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CRC update: Will Saltzman’s lack of support turn the tide at Council?

Posted by on July 2nd, 2008 at 1:52 pm

“…he’s “seriously considering” not supporting the resolution at all.”
–from a Portland Mercury story about Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s position on the CRC project.

A week from today (July 9th), Portland City Council will take an important vote on the Columbia River Crossing project. On June 24th, in advance of a meeting of the CRC Task Force, the entire Council signed onto a letter of support for a project option that many believe would lead to a $4.2 billion, 12-lane mega-bridge.

But as of today, according to the Portland Mercury, one member of Council is now getting cold feet.

From the Mercury:

“Commissioner Sam Adams’ office is busy circulating the city council’s proposed resolution on the Columbia River Crossing, soliciting co-sponsors from the rest of the council before the 5 pm filing deadline.

They won’t be getting Commissioner Dan Saltzman’s sponsorship. In fact, he’s “seriously considering” not supporting the resolution at all, according to his chief of staff Brendan Finn, due to concerns that the council will throw away its ability to watchdog the massive project and hold it to strong environmental standards…”

Apparently Saltzman is worried that the language in the Council’s resolution is too weak in terms of how much oversight of the project they will retain once their “yes” vote is logged.

They way this complex process works is that once Portland approves the “locally preferred alternative” (which is what they will be doing next week), the state transportation agencies (WSDOT and ODOT) will have the blessing to plan and build a freeway which many think will be too big, will cost too much, and will not be the right move for our region.

At the recent meeting of the CRC Task Force, Commissioner Sam Adams wanted to guarantee more local oversight (essentially, veto power if necessary), but he was not successful.

The Oregonian put it like this:

“Adams proposed the local agencies should have veto authority over major project decisions, such as the number of lanes. Instead, the task force agreed to call for an oversight committee that “strives for consensus.””

And now it seems like that’s not good enough for Saltzman. According to the Mercury, he wants to make sure that independent analysis of greenhouse gas emissions and the “induced demand” phenomenon are guaranteed to be part of the process going forward.

Some might remember Saltzman’s surprise “no” vote on the Sauvie Island Bridge relocation project. His reasons for that were also about maintaining power within a contractual agreement.

After their letter of support for the project to the Task Force back in June, conventional wisdom was that the Council would support the project from here on out. However, with Saltzman’s seeming lack of support, and after getting bullied by the Task Force, perhaps the tide at Council is turning.

All Saltzman needs is two other council members to join him, and they could throw a serious wrench in the CRC machine. Mercury reporter Amy Ruiz — who’s been covering this issue closely for months — says, “I think there’s a good chance Saltzman might find the support.”


In other CRC News:
— Economist Joe Cortright (who opposes the CRC) and Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder (he supports it) laid out their arguments about the project at the City Club of Portland last Friday. You can listen to the MP3 of that debate here.
— Transportation activist Chris Smith has uncovered what he thinks might be another serious roadblock to the CRC. Read more about it on his blog, PortlandTransport.com.

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21 Comments
  • Avatar
    Kronda July 2, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    Wow. Nice to see what might be a real obstacle in the path of this overgrown juggernaut.

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    ambrown July 2, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    At the risk of being redundant, I want to repost my comment from the Merc\’s blogtown to the bikeportland community.
    Now\’s the chance to make a move!

    Demand of your city council that they support Saltzman. Considering that the BTA and Metro are unwilling to stand up to ODOT and a self-destructive desire for perilously expensive automobile infrastructre, maybe the city of Portland\’s elected officials can stand up for the interest of its citizens and not spend $4.2 BILLION on a enormous 12 lane bridge that encourages suburban sprawl, congestion, and climate change.

    Send your council leaders an email!

    mayorpotter@ci.portland.or.us
    sadams@ci.portland.or.us
    Nick@ci.portland.or.us
    randy@ci.portland.or.us

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    Diogo July 2, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    That\’s some good news!

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    BURR July 2, 2008 at 3:01 pm

    any project that looks like poop and smells like poop probably is poop

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    007 July 2, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Go Saltzman! Thanks for looking out for Portland. The CRC will not benefit Portlanders in any way.

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    Jeremiah July 2, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    This is HUGE news. The first chink in the armor of the pro-Big-Bridge forces.

    I work for Environment Oregon–we\’re mostly focused on state and federal global warming policy. But this proposal is such a monster, threatening Portland\’s ability to meet global warming pollution reduction goals, that we\’re now putting time and energy into trying to stop this.

    If anyone wants a super easy way to email city council, go here:
    http://www.environmentoregon.org/www/action/global-warming/big-bridge

    You can use our sample letter or write your own, and it\’ll go to all 5 of \’em.

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    Steve G July 2, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Better yet, CALL THEM.

    Mayor Tom Potter503-823-4120
    Commissioner Sam Adams 503-823-3008
    Commissioner Nick Fish 503-823-3589
    Commissioner Randy Leonard 503-823-4682

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    John Reinhold July 2, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Portland Transport has pointed out another CRC potential roadblock:

    The RTP is being ammended…

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    Dave Sohigian July 2, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    I am with Steve G: Call them. I just called each of the commissioners in no more than 10 minutes. Also be sure to ring Dan Saltzman and let him know you support his efforts.
    Dan Saltzman\’s number is: 503-823-4151

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    Matthew Denton July 2, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    There is absolutely no reason that the CRC task force shouldn\’t be willing to grant the city veto power into the next phase based on the city council\’s concerns.

