Vancouver City Council candidates talk business

A long-debated proposal for additional funding from the business community will be back in front of the council following the election

Four positions, including mayor, are up for grabs on the Vancouver City Council this year. This year’s challengers are all facing long-seated incumbents. The Vancouver Business Journal asked each candidate their response to an issue currently in front of the council that could have an impact on business in the city.


Royce Pollard, incumbent:

Under certain circumstances, yes. I think the business community relies so much on transportation and it is so important that we stay open for business. And if we are going to ask citizens to contribute to transportation, we certainly have to find a way that is reasonable and is as equitable as possible to ask the business community also. We have significant shortfalls. We require funds for transportation. We are looking for a modest contribution and we are looking for a fair and equitable way. I know that not everyone is going to like that. We don’t want to shut down our roads and we do not want them to get any worse than they are. Immediately there might not be too much of an impact. We will still have what we have but there will not be many improvements. You will see pot holes, you will see projects delayed or not done at all, and there will be no new capacity.

Charles Stemper, retired airline employee:

No comment.

Council position 1

Pat Jollota, incumbent:

We should, and I think the business community has become aware that the burden has shifted to the homeowner. As citizens, we all recognize we have to pay for the things we need, and I’m looking for the business community to agree on an equitable burden. No new funding means that it will be difficult for your customers to get to your business, it will be difficult for your trucks to transport, and it will be difficult for you to get to your clients if congestion continues to climb with no relief.

Pat Campbell, retired probation and parole officer:

Part of the problem is that the Finance Working Group that was formed did not represent small businesses. The recommendations the group made just hammered small businesses. I don’t think it is the way to raise money for transportation, which is something that everybody uses. I think the city needs to rethink this and ask the county commissioners to do something with a vehicle license tab fee. Add a small amount, so the tax applies to those who are using the roads and just doesn’t target small business. The people who are using the roads aren’t just people from Vancouver, everyone in the county uses the roads in Vancouver. Why should just businesses pay? It’s a big burden for businesses. It’s going to be a burden for anyone, but let’s spread it out to the people who are going to be using the roads.

Council Position 2

Jeanne Stewart, incumbent:

I think there is a better question: do we need more capacity, and who should pay for it? Yes, we definitely need more transportation capacity and everybody should pay for it, businesses and residents, because we all use it. Vancouver is just a part of greater Clark County, and so we need to stop thinking about specific jurisdictions and start thinking about cumulative transportation capacity countywide. If the state legislature is firm on not changing the statute so a city could charge a road tax that would be an assessment on property tax, then I would like to see a new-transportation capacity plan developed and put forward by the city that would give specific projects and locations and show it to the voters and ask them to support a transportation bond, but I think we need to decide which direction we are going. We should not underestimate the intelligence of the voters when it comes to them recognizing what the needs are as long as you have a specifically designed package of what you are asking them to fund and if it makes sense.

Eric Olmsted, owner, On Line Support:

The only reason I am supporting that tax package is because businesses got together and said this would be better for us instead of a Business & Occupation tax. I would like to see the tax package be per head, instead of a tiered business surcharge. We need more transportation here in Vancouver, if we don’t it’s going to be difficult to do business in Vancouver. With no new funding, we will look like Seattle.

Council Position 3

Jeanne Harris, incumbent:

Yes. As a council member, I approved putting together a taskforce to look at the issue. The taskforce brought back a recommendation and, in fact, I am the one that started tweaking with it. I was trying to protect the very small business owners, so I said there shouldn’t be any charge for businesses with one to two employees. I wasn’t going to approve the sales tax unless we changed it. When we changed it, we made a very uncomfortable leap from six to 50, and I listened to the testimony and I agreed. So now it is up to the taskforce to come back with recommendations. It’s not important to me to decide what to do, it’s important for me to get a recommendation back from the business community. Without it, we can’t accomplish the things we said we could do regarding transportation projects. Eventually it is going to come down to us making some sort of local decision on what we want to do in order to make those things happen.

Bob Gaylor, president and CEO, Innovative Services NW:

Yes, as long as it is channeled into new-capacity transportation. I think they have to be very careful about stomping on the small business owner. That is what happened with the business surcharge proposal; the gradations of it were just not sensitive to the small business owner. The real issue is make the gradations more sensitive to the impact they have on the business, if that happens to be the basis for levying the surcharge. No new funding will result in the continuing degradation of what we have. There is no sugar fairy coming to fix things. My personal view is that city council needs to focus on the creation of family wage jobs, and they need to do that by developing and preserving industrial properties, and transportation is a piece of that.

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