C-Tran panel weighs bloc veto

Smaller cities want to scrap rule, saying it marginalizes them

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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As a special committee continues to mull a possible shake-up of the C-Tran Board of Directors, the conversation Tuesday turned to a separate, but related, topic: the bloc veto.

That's the seldom-used rule that allows either the city of Vancouver or Clark County to nix any motion the rest of the C-Tran board approves, as long as its representatives are unified against it. Some smaller cities, already jockeying for more representation on the board, indicated they'd like to do away with the rule they say marginalizes their positions even more.

"Every one of the small cities at the table do not have a voice," said Battle Ground Mayor Lisa Walters, a member of the committee reviewing C-Tran's board composition. "It's like we're seat warmers here."

The committee, however, can't unilaterally toss out that rule. The bloc veto is written into C-Tran's bylaws and the agency's founding documents, and would require full board action to rewrite. But changing the makeup of the board would likely require another look at the bylaws, last updated in 2010.

The C-Tran board now has nine voting members: three Vancouver City Council representatives, three

Clark County commissioners, and three seats shared in pairs by the county's six smaller municipalities. The board also includes a nonvoting labor representative.

Last month, County Commissioner David Madore floated a proposal that would shift more power to the small cities -- at the expense of the county and Vancouver. Madore's proposal would give two seats to Clark County, two to Vancouver, one seat each to Camas, Washougal, Battle Ground and Ridgefield, and one seat shared by La Center and Yacolt. State law prevents C-Tran from having more than nine voting members, meaning one jurisdiction's gain must come through another's loss.

Vancouver leaders have said they're not interested in giving up one of their city's seats on the C-Tran board. They'd also like to keep the bloc veto intact. But the city only has one spot on the 10-member committee that will decide the board's makeup.

County Commissioner Steve Stuart noted that the veto is rarely used. The city of Vancouver wielded its veto power in May, blocking a motion related to C-Tran's stance on the Columbia River Crossing project.

Talk of doing away with the veto has surfaced before, including last year. County commissioners proposed getting rid of the rule then, but effort never gained traction.

The committee made no decisions Tuesday. It continued to discuss Madore's and other proposals for the C-Tran board. One idea would give three seats to Vancouver, two to Clark County, one each to Camas, Washougal and Battle Ground, and one shared jointly by Ridgefield, La Center and Yacolt.

Members also touched on the idea of weighted voting, which would tip the scales toward Vancouver and the unincorporated urban areas by most measures. Almost 60 percent of C-Tran's sales tax revenue is collected in the city of Vancouver. More than 80 percent of the agency's fixed-route boardings are in Vancouver.

The committee will convene again in August.

Eric Florip: 360-735-4541; http://twitter.com/col_enviro;eric.florip@columbian.com