Reallocation of C-Tran board power delayed till December

By Stephanie Rice, Columbian Vancouver city government reporter

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A proposal to change the makeup of the C-Tran Board of Directors was pushed back Tuesday to December.

Prior to the board's meeting, the C-Tran board composition review committee met to discuss the allocation of seats on the board.

By law, the C-Tran Board of Directors has nine voting members. Currently, the city of Vancouver has three seats, as does Clark County. The remaining three seats are shared by Camas and Washougal, Battle Ground and Yacolt, and Ridgefield and La Center.

On Tuesday, Clark County Commissioner Tom Mielke proposed that the town of Yacolt — which has a population of 1,615, according to the state's Office of Financial Management — should get its own seat. Under Mielke's plan, Yacolt's vote would carry the same weight as Camas (population 20,320), Battle Ground (population 18,130) and Washougal (population 14,580).

Ridgefield (population 5,545) and La Center (population 3,015) would share a seat, while Vancouver (population 164,500) and the county would get two seats each.

Mielke's rationale was that Battle Ground doesn't want to share a seat with Yacolt any longer, and Yacolt doesn't want to share with either Ridgefield or La Center.

His proposal drew swift opposition from Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow, La Center Mayor Jim Irish and Washougal Mayor Sean Guard, who questioned why the smallest jurisdiction should get its own vote. Guard asked if he even heard Mielke's proposal correctly.

Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt, who was filling in for Vancouver City Councilor Bart Hansen, said there's "no rhyme or reason or basis or fact," to support giving Yacolt its own vote.

Mielke's motion was seconded by Battle Ground City Councilor Shane Bowman.

But Guard proposed pushing Mielke's motion back until the Dec. 10 meeting, after the C-Tran Board of Directors discusses whether to amend the bylaws to clarify bloc veto powers.

Currently, Vancouver and Clark County have bloc veto power. Attorneys for the jurisdictions have expressed different opinions about what would happen to the bloc veto authority if Vancouver or Clark County gave up a seat.

Tom Wolfendale, the attorney for C-Tran, suggested that the Board of Directors amend the bylaws to resolve the matter.

Guard's motion was seconded by Irish and passed by a vote of 6-4. County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Leavitt, Onslow and Camas Mayor Scott Higgins joined Guard and Irish, while Mielke and Bowman were joined by Commissioner David Madore and Yacolt Town Councilor Lewis Gerhardt.

Composition committee

The members of the Vancouver City Council have made it clear they strongly oppose giving up a seat on the Board of Directors. But while the city represents the majority of C-Tran riders, the city has only one vote on the composition committee. That means 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.

Higgins questioned whether C-Tran would survive under Mielke's proposal, as Vancouver would likely challenge the decision.

"We are not willing to sacrifice the entire transportation system just to get our voice heard better," said Higgins, his sentiment echoed by Guard.

Madore urged the board to take action Tuesday and to end "turf wars" and the abuse of bloc veto power.

Leavitt said there hadn't been complaints among C-Tran representatives about "turf wars" or abuse of bloc veto power until 10 months ago, a reference to when Madore took office.