Paul Jacob

Vancouver, Washington is in one way just like Washington, D.C. . . . or anywhere else: Issues of “who gets to decide” and “out-of-control government” enliven both burgs. I live near D.C. The people of Vancouver live just north of Portland, Oregon, across the mighty Columbia River. Their “twin” city serves as home to exactly 161,791 enumerated citizens, who apparently enjoy the “Portlandia” metropolitan area without paying the City of Rose’s income taxes — for, unlike Oregon, Washington State can boast of no such tax.

Vancouver is also home to a long battle over transportation — focusing on light rail, which North Oregon has, and South Washington has not.

When Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt mentioned the bridge project that would carry Portland’s light rail trains into Vancouver at the end of his State of the City speech earlier this year, he paused, saying, “And then . . . there’s the Columbia River Crossing. Are there seat belts in those chairs? You’re going to need to buckle up.”

“There is no more important opportunity for our city and our region than completion of the Columbia River Crossing,” the mayor added.

Leavitt also quoted New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who wrote in 2010, after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie decided to save a nickel by canceling a rail tunnel project under the Hudson River involving heavy federal dollars: “We are no longer the nation that used to amaze the world with its visionary projects. We have become, instead, a nation whose politicians seem to compete over who can show the least vision, the least concern about the future and the greatest willingness to pander to short-term, narrow-minded selfishness.”

There are too many issues involving the bridge project, beyond its attachment to light rail, to address them all here. It is worth knowing, however, that Candidate Leavitt opposed any thought of a toll on crossing said bridge, while Mayor Leavitt can now support a toll and has mentioned the possibility and “potential” of tolls as high as $8.

Let’s stay more narrowly focused on light rail, to which the mayor noted, “Some would have you believe that light rail is not the least costly option for operational costs for mass transit.”

Yes, there are two types of people in this world. There are those who believe anyone living in a place without light rail is locked in a lesser branch of civilization. And those, conversely, who see light rail as a much more expensive and less effective source of transit than the available alternatives.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.