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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Business Alliance: Upcoming Water District Measure "Irreparably Flawed""

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Earlier this week, we reported the Portland Business Alliance wouldn't take a position on the upcoming vote over who controls Portland's water and sewer services. The measure that will go before voters in May has problems, the PBA's Bernie Bottomly said on Tuesday, but so does the status quo.

Well, the business alliance just sent along its official position paper on the matter—approved by the group's board of directors this week—and the language surrounding the measure is a bit stronger than you might expect from a group not taking sides.

The board says the measure "is fundamentally flawed and is likely to result in poorer management and higher rates for the city’s water and sewer utilities." The PBA later calls the measure "irreparably flawed," but notes it "also doesn't believe the current system serves the best interests of the ratepayers."

The particulars of the report are the same as we reported earlier. The PBA worries the measure—which would establish a seven-member "Portland Public Water District" to control the Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services—could increase the city's interest rates, spur defections from wholesale water customers, and leave out swaths of East Portland voters, among other things.

But the business lobby also says the current management of the utilities has problems. It recommends putting the entire city council in charge of the bureaus, not just one commissioner, and beefing up citizen oversight of water and sewer rates.

Kent Craford, a chief petitioner behind the water district campaign, says he's looking over the findings. Here: You can do the same [pdf].

The PBA paper is one of a series of reports likely to emerge around the issue as May 20 approaches. The City Club of Portland has also been studying the matter, and the Citizens' Utility Board of Oregon just inked an agreement with City Hall to scrutinize water and sewer service.

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