C-Tran looks at board composition

Commissioner Madore proposes the county and Vancouver each give one seat to smaller cities

By Eric Florip, Columbian transportation & environment reporter

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A regular review now under way could lead to a shake-up of the C-Tran Board of Directors.

That is, if some of its member jurisdictions get their way.

A handful of cities are already jockeying for position, calling for more representation than they have now. But the board can't add any seats under state law. That means one jurisdiction's gain could only come through another's loss.

In other words, not everyone is going to end up happy.

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 cities. The board also includes a non-voting labor representative.

Even before the C-Tran board composition review committee held its first meeting this month, Camas and Battle Ground indicated they would like their own seats on the board. Washougal Mayor Sean Guard said he'd favor the same for his city.

But it was Clark County Commissioner David Madore that put the first proposal on the table. During the meeting, Madore outlined an arrangement that 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.

That would give the small cities five of the nine votes on the C-Tran board. It would also take a seat away from both Vancouver and the county. In an email, Madore said the idea is to give more weight to areas he said are underrepresented -- even if it means the county and Vancouver lose influence as a result.

"As county commissioners, we must lead by example. We should not ask Vancouver to do what we are not willing to do ourselves," Madore said. "We each would give up one seat so citizens throughout our county can be more fairly represented. We need to foster cooperation, not self-serving turf wars. C-Tran can then better serve the community as a whole."

Guard, for one, said he'd welcome Madore's plan.

"If that were where it all settled out, I think we would all be happy campers," he said of the small cities.

Vancouver City Councilor Bart Hansen called Madore's proposal "premature." Vancouver councilors will discuss the city's role on the C-Tran board Monday, as will

other cities in the coming weeks. But in a letter to C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm this month, Vancouver City Manager Eric Holmes said leaders should consider "proportional representation" on the C-Tran board relative to financial contribution, ridership, service level and population.

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.

"And yet we only receive 33 percent of the representation on the board," Hansen said.

The 10-member composition review committee includes one person from each of the seven cities represented on the C-Tran board, plus all three county commissioners. Any change the committee makes to the board is final, meaning it won't have to get through the existing C-Tran board for approval.

One thing the committee can't change unilaterally: the bloc veto. That's the rule allowing either Vancouver or the county to nix any motion the rest of the C-Tran board approves, as long as its three votes are unified against it. Veto authority is written into the agency's bylaws, and would require regular board action to change.

The C-Tran board has used the same arrangement among its voting members since 1998. The last review occurred in 2009.

The committee didn't take any action during its first meeting this month. The group will convene again in July.

"I think you've got to look at what's fair for everybody concerned, and then go from there," said Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow.

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