Jenkins also said he was displeased with losses in first responders. He leveled criticism at City Manager Pat McDonnell. He did say that recent streamlining efforts and other moves made recently by city administrators are positive — but they’ve come too late.

“He’s been here for 10 years, and it’s gone from good to worse,” he said. “They missed the mark, and they missed it bad.”

He said he’d look to have McDonnell and Police Chief Cliff Cook, who was the recent subject of a no-confidence vote by the Police Guild, replaced.

As the city continues to stare down tax revenue shortfalls and escalating pay and benefit costs, Hansen said he’d like to see all of the unions — civilian and public safety — make concessions.

“If I’d rather lay people off, or see salary and benefit adjustments, I’m on the side of salary and benefit adjustments,” Hansen said.

Jenkins said he’s been the beneficiary of “great” salaries and benefits in his time at Clark Public Utilities, and doesn’t want to be hypocritical.

“But if some benefits are totally out of line, they need to change,” he said.

On the campaign trail

Both Jenkins and Hansen have signs around town.

Hansen said this is the first year he’s actively raising money — including a fundraiser held this month at the Firefighters Union hall in Fruit Valley. About 75 people turned out to pay at least $25 and enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers.

He’s secured the endorsements of the Firefighters Union, Leavitt, and former Mayor Royce Pollard, among others.

Jenkins filed a form with the state Public Disclosure Commission saying he does not plan to raise more than $5,000 total, or more than $500 from any individual. He hasn’t gotten any big-name endorsements, but said that he still thinks he’s got a good chance at claiming the seat.

“Bart’s very vulnerable,” he said. “He was appointed.”

Hansen said he likes his odds as well.

“When it comes to me versus any of my opponents, it’s not about that,” he said. “I’m running for the Vancouver City Council.”

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