What’s in a mission statement?

It’s displayed on the wall during every board meeting at C-Tran headquarters. Most of the time, it goes unmentioned. We give you, C-Tran’s mission statement:

“Provide safe, reliable, efficient mobility choices.”

Seems innocuous enough. But that statement, adopted in 2001, became the unexpected center of attention at this week’s C-Tran board meeting. A few members wrestled over the mission, its effectiveness, even its wording — all in a discussion about a new electronic fare system.

Stay with me.

Clark County Commissioner David Madore, attending his first C-Tran meeting as a board member, had hoped to delay action on an agreement with TriMet and Portland Streetcar to carry the concept forward. He questioned whether the system serves C-Tran’s customers and, yes, its mission.

At one point, Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt pointed to the wall, saying the proposal is a perfectly appropriate way to carry out C-Tran’s goal. Madore wasn’t convinced. Maybe it’s time to re-examine the mission statement itself, he said.

“That is so broad, it turns out to be meaningless,” Madore said. “We never know when we’re missing the mark.”

The conversation eventually got back to electronic fares. Madore moved to delay action. But only Washougal City Councilor Connie Jo Freeman and County Commissioner Tom Mielke sided with him. That resulted in a failed 6-3 vote.

The subsequent vote to actually approve the fare system agreement came out as a 7-2 tally. That’s because Mielke switched sides, voting to carry the proposal forward only moments after voting to delay it.

For the record, Mielke didn’t flip.

“I flopped,” he said.

Eric Florip

Eric Florip

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

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