Camas, Battle Ground: Dancing by themselves
A good negotiation is like a dance in which neither partner leads, both attempt not to step on each other’s toes — except as a passive aggressive ploy — and everyone leaves frustrated.
But you can’t dance if there’s no partner. And nowhere is that more evident than in Camas and Battle Ground, where the cities are looking to negotiate conditions wherein the cities have their own representation on the C-Tran Board of Directors. The cities plan to do so at a C-Tran board composition review meeting Tuesday. Those meetings, which review changes to the board, take place every four years.
In Camas’ case, the city has long been frustrated that it has to share a spot on the board with Washougal. The neighboring cities alternate representation on the board every year. This year it’s Washougal’s turn to take the lead. Washougal City Councilwoman Connie Jo Freeman acts as representation for both cities (a situation that doesn’t please everyone), while Camas City Councilwoman Linda Dietzman is the alternate
Citing its status as the second largest city in the county, which provides ample remuneration to C-Tran in the form of property taxes, Camas believes it can make the case for separating itself from the other small cities. “We view it as a taxation representation thing,” Camas Mayor Scott Higgins said. “We pay so much into the system, and so we want a seat at the table.”
Currently, the nine-member board is composed of three directors from small cities (each representing two), three Vancouver city councilors and all three county commissioners. A county commissioner and Vancouver city councilor would have to agree to give up their seats so Camas and Battle Ground could have their own.
This is what we call a zero sum game. The cities’ gain would come at the expense of Vancouver and the county. Making things more difficult, the C-Tran board would have to approve the change and, according to fellow maven (and fount of C-Tran knowledge) Eric Florip, it may be a tough sell. Vancouver and Clark County have bloc veto power on the board.
The challenges are not lost on Higgins “I’d be surprised if Vacouver gave (up a C-Tran seat),” he said. “And I’d be surprised if Clark County gave it up.”
In a January letter to Jeff Hamm, executive director of C-Tran, Battle Ground City Manager Jon Williams laid out the city’s case for having its own representation. In the letter, Williams points out that Battle Ground has more than doubled its population since 1998, the last time the board’s composition changed.
Furthermore, there’s a “clear disparity between the City of Battle Ground and the Town of Yacolt, yet the jurisdictions share representation,” Williams writes.
Tuesday’s meeting will start at 5 p.m. at the Vancouver Community Library in the Columbia Room. We’ll see who’s dancing after that.