Clark County Commissioner-elect David Madore wants the current board of commissioners to wait for him to have a vote before deciding whether to continue funding a local economic development group.
Madore, who replaces Commissioner Marc Boldt on Jan. 2, is asking the board to delay a vote planned for Tuesday, Dec. 18 on renewing a two-year, $200,000 payment to the Columbia River Economic Development Council for economic development services. He said he's concerned over where some of the money goes.
Over the weekend he posted a Facebook message to his supporters, urging them to contact commissioners and urge them not to approve the CREDC expenditure. That prompted Identity Clark County, another economic development group and a supporter of the
Columbia River Crossing plan for a new Interstate 5 Bridge, to message its own supporters.
The $200,000 in question is intended to fund the group's mission to bolster economic development in the county. But Madore says the CREDC supports the current CRC model, an effort he cannot abide.
Madore ran for office as a Republican on the platform that he would do what he could to stop any bridge project that includes tolls or light rail.
"I didn't win the election because it was some popularity contest," Madore said. "I ran on an agenda. What I am saying is, don't rush this through, because there are things to correct."
He said he's making his request to the board of commissioners so he won't be saddled with two years worth of funding he told voters he wouldn't support.
"I attended the last board meeting of the CREDC," he said, "and the top issue under 'transportation' was the light rail tolling project."
Lisa Nisenfeld, president of CREDC, says her organization does support an upgrade to the crossing, but that it has never come out in favor of light rail or tolling.
"Several years ago, we passed a resolution saying we supported a new bridge," Nisenfeld said. "We have said nothing about light rail or tolling."
Nisenfeld said it's true the bridge project is at the top of a written list of transportation requests presented to local members of the state Legislature, but that list isn't prioritized. She said the request to the state is simply "to get it done."
"In terms of time, I attend an occasional meeting on the bridge," she said. "But we are not engaged on a day-to-day basis. There is nothing in our current work plan about the bridge."
Nisenfeld said the CREDC mission is to assist in job creation, help recruit businesses to the region and assist entrepreneurs in developing new business. The group also works on streamlining development efforts, and connecting potential job creators with resources.
Nisenfeld said losing $100,000 per year from the county would be a hit. In 2012, the organization's budget was around $800,000.
Paul Montague, executive director of Identity Clark County, a group focusing on the economic health of Clark County, says it would be a mistake for the county to pull funding over a single issue such as the bridge project. (Columbian Publisher Scott Campbell is an ICC board member.)
"The CREDC is bigger than just the Columbia River Crossing," Montague said. "They have been responsible for bringing thousands of jobs to Southwest Washington.
"These guys advocate for Southwest Washington," he said. "… As someone who brought his business here himself, I would think David Madore would appreciate that."
Madore says he isn't looking to stymie economic development. He said $200,000 over two years could go a long way in helping cut permit fees for businesses or parks fees. Both are reductions he campaigned on as ways to boost the local economy.
Madore didn't guarantee he would cut the funding to CREDC if the decision is pushed back to next year. He said he wants to see the CREDC list what it has brought to the county, so commissioners know what they get for the investment.
"We lose all our leverage by giving them the money up front," he said. "… Why rush this through and make it a commitment to be fulfilled on my watch? (I am asking) if the commissioners will simply be gracious enough to not commit the next commissioner to two years of this."
Madore and Montague agree on one thing: They want residents' voices to be heard in the matter. Commissioners meet on the matter at 10 a.m. today at the Public Service Center, 1300 Franklin St., sixth floor, in Vancouver.