Manipulating Citizen Input and Free Speech at the CRC Meeting

Citizens signing up to testify at this morning’s Project Sponsors Council meeting for the Columbia River Crossing were told that 10-15 names would be selected at random to testify in the limited time available.

This evoked loud protest at the start of the meeting and co-chair Henry Hewitt announced that everyone who signed up would be allowed one minute – I think somewhere between 30-40 people ultimately spoke.

More troubling was the fact that CRC opponents were told that they could not bring placards with opposition slogans into the meeting, and in fact I saw three people removed from the meeting for displaying placards. Local press appear to be all over this – thankfully, as it seems to me a clear violation of first amendment rights. It’s less clear if this action was directed by the CRC project, or by the Port of Portland, in whose building the meeting was held.

My own 60 seconds was focused on the impossibility of judging the proposed project changes under the current “Purpose and Need Statement” which focuses on congestion and does not mention either Global Warming or Peak Oil. Since many of the governments represented on the Council have adopted Climate Action Policies since the Purpose and Need statement was written, I urged the Council to amend the Purpose and Need and then produce a supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement based on the revised objectives.

Much of the testimony was focused on the impacts of the revisions on Hayden Island and some of it was quite emotional.

The meeting itself consisted of a brief review of the proposed cost reductions followed by a lot of positioning by the Council members. Adams and Bragdon successfully pushed for a delay in any action on the recommendation and called for more information and in particular a proposed funding plan.

ODOT Director Matt Garrett was at pains to try to keep the process from being overly delayed, but did not succeed in getting any action today.

There did seem to be general consensus that the Hayden Island concerns needed to be addressed.

Stay tuned in January – meanwhile there will be lots of staff-to-staff meetings…

At the conclusion of the meeting, I joined much of the rest of the room in a standing ovation for Mayor Royce Pollard of Vancouver, who was attending his last Council meeting as Mayor. While I disagree 180 degrees with Pollard on CRC Policy – he again made an impassioned speech for 12 lanes today – I respect him as an honest public servant who narrowly lost re-election, at least in part because he told the truth about what it would take (tolls) to get this project done.

26 responses to “Manipulating Citizen Input and Free Speech at the CRC Meeting”

  1. That must be news to all the economists, chemists, and historians who’ve looked at peak oil. Various peak oil predictions are more contentious and more varied than the broad array of climate science which supports observations and predictions about human-caused climate change, but there is still a lot of evidence out there that we’re headed toward world peak oil production (and have long since passed it in the US) this century. (Tar sands and other theoretical, very expensive means of oil extraction don’t change that.)

    As for CO2 and small cars, of course increasing fuel efficiency will help. But if you double the amount of traffic across the bridge while simultaneously halving the per-vehicle fuel consumption, you’ve accomplished net zero for CO2 reduction. You may have accomplished other goals, but from a CO2 perspective even under ideal conditions and theoretical fleet efficiency improvements, the CRC is lousy.

  2. Getting back to the issue of CRC decision-making, most of the problematic conclusions of the CRC process stem from the defined scope of the project. There are many alternatives (which have all been rehashed here) which were summarily rejected because they were “outside the scope”, such as local arterial connections to get traffic off the freeway, constructing a new railroad bridge to improve freight capacity and to align the “hump” of the bridge to nearly eliminate the need for I-5 bridge lifts, etc.

    While I am encourage that the mayor and other stakeholders are now urging the CRC process to reconsider a number of issues, I’m also discouraged that the statement issued by the mayor also admonished against “rebooting” the process or starting over from scratch.

    But it is the fundamental assumptions of the CRC project, especially with regard to scope, which have led us into this situation.

  3. To add my two cents to the admonishment against “rebooting”, the information and work which has been done would not be abandoned.

    Instead, what would be done is additional work to consider more alternatives–it may turn out that even under more relaxed constraints, the project as specified right now is the best alternative.

    The problem is that many stakeholders want different things, or nothing will be done. ODOT and WSDOT, in particular, want numerous enhancements to I-5 for reasons having nothing to do with local communities to issues, and are likely to block a project not containing these; Portland and Metro want to extend mass transit across the river.


  4. Bob: (Tar sands and other theoretical, very expensive means of oil extraction don’t change that.)
    JK: Actually “expensive means of oil extraction” is an example of what I said:
    To believe in peak oil you have to deny economics, chemistry and history:

    economics (supply goes up, consumption goes down with price)
    That is why we have recently had a series of dramatic announcements of new discoveries – the recent high oil prices have brought much new exploration which has found more supplies.

    chemistry (you can make the stuff)
    The Fischer–Tropsch ( (also: process and the Bergius process (, both used from the 1930s on, make li quid fuels form coal. Methane instead of coal can also be used a starting point. Sasol ( has been producing commercial quantities of oil from both processes for years. Also from natural gas.

