East county bridge pro, con committees in place

They will craft statements for voters’ pamphlet

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November’s advisory vote on whether Clark County should pursue a third bridge across the Columbia River has its pro and con committees in place, meeting Thursday’s deadline to do so.

The statements will appear in the general election voters’ pamphlet, which will hit mailboxes in October.

The committee writing the statement in favor of the advisory vote will consist of Commissioner David Madore, John Ley, a Republican precinct committee officer who recently lost a primary race for the 18th Legislative District Position 1, and Port of Vancouver Commissioner Jerry Oliver.

Writing a statement against the advisory vote will fall on the shoulders of Vancouver Councilman Jack Burkman, former Washougal Councilwoman Molly Coston and Paul Dennis, the executive director of the Camas-Washougal Economic Development Association.

With the committees formed — in the nick of time, given the short turnaround — now it’s time for them to craft their messages.

The county had roughly a day to appoint members to the committees as part of a whirlwind process that started July 29, when commissioners approved placing the nonbinding advisory vote on the ballot by a vote of 2-1.

County commissioners first addressed appointing members to the committees Wednesday afternoon at a board time meeting. Because of the short time frame, auditor Greg Kimsey appointed members to the opposing argument committee at the request of Madore.

Because the commissioners approved placing the advisory vote onto the ballot, they were put in charge of tapping people to write both the pro and con statements. Madore, one of the top critics of the now-dead Columbia River Crossing, is the lead proponent of the east county bridge idea, spearheading its development from the start, so he abstained from appointing anyone to the con committee.

In a Facebook message posted Wednesday, Madore reiterated his position that an east county bridge — crossing from Southeast 192nd Avenue in Vancouver, with an estimated $860 million price tag —met all bridge criteria, unlike the Columbia River Crossing.

“The resolution that we referred to the voters shares seven principles to guide any Columbia Bridge project,” Madore wrote. “The CRC violates all of them. The East County Bridge upholds them all. Much like a football game, we ask which way to carry the football.”

The addition of Burkman to the con committee has added an early spark to an election that will likely be hard fought, even though the advisory vote holds no real weight.

Burkman has been unflinching in his criticism of the east county bridge, saying Thursday that the whole project had been shrouded by secrecy. He said a presentation on the project by Florida-based FIGG Engineering Group raised more questions than answers.

On Tuesday, Burkman filed a public records request asking for more information on the bridge’s financing package. In a response letter, Madore wrote that the “financing is very simple” because it would call on “Oregon and Washington (to) pay for this bistate bridge, either in cash or in payments, as preferred by the states.”

Burkman said he was “baffled” by a response lacking details.

“This is consistent with the lack of transparency coming out of the board of county commissioners,” Burkman said.

One of the points the anti-bridge committee will likely make in its 250 word statement will be that the first advisory vote on the east county bridge, approved last November, said the project would have a financing package in place “once a clear project is defined.”

That hasn’t happened, Burkman said.

Madore has said the county will broaden its outreach if the advisory vote shows the majority of county residents say they want to see it pursue the bridge.

Both committees have until Aug. 14 to complete their statements.