Are Oregon transportation officials selective in who they want to hear from in Clark County?

Ken Vance Editorial Clarkcountytoday.comCommittee shuns recommended appointment of County Councilor Eileen Quiring after naming County Chair Marc Boldt instead

VANCOUVER — We’re getting the first indicators as to whether or not our transportation friends across the Columbia River sincerely want to hear from Clark County elected officials and leaders on the subject of Oregon’s plans to place tolls on I-5 and I-205.

The Portland Region value pricing policy advisory committee was recently formed and is scheduled to have its first of six meetings on Nov. 20. The committee, made up mostly of Oregonians, will provide a recommendation to the Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) on a number of issues, including whether or not, and even how to, place tolls on the two transportation corridors between Oregon and Washington.

Oregon lawmakers have proposed tolls on I-205 and I-5 to help pay for that state’s $5.3 billion transportation bill, which includes $450 million in improvements near the Rose Quarter (shown here). Photo by Mike Schultz
Oregon lawmakers have proposed tolls on I-205 and I-5 to help pay for that state’s $5.3 billion transportation bill, which includes $450 million in improvements near the Rose Quarter (shown here). Photo by Mike Schultz

Thanks in large part to the urging of Washington lawmakers, U.S. Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler and Sen. Patty Murray, Washington will be represented on the advisory committee.

Kris Strickler, the Southwest Regional Director for the Washington State Department of Transportation, was originally given a seat on the committee as a non-voting member. At a Tuesday meeting of the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Committee (RTC), Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Region One Manager Rian Windsheimer said Oregon officials had agreed to make Strickler a voting member and that should happen at a commission meeting later this month.

The other representatives from Washington who will join Strickler on the committee, which is expected to include up to 20 Oregonians, is not clear after some confusing announcements this week.

At Monday’s Vancouver City Council meeting, members of that council unanimously appointed Anne McEnerny-Ogle to represent that body on the Oregon committee. The next day, at the RTC meeting, Windsheimer provided a news release confirming McEnerny-Ogle’s spot on the committee.

Regional Transportation Council (10-03-17). Click to view clip.
County Chair Marc Boldt speaks at Tuesday’s Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Committee meeting. Click to view the video clip.

Prior to the action of the Vancouver City Council, members of the Clark County Board of Councilors had tabbed Councilor Eileen Quiring as its representative to the Oregon committee. However, when Windsheimer provided the list of committee members at Tuesday’s RTC meeting, the Clark County Council representative was listed as Chair Marc Boldt, who said he had no desire to serve on the committee.

“The county was put on this committee right from the start,’’ Boldt told Thursday. “I told the regional ODOT person as I am the point person in our search for a county manager I don’t have time for it. I’m the lead on that so I would like somebody else to serve.’’

Boldt said he was “mystified’’ as to why he was placed on the committee instead of Quiring.

“I found out Mayor (Timothy) Leavitt had appointed Anne and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t appoint Eileen,’’ Boldt said.

Boldt told Thursday that after Tuesday’s RTC meeting he has sent a second letter to Oregon officials reaffirming the councilors’ decision to have Quiring serve on the Oregon committee.

“I told the director ‘I’m not coming, so if you want us at the table, Eileen is the person we picked,’’’ said Boldt, who indicated he his awaiting a response to his letter.

At Tuesday’s RTC meeting, Boldt offered even more insight as to why he didn’t want to serve on the Oregon committee.

“This committee scares the heck out of me to even be near it,’’ Boldt said. “It’s a no-win thing to even vote for tolls. If I say I’m going to vote ‘no’ regardless, I’m going to put you in a bind and I’m going to put everyone else in a bind. I’m a ‘no’ so I don’t know what I’m going to add to the conversation. I’m not your guy. I will let you know that right now.’’

Quiring had no problem voicing her thoughts on the matter in an email response to Thursday.

“I don’t know if it will be reversed, but I am not happy about it at all,’’ Quiring said in the email. “Marc sent a letter appointing me but they are ignoring it and the representative from ODOT Region One told Marc that ‘we don’t want her, she will vote no.’’’

Quiring was pleased that Boldt had sent the second letter to Oregon officials. She too planned to object herself to the recent decision.

“I’m about ready to call the director of ODOT or have also been thinking about checking who sits on the Senate (or House) Transportation Committee in the Oregon Legislature to see if I can find someone I served with over there to put some pressure on the director to stop this total insanity,’’ said Quiring, who previously served in the Oregon House of Representatives (1995-1997) and the Oregon State Senate (1997-2001). “I have never in my political career had anyone ‘visibly’ do this.  I am a duly elected person and for this bureaucrat to decide I cannot serve on this committee is just totally unacceptable.’’

Windsheimer expressed the position of the OTC in a Thursday email response to ClarkCountyToday.

The Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) empowered ODOT Director Matt Garrett to appoint members to the Value Pricing Advisory Committee,’’ Windsheimer wrote. “Back on September 5th the attached letter was sent appointing Chair Boldt, who is responsible for representing all Clark County residents, not a single district as other councilors do, to be on that Committee. The chair’s transportation experience and position put him in the best position to share Value Pricing Committee information with the residence [sic] of all Clark County districts and to represent them on the Committee.

“You’d need to inquire with the County as to why the Board took the action they did since Chair Boldt was already appointed to the Committee,’’ Windsheimer continued. “My understanding is that the Chair had accepted the position, but as you describe, the Board sent us a letter proposing something different.  I have reached out to Chair Boldt to ensure we’re on the same page but have not had the opportunity to fully discuss the matter with him yet.’’

Windsheimer wouldn’t speculate if a change would be made.

“As it stands today County Chair Boldt is the committee member representing Clark County, however, if the Board feels strongly that another member is better qualified to represent the views of all Clark County Residents on this important transportation issue I think we would want to discuss and understand their reasoning before making a change,’’ Windsheimer wrote. “Our objective is to run an inclusive, open and transparent process.  While only Committee members are allowed a vote, we encourage and welcome everyone interested in this issue to learn more about the alternatives as they are developed and put forward for consideration.’’

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