Changing Minds on the CRC

by lewwaters

CRCThe 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 at TVW – Tiffany Couch testimony before the Washington State Senate Transportation Committee

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.

11 Comments to “Changing Minds on the CRC”

  1. I happened to be in Clackamas yesterday, and saw this article in the Portland Tribune:
    http://portlandtribune.com/cr/24-news/128080-county-wants-trimet-to-stop-rail-short

    It seems that TriMet is over budget and can not meet all the promises made during the initial political actions to obtain funding. Newly elected Clackamas County commissioners are asking that the line extension to Milwaukee (OR) be built only as far as possible with the full amenities promised — cutting the project short, if necessary.

    It appears that TriMet is constructing bits and pieces over the whole length of the project ensuring the rails will reach the full length of the project, even if funding for parts of the service are “uncertain.”

    I guess the implication is that if TriMet runs short of cash, then the local county will be forced to make up the difference.

    I think it’s important for Southwest Washington supporters of a TriMet extension to our side of the river consider how TriMet is treating it’s potential customers in Clackamas County. I doubt we’ll receive any better treatment and the potential for substantial cost overruns is very high, especially based on TriMet’s performance in building the Milwaukee line.

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  2. Ctran already has far less costly, faster, and more flexible transport to Portland than light rail.
    Ctran Express buses are serving commuters better than light rail. Details from Cascade Policy Center
    http://cascadepolicy.org/blog/testimony-on-hb-2800-light-rail-to-vancouver-vs-ctran-express-buses/

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  3. Tiffany did a great job in her presentation. I was most disappointed to see Steve Stuart show up and testify against the will of the voters in our area. I think it is disgusting that ICC’s Paul Montague define himself and his organization as a governing body in this issue since they most certainly are not. They are not elected and voted on in our area by the people. They are strictly a political organization and he is the spokesperson for it in otherwords a lobbyist. Thanks for uploading this Lew since yesterday was slammed with too many meetings and I was distressed that I could not get there to testify on this hearing. Hopefully it goes the way Don Benton is trying to get it moved.

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  4. We don’t need a lot of roads and freeways either. I’ve had my limit on politicians of both factions playing with our future in schemes to raise revenue for themselves. If we are going to be fiscally conservative we need to stop subsidizing the road building and paving companies, and just build what we need.

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  5. Lew, you forgot about Jim huffing and puffing about buying steel from Washington instead of China and the
    “we funded projects for 8 years”/

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  6. Haven’t forgotten, Jacob, working on it

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  7. I most whole heartedly agree, we all of us in favor or sane spending and rational politics owe to Tiffany Couch a huge debt of gratitude. Thank you Tiffany Couch, you are amazing.

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  8. Thank you for the kind words, Lew! The air in the room was thick!…..there was a palpable tension, for certain. Mumblings and scoffing from the likes of Mr. Montague behind me, not the least of it.

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  9. I’m only too glad to support yours and Tiffany’s efforts, Rusty. As well as give you the fair coverage you deserve.

    Both of you deserve a big vote of thanks for all you do.

    Thank you. You have been a wealth of information the public must hear.

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  10. And if you watch, Don Benton lights up Paul and Stuart… Too BAD the fine chairwoman cut him off…

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  11. Tiffany Couch CPA CFE
    These are designations that lead a reasonable person including readers of this publication to believe that she has conducted her “investigations” and audit in accordance with the guidelines of the Washington State Board of Accountancy and the Certified Fraud Examiners Board. Both boards require credible adequate evidence and the Board of Accountancy also requires independence.

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