More Comments on Proposed "Portland Water District"

by Dan Meek

This is also posted at http://www.oregonlive.com/portland/index.ssf/2014/05/portland_public_water_district_8.html.

I just received a very misleading big postcard from the "yes" campaign on this measure. Nearly every statement in the postcard has already been refuted in my op-ed at http://tinyurl.com/meek-oped-water or is otherwise untrue or misleading.

The postcard shows a desert and says "Phoenix has lower water rates than Portland." First, a comparison of "water rates" alone leaves out the elements that comprise most of the "water" bills, which are charges for sewer and stormwater disposal. Second, there are many cities with lower water rates than Portland and many cities with higher water + disposal rates, including just on the west coast (for typical residential usage levels): Seattle, San Francisco, San Diego, and Oakland. See Black & Veatch, 50 Largest Cities Water/Wastewater Rate Survey (2012/2013).

But if you want to look at just water rates, the same survey shows that Portland has lower commercial water rates than even Phoenix, whether the customer is using 100,000 gallons or 10 million gallons per month.

The postcard claims that Portland "water rates have risen 161% since 2000." There is no source cited for this, and I can locate nothing that supports it apart from a USA Today article in September 2012, which also states that water rates during that period have risen in San Francisco by 211% and San Diego by 141%. The article itself states: "Local water costs vary widely because of geography, climate, population, a water company's borrowing costs and other factors. That makes it virtually impossible to compare one city's water costs to another's."

Dan Meek Op-Ed on "Water District" Measure

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.

Dr. Don Show Features "No" on Portland "Water District" Measure

Conversations with Dr. Don will air, starting on Tuesday, April 22, a 1-hour show with Dan Meek. The first half is about the Portland "Water District" measure on the May 20 ballot and includes these slides [or this PDF version of the slides].

Portland Area Broadcast Schedule

Portland, OR metropolitan area: Tuesday  11pm  Channel 11

Washington County, OR area (Channel 21):

Friday  8pm
Saturday  1am     Saturday  9am
Sunday  3pm
Monday  6am       Monday  1pm

It is also at https://www.youtube.com/user/friendlydon1.

OPP Urges NO on the Corporate Takeover of Portland’s Water and Sewer System

NOTE: Thanks to the determined opposition of the Oregon Progressive Party, this measure was defeated on May 20, 2014, by a vote of 71-29%.

This is the Voters' Pamphlet statement of the Oregon Progressive Party on Portland Measure 26-256.

Joe Walsh Stands Up for Democracy

Joe Walsh writes:

On May 23rd, many of us who call ourselves progressives/activists attended a Portland City Council meeting to protest the raising of rates on water usage.  We were told, after our arrival,  there would be no testimony and the voting by the members of the Council would be at 2:00 PM.  Many of the members of  Friends of the Reservoirs were there to speak against this rate increase and fight against the EPA’s mandate to change our water delivery system.  The first indicator that the “Fix” was in was the missing sign up sheets.  Mayor Adams had no intention to allow anyone to testify against these rate increases; it was a done deal.  We listened for a time and then, when it was clear what was happening, I stood up and called for a point of order.  The Mayor acted in a dictatorial manner and ordered me to sit or be thrown out of  the hearing.  I stood my ground and two security men arrived at each side of me and ordered me to leave.  I fell to my knees and refused to go until the mayor answered my point of order.  He refused but did indicate that he would now let the citizens of Portland present their views on this outrage.  The confrontation was over.  Someone did call the police and about 6 cops showed up for one old guy on oxygen who was challenging mayor adams. 


We did testify and as a result Commission Fritz, to her credit, requested a meeting with the rest of the Council to work on lowering the rate increase and try to come to some type of compromise.  We applauded her actions, but the fight has only just begun.

It was announced that on May 30 at 9:30 am next week the water rates would be taken up again, this is where you come in.  Will you come and join us at this hearing?  You have taken positions on the covering of the reservoirs, the building of a treatment plant at Bull Run and/or the destruction of a wonderful system to deliver drinking water to the residents of Portland.  I only speak for Individuals For Justice and the Oregon Progressive Party, however I can not imagine any organization that would not be proud if you came and sat during this next hearing.  I for one would be honored if you joined in and raised your concerns about a major mistake by the Water Department.  I know it is difficult to make these meetings, however this issue is of great importance to our city.

Thank you for you time and we’ll see you at the next city council meeting.

PS:  There is another item on the agenda that Oregon Progressive Party has come out against--installation of police spy cameras in the downtown area.  This is item 613 to be voted on sometime in the morning also. Remember that the City Council is meeting in the Portland Building (not City Hall) and will start at 09:30 am.

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