Musical chairs, C-Tran style

The wheels on the bus go round and round, and so did C-Tran this week when choosing a “con” team to write against this fall’s ballot initiative. Get on board with our transportation reporter Eric Florip’s account:

C-Tran board members found themselves in an unexpected situation this week: in the middle of a meeting, suddenly looking for people who oppose light rail.

As you might imagine, they didn’t have to look very hard.

The board had just finalized a proposed sales tax increase of 0.1 percentage point that would, in part, pay for operating light rail in Vancouver. The extension is planned as part of the Columbia River Crossing project. Voters will decide the fate of the tax hike on Nov. 6.

County rules require C-Tran to appoint two committees — one for, one against — to craft arguments for the fall voters pamphlet. In the pro-measure group are state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard and Tim Kraft.

It had no trouble filling the spots on the other side of the debate, but only after an odd game of musical chairs.

The original picks to argue against the measure were state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, Larry Patella and Debbie Peterson. But Patella apparently sent word before the meeting that he was withdrawing. Peterson verbally did the same during the meeting.

That left two open slots. County Commissioner candidate David Madore, an outspoken critic of the CRC, had already indicated he’d be willing to toss his name in. One slot left.

Anyone else want to oppose a sales tax increase for light rail? Anyone?

Vancouver City Councilor Bill Turlay raised his hand. Bart Hansen, his fellow council member, couldn’t resist a little ribbing.

“The pro side is full, Mr. Turlay,” Hansen said.

Turlay was given the opposition spot after some confusion — turns out, local resident Lynda Wilson had also volunteered — and a “Jeopardy!” theme song serenade while the group conferred. Eventually, the dust settled. Benton, Madore and Turlay. Then Stephanie Turlay, Bill’s wife, jokingly chimed in.

“I object!”

— Eric Florip

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