Sen. Murray: County Commissioners ‘Turning Their Backs’ on Region’s Economic Development

By Aaron Corvin, February 21, 2013, The Columbian

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray today sharply criticized the decision by two Clark County commissioners to pull funding from the county’s largest economic development group, saying “those who wield their influence by turning their backs on organizations that grow jobs in this community are turning their backs on the region itself.”

Murray, D-Wash., did not call out Republican Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke by name, but she was unmistakably referring to their decision last month to halt county government’s funding of the Columbia River Economic Development Council, unless it drops its support for the Columbia River Crossing project, which aims to replace the Interstate 5 Bridge and includes light rail.

Murray, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, made her remarks during the CREDC’s quarterly luncheon event, attended by an estimated 175 people. The event featured a keynote speech by Washington State University Vancouver Chancellor Mel Netzhammer.

Speaking before Netzhammer, Murray said the CRC is “the single biggest investment we can make in this region’s economic future.” And the hard truths, she said, are clear: “A light rail component is absolutely necessary to secure federal funding for this project,” local revenues and tolling will be needed and “any further attempt to change the current bridge design will cause years, if not decades of delay.”

In an interview with The Columbian after the event, Murray said “we will have a full funding grant agreement” to pay for light rail as part of the CRC.

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