Vancouver’s voice at the table as Oregon considers tolling has been selected. Mayor Pro Tem, and mayoral candidate, Anne McEnerny-Ogle was unanimously appointed by the Vancouver City Council Monday evening.
Vancouver was invited to join the policy advisory committee discussing tolls after Sen. Patty Murray asked Oregon Gov. Kate Brown to give Southwest Washington not only a voice in the discussion but also voting privileges.
The Washington State Department of Transportation already had a member on the committee, Southwest Regional Administrator Kris Strickler, but that seat was without voting privileges. The committee will vote Oct. 19 to affirm or deny those voting privileges.
Mayor Tim Leavitt recommended McEnerny-Ogle’s appointment to the committee in a memo to council.
“Her familiarity with the interstate corridor issues spans from her service on the Transportation and Trade Partnership study in the early 2000’s through her current representation of the city on the Regional Transportation Council and C-Tran, as well as her service as an alternate on the Bi-State Transportation Committee, Metro’s Joint Policy Committee on Transportation (JPACT) and the Metropolitan Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC),” Leavitt wrote.
McEnerny-Ogle said it’s exciting to have input on the issue.
“I’m grateful Sen. Patty Murray jumped in there to get not one but two votes,” she said.
McEnerny-Ogle said the committee will look at tolling Interstates 205 and 5 but also have a conversation about if the tolling region should be larger.
“Does it extend into Washington? Into the confluence of 205 and I-5?” she said. “What does it mean for perhaps a tax deduction for our commuters?”
A tax deduction, McEnerny-Ogle said, for those commuters already paying Oregon’s income tax.
“I was one of those commuters who traveled … all the way down to Lake Oswego,” she said. “I would have loved to have the opportunity to deduct tolling from my income tax.”
Determining which drivers are crossing the bridge as commuters should be easy, McEnerny-Ogle said. An E-ZPass system could track drivers who pass under the monitors and determine how the cars are traveling. Knowledge of the E-ZPass system is something Washington can weigh in on, she added.
“We bring a little experience to the table,” McEnerny-Ogle said.
McEnerny-Ogle’s appointment is contingent on winning the mayoral race. Opponent Steven Cox withdrew from the race last week after making false allegations about Councilor Jack Burkman at a city council meeting. But Cox will remain on the ballot and his votes will still be counted. If Cox wins, McEnerny-Ogle said, she would step down from the committee.
“It’s the voice of the council and its citizens,” she said. “If the citizens don’t feel that I should be their mayor, then they should have someone else with that voice.”
Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, has been the most outspoken voice against what she calls the “tolling scheme.”
Herrera Beutler sent a letter to Sens. Maria Cantwell and Murray on Tuesday urging the congresswomen to approve her amendment prohibiting the use of federal funding to establish tolls on I-5 and I-205 to the federal transportation funding bill.
Herrera Beutler did not find the appointment of a Vancouver representative to the committee satisfactory, and maintains that belief.
“It is helpful for Washingtonians to have a voice at the table,” she said in a letter to Murray and Cantwell. “But as you know, seating three Washingtonians on an advisory committee of 15-20 Oregonians is far from a complete solution.”