CRC Gets Professional Marketing Campaign Support

by lewwaters

Light Rail HellAs public sentiment grows against the Columbia River Crossing Project and citizens raise their voices louder and louder over being shut out of the process for the light rail carrier from Portland, Oregon into Clark County Washington, it comes as no surprise to see a very professional marketing strategy masquerading as a “grassroots” movement pop up.

In an email forwarded to me from Betsy Henning, Founder & CEO of AHA! (Alling Henning Associates Inc. 415 West Sixth Street, Suite 605 Vancouver, WA 98660), “a communications firm with expertise in writing that applies equal parts strategy and creativity to engage, educate and empower the people most important to turning a company’s business goals into business results,” came the announcement of a group calling themselves “Washington for CRC.”

I can’t help but note that the AHA! firm is located on the 6th Floor of the Vancouver City Hall Building downtown either.

Inside the email we read, “There’s a movement afoot. What started as a group of individuals concerned about our community’s future is rapidly growing and now includes diverse individuals and businesses who are banding together to work on getting the Columbia River Crossing Project to move forward—specifically to let our state legislators know that Southwest Washington supports the CRC!”

One little problem, Southwest Washington does not support the CRC as evidence by numerous proxy votes and one direct vote back in 1995.

A November 14, 2012 Columbian article tells us of Ms. Henning’s work with Greater Portland Inc. “A public-private, sector-led business promoter and regional economic developer for the Portland-Vancouver area” located in Portland.

The article also tells us that Ms. Henning’s company “prides itself on its storytelling and creative writing services.”

Posing the question “I’d like to know who is paying AHA! for the creation of this marketing campaign” on Washington for CRCs facebook page elicited the response of, “No one is being paid. We are a group of citizens and businesses who want to see a shift in conversation about the Columbia River Crossing project.”

I find that highly suspect as well as a little nuanced.

If, as Ms. Henning stated in her email above, “Southwest Washington supports the CRC,” why do they also “want to see a shift in conversation about the Columbia River Crossing project?”

A look at Washington for CRC facts page reveals parroting of the pro-CRC talking points we have repeatedly seen and discounted numerous times.

A question posed on their facebook page of why do they not advocate a vote of the people to settle the support or opposition of the public once and for all drew the common skirting of the vote issue seen over the years, “It is our understanding the project has already been decided on and funding is coming from the Federal Government, the State of Oregon (pending approval in Washington State) and the State of Washington, once their budget is approved” in part.

For some reason, much of the discussion held is missing my comments, but since I save most comments on Word Document, the missing comments are available here.

I am flattered to read “Lew, we are very familiar with the arguments you have stated,” but continuing to deflect those arguments instead of actually addressing them is of no service to anybody, it just tells me they do not have the support they wish to portray.

Most telling to me is no effort whatsoever to answer my question, “what sort of ‘grassroots’ campaign excludes the people?”

Like most of the rest supporting the CRC, they apparently oppose allowing us to vote on whether or not we even want Portland’s deep in debt light rail intruding into our community. Yet, I see no opposition to increasing vehicle license fees, increasing the gasoline tax, adding a toll onto the tolls already proposed or any measure to grant the still struggling Clark County middle class a break.

That my comments are missing and that a professional Marketing and Strategy firm was brought in really doesn’t concern me as much as they try to give the appearance that this firm, a firm that claims “Our work ranges from developing integrated communications programs to crafting finely tuned messages. We’re skilled at creating content tailored to a medium-print, web, interactive and video, for example-and to discipline, such as branding, internal communications, advertising, research and PR” is doing so as a charity case.

After all, have we not seen the efforts to question and demean the expertise and reputation of Acuity Group LLC & Tiffany Couch for her excellent auditing of a CRC document dump due to her initially being hired by successful business owner and now Clark County Commissioner David Madore?

It also bothers me to see the eye appealing website does nothing more than parrot the same old tired talking points we have dispelled numerous times over the last few years.

CRC is beset with troubles and design problems, all to force us to accept Portland’s folly of light rail and assume some portion of their $1.6 Billion in unfunded liabilities. The line proposed will only extend a very short distance into Clark County and in spite of over a decade of hearings, some $170 Million poured into the project, they cannot even design a bridge capable of adequate clearance for river traffic underneath.

