portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article commentary portland metro

alternative media

A holiday postcard from Vancouver WA

Vancouver sits on the edge of something
In Vancouver this year, we had our fair share of election year jitters. The pre-election tension was palpable: people found it hard to contain themselves oftentimes, whether their leanings are secular and progressive, or other-worldly and oil-driven. But make no mistake--this is a conservative enclave. Clark Co. as a whole voted down the line for everything conservative on Nov. 2, not just Bush, but many of the local elections, and in the senate race it was about dead-even between Patty Murray and republican George Nethercutt. Nethercutt's entire campaign was based upon a comment Murray made about Osama bin-Laden, which apparently endeared him to many voters up here.

This is no rural backwater either, at least parts of Vancouver. Some of the neighborhoods are of well-placed folks with a big stake in the nation's regression. In east Vancouver, (where the author lives), just a brief review of the volume and nature of the auto traffic on Mill Plain Blvd. betrays the impressive wealth of the residents. The road supports a shining, glittering flotilla of brand new cars, as well as the delivery trucks that carry their goods, and dump trucks that lay the foundations of their new homes.

How well do I know these people? I know them a little bit, and I can guess about the rest. The first school I went to in Vancouver was a jr. high-school called Wy 'East, (which is an Indian word for Mt. Hood) and I was struck by the grown-upness of my new classmates. It was a kind of culture shock for me, coming from a small town, and mercifully my stay at that school was short. Part of the difference was just geography--these new kids, (or most of them) didn't chew Copenhagen and ride dirt bikes and swig MD 20/20 like my friends in the small town I came from. My high-school years were spent at Fort Vancouver, which I mostly found to be a more diverse and tolerant landscape, although life there was no picnic either.

Many years later I found myself at another school in east Vancouver, Mt. View HS, where I briefly had a janitor's job. From my view, the school had a country-club type feel, a definite contrast even from my own high-school in the lowlands. Though all schools share a low-budget feel to them, it seems. It's that feeling that makes so many parents cringe when theyre forced to make an appearance. This is something I noticed a lot: parents of students at the school, with a look on their face like "what the hell am I doing in this hell-hole?" That's a prejudice that I too shared sometimes, although my job something to do with it too.

Schools may not be the best place to take the pulse of a community, being as they are the incubators of ideas and truths for kids, but not the upholders of these ideas (or laws). Which raises an interesting question: who are the upholders of the social mores and truths which govern these wealthy conservative enclaves? Is it the voters?

Call it a triumph of democracy, but the voters of Clark Co. struck down a ballot measure that would have created a .3 cents per dollar sales tax that would have gone to C-Tran, the local bus system. The .3 cents per dollar is 3 cents per ten dollars, and confusion over this point actually contributed to the measure's defeat, according to one of the county commissioners. Many citizens though .3 cents per dollar is 3 cents per dollar. Without funding from this slight tax increase, C-Tran is now forced to cut operations in half, and raise rates. Half of employees are due to be laid off next September, and many routes cancelled.

All of this was in spite of the valiant efforts of a handful of people who went out and publicly promoted the measure by holding signs, for instance at the Mill Plain Blvd./Chkalov Rd. intersection. With that kind of (apparent) popular support, the measure seemed destined to pass.

But it was more than just a misunderstanding of cost. It seems to be a genuine pronouncement of a philosophy, or at least a knee-jerk reaction to what many conservative citizens may see as a threat to their way of life. It's the same reason that the effort to bring a MAX-like train from Portland has failed in the past.

The results from Election Day are the unheralded announcement of a national siege. In physical terms, many people will be immobilised for various reasons, (in Clark Co., literally) and many more will find themselves immobilised by hunger, sickness, fear or grief--all things which will surely be promoted and perpetuated by the Republican overlords. It's this phenomenon that swept Clark Co. like a hurricane.

So Vancouver continues to be a mystery and an enigma. Vancouver still pines for the heyday of the Kaiser shipyards, and the war-fueled growth that lasted well into the 1950's. It's romantic, in a way.

Merry Z-mas
Vancouverite prefers Ptld. 21.Dec.2004 17:35


With winter cold & short days upon us, I'm not escaping to Ptld. as much as I'd like. A resident of east Vancouver, I swear Mill Plain Blvd. (the main east-west road) gets worse. The stop-crawl starts headed eastward just west of 104th Avenue. (We know what brings the traffic there--the famous WalMart.) Then it's an eternity to get across the I-205 overpass. I've set on it many times, and worry if an earthquake happened on it. We're stuck, trapped, zilch, no place to turn. The defeat of C-Tran, like light rail, is a disaster. People here are short-minded.

Yes, Vancouver is conservative and corporate-thinking. I get political outlets in several or more progressive and peace groups--and, of course, PORTLAND.

Happy solstice 21.Dec.2004 22:08


Hey, just a note. The days are actually getting *longer* now.

Happy Solstice!

