Vancouver wants to retain C-Tran board makeup

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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The Vancouver City Council was reminded Monday that when a ninth seat was added to the C-Tran Board of Directors, the city graciously gave it to small cities, though Vancouver was by then the fourth-largest city in the state.

As the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.

Members of the council reiterated in Monday a workshop that they do not want to change the makeup of the C-Tran board. The city has three seats, as does the county. The remaining three seats are shared by Camas and Washougal, Battle Ground and Yacolt, and Ridgefield and La Center.

But Clark County Commissioner David Madore proposed last month to assign two seats to Clark County, two to Vancouver, one each to Camas, Washougal, Battle Ground and Ridgefield, and one for La Center and Yacolt to share. By law, the board has nine voting members.

Any changes will be decided by the C-Tran board composition review committee, which has three county seats but one seat apiece for the other jurisdictions.

So Vancouver's vote on the committee, representing 81 percent of C-Tran riders, carries the same weight as Yacolt's, which represents 0.1 percent of riders.

"We're just one vote of 10," said Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt.

At an earlier workshop on Madore's surprise proposal, councilors made it clear they have no intention to cede any authority.

Councilor Bart Hansen, who represents the city on the committee, was given orders Monday to make the case for the status quo at a July 9 meeting. Among his talking points: When the public benefit transportation area formed in 1980, there was a clear emphasis on urban services.

That hasn't changed, said Matt Ransom, the city's project development and policy manager.

Vancouver residents account for 45 percent of C-Tran's district, Ransom said. Another 36 percent of the district lives in unincorporated Clark County, including urban areas such as Hazel Dell and Salmon Creek, which are in Vancouver's urban growth boundary.

Ransom said the C-Tran bylaws include checks and balances, such as the bloc veto power that can be wielded by either Vancouver or Clark County. Hansen was also told to remind small-city representatives that the bylaws protect them, including a provision that no action shall be taken "with respect to the expenditure of any funds derived from the levy of a local tax in the cities/towns of Camas, Washougal, Ridgefield, Battle Ground, La Center and Yacolt unless such expenditure is approved by their designated representative(s)."

Vancouver City Attorney Ted Gathe brought up the fact the city gave up a potential fourth seat years ago.

Ransom said that if small cities don't believe they are being adequately represented by a shared person, one solution would be to work it out among themselves.

Councilor Jeanne Harris wondered whether the city should push for proportionate representation on the C-Tran Board of Directors, which would leave small cities even fewer seats. Councilor Jack Burkman, however, said the city should take the high road and ask for the status quo.

Councilors didn't discuss what to do if Hansen can't make his case, but, as Councilor Jeanne Stewart said, "we need to be flexible in how we protect our interests."