An ongoing tug-of-war between La Center, Ridgefield and Yacolt has left the three municipalities’ shared seat on the C-Tran Board of Directors with an uncertain future.
That seat is currently occupied by La Center Mayor Jim Irish, who is also this year’s chair of the C-Tran board. But Irish will step away from the post next year when he steps away from elected office. The three jurisdictions have yet to agree on how they’ll fill the seat in 2016 and beyond. They technically don’t have an agreement in place for this year, either, though Irish has continued to represent all three.
At issue is how the jurisdictions will select who gets to sit on the C-Tran board each year. La Center and Ridgefield have favored a “majority rule,” where the jurisdictions would jointly vote for their representative from year to year. Yacolt supports a rotation that would allow each city or town to have a turn once every three years.
The three mayors have met and traded letters, but so far haven’t found a resolution. Irish, for his part, said everyone should be adequately represented if leaders simply talk to each other and share their concerns.
“I haven’t seen any problem with representation,” Irish said. “As long as we keep up that communication, it doesn’t really matter who has the seat.”
The C-Tran board’s membership was rearranged as part of a composition review process last year. Yacolt, which had long shared a seat with Battle Ground, was instead joined with La Center and Ridgefield in a three-way arrangement as other small cities were given their own seats. The changes took effect in January.
Yacolt opposed the new arrangement at the time. Mayor Jeff Carothers said this week that the rotating representation would allow all three jurisdictions a chance to sit at the table.
“If it’s supposed to be a shared seat, then let’s share the seat,” Carothers said. One city could also defer to another if they choose to, he said.
Ridgefield and La Center have balked at the rotating schedule because they argue it doesn’t reflect the relative contribution each municipality makes to C-Tran. They’ve also favored experience — Irish, for example, has served on the C-Tran board for 12 years.
Should population be factor?
A recent letter from the two cities’ attorneys noted Ridgefield and La Center are much larger and contribute more ridership and revenue to C-Tran than Yacolt. The letter suggested that the three municipalities could choose their representative each year in a vote that could be weighted by population — a model Yacolt says would eliminate any real chance for it to occupy the seat.
In any case, the person representing La Center, Ridgefield and Yacolt on the C-Tran board should state the positions of all three on the record for a given issue, Carothers said.
“Just because we’re the smallest in the county doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be represented as much as anyone else,” Carothers said.
This year, Irish has reached out to both Ridgefield and Yacolt to allow each to raise any concerns before C-Tran’s monthly board meetings. Before this year, La Center and Ridgefield long shared a C-Tran board seat as a pair. They’re also served by the same C-Tran Connector service.
“We always had pretty open communication,” said Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow.
It’s unclear who would occupy the C-Tran board seat now shared by La Center, Ridgefield and Yacolt if the three can’t come to an agreement. Jurisdictions typically notify C-Tran of their representatives near the end of each year for the following year.
For now, C-Tran has indicated it will assume Irish is the designee until it hears otherwise. Onslow is currently Irish’s alternate on the board. But discussions about the future are ongoing.
“We’ll figure it out,” Onslow said.