Donnelly: City council, follow advice of business leaders

Ron Arp, president of Identity Clark County, testified for ICC’s many business members and investors that the proposed budget represented higher taxes even than the Stronger Vancouver proposal of 2019-20. He cited 11 new or expanded taxes, estimating the cost at $60 million, double the estimated impact of Stronger Vancouver.  He described many businesses here as “barely squeaking by.” Vancouver’s worthy objectives — diversity, climate policy, safety — can only happen if businesses remain to pay the bills, he argued.

Commercial real estate agent Tamara Fuller, prominent in Vancouver’s business community for 20 years, stated that at this time when Vancouver has “arrived” as a magnet city, this proposal aimed at business is “sending the wrong message.” “Is now the time?” to burden business, she asked.

Mark Matthias, owner of Beaches and tireless in causes benefiting Vancouver, pointed to a “disconnect” between the city government and business. When federal, state and city taxes and fees increase, he observed, the result is not “nice and warm” for businesses. A 5 percent decrease in city taxes on business would be more to the point, he stated.

Matthias reminded the council that “any tax is a community tax,” and that it’s an illusion that “just business” will bear the burden.

Ron Frederickson, former chair of the Columbia River Economic Development Council, pointed to a recent lost opportunity that would have brought an $80 million company and 100 jobs to Vancouver. The city’s budget feels “designed in another era,” Frederickson said.