NYT article on CRC touches nerves in DC

Earlier this month, my husband and I were part of a 12-member relay team that finished Ragnar Northwest Passage, a 196-mile trek from Blaine to Whidbey Island. We were in a van with four runners from Chicago, friends of friends whom we’d never met. The evening before the race, at a team barbecue, one of them asked this getting-to-know-you question: “Wasn’t there supposed to be a new bridge built between Vancouver and Portland?”

I rolled my eyes. He’d read the New York Times article.

Turns out, a lot of people read that article, which said local leaders were going to try and push ahead since state and federal politicians had failed them. Sounds like Senator Patty Murray read it, and wasn’t impressed. At least not initially.

Joel Rubin, who the city has on contract to lobby federal lawmakers, emailed Vancouver Mayor Tim Leavitt and City Manager Eric Holmes  after the article was published:

From: Joel Rubin [joelr@cfmdc.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 8:53 AM
To: Holmes, Eric; Leavitt, Tim
Cc: Bader, Jan; Brown, Mark
Subject: FW: NYT on CRC
Tim and Eric – Can you please give me a heads up when a national news
organization runs a story where you guys are quoted.
I got this reactionary email from Murray’s LD (see first email below). I
typically wouldn’t forward this internal communication…but it expresses
the sensitivity around CRC back here. I had a great meeting with Shawn last
week about the CRC, so maybe he feels I should have mentioned this possible
article and discussions with Portland?
I want to ensure we are communicating clearly with Murray’s office over the
next couple weeks about developments moving forward.
See the first email and then my response. Let me know if I’m missing
something here. It may be helpful to clarify the context of these
discussions with Shawn.

Here’s the email  Sen. Murray’s legislative director, Shawn Bills, sent Rubin, followed by Rubin’s response. (These emails were provided to The Columbian under a standing public records request for all council emails, as Rubin had sent them to Leavitt.)

From: Bills, Shawn (Murray)

Sent: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 8:55 AM

To: ‘Joel Rubin’
Subject: FW: NYT on CRC
A heads up on this would have been nice. It’s good to know the City is
going their own way.

NYTimes: Washington and Oregon Cities Try to Evade Political Jam to Build a
After the $3.4 billion Columbia River Crossing plan was killed by the
Washington State Senate, leaders in Vancouver, Wash., and Portland, Ore.,
picked up the ball.

—–Original Message—–
From: Joel Rubin [mailto:joelr@cfmdc.com]
Sent: Wednesday, July 17, 2013 11:42 AM
To: ‘Bills, Shawn (Murray)’
Subject: RE: NYT on CRC
I wasn’t aware the mayor participated in this piece. However, I don’t
interpret the article to suggest that Vancouver and Portland are going their
own way. It sounds like they are going to restart the conversation locally
about what they can agree upon moving forward.
Leavitt’s quote that “People are regrouping, taking a deep breath” is
accurate and sums up where Vancouver is.
I think the article, and it’s sources from the Metropolitan Revolution, are
trying to angle the piece to show that locals need to do more of this on
their own…but the Mayor’s comments are consistent with trying to figure
out where we go from here.
I’ll talk to the Mayor, but I know that would be consistent with our
previous discussions.
Joel Rubin

And here’s Leavitt’s response to Rubin:

From Leavitt, Tim Date Wednesday, July 17, 2013 9:52 AM
To Joel Rubin; Holmes, Eric
Cc Bader, Jan; Brown, Mark
Subject RE: NYT on CRC
Thanks Joel.
Your response is accurate.
The Mayor of Portland does seem to be rather passionate about getting the project re-started, but on a different tract. Thus, I
suspect the reason for the “slant” toward locals taking more of a lead role. However, at this time, I have not had any formal
conversation with the Mayor Hales….so the suggestion in the piece that the locals, including Vancouver, are taking over is
But, I’m a bit surprised at what appears to be a knee-jerk reaction from somebody in Murray’s Office over a newspaper piece.

Timothy D. Leavitt| Mayor

Rubin’s response:

Thanks Tim. This was very helpful. I just talked to Shawn about the misperceptions and clarified them. He appreciated the additional context and said we are all good.

I agree it was odd for Shawn to react that way to a news article. Like I said, I think folks are still a little raw with emotion on CRC … also it’s
been 90+ degrees for the last two weeks and folks are a little crabby.

Joel Rubin

Vice President, Federal Affairs

CFM Strategic Communications, Inc.


Stephanie Rice

Stephanie Rice

I cover Vancouver city government. Reach me at stephanie.rice@columbian.com or 360-735-4508.

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