The Futility of Citizen Involvement at the CRC

Back in 2009 I griped about a Columbia River Crossing Project Sponsors Council meeting where citizens were limited to one minute of testimony and several citizens were actually ejected by a zealous security guard.

I expected better from Metro, I really did. Today the Council considered whether to deem that the project had met the conditions imposed by Metro in their 2008 Locally Preferred Alternative adoption.

I had a plan. I was going to show up early, get an early testimony slot, then go home and watch the remainder of the meeting on cable while I got some work done. I had also committed to my friend Joe Cortright that I would enter a letter from him into the record since he could not attend.

As I signed up (#1 on the stack of testimony cards) I was disappointed to see that testimony would be limited to one minute (I was told by order of President Hughes).

I was shocked when testimony began to have President Hughes say that everyone who had submitted written testimony was being moved to the end of the testifier list. And I found out very quickly that Joe’s letter, submitted in advance by e-mail, put me on that list. Suddenly I was #25.

I came very close to storming out, but came to the sad realization that since testimony was capped at 1 minute, I wouldn’t have to wait that long.

Now I understand the reason for the one minute limit. What’s the point in taking time to listen to people you’ve already decided to vote against? My count is that of the 33 people who testified, 4 advocated in favor of adoption of the resolution and 6 (many from Hayden Island) indicated some level of concern about the project or its details without indicating outright opposition.

That means that 23 people, or more than 2/3rds of those testifying, expressed opposition, most in very strong terms.

Nonetheless the Council voted 5-1 to cancel its leverage over the project.

What’s particularly amazing is that several Councilors voted in favor over substantial concerns. Councilor Roberts described this as “a leap of faith” and said she had “never been enthusiastic about this bridge”.

Councilor Craddick is reported to have said (I have this second hand because Portland Community Media cut off the broadcast when it went past their scheduled time slot): “if I had my druthers I would like to vote no, but I don’t think it’s the wisest decision to make at this time.”

The only wisdom I saw was from Councilor Hosticka, the lone no vote.

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