Dead, dormant … or delusional?

I follow “Overheard in the Newsroom” on Twitter, because it produces occasional gems:


This quote came to mind during a July 7 Vancouver City Council meeting, when councilors were discussing whether the three city council representatives on the C-Tran Board of Directors should vote to terminate a contract with TriMet regarding the operation of light rail. (The next day the C-Tran board ended up not taking any action.)

Here’s from the city minutes, which I’m using because it’s too painful for me to go back and listen to the discussion:


Mayor Leavitt explained that C‐TRAN may discuss whether to explore terminating the contract with TriMet regarding CRC light rail transit due to some board members’ apprehensions that allowing the contract to remain active, although idle, could potentially mean the CRC plans for light rail could be implemented if conditions of the contract regarding that project design were eventually met. Council discussed at length the potential risks involved with seeking to terminate a legal agreement with TriMet vs. allowing the contract to sit dormant; the potential of the contract conditions actually being met and the actual viability of the contract at this point; and options for working in partnership with TriMet to determine how to move forward in regards to the viability of the contract. By concurrence, Council directed its C‐TRAN Board representatives to support working in partnership with TriMet to determine the best next steps with the contract and to not support any termination action that would result in legal action against TriMet or would incur a significant cost to C‐TRAN. 

When Leavitt introduced the subject he laughed a bit, as if acknowledging he thinks it’s ridiculous people are pushing to kill a contract for what he called an “idle” project.

Idle? Is that what we’re calling it now?

Councilor Jack Burkman got into the details of the contract, which was specific to the Columbia River Crossing proposal. You know, the one that died in 2013. Then died again this year.

Councilor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said, “The question comes down to, ‘Is CRC dormant, or is CRC dead?'”

“As Councilmember Burkman pointed out, there are so many restrictions that need to happen before this contract is implemented I believe there’s an opportunity to ask TriMet to void the contract,” McEnerny-Ogle said.

“It sounds like Anne hit the nail on the head,” said Councilor Alishia Topper.  “Is CRC dormant, or is it dead? That’s the million-dollar question.”  A lot of resources went into creating that contract, Topper said, “and until that question can be answered with a definitive response, it seems premature to terminate it.”

Wait. That’s a million-dollar question? One that hasn’t been definitively answered?

Let’s hear from Councilor Larry Smith.

“The realist inside of me says that the CRC is dead … I don’t think it’s dormant,” Smith said.

Smith said his No. 1 priority is replacing the Interstate 5 bridge and he thinks the TriMet contract will impede progress to creating partnerships with people who opposed the CRC. But then his inner realist also tells him that Oregon won’t want a replacement bridge without light rail, so it’s no use trying to win over the anti-light rail crowd.

As noted in the minutes, the group agreed to suggest asking TriMet if the contract can be voided with no penalty. (I question the accuracy of the minutes, as I thought councilors wanted assurance there’d be no legal action against C-Tran for terminating the contract, not against TriMet, and Burkman was clear that he wanted no cost, not “no significant cost.”)

But the question, “Dormant or dead?” was answered only by Smith, or at least his “inner realist.”

I guess I don’t understand the meaning of the word “dead.” And that’s fine. The Board of Clark County Commissioners took it upon themselves to define integrity, so the Vancouver City Council can decide to define “dead.”










Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at or 360-735-4508.

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