Hundreds of millions of dollars are earmarked for Oregon projects well outside of the CRC benefit zone, some as far away as 60 miles. Clark County Washington residents will be paying for years to cover those expenses as well if this goes forward.

CRC proponents are getting desperate as they see public sentiment growing against their preferred project.

They do not want a public vote, yet they want to portray that the public supports it.

We must stand firm and continue supporting those elected officials who have seen through the smoke & mirrors surrounding the CRC.

We must keep speaking out and demanding our voices be heard.

And finally, we must vote out those elected officials who ignore our voices, deny us a direct vote and continue throwing Millions of tax dollars into the abyss of the CRC.

Visit the Washington for CRC facebook page and leave your comment letting them know we do not support Portland’s light rail and we demand to be allowed to vote on it and require the legislature to support our vote.

21 Comments to “CRC Gets Professional Marketing Campaign Support”

  1. Lew, you can chase this one. They appear to be lobbyists, so must register as lobbyists, and someone you can name personally told you that no one is funding their enterprise, and you are relying on that assurance. You should serve notice of your reliance on their statement (via public email or registered letter), and their possible financial obligation to you should you be harmed in some way.

    Just sayin’

  2. It sounds like they’re in cahoots with Lou Brancaccio and Scott Campbell and their newest mantra “it’s our baby”. Lou indirectly mentioned this new “group forming out there”. Obviously ICC and associates are behind it. Nothing “grassroots” about them folks.

    Regarding CRC, you can’t even get an answer to a simple question from them. Based on a statement by a CRC supporter on this blog about a month ago, who insisted that the CRC was very responsive to questions, I decided to email a question to CRC. One month later and I still hadn’t received a reply so I called them and spoke to a communications person by the name of Kenny. He said “oh yeah, we’ve been swamped, but I do have a draft of a response I was going to send.” We spoke a bit about my question and then I asked him to be sure to send me a written response. He assured me that he would. A week later and still nothing. I called again today and big surprise, only reached his voicemail. So much for transparency.

  3. Good work Lew. Thank you. Hopefully you and others can ferret who is behind this.

  4. This is an obvious AstroTurf attempt to sway public opinion. I say put it up for a vote.

    In the mean time, write your elected representatives and remind them that you want the CRC with trolley cars killed. Period.

  5. Grassroots decided to get together and EXCLUDE a variety of reasonable alteratives to the tax-toll-bailout-MEGA freeway project? I am having more than a little problem with the Grassroots idea, it’s elitist, cajoled, misguided, mismanaged, but not grassroots. Anything but!

  6. I accepted their invitation for a public discussion and posted several factual comments and links before I started getting notices that I was denied permission to post. My previous posts were deleted.

  7. If anybody else leaves any comments on their page to expose their fallacies, be sure to copy the exchange or get screenshots.

    We can show how they are shutting down opposing views and sticking to the party line.

  8. Their “supporters” page features three columns of repeating testimonials from just a few people.

    A quick web search of their names seems to give a view of special interest

    Teresa Lawwill Vancouver, WA Community Relations Director at Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce

    Jody Campbell Vancouver, WA Director, Community Support at The Columbian

    Kate Sacamano Vancouver, WA community partnership manager for The Columbian

    Rhona Sen Hoss Vancouver, WA Assistant Director of Development at Washington State University Vancouver, Community Partnerships Manager

    Noland Hoshino Vancouver, WA Social Good Marketing Strategist, Bcause Media Social Communications, Portland, Oregon

    Jim Moeller WA State Representative Democrat 49th Legislative District Representative, Washington State.

    Val and Dan Ogden Vancouver, WA Chair of the Board Southwest Washington Center for the Arts, former 49th L.D. Representative

    Stacey Graham Vancouver, WA President/Executive Director at Humane Society for Southwest Washington

    Betsy Foutch Henning Vancouver, WA Founder & CEO AHA! Marketing Firm

    I’m surprised they did not seek a comment in support from Tim Leavitt, Mike Briggs or Greg Owens 😉

  9. That’s an oversight they’ll correct as soon as possible.

    here’s the problem those lying scum have:

    It’s the same lies, by the same people, over and over and over. They can’t make the sale by telling the truth, so they lie. It’s what leftists do. And they are wasting their time.

