Clark County’s governing body has cut off its annual contribution to the county’s economic development nonprofit because of the group’s advocacy for the Columbia River Crossing project, which would replace the Interstate 5 bridge. Jamie Francis/The Oregonian
Clark County’s governing board is cutting off funding to the county’s leading economic development nonprofit because of the group’s advocacy for the Columbia River Crossing project.
Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke, both Republicans, voted earlier this month to cut off the $100,000 the county sends to the Columbia River Economic Development Council
each year to recruit businesses to the region.
The previous board pledged two years of funding in December. But Madore — the newest commissioner whose political career was born out of his NoTolls anti-CRC political action committee — raised the issue again last week and joined returning commissioner Mielke in blocking future payments.
The development council “does a lot of good, but this one is a showstopper,” Madore said Tuesday of the nonprofit’s backing for a new I-5 bridge across the Columbia.
Madore said the project in its current form would cost hundreds of jobs from companies that might be affected by a new, non-lifting bridge’s lower clearance.
The development council said in a statement its various public and private contributors believe the bridge-and-highway project, estimated to cost nearly $3.5 billion, is vital to the region’s ability to attract businesses. It added it hadn’t taken a stance on the light rail component, though extending TriMet’s MAX line across the Columbia river is seen by other boosters as key to securing $850 million in federal transportation funds.
“This is a very disappointing action on the part of the commissioners,” the council’s board chairman Bill Dudley said in the statement. “CREDC is one of the few venues available for the private sector to partner with the public sector regarding a broad variety of important economic development issues. To withdraw support from the enterprise based on a single issue is unfortunate.”
He said the group’s board would consider the matter at its next meeting.
Madore said he wouldn’t support reinstating the county’s funding unless development council comes out in opposition of the bridge project.
Madore also said he wasn’t concerned about a legal challenge from the council — it would be “very bad PR,” he said — or collateral damage to the councils economic development efforts.
“People will say, oh, you’re against jobs,” he said. “When we are charged with stewarding taxpayer funds, we must not violate our own conscience.”
Madore said the county is the development council’s largest contributor. In 2011, the council took in just over $1 million, according to tax documents