    Unless the CRC task force was planning on ignoring those concerns in the first place…

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    Metal Cowboy July 2, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Yes! Call AND email all of them!

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    Mark Riskedahl July 2, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    Many thanks to the legal team at the Pacific Environmental Advocacy Center at Lewis and Clark Law School for the many hours expended drafting these comments raking the CRC proposal over the coals:

    http://www.lclark.edu/org/nedc/objects/PEAC_NEDC_CRC_DEIS_Comments.pdf

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    007 July 2, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Everybody, this is critical! Please call or email the city council members ASAP. This story and some of the posts have provided links that make it easy for you to do so.

    We must stop the CRC or our way of life is doomed and we bicyclists will be breathing air more polluted than we are now – during construction and after – IF the behemoth gets built.

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    steve July 2, 2008 at 10:26 pm

    Isn\’t Sam Adams great! Where is all your mindless, thoughtless praise now?

    Well?

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    kg July 3, 2008 at 7:59 am

    Yes,

    If only Sho Dozono were here we would be saved. I think not. But thanks for the insults.

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    Lance P July 3, 2008 at 8:23 am

    I just called and left a message with all four.

    Mayor Tom Potter 503-823-4120
    Commissioner Sam Adams 503-823-3008
    Commissioner Nick Fish 503-823-3589
    Commissioner Randy Leonard 503-823-4682

    here is my message:

    Hello, I would like to speak with xxx.

    My name is xxx and I live in portland, OR

    I was calling to urge you to reject the CRC project. This project stands for everything Oregon is not. This bridge should be build in LA and not in the Portland. As a city we are trying to promote livable and walkable areas, not urban sprawl. We should start tolling the current bridge and use that money to build a light rail, bike, and pedestrian crossing only. At worst case scenario we should only support a bridge with NO more than current capacity. We need to put the people of this great city first. When business comes first, people always loose.

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    Brad July 3, 2008 at 9:00 am

    RE: Incoming Mayor Sam

    NEVER underestimate the power of political expediency once a politician has secured your vote. Interesting that he killed the Flanders Street Crossing within a few days of the ballot deadline after most bike voters had likely returned their\’s checked for Sam. Now that he is mayor-elect, he\’s suddenly in love with the CRC (probably because if he rubber stamps CRC he\’ll get no auto / oil lobby resistance for a watered down \”Safe and Green\” streets initiative.).

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    steve July 3, 2008 at 10:25 am

    kg-

    That you feel your options were only sho and sam is the problem. How sad to live your life according to someone elses script.

    But again I ask, why did you all support sam again? I was asking back before the election too, and no one ever had a reasonable answer.

    Go sam! Go CRC!

    I suppose sheep will always need a shepherd.

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    ellene July 3, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Don\’t forget to email Dan and thank him for his stance against this mess!

    dan@ci.portland.or.us

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    revphil July 5, 2008 at 9:53 am

    i done emailed! thanks for reporting on this jonathan

    if you really feel strongly about this come to the city council hearing this Wednesday, June 9th @ 2pm and speak your mind.

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    Donna July 7, 2008 at 2:37 pm

    My letter:

    July 7, 2008

    Dear Commissioner Saltzman,

    I just wanted to take the time to thank you for your brave and bold stance against the CRC plan as it currently stands. I have attended more than one community meeting on this project, and the more I’ve thought about it, the more it alarms me.

    There are so many reasons to oppose this bridge, and while I am concerned about the effects of this plan as it relates to global warming and the environment, the issue that concerns me the most is this $4.2 billion price tag. As was explained in both public meetings I attended, the plan is for one-third of the cost to come from tolls, one-third from Washington, D.C., and the last third to come from the 2 states as part of their budgets. I heard Councilor Burkholder with my own ears admit that there is no guarantee that the Feds will truly commit to paying for a third of this bridge and that there is a possibility that the $1+ billion would be pretty much all the transportation money the region will see from them for a long time to come. He also acknowledged that with politics being what they are, he doubted the Washington Legislature would contribute much at all – that the Oregon Legislature would most likely have to shoulder the burden for the majority of that one-third.

    I may not be an economist, and I am certainly not a politician, but it seems to me committing to the CRC with the above stipulations means a crippling financial burden for our state during a recession (as we will certainly be in one when construction would be starting). Furthermore, do we really want to take the chance of not being able to receive further money from Washington, D.C. for the upkeep of our infrastructure already in existence and badly in need of repairs for years to come? I’m pretty liberal politically, but supporting this project seems like making a commitment to our region’s inevitable ruin.

    For these reasons, I again want to thank you for your political courage. I know there have been quite a few special interests putting a tremendous amount of pressure on you to support this. This rather powerless individual appreciates your decision more than you will ever know. I can only hope your fellow commissioners and the Mayor are willing to choose what is right over what is easy.

    Respectfully,

    Donna

    CC: Mayor Potter
    Commissioner Adams
    Commissioner Fish
    Commissioner Leonard

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