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CRC update: Astroturf, Alice, and more cheerleading in The Oregonian

Posted by on March 11th, 2013 at 4:21 pm

Graphic from Washington For CRC on Facebook.

If reports on Twitter are to be trusted, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber is all set to sign The CRC Bill (HB 2800) into law on Tuesday. While that’s no surprise, there are a few other items related to the Columbia River Crossing project that have recently caught our eye.

— A reader has tipped us off to WashingtonForCRC.org and what looks like a classic astroturf campaign. And by that I mean a corporate PR effort made to seem like an organic, grassroots lobbying effort. Now that Oregon has effectively signed-off on it, it looks like the pushers of this controversial mega-project have wasted no time trying to improve public sentiment on other side of the river. It’s a smart move, given that if the project’s outlook doesn’t improve in Washington soon, it won’t move forward. WashingtonForCRC.org comes complete with a super-slick website listing “facts” about the project (which are taken directly from paid CRC consultants’ talking points), an active Facebook and Twitter presence, and even a cute logo of a bridge with a heart on it.

While Washington For CRC spokespeople say the group is simply the work of citizens and business owners coming together to rally support for the project, Clark County Conservative blogger Lew Waters calls it nothing more than a professional marketing campaign.

— Speaking of marketing campaigns, Matt Garrett, the Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation penned a guest opinion column in The Oregonian today titled, “ODOT is ready to help build the Columbia River Crossing.” He called the project, “critical to maintain our state’s competitive edge and the future economic health,” and said, “It is indeed time to build this bridge.”

— An outspoken supporter of the CRC project, Fred Meyer Stores, is now a “Lead Sponsor” of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance’s upcoming Alice Awards benefit auction event. A Fred Meyer spokesperson testified on behalf of HB 2800 at a hearing in Salem on February 18th, saying the project was essential to Oregon’s economy and a bigger freeway and bridge is urgently needed to keep their delivery trucks moving. According to the BTA’s sponsorship packet a Lead Sponsorship costs $10,000.

This BTA has said that they don’t support HB 2800, but they haven’t worked to oppose it either. In trying to understand the BTA’s difficult tightrope walk around the CRC project, it’s important to note that one of their current board members, Oregon State Representative Val Hoyle (D-Eugene), voted yes on HB 2800 when it passed the House last month.

See more of our Columbia River Crossing project coverage in the archives.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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9watts
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9watts

This just gets worse and worse. At least now we know where Matt Garrett’s priorities lie because there ain’t going to be a dime left for anything else his dep’t does–I mean used to do. Oh fun!

Matt Garrett in the interview with JM:
“So, is it accurate to think of this evolution at ODOT as an attempt to level the playing field, organizationally-speaking, for biking and walking?

“What it does, is that it allows the voice to come to the table. It’s not drowned out, or hiding in the shadows of the big highway portfolio. But don’t get me wrong, the reality is, if you look at the expenditures in the highway portfolio, it is just taking care of the asset right now, it is preservation and maintenance, that’s who we are as an organization.”
http://bikeportland.org/2012/05/15/an-interview-with-odot-director-matt-garrett-part-1-71580

Hart Noecker
Guest

Several other members of the BTA’s board work for corporations listed on the CRC supporters page. Follow the money.

bike-max-bike
Guest
bike-max-bike

Lame.

Clearly an opportunity for new and existing advocacy groups to own the memberships and audiences of the OLCV, 1000 Friends, BTA and other so called environment and social justice organizations.

9watts
Guest
9watts

As for the astroturf effort, the Salem Chamber of Commerce has tried a less covert but–according to my sources–nevertheless rather hapless social media campaign to give the appearance that there is support of the ‘Third Bridge.’ It deals in platitudes.
http://face2face.salemchamber.org/profiles/blogs/salem-chamber-launches-third-bridge-alliance
http://www.facebook.com/ThirdBridgeAlliance

Spencer Boomhower
Guest

That astroturfing is so cloying. But of course the best marketing effort yet seen is getting everyone — including CRC detractors — to refer to this thing as a bridge project.

I summed up my immediate, “that’s no bridge” response here:

http://screencast.com/t/XcpQCfdlmZ

Craig Harlow
Guest
Craig Harlow

BIG sigh (of exasperation)

Spiffy
Guest

Now I’m glad I haven’t donated to the BTA. I thought they were coming more into line with the political ideals of bicycle riders in the last year and I was thinking they might be deserving with all the recent good press but it looks like they’re back to their old ways of political ineptitude.

Gracie
Guest
Gracie

Thank you so much for your coverage of the CRC, Jonathan. I am feeling very let down by BTA, OLCV, 1000 Friends, Jules Bailey,and Diane Rosenbaum, and John Kitzhaber. Did Neil Goldschmidt steal their brains or what??

