Camas lobbies for its own spot on C-Tran Board

City currently shares a seat with Washougal

The city of Camas would like to have its own seat on the C-Tran Board.

That was the message delivered by Camas Mayor Scott Higgins on June 11, during a meeting of the C-Tran Board’s Composition Review Committee.

Higgins said over the years Camas, with a current population of 20,020, has grown to become the second largest city in Clark County. It’s seen a substantial amount of economic growth, including new jobs and residential housing. There is currently one job for every three citizens, he said.

“Our needs may be different than other communities, so therefore we would respectfully like to be added to the mix as having a place on this board,” Higgins said.

Currently, Camas shares with Washougal one seat on the nine-member board of elected officials. The current delegate is Washougal City Councilwoman Connie Jo Freeman, who has served in that position since 2012. The alternate is Camas City Councilwoman Linda Dietzman. Camas and Washougal have an inter-local agreement stipulating that the cities will alternate representation every two years.

“Our citizens do not have representation, because they are sharing it with others,” Higgins stated. “Purely, what you see is a group of faithful revenue payers to the system, who don’t have a voice in their own city representing them. There is something that doesn’t sit right with our City Council, as well as our community, with that.”

Currently, the C-Tran Board’s bylaws stipulate that it has nine voting members — 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. The board provides policy and legislative direction for C-Tran and its administration.

Vancouver and Clark County also hold bloc veto power on the board.

During the June 11 committee meeting, County Commissioner David Madore proposed changing the C-Tran Board to include 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.

He suggested that allowing the smaller cities to have their own board members would provide better representation throughout the county’s incorporated areas.

“It’s just simply a matter of sharing the power,” he said. “Making sure that every municipality ends up with adequate representation.”

The Composition Review Committee, which convenes every four years, last met in 2009. At that time, there was some discussion about making changes to the board’s makeup, but ultimately the decision was made to retain the current representation.

Battle Ground Mayor Lisa Walters said her city’s elected leadership has expressed some of the same feelings and concerns as those communicated by Higgins. The last time any changes were made to the C-Tran Board composition was in 1998.

“The county has grown a lot in that amount of time,” Walters said. “I don’t think any of us small cities are asking for anybody to give up anything. We are just asking for fair representation out in our areas.”

She suggested that there may be some resistance to giving the smaller cities more of a say on the C-Tran Board.

“It seems like there is a giant power struggle,” she said. “I don’t quite understand where it’s at and why just giving up a seat and giving representation to the rest of the cities that reside in the county and a voice on the board make people so nervous. That’s really what I’m after. That’s a concern of mine.”

C-Tran Executive Director Jeff Hamm said during the next few weeks C-Tran staff would be compiling background information, including a breakdown of revenues, service hours, ridership and other information about each jurisdiction based on geographic area.

The next Composition Review Committee meeting will be held Tuesday, July 9, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m., at the Vancouver Community Library’s Columbia Room, 901 “C” St. A regular meeting of the C-Tran Board will follow.

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, Hamm said.