North County will have their representative in the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council at the top seat of the body as Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow has been named the chair of the council for 2018.
Onslow was the vice-chair of the RTC in 2017 and will be taking the true chair following a vote by the body Dec. 5 to have him in that position. Onslow is the North County representative of the 14-member board, representing Battle Ground, Yacolt, La Center and Ridgefield.
Previously Clark County Councilor Jeanne Stewart had sat in the chair position. Onslow explained that there was a sort of rotation regarding who chairs the council, with those from less densely populated areas generally alternating with bigger entities to balance out the board’s voice.
Apart from Clark County, there are representatives from Skamania and Klickitat counties as well, and even one from the Oregon Metro board which governs the Oregon side of the Portland metropolitan area. Onslow seemed humbled at receiving the appointment.
“Taking on the chair of the RTC is an honor, and I am very happy that the board put their trust in me,” Onslow said.
He explained that the board’s major goal was solving transportation problems affecting constituent jurisdictions.
“Almost every locale has some sort of an issue that they would like to address. The RTC represents that,” Onslow said, adding that it was the council’s task to identify which projects were at the forefront.
Although a prominent position, Onslow said that as chair he would likely do more listening than talking. His chief task was to run the meetings, which in his capacity as mayor of Ridgefield he has experience.
“When you run a meeting, a lot of times you don’t get to say a whole lot,” he said. “Everybody else gets to say something first. It’s not like the chair breaks in and gives his opinion.”
“Which is right,” Onslow added. “If you are going to run the meeting you need to move it around so that everybody gets their opinion out there, and then you get to say something if you like.”
One of the most recent decisions the board is facing is whether or not to take a stance on proposed tolling of interstate bridges, which several local and regional officials have decried as an attempt to fleece commuting Washingtonians to fund projects that only Oregon would benefit from. Port of Vancouver Commissioner and outgoing RTC Councilor Jerry Oliver had pushed for the council to take a stance over tolling, but during the body’s Dec. 5 meeting it was decided that such a resolution would be tabled until Jan. 2, citing lack of time to review. As to how the vote goes, Onslow said it was up to whatever information the board had received.
“The give and take on that was should we address this now when the meetings have just started,” Onslow said, referencing a committee Oregon has put together (including some Washington representation) to look at so-called “value pricing” opportunities allowed under Oregon legislation passed in 2017. “They basically had only introduced themselves to each other and talked about what their agenda might be. They hadn’t even gotten to any discussion on the tolling itself.”
“All of Clark County is experiencing growth, but the North County especially so,” Onslow, who is the mayor of one of the fastest growing cities in the state, said.
In the position he feels that northern voices would be heard more strongly and the RTC will tackle key issues.
“I want to address anything that comes before us, and I want to take things head-on,” Onslow remarked. “I don’t want to have the RTC just sit back and not take action on things.”
“It doesn’t mean it’s controversial, it just means let’s not avoid problems; let’s see if we can’t solve those problems,” Onslow said. “That’s how we’ve done it here in North County and that’s what I’d like to see (the council) do also.”