  10. They are wasting our time and our money as well. The ties to the Portland lobby tells me the idea comes from the Dark Lady now in charge of WSDOT, or the other Dark Dame from Gov Roberts Staff and now reportedly an unregistered “consultant” according to various Portland rags for David Evans and asso.’s.

    Funny, I thought they all did sound like the cheerleader, in the comments they made. I wonder if they left up the comment that quoted F Nietzsche?

  11. They deleted most of my posts as well. I am going to go down and file a pdc for any records regarding contracts or payments from the city to this company and / or these people.

  12. I doubt you’ll find any connection to the city, but Identity Clark County seems a strong likelihood, if not the CRC itself.

    I just have a hard time believing such a marketing firm is acting out of the goodness of their hearts.

  13. Hi gang, Betsy here. Happy to address your questions or concerns regarding my support of the CRC. A couple things to start:
    – I’m representing only myself in my support. My agency AHA! has not been asked to do, nor are we doing, any work to advocate for the CRC.
    – When I speak, I speak only for myself and as majority owner of the firm.
    – AHA! is a marketing services agency, not an advocacy firm. We do no political work. I personally sometimes get involved in politics, as do some of my employees. But not as an agency. That’s outside our area of expertise.
    – AHA! is not being paid to do any of the work, nor are we contributing anything pro bono. I am occasionally writing a comment or a letter or otherwise supporting the team of other supporters.
    – Yes, I am on the boards of both Greater Portland and CREDC.
    – And, yes, I support the bridge. Not all rah-rah support, but because I think it’s the lesser of a variety of evils. I know I’m not going to persuade most of you to think differently, and I’m not trying to. Honestly.

    But here’s the real thing I’d like to share with you. First of all, if you have a question, call me. I’m at 360-397-2583. No need for conjecture or tale-spinning. Just ask.

    Second, I’d very much like to see our community get past this unreasonably divisive issue. Regardless of which way the bridge thing goes, we all presumably have to live together. There’s something far more important at stake than even the outrageous dollars in question, and that’s who we are as a community, how we interact and relate, and what kind of future we are building for ourselves and our kids. When the decision is made about the bridge, a bunch of people will “win” and an bunch more will “lose.” But we all share in the outcome and the future.

    I cast my view into that future and hope that the rumors, the spin, the accusations, and the negativity (on both sides, admittedly) that are dominating the public conversation will not cripple our community for even longer and even more deeply than any bridge construction project or tolling ever could.

    That’s it. That’s what I’m in it for.

    My guess is you are too. We can disagree on how to get there, but is it possible to keep our eye on the long ball and not tear apart our community in the process? It starts with me, with you, with each of us. Will you join me?

  14. First of all, Betsy, I want you to take note that your words are not going to be deleted here, like our words are on the facebook page. We, I since I am the sole person responsible for this blog, do not stifle opposing points of view unless they are over the top, spam or otherwise out of order.

    That being said, you are welcome to any point of view you have, that is each of our right. But just because it is your view doesn’t mean the entire area must agree.

    You can say you are not a political group or advocacy agency, but that is what you are doing. CRC is a political issue and you are advocating for it.

    It seems your talents are available pretty cheaply if you are not receiving any pay or benefit from this advocacy, but that is your business.

    Your images posted are not quick hurry up images, but are very well thought out and even though you may think they are effective, I doubt it will make much difference.

    As my comment yesterday said that you deleted, you should also be calling for us to vote on it and settle the matter as to where the community support is. To not wish to hear he voices of the people expected to pay for this mess is just wrong and is a major reason why the opposition is so strong and growing.

    I find it quite odd that you come here with “is it possible to keep our eye on the long ball and not tear apart our community in the process? It starts with me, with you, with each of us. Will you join me?” after deleting so many of our comments on the facebook page and refusing to join a call for a vote of the people, parroting the CRC line on it who wishes to ram it down our throats and force us to accept it.

