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.

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