Committee eyes vote on changes to C-Tran Board

Action could also negate bloc veto

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The elected officials who make up the C-Tran Board Composition Review Committee are now testing the waters with their respective city councils, to get feedback on what, if any, changes should be made to the makeup of the C-Tran Board of Directors.

Following discussions at the committee’s meeting last week, three options are on the table.

The first option would maintain three seats for Vancouver, and then have two for Clark County, one each for Camas, Battle Ground and Washougal, and one combined seat for the three smallest jurisdictions — Ridgefield, La Center and Yacolt.

The second option would produce two representatives each from the Clark County Commission and the Vancouver City Council, and one representative each from Camas, Washougal, Ridgefield and Battle Ground and one for La Center/Yacolt.

The third option would maintain the current composition of three each from the Clark County Commission and the Vancouver City Council, and one each from paired cities and towns: La Center/Ridgefield, Washougal/Camas and Battle Ground/Yacolt.

During last night’s Camas City Council meeting, Mayor Scott Higgins said he favors the first option.

“My proposal would be, in the spirit of being good neighbors to everyone involved, that we weigh in and vote for that option that gives us a seat at the table,” he said. “The process takes away the bloc veto, Vancouver retains three seats, and really the big change is Clark County gives up one, and because they have done that, that allows for Camas, Battle Ground and Washougal to each have their own seats.”

The bloc veto power gives Clark County and the City of Vancouver the ability to reverse any decision made by the rest of the C-Tran Board.

During the Aug. 13 Composition Review Committee meeting, both options that would bring change to the C-Tran Board got opposition from Vancouver City Councilman Bart Hansen, who said he supports the “status quo.”

He pointed out that Vancouver represents a majority of the C-Tran service area’s population as well as its revenue and ridership.

“We by far outweigh any of the other cities represented at this table right now, as far as any of those factors,” he said. “If this were based on anything else, some of us might have a difficult argument in establishing that as being fair.”

Commissioner Steve Stuart said he is not apposed to Clark County giving up one of its votes to the smaller cities.

“This is a regional service,” Stuart said. “The small cities are absolutely essential for this service to be successful, as is the city of Vancouver, as is unincorporated Clark County.”

“The growth isn’t going to happen in unincorporated Clark County,” he added. “By Growth Management it’s going to happen in all of your jurisdictions, not ours.”

Commissioner David Madore said if Clark County is going to give up one of its votes, so should Vancouver.

“The example for us here is to be good neighbors, to share, to lead by example, so that we end up representing the broader community,” he said.

There was also some discussion regarding what would happen to the bloc veto, if the composition of the board is changed.

According to C-Tran Legal Counsel Tom Wolfendale, if any change is made to the number of votes held by Clark County and Vancouver, the bloc veto power essentially disappears.

“The veto depends on the balance in votes between both cities,” he said.

It was an opinion challenged by Madore, who said interpreted the bylaws to say that if three votes were maintained by the City of Vancouver, that jurisdiction would retain bloc veto power.

“It’s my opinion a court would find that the two are inter-dependent,” Wolfendale replied. “They cannot be separate.”

A vote is expected at the next C-Tran Board Composition Committee meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 4 p.m., at the Vancouver Community Library meeting room,

A majority vote of the Composition Review Committee, which is made up of all three Clark County Commissioners and one elected representative from each city/town within C-Tran boundaries, would be needed to make any changes to its structure. A subsequent vote of the C-Tran Board would not be required.

The Composition Review Committee meets every four years. The last time a change was made to the makeup of the C-Tran Board was in 1998.