A tale of two meetings

As Camas and Washougal work to either meld or further expand the two cities’ combined services — fire departments, municipal courts, animal control services, blah blah blah — there’s one partnership that some Camas city councilors believe could be better left up to the individual cities: Representation on the C-Tran Board of Directors.

Well, sorta. I’ll get to that.

Representation on the board has become something of a bugaboo recently, given how contentious the CRC is. Clark County’s small cities partner to share representation on the board, based on geographical proximity — Yacolt and Battle Ground, La Center and Ridgefield, Camas and Washougal — with a councilor from one of the cities acting as the voice of both, and a councilor from the other city serving as the alternate.

The system doesn’t always run smoothly. Yacolt made a half-hearted attempt to dump Battle Ground City Councilor Bill Ganley as its representative at the beginning of the year because some town officials weren’t entirely happy with him. The Town Council eventually backtracked on that.

Although Camas hasn’t done anything that drastic, there’s been some frustration voiced among city councilors about Washougal City Councilor Connie Jo Freeman’s role on the C-Tran board. But at what decibel Camas’ councilors voice that frustration depends on whether Freeman is in the room.

Take for example two recent Camas City Council meetings — one Freeman attended, one she didn’t.

Meeting No.1, April 1 (Freeman didn’t attend): Camas councilors discussed a visit Freeman would make to the city in two weeks to talk about joint representation on the C-Tran board, including what that role entails.

And that’s when the grousing began. City Councilor Greg Anderson started things off, saying he was “frustrated” by a lack of communication between Freeman and the Camas City Council.

“It needs to get better; I don’t know what better is,” Anderson said. “I do know there’s some indication that C-Tran could be reorganized at the board level for a Camas seat … I would be willing to invest in that.”

When told that such a change would take buy-in from a higher authority at the state, Anderson responded, “I know my way to Olympia. I’m to that level of frustration.”


Other councilors appeared to agree. They were perturbed that Freeman had voted against moving forward on a proposed bus rapid transit line in Vancouver last month (it inevitably passed) without explaining the vote, or rationale behind it, ahead of time. County Commissioner David Madore was the only other C-Tran board member to vote against it.

Councilors agreed on one word for the situation: Frustrating.

“What’s especially frustrating is it was a day after we just had a communication here,” Camas Councilor Shannon Turk said.

Meeting no. 2, April 15 (Freeman attended):

At a Camas workshop meeting Monday, Freeman came by to update the council about her work on the C-Tran board.

At the meeting, councilors voiced some dissatisfaction about how the votes went down, but it was tempered. Gone was talk of giving Camas its own representation on the C-Tran board, with Mayor Scott Higgins prefacing the meeting by saying, “I want to remind the council we’ve already discussed how unfortunate and ineffective our shared seats are,” adding that it wasn’t the time to go into more detail about that.

He added at the end of the meeting, addressing Freeman: “We are all very aware it’s very difficult to communicate in the same way you might communicate with your (Washougal) council with us because of the limitations of the process we have.”

So, uh, where exactly did the frustration go?

Maybe we’re reading too much into this. But somewhere along the way, the tenor of the discussion changed.

Tyler Graf

Tyler Graf

I started working for The Columbian in 2012 and currently cover Clark County. I'm a 2007 graduate of The University of Oregon. Contact me at tyler.graf@columbian.com

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