Not a week into a push to snatch control of Portland's water and sewer systems from city hall, the effort's backers may have to call a do-over.
The group, Portlanders for Water Reform, on Thursday submitted changes to Portland's city charter they'll try to get on the May 2014 ballot via petition. The amendments would establish a seven-member 'Portland Public Water District," unpaid and elected by voters, that would wield power over all aspects of the city's sewer and water systems—including rates for customers.
But language the group submitted [pdf] has some fairly glaring typos. In at least two places, it refers to a "Portland Public Utility Board" rather than the Portland Public Water District laid out in the rest of the document. That verbiage isn't likely to be corrected by Portland's city attorney and auditor's offices, which are scrutinizing the amendments with a single-minded attention to whether they pass constitutional muster.
The wording could spur confusion on the city charter.
"The question is whether a court would say: 'Well we know what the voters intended,'" said attorney and lobbyist John DiLorenzo, when the Mercury brought the errors to his attention earlier today.
For the time being, DiLorenzo and his clients are waiting to hear whether the city's attorneys—the same office squaring off against Lorenzo in a lawsuit over use of water rate money—will approve the language.
If they do—and petitioners know the city considers its proposal constitutionally legit—DiLorenzo says the group "could just refile. Frankly, the delay would be a week." If they don't, well, the group's got more to worry about than a couple of typos.
The city attorney's office has not returned a call for comment.
Organizers say they're in the process of creating a political action committee with the secretary of state's office so they can begin accepting funds for the petition drive. They need about 30,000 signatures to get the matter on a ballot.
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