As 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.