Representative Jules Bailey—a longtime skeptic of the $3.4 billion Columbia River Crossing highway-bridge-and-rail project—joined several other lawmakers earlier this week in reversing their opposition and advancing a $450 million state financing plan to the Oregon Senate and, presumably, governor's desk.
That 45-11 vote enraged and saddened critics of the I-5 project who see the CRC as a financial and environmental boondoggle. And last night, at an Oregon League of Conservation Voters forum where Bailey was building support for a tough-to-pass state carbon tax, a few tried to drive home a point.
Activist Hart Noecker strode up to Bailey during a question-and-answer session and handed him a "Cars Rejuvenating Carbon" award for his "courageously increasing the carbon and car capacity" of the 10- to 12-lane CRC project—a behemoth that raises the serious possibility of making lousy air quality in North Portland even worse.
Bailey didn't seem so pleased... and neither did some of the people at the event, maybe because it was such an awkward moment. Only a couple of people clapped during the prank. And Bailey decided to leave the award behind.
Bailey, for the record, has written a lengthy explanation of his CRC vote. Reached for comment this morning, he defended his record on carbon and climate change and said he would have welcomed a discussion about the vote even after a somewhat amusing political prank (my words) that he described as a "sarcastic grandstanding maneuver."
"They were asked if they'd like to ask a question. They declined. I'm sad they passed up that opportunity," he says.
Bailey also says he stuck around after the event, along with Senator Jackie Dingfelder, who has yet to vote on the highway project.
"Everybody is entitled to their opinion," he says. "I wish they'd have taken the opportunity to talk to me. I was standing near them. They huddled near the bar with their beers... It was a tempest in a teapot. I'm not worried. It was a good event."
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