Playing politics at C-Tran

When the official minutes of this week’s C-Tran board meeting are finalized, you’ll see this phrase:

“Tom Mielke motioned, Tim Leavitt seconded, and motion carried…”

A new political alliance? Well, probably not.

Understand, that’s not noteworthy in itself. Public meetings include plenty of routine votes like approving agendas, honoring retirements and the like. The name on the motion is whoever happened to speak up first. Generally, everybody votes yes on those.

But County Commissioner Mielke’s motion Tuesday carried plenty of weight. The resulting 6-2 vote advanced a proposed bus rapid transit line in Vancouver, which has been the subject of some controversy and uncertainty. The move came over the objections of David Madore, often Mielke’s ally on the three-member Clark County commission, and Washougal City Councilor Connie Jo Freeman.

The result followed an apparent change of heart by Mielke and other board members, who earlier appeared skittish about moving forward with BRT. They cited unresolved legal and financial questions in the wake of last year’s defeat of a ballot measure that would have helped pay for it. Mielke and others suggested delaying action until those issues are sorted out.

(On a related note, several C-Tran board members seem to be rather fond of the phrase “cart before the horse.”)

The board ultimately decided to keep BRT on track, leaving itself an out with other decision points still to come. But not before a somewhat terse exchange between Madore and his other colleague on the county commission, Steve Stuart.

Madore, as he often has, characterized last year’s vote as a rejection of BRT and light rail, and said local leaders should heed that message. He challenged Stuart directly at one point, bringing up a campaign promise from Stuart’s last run for office in 2010. Stuart said Madore should have his facts straight “before you call me out.”

The exchange didn’t last long. Vancouver City Councilor Larry Smith and other board members were having none of it.

“You can take your arguments back to your own commission,” Smith said.

Mielke made his motion not long after. Vancouver Mayor Leavitt offered a second. It’s likely not the first time the two have paired to carry an agenda item, but we’ll call it a rarity.

Eric Florip

Eric Florip

I'm the environment/transportation reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. Contact me at or 360-735-4541.

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