One year after being pulled off the C-Tran Board of Directors, Vancouver City Councilor Jeanne Stewart is making it clear she wants her seat back.
In an email to Mayor Tim Leavitt that was copied to five other city councilors and The Columbian late Thursday, Stewart called her removal last January “punitive” and said she would like to serve on both the C-Tran and Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council boards once again.
“Frankly, in all appearances, my skepticism regarding costs, effectiveness and implementation of light rail seem to be at the source of the resistance to allowing me to participate on behalf of the citizens in a meaningful and productive way on these two boards,” she wrote.
She said that in conversations with Leavitt, she was told the council would block her from both the C-Tran and RTC spots.
Leavitt, who as mayor recommends council members to boards, said that isn’t so.
He hasn’t got her on his list for C-Tran, but, he said he was giving up his own spot on the RTC board so that Stewart could have it. He also has her listed as an alternate on the Columbia River Economic Development Council board.
He said he plans to have his list of recommendations ready for the council to see on Monday.
“The irony here is I’m about to release my recommendations for board and commission assignments this year, and she is largely going to be happy with my recommendations,” he said. “Too bad she couldn’t hold her breath for a couple more days.”
Leavitt said the city council will discuss the appointments during its Jan. 27 budget retreat at City Hall. The mayor drafts the recommendations, and the city council typically approves them. Usually, the juiciest positions go to the most senior council members. Stewart has been on the city council since 2001; only Jeanne Harris has more seniority.
The email continues the ongoing quarrel between Stewart and her fellow council members over her ouster from the C-Tran board. Stewart at one point questioned the legality of her removal from the board.
Stewart was booted last year for voting against the wishes of a majority of the council in September 2010. Most of the council wanted to keep a sales tax for bus service and for light rail on the same ticket, and directed its three representatives to vote in that fashion. Instead Stewart, a noted light rail skeptic, provided the swing vote to split those taxes into two separate measures. The bus service sales tax passed this November; C-Tran has indicated there will be a light rail and bus rapid transit vote this fall.
Councilor Bart Hansen was appointed to the C-Tran board, on which Leavitt and Councilor Larry Smith also serve.
While Leavitt said he’d like to see Stewart on the RTC board, he said he does not support her return to the C-Tran board.
“She can remain indignant about her premeditated actions of 2010, but the council made a decision, that in light of her inability to serve as an ambassador of the council and doing it in a premeditated way to defy their wishes,” her staying off the board is “completely just,” he said.
He also said that the council members must share the appointments, so “not everybody can get what they want.”
Stewart did not return a call for comment Friday.
But in her email, she pointed to the ultimate decision, months later, by her fellow council members to support splitting the sales tax vote, showed that “clearly, my judgment in this decision was proven to be correct.”
She also said that the council has no basis to keep her off the C-Tran board any longer.
“To continue the punitive action for something that ‘might be done’ is, in fact, a permanent sanction,” she wrote.
Later on Friday afternoon, Leavitt responded to Stewart’s email, saying that seniority does not entitle a council member to a board. He added that he’s “most certain the council is not interested in appointing a representative to any board or commission that is going to act as a ‘rogue.’ “
In a response, Stewart said: “I am not, nor have I ever been, a ‘rogue,’ as you put it. Rogue is a term used to attempt to discredit a person.”
She added that “no statements of ‘entitlement’ have ever been made by me, only by you.”
The sparring between Stewart and Leavitt may not be the only drama in appointments later this month.
This year also marks the end of an official sanction against Harris, which barred her from serving on any boards and commissions. That sanction came as the result of a September 2010 council meeting where she demanded the mayor “gavel down” a citizen speaker, quarreled with Stewart and left the room.
Leavitt said Harris has also requested board and commission seats, but did not elaborate.
During the Jan. 27 meeting, it’s also likely the council will select a mayor pro-tem. Typically, that role goes to the most senior councilor, in this case Harris, but the city council took the unusual step of selecting Smith. It’s not clear if they will retain him as second-in-command, or if another councilor will step forward for the spot.