Friday, February 15, 2013

Changing Minds on the CRC

The Columbia River Crossing Project, a bloated effort to replace the aging spans of the Interstate Bridge connecting Southwest Washington and Portland, Oregon and force Clark County Washington to accept extending Portland financially ailing light rail was considered a “done deal,” just accept it, it’s happening, regardless of how the taxpayers that will be forced to foot the bill for decades thinks of it.

For a long time we have heard from the likes of Mayor Tim Leavitt, former Mayor Royce Pollard, Representative Jim Moeller, County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Portland’s former Mayor Sam Adams, current Portland Mayor Charlie Hale end many more ego-inflated elected officials that our resistance to “modernization” was futile, “it’s coming, deal with it.”

While most of us agree replacing the bridges is a good idea, we in Clark County have long resisted the notion of we must accept Portland’s deep in debt light rail. And the tide just may be turning as more and more, we see former supporters switching to opponents as efforts to peel back the shroud of secrecy that has long enveloped the CRC is back and light is shined on some very questionable procedures.

In the forefront of that effort has been Acuity Group PLLC, an accounting firm located in our community of Vancouver, owned and operated by forensic accountant, Tiffany Lemay Couch and her husband Rusty who have been pouring over a document dump received after a Freedom of Information Act request was fulfilled.

This blog and others have communicated with Acuity Group in the past and posted reports issued on some highly suspicious accounting procedures, payments and budgeting items that just don’t seem to add up. CRC supporters and the Columbian, our local newspaper of record have tried their best to demean the efforts. Even WSDOT rebuked one such report with their own people from within, laughingly calling it an “independent review.”

Undaunted by such obvious efforts to justify the bloated project, Ms. Couch has continued her work digging through the document dump, uncovering more and more questionable items and budgeting of projects well outside of the projected CRC benefit area inside Oregon that Washington taxpayers will end up paying for.

She has spoken before groups, city council, the county commission and caucuses at our State capitol and yesterday, February 14, 2013 appeared before the Washington State Senate Transportation Committee presenting her findings and that was very well received by many.

You can view that testimony below.

The entire hearing may be seen HERE

I urge you all to view Ms. Couch’s testimony and listen to what she reports. Contrary to what her detractors, those who wish to plunge our area into decades of high debt to force us into accepting Portland’s folly a short distance into our community, she did not undertake the task to arrive at a preconceived conclusion, she values her professionalism and reputation far too much for that.

No, she approached CRC as she does every other audit she does, receiving high praise for her expertise, even from those who have demeaned her work auditing the CRC.

We have to ask ourselves, why the effort to hide much of what is happening with the CRC. A public project as expensive as this one is projected to be, the most expensive project our region has ever undertaken, should be open and transparent, seeking public support and not steamrolling over citizens questioning.

But in spite of those who feel they can ram this project down our throats, people’s eyes are opening. Legislators are asking more questions and some are questioning the worth of this project.

Many thanks go to the professionalism and expertise of Tiffany LeMay Couch and her husband, Rusty. Combined with the efforts seen by Senator Don Benton, Senator Curtis King, County Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke, City Council Members Jeanne Stewart and Bill Turlay and numerous citizen activists, the shroud of secrecy is falling down and people are changing their minds.

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