Stewart cut from C-Tran board

She ignored decision by council when she cast vote last year

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian staff writer

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The Vancouver City Council removed Councilor Jeanne Stewart from the C-Tran Board of Directors Monday night — a sharp rebuke for a vote she made on that board months ago.

Stewart drew the ire of council members in September, when she ignored the council’s majority decision that voters this year should be asked to approve a single ballot measure that preserves and expands existing C-Tran bus service while also providing money to operate light rail.

Stewart, a noted light-rail skeptic, went against those wishes — and cautions from Mayor Tim Leavitt and other councilors that they would take her off the C-Tran board — and instead provided the swing vote on the C-Tran board to split light rail funding and bus funding into two separate measures.

And on Monday, with the council set to assign seats on all of its boards and commissions, Councilor Pat Campbell called for Stewart to be yanked from C-Tran. The C-Tran board is comprised of representatives from various local government agencies.

“I object to Ms. Stewart continuing on that,” he said. “She told us she wasn’t going to represent council wishes on a vote back in the fall … the person that we appoint should be someone that represents council and doesn’t tell council that they’re going to represent themselves.”

Stewart countered that she could not, in good conscience, vote to combine the light rail and bus service sales tax increases into one measure.

“I want to make it clear that my first and primary duty is to the citizens. They are my boss,” Stewart said, clearly upset with her ousting. “I split (the vote) out because if people chose not to support light rail, at least we had an opportunity to support basic bus service.”

She called the council’s decision not one of “good will,” but a “political push to serve light rail.”

Councilor Jack Burkman pointed out that Stewart could have easily voiced her displeasure with the vote before casting it, or abstained.

Stewart also violated a council policy that states councilors must vote on boards as dictated by the majority of the council, he said.

“Once you get in this mode of determining what’s best and not representing the will of the council, I think its a slippery slope for all of us,” said Councilor Larry Smith, who also sits on the C-Tran board.

Board and commission assignments have traditionally been decided by a majority of council members. Leavitt did not call for a vote, but asked for head nods from those in favor of removing Stewart — all but Councilor Jeanne Harris nodded their assent. They then picked Councilor Bart Hansen to replace Stewart and join Leavitt and Smith on the board.

As it stands, two ballot measures will be submitted to voters in C-Tran’s service district: One will ask voters to bump the sales tax by two-tenths of 1 percent to preserve existing bus service, add some new routes and shore up C-Van service for riders with disabilities. The other measure will ask for an additional one-tenth of 1 percent to operate light rail in downtown Vancouver and build a new bus-rapid transit line in dedicated lanes along Fourth Plain Boulevard.

The council’s decision to remove Stewart from C-Tran also means that Vancouver has no female representatives on major boards and commissions. Councilor Jeanne Harris — who would have been chairwoman of the Regional Transportation Council this year — was stripped of her boards and commissions late last year as council-determined punishment for an ethics violation.

“That leaves one woman on one board,” Harris said after the vote. “I think there should be more women.”

However, Stewart also on Monday declined to serve as an alternate on the RTC board, saying that C-Tran and RTC “was a joint package” for her, and turned down an offer to serve on the police pension board. Smith comes out with seven total board assignments; Campbell, Burkman, Leavitt and Hansen all have three. Burkman is this year’s chairman of the RTC.

Andrea Damewood: 360-735-4542 or andrea.damewood@columbian.com.