(Steven Lane/The Columbian)
Clark County commissioners approved a two-year, $200,000 expenditure to the Columbia River Economic Development Council on Tuesday morning despite a request by Commissioner-elect David Madore that a decision be delayed until he joins the board next year.
Madore said he sought the delay to keep him from being tied to an agreement he promised voters he would not support. His issue with the CREDC stems from the organization’s support of the Columbia River Crossing.
Staff for the CREDC, a group focused on economic development in Clark County, say the organization does support an improvement to the I-5 crossing. But the group has never taken a formal position on tolls or light rail, two components Madore promised voters he would work to put a halt to.
Madore, who replaces Commissioner Marc Boldt on Jan. 2, spoke as a member of the public at Tuesday’s meeting, saying he is supportive of the CREDC — except for its support of the Columbia River Crossing.
“Has the CREDC done good? Absolutely. Should we be at the table? Absolutely,” Madore said. “The problem is (we) forfeit our ability to control the agenda.”
Saying the agreement needs a “fine-tune,” Madore suggested a compromise.
“I would suggest we go month-to-month,” Madore said. “It allows us to stay in the game.”
Commissioner Tom Mielke said he is supportive of the CREDC, but is also aware there could be strife due to bridge talk. Mielke said there are times when a group’s public declaration can “put us in an awkward situation,” regardless of the work it does primarily.
Mielke then suggested the board commit to a one-year, $100,000 payment to the CREDC.
“The CREDC has done good and has created jobs,” Mielke said. “(With the one-year plan) we have time to have more dialogue.”
Commissioner Steve Stuart said he agreed with Mielke’s notion, but disagreed that the county should look for leverage against the group to change its support of a single issue.
“You’re never going to agree with 100 percent of what your partners believe,” Stuart said. He said he wouldn’t agree to Mielke’s option of a single year of funding because he didn’t believe there would be fruitful talks on the matter.
“Based on the conversation and comments we have seen … I have no confidence it will be based on actual performance, but on a single policy position.”
Boldt and Stuart voted in favor of the two-year agreement. Mielke voted against it.
After the vote, Madore said he wasn’t surprised.
“It came out the way I expected it would,” Madore said.
Madore said after the meeting that his issue with the CREDC is on that single policy decision.
“I only have one objection (to the CREDC), and that is that it is pushing tolling and light rail,” Madore said. “If they can remove that, they have my support.”
Of the dozen members of the public who spoke Tuesday, most were supportive of the CREDC for its mission of supporting local businesses.
The agreement with the CREDC runs through the end of 2014, and includes reporting of what the organization provides to the county.
Lisa Nisenfeld, president of the CREDC, said she is willing to meet with commissioners quarterly to check in.