“You’ve got to know when you have your votes”

Sometimes it’s best to quit while you’re ahead.

Clark County Commissioner David Madore appeared to have majority support for a transit-related resolution during this week’s C-Tran board meeting, only to see it evaporate during deliberation.

Madore had introduced a resolution calling for C-Tran to “discuss, consider, and courteously regard” the outcome of last week’s advisory vote on bus rapid transit. C-Tran is pursuing a $53 million version of the enhanced bus system on Vancouver’s Fourth Plain corridor.

The nonbinding advisory measure asked if Clark County commissioners should oppose all such projects unless they’re first approved by voters. The measure overwhelmingly passed.

Madore, and others, have said C-Tran can learn from that result, particularly in the agency’s service district. County Commissioner Steve Stuart was among those who said C-Tran should use that information when it reaches the next major decision point on the project.

Sounds reasonable enough. Then things got personal.

As Madore continued making his case for the resolution, he singled out Stuart. That led to this tense exchange:

Madore: “Commissioner Stuart, I spoke with you on the phone. You guaranteed me when you were running for re-election that you’re going to give a vote to the people.”

Stuart: “And they got one.”

Madore: “It should mean something.”

Stuart: “It does. The sales tax didn’t go up. You’re welcome.”

Madore: “This isn’t about sales tax.”

Stuart: “It’s not about me, either, so please keep it to the issue.”

The two were referring to last year’s C-Tran ballot measure, when voters rejected a sales tax hike to help pay for light rail and bus rapid transit.

Madore continued: “This is about each of us listening to and serving as representatives of the people who have spoken loud and clear. So the first step in this is to at least courteously consider what has been said. So I’ll be voting yes for this. I would think that if we’re going to count ourselves as representatives of the people, at least we would take that step.”

Stuart, clearly miffed by now, sealed the result:

“I was actually going to be voting yes, but you just talked me out of voting yes, so thank you for that. Sometimes you’ve got to know when you have your votes and when you don’t, and you haven’t quite learned that yet. And that’s OK, you will. I absolutely will not be supporting this now, because it has become clear to me that this is a political game and not about policy and the vote that was taken. So unfortunately, I’m going to be voting no instead of yes. Oh well.”

Vancouver City Councilor Larry Smith had heard enough. He called for the question, a procedural move that ends debate on a subject.

“Why would you call the question?” Madore said. “This is an opportunity for every person here to explain why we wouldn’t consider the vote of the people.”

Smith responded: “Mr. Madore, I’m tired of being lectured by you, and degraded by you, and that’s my problem.”

The resolution failed by a 5-4 tally.

But for the record, Stuart’s apparent switch didn’t change the outcome. Even if he’d cast the fifth yes vote, all three Vancouver City Council votes were a no — which would have triggered a veto if they were in the minority.

That’s a debate for another day.

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