    History (Hitler ran a war on manmade oil).
    The Role of Synthetic Fuel In World War II Germany Said this: “The percentage of synthetic fuels compared to the yield from all sources grew from 22 percent to more than 50 percent by 1943″

    Bob: As for CO2 and small cars, of course increasing fuel efficiency will help. But if you double the amount of traffic across the bridge while simultaneously halving the per-vehicle fuel consumption, you’ve accomplished net zero for CO2 reduction.
    JK: How does that defend mass transit – transit uses MORE energy per mile per person than a small car, so moving all those increased people to transit will result in an increase in CO2. Even in high density areas, transit uses more energy per person per mile than small cars.

    Further, with 100 mpg diesels on the horizon, we can look forward to a net reduction in energy use, EVEN WITH A DOUBLING IN DRIVING! This is truly good news for our prosperity as fast, efficient, low cost transportation is one of the foundations of our prosperity.


  5. supply goes up, consumption goes down with price

    You must have some misconception of what people think “peak oil” means, because you’ve just described it 100% accurately in a nutshell, and yet you say you don’t believe in it. Peak Oil means we’re reaching the peak of the production of cheap, easily extracted oil, and when that happens, prices will shoot up. It doesn’t mean the oil will suddenly vanish. It means that it will be difficult to produce and expensive to meet demand. It also means a period of price instability as markets adjust. No flouting of economics required, and your assertions to the contrary (by changing the definition) prove nothing.

    (Aside: If a 100mpg diesel is on the “horizon”, perhaps I can see it from here? Point my binoculars in the right direction please — This is why I referred to your assertions about fleet efficiency as theoretical.)

    Your other oft-repeated, oft-debated claims about theoretical small-car efficiency vs. transit efficiency (and you _never_ predict that transit vehicles will gain efficiency even as you predict that cars will be come incredibly super-efficient) are not a surprise, but please note that I’m keep this thread primarily about CRC policy and won’t let you sidetrack the discussion again with your never-corrected numbers.

    I’ll leave it to economists, chemists, and historians in _other_ venues to work out just how much synthetic oil cost compared to the traditional sort in Hitler’s wartime Germany.

  6. [Moderator: Further side-topic assertions about oil-from-coal removed. Repeated and specifically disallowed assertions about small cars removed. JK, you’re about to earn yourself another comment vacation. Your original assertions and links were allowed to stand, that should be more than sufficient.]

  7. [Moderator: Response to JK’s oil from coal comments removed. CRC governance and planning issues, anyone?]

  8. [Moderator: Further side-debate about 100mpg autos removed. Yes, I’m fully aware of the implied (but not actual) irony of all this comment removal in light of the title of the original post. To prevent clutter, further off-topic comments in this thread may be completely unpublished or deleted.]

  9. [Moderator: Portions containing complaint about moderator action, further off-topic debate about global warming, whether CO2 is a pollutant, peak oil, etc. removed.]

    Aside from all of these things, we really need to stop attempting to influence demand, regardless if it is auto, bike, or transit, and start attempting to accommodate demand. Only then will we have a CRC project that makes sense and gives the best bang for our very limited buck.

  10. And about the meeting. Were any of you outraged that it took place while most of the “stakeholders” were at work?

    The people who actually use the bridge have the most at stake yet they seem to be the most underrepresented.

  11. Why shouldn’t we influence demand, especially if we think that is the sensible thing to do in the long run?

    Sixty years ago, we embarked on a project to significantly influence demand for autos. Why not the other way?

  12. My suspicion is that

    1) public meetings like this seldom have any affect on the process–they’re held for reasons of legal requirement or political expedience;

    2) the meeting time is chosen mainly for the convenience of the expected participants, rather than deliberately trying to discourage participation.

    3) there are other means for public participation (emailing your favorite local politician), which are probably just as (in)effective.

    So there you go.

  13. I’d like to suggest that people email state Reps Nick Kahl and Tina Kotek with concerns about the CRC. I just received a reply from Ms. Kotek, which was nice, except that she seems to believe that doubling the capacity of I-5 will somehow “address” air pollution and congestion in my North Portland neighborhood, which she represents. It seems she could use some encouragement towards critical thinking on that one..

    And Mr. Kahl was recently quoted saying (basically) that now that the 12-lane bridge will be striped for 10 lanes, he is suddenly in favor of the CRC. Wha?

  14. [Moderator: Complaint about moderator action and justifications as to why moderator was incorrect removed. The topic here is how the CRC is managing this process, and what can be done about it. It is only tangentially about CO2 or Peak Oil, and you’ve had your say and your original statement stands. That’s enough. Not your blog, JK. I’m now signing all these moderator comments so that people can better discern who is doing them. All of the moderator actions in this thread have been by me. — Bob R.]

  15. [Moderator: Comment responding to JK’s small cars assertion removed. The small cars side-topic is closed for this thread.]

  16. [Moderator: Comment alleging the irony of comment moderation in a thread with this topic title removed. This concept has already been noted. Please stick to the topic. – Bob R.]

  17. So Chris, do you think we should apply the same standard to the Sellwood Bridge?

    The purpose and need statement does not address climate change. The project will at a minimum support the continued addiction to the automobile to our neighbors to the south. Plus, the City of Portland is about to promise 40% of our new gas tax money for the next 20 years. Think of what we could do with $8million per year going towards alternative modes instead of Clackamas County car commuters.

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