    As said here and elsewhere, this project is beset with problems, problems that should have been seen and corrected years ago and not just swept under the rug to make sure light rail is forced over here. You cannot just ignore those problems, ignore the people, delete comments contrary to your view and then fall back on “can’t we all just get along?”

    We’ve been trying that for years and all we have gotten is slapped in the face (figuratively).

    Oh, just so you know, maybe you can create a catchy little poster image for it. Finance official: CRC needs to get state permission to impose tolls, again OOPS, again, another problem.

    Sorry, but we have been pushed around too much and for too long to fall for any soft soap today. We will not fall for another effort to get us to just stop our revealing the problems, the corruption, the conflict of interests and the detriment this project will cause our city and county.

    You’re welcome to post anything you wish, within reason of course.

    I do believe in discourse.

  15. To be clear, Lew, neither me nor my agency has done anything (read: anything) in the creation of the website, FB page, imagery within, etc. It’s not our work. When I comment, you’ll know, because you’ll see my name. Also, I have not deleted your comments.

  16. Are you saying, Betsy that neither you nor your agency had anything whatsoever to do with the website or the facebook page?

    I find that curious, to say the least since the email sent out promoting both the website and facebook page came with your name attached and had the sentence “If you, like me and so many others, desire a vibrant and connected economy and believe the bridge is a necessary part of getting there, please “Like” our Washington for CRC page, share it on your own, invite others to join the movement, and lend your voice of support to a dialogue that’s gotten to be very negative and one-sided.”

    Be it you or someone else, many comments have been deleted from facebook, not just mine.

  17. I guess I’m struggling to make this easy to understand. Sorry about that. I am, together with other people including the ones identified in the post above (and lots of others to boot!), supportive of the CRC and have endorsed the creation and promotion of the website and FB page. I post to the FB page and direct people to it and to the website. To that extent, yes, I has “something to do with it.” However, I nor anyone in my agency conceived of or built the page nor any of the elements on it–not the graphics and not the copy–nor anything used on the FB page. It’s an important distinction, because, as others have said here, advocacy is a specialized field, and that is not AHA!’s business. Please feel free to call if you want further clarification.

  18. I’ll let everybody decide what they think on your words on their own.

    You have every right to “support and endorse” what you feel is right. I just hope you understand, so do we.

  19. Betsy, I am an attorney, CPA, Professional Engineer, and liberal Democrat. I am personal friends with Jim Moeller and admire him greatly and agree with him on almost every issue… Except CRC. I am invited to the RTC Board Meetings every month and I read their minutes. I have personally met with the engineers of CRC – yet no one has ever presented a compelling argument for its construction. And everything I know about CRC is counter-democratic. I AM an expert but WHO speaks YOU? What engineer speaks for you? What attorney speaks for you? What accountant speaks for you? WHO is the non-political person championing CRC? If there is someone PLEASE put them in contact with me! I need to know WHAT ARE THEIR ARGUMENTS?!

    I don’t want to be rude but why do you think you have a better understanding of this issue than me?

  20. Hey, Mr. Hash. My name’s Casey. I’m a student, and as Mr. Waters probably already knows from the comments section, an avid supporter of the CRC. I support the project because I recognize that Vancouver is a very fast-growing city that requires equally fast-growing infrastructure. Sure, the project will be expensive, but the benefits returned will be well worth it. We’ll have a safer bridge with 5 lanes, a wider, safer place for bikers and pedestrians to cross, safer, up-to-code interchanges that will help prevent congestion and more importantly deadly collisions, and light rail that will allow cheap, easy, reliable commute between Vancouver and Portland. I recognize that there are many legitimate concerns regarding this project, not the least of them being the cost. I do think, though, that the benefits far outweigh these. I also know that you probably have heard similar arguments before; I have more specific, personal rationales for my support if you have any specific questions (so feel free to ask). I can’t speak for others, but I don’t think I have a better understanding of the project, just a different one.

  21. Casey, what is your view of adhering to the democratic process on a project of this magnitude?

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