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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Water District Backers Attracting Property Management, Industry Money. Not Much Else.

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 at 4:14 PM

Water_commission_presser.jpg

The political action committee trying to wrest control of Portland's water and wastewater bureaus from city council has been billed—by us and others—as a melding of water activists and big industry.

But if that's the case, it's not showing up in the group's campaign money. Portlanders for Water Reform yesterday unveiled another $10,000 in contributions from a Portland property management company—the 735 St. Clair apartments.

The donation comes on the heels of hefty donations from two other property managers, as well as Portland Bottling Company and Siltronic, which makes semiconductors. Absent from the group's fundraising ledger so far: robust signs of grassroots support.

Now it's possible some of the activist folks who'd be interested in giving to the campaign have another horse: A new water initiative announced Sunday nightthat's more in tune with the city's anti-fluoride, pro-reservoir crowds.

The two campaigns are pushing different plans during different elections, but they could compete for some of the same dollars.

Portlanders for Water Reform wants to create a new, seven-member board that would assume control of the Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services. That proposal faces logistical questions, but may wind up on the May 2014 ballot.

The newer campaign, targeted for November 2014 by a group called Cascadian Public Trust Initiative, addresses many activist's concerns more directly. It mandates a citywide vote before new substances are added to Portland's water supply, for one thing—a provision baldly targeting fluoride. And it requires the city to continue fighting the US Environmental Protection Agency's so-called "LT2" rule, which has the city spending $228 million to build new reservoirs on Powell and Kelly buttes. (It's worth noting not all the group's backers think that's a workable notion. Spokesman Nicholas Caleb told me the provision is sort of a sop for those who feel the city hasn't exhausted all its options. "We know there are a lot of people who that was a big issue for," he said. "If the city really did go through every hoop they could, that probably won’t have any effect at all.")

It appeared yesterday the two water initiatives will have little truck with one another. Caleb acknowledged members of his group distrust the business-backed Portlanders for Water Reform. "They see the corporate backers and they say 'what's going on with these guys?'" he said.

Meanwhile, Kent Craford, a chief petitioner for that group, told the Mercury: "On its face, I think anything that brings greater attention to the water/sewer crisis is a good thing."

But he added: "I don't put a lot of stock in it."

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