Jeff Bernards
Guest
Jeff Bernards

ODOT can’t even replace 82nd ave, give me a break Mr. Garrett. 82nd needs to be rebuilt, you need four wheel drive to dodge all the potholes and studded tire damage. I think a lot more commerce goes on 82nd that more people can access than I-5.

Alan 1.0
Guest
Alan 1.0

Curious things on that website…the “About Us” link doesn’t say anything about any actual people, just generic “Washington citizens and businesses supporting the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) project.” The link for “Supporters” has specific names but it is made up simply of quotes drawn from various other public sources, nothing specific to Washington For CRC and none indicating they support this org. The domain WASHINGTONFORCRC.ORG is registered to “Bcause Media,” AKA http://bcausemedia.com/. It’s a marketing firm in Vancouver doing “award-winning digital marketing and social media optimization,” co-founded by these gents with their self descriptions:

Noland Hoshino: Social Good Marketing Strategist, Do-Good Enforcer, Content Curator, Volunteer Evangelist and Givologist.

Bryan Dainty: Into sustainability, business, health/fitness, music, technology.

Hired guns, for sure.

Paul in the 'couve
Guest
Paul in the 'couve

The event description says: “Join Senator Annette Cleveland, Representative Jim Moeller, and Representative Sharon Wylie in a town hall meeting about the Columbia River Crossing (CRC) Project.”

Here is a direct link: http://www.washingtonforcrc.org/th_event/crc-townhall/

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

They seem to be paying someone to actively scrub any negative information off their facebook page. I posted something that mentioned the project is only projected to save 1 minute off washington driver’s commute time, which is true, and it was down in 15 minutes and I had been booted from their page.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

I don’t think it should come as a surprise how these things are turning out. We can be disappointed for sure, but between the money already spent developing a plan (no matter how bad it is) and the general indifference of political organization to anything besides their own self-promotion, this sort of (in)action is typical of how big interests get their way in our country.

It’s an unfortunate reality in our society that bold, visionary leaders won’t get a seat at the table. Money talks, everything else walks. Boo.

Craig Harlow
Guest
Craig Harlow

I love the irony… The “astroturf” campaign utilizes art with what looks like a football grid (above).

are
Guest

both the dot org and dot com versions of the website are “down for maintenance”

Zach
Guest
Zach

I think y’all are living in an echo chamber and (for better or for worse) have a massively warped image of how much opposition there actually is to this project. A friend of mine takes constituent calls for a state rep in a very liberal district in Portland and she told me she has not ever received one about the CRC.

Not one.

Robert Ping
Guest
Robert Ping

Should I Laugh or Cry?: Mr Garrett says that cycling is “not drowned out, or hiding in the shadows of the big highway portfolio” – but aren’t the bike lanes actually going to be “hiding in the shadows”, hidden directly underneath the bridge’s “big highway portfolio”? And what about the shadows cyclists will likely experience as they navigate around (and under?) the numerous new highway on and off ramps? Gee, I wish there was an image of what the new non-shadowy ‘sun-kissed’ cycling routes would look like…

Josh G
Guest
Josh G

Can’t help but see the hearts in the logo as symbolic of the health outcomes of the CRC (seeing as both sides claim a change in air pollution)

yellowjacket
Guest
yellowjacket

Was the feasibility and cost of a tunnel under the river ever considered for the crossing?

are
Guest

there may still be opportunities to volunteer for event support at the alice awards.
https://secure.commonground.convio.com/bta/alice2013volunteers/
once you are in the door and have fulfilled your volunteer tasks, you are a guest at the event, albeit not at a table on the main floor.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

Zach, I don’t think anyone here is under any illusions about public attitudes towards this project.

Yellowjacket, if you look at the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement project up in Seattle (which, along with the 520 bridge, is the main mega-project competing with the CRC for scarce Washington state funds), I don’t see how a tunnel could come even remotely close to a bridge in cost. Remember that CRC is primarily a freeway expansion project that includes a bridge replacement. Most of the ~4 billion is not in the bridge itself.

Then again, given the critical and still-unresolved height issue for the new bridge, I won’t exactly be dumbfounded if the CRC folks regroup and propose exactly that. What’s a couple extra billion? And oh .. whoops, boring separate additional tunnels for rail and human-powered users will just be too cost-prohibitive.

yellowjacket
Guest
yellowjacket

The tunnel would likely rival Boston’s Big Dig, and all it’s cost overruns. Just finished reading the Feb 27 issue of W Week that has a cover story about Patricia McCaig, “The Woman Behind the Bridge.” Highly recommend it.

Terry Nobbe
Guest

Question: Since the current CRC includes bike/ ped access, will the proposed CRC include the same? Would improved access across ALSO include easier access to the bike/ ped entry/ egress points?