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Submitted by info on Thu, 05/01/2014 - 19:35
Note: The voters of Portland rejected this measure overwhelmingly in the May 2014 primary election.
The "Water District" Measure is a Corporate Takeover
of Portland’s Water and Sewer Systems
Note: This op-ed appeared in the Portland Tribune on May 1, 2014. What follows is slightly annotated version.
For 27 years, I have helped create new publicly-controlled utilities in Oregon, including the Oregon Trail Electric Cooperative, now the largest electric cooperative in Oregon (annual revenue $48 million).
Measure 26-156 is not a typical "public district" creation measure. Instead, it grafts onto the existing City of Portland water and sewer systems a 7-person Board of directors that can set rates, borrow money to be repaid by Portland taxpayers, sell property, and decide how to use the existing $19 billion of assets in those systems and who pays the $682 million of annual costs.
The new 7-person Board would be elected half the time in low-turnout odd-year elections, as each term would be 3 years. There would be no limits on campaign spending by any persons or entities. I would expect the big corporate water/sewer users to get together in private, select their candidates, and overwhelm the voters with political ads. After all, they have provided over 99% of the funds for this campaign, including the paid signature gathering. See http://tinyurl.com/waterdistbackers and http://tinyurl.com/wdbackers2.
Siltronic Corp. is both by far the largest user of Portland water and the largest contributor to the campaign (30% of the total).
The resulting corporate-dominated Board would likely:
(1) gut expenditures necessary for environmental protection, and
(2) increase rates for residential customers in order to decrease rates for the largest customers.