Here We Go Again 22.Dec.2004 09:13

Den Mark, Vancouver

Most of the previous remarks could've been written from/about Hillsboro or Gresham or West Linn. So what is the point. Suburbs everywhere are like "that". I live in Uptown/Downtown Vancouver, where life is quite different from East Vancouver & Hillsboro & so on. I'm tired of defending where i live & its progressive, cultured nature. My block, built circa 1910, is home to people with black, brown, & white skin. My neighborhood is home to antique shops, art galleries, used book stores, Middle Eastern cafés, public spaces, & huge trees. My state legislative district delegation is all progressive. We just replaced a moderate republican senator with an environmentally-aware democrat, & one of our representatives is an out gay man. I could continue. Perhaps people who live in & hate East Vancouver should move, but should avoid Gresham & West Linn, where there's more to hate, understandably. Please do not compare Vancouver to Portland, unless comparing apples to oranges makes you happy. The 'Couve has plenty to commend it, especially in Uptown/Downtown. And while we're thinking of lovely Oregon, recall that that "progressive" state has only recently turned down 1} public power (which Clark County has!), 2} labeling of genetically-engineered food, 3} gay marriage, & 4} protection of the Tillamook forest. Add to that the lovely out-of-control Portland Police, & you have bases to question conditions everywhere, not just in one rather typically annoying suburban American neighborhood. I live in Uptown/Downtown Vancouver, & while it is not perfect, it compares very well with any neighborhood in Portland. Or Seattle. Or wherever.

I love Portland 22.Dec.2004 13:46

Catalina Eddie

but I'd rather live in Vancouver. I had a choice.


Tone, not neighborhood 22.Dec.2004 17:02


I was refering to the overall tone of Vancouver, not a specific neighborhood. I, too, love MY neighborhood which is unique as the area association of homes was built AROUND all the fir trees, which were left intact of course. Nobody used the word, "hate."

When I'm asked where I'm from, I state I'm a Washingtonian. It's my roots.

Un-bridled sprawl 22.Dec.2004 17:40


Vancouver? Un-bridled sprawl at it's worst.
You call that progressive??


P.S. Thank you for NOT driving in Oregon.

Read! 23.Dec.2004 02:22

Den Mark, Vancouver

I used the word "progressive" to refer to West Vancouver, where i live, & where there is no "unbridled sprawl". Read what i wrote! And i notice that you did not refute what i wrote about lovely "progressive" Portland, which until very recently was considered the most racist of all Northern U.S. cities. We in Vancouver also know how "progressive" Oregon is, with its greedy over-taxation of Washington citizens who happen to work, even part time, in Oregon, without benefit of Oregon services. We know of the "progressiveness" of Oregon, as Port of Portland moves more & more of PDX overflites over West Vancouver, with consequent noise & chemical pollution, since Port of Portland does not answer to us. We know how "progressive" Oregon is, with dysfunctional ODOT refusing to fix the Delta bottleneck, northbound & southbound, despite numerous opportunities to do so. Oh, yes, Oregon is a gem. My point, rather clearly evident to anyone who can read, is that ALL, ALL, ALL places have problems, & NO, NO, NO place has right to act, & i do mean "act", like it is perfect. So, maybe you should pay more attention, for example, to your schools over there, with shortest school years in the nation, which alone causes people to move north of the Columbia, driving the sprawl here in east county. And maybe Salem will solve your fiscal problems one of these decades. And maybe Portland city government will one day stop pandering to Portland Business Alliance. I know all about Portland & Oregon. I once lived there.

Perhaps 23.Dec.2004 10:21


Perhaps the lure of Portland is how I envision it in an idealistic way. The city certainly offers lots of fine opportunities in the arts and political ventures.

I do get tired of responses to leave or move when we work for change within. For example, I detest where the U.S. leaders are taking us, but realistically, I wouldn't consider moving to another country, as appealing as Canada might be.

Vancouver, like many cities, needs to concentrate on more lower cost housing. The council is too concerned with a need for a plush image in downtown. Also, I suggest if it wants C-Tran to move its transit center from downtown, then let the city pay for it. There's too much high-end projects without a vote of the people. There's a demarkation line between lower and upper Main St. It's incredible. The lower parking meters are an example. Lower Main is just not "friendly" for the average Joe, irregardless of the modernized Esther Short Park. I criticize with an intent for change.

Uncontested 23.Dec.2004 10:57

Den Mark, Vancouver

I see that my two statements remain uncontested. I myself do not idealize, either Portland or Vancouver. I recall only five cities in which i've been attacked by police for peacefully protesting, ..... Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Seattle, &, repeatedly, Portland. Perhaps that is one reason why i do not idealize the "City of Roses" (& thorns!).

Ptld. protesters 23.Dec.2004 11:12


At least Ptld. protesters come out in droves.

I still prefer Portland's "atmosphere."

Droves? 24.Dec.2004 14:27

Den Mark, Vancouver

"Droves"? Most protests in Portland are by a dozen people & less. I know. I go to most of them. And i don't understand someone who knows Portland less-well than i do, telling me all about it. Yes, there are a few "official", festive, Really Big Protests which bring out hundreds, occasionally thousands, who then go home, while determined kids remain & get thumped & arrested. But most protests draw proportionally few, given the size of Metro Portland & its "progressive" self-image. How single-digit few showed up for peace visibilities on Sundays in Hollywood district, before those went ker-plop. Those are the ones i'm talking about, the ones without police escort! There were times when Vancouver provided 50% of the turn-out, & higher. When i join a protest to defend against slaughter of dolphins in Japan, held recently at the Japanese consulate, for example, i expect there to be far far more than eight of us who showed, two from Vancouver, by the way. Give it up, already, with the Portland-is-superior thing. It's simply not true. I like Portland, even with its many short-comings, but i refuse to put it on a pedestal. Portland is not a "Shining Beacon Upon A Hill".