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Monday, March 3, 2014

Audubon's Good for At Least $10,000 to Fight a Proposed Water District

Posted by Dirk VanderHart on Mon, Mar 3, 2014 at 11:44 AM

We promise not to obsessively chronicle every campaign contribution as May's primary election draws near, but this is a biggie.

Among foes of a proposal to hand control of Portland's sewer/water systems to a new elected board, the Audubon Society of Portland has been the most vocal. And the wildlife group isn't stopping at rhetoric.

Audubon has kicked in $10,000 to the campaign fighting the "Portland Public Water District," which would assume control of the Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services if approved by voters in May. The contribution ties one from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 189 as the opposition campaign's largest cash infusion to-date (it apparently began raising funds in mid-February).

Since the campaign for a seven-member utility district began in July, Audubon Conservation Director Bob Sallinger has been a chief critic—even filing complaints with the Oregon Secretary of State's Office after he said signature gatherers for the effort were spreading lies. Those complaints, and others like them, were eventually tossed when they couldn't be substantiated.

Proponents of the new district say it will rein in poorly reasoned expenditures (and their attendant rate increases) that have marked city hall's stewardship. They point most-frequently to projects like the Portland Water House and the purchase of the Rose Festival Building as places we could have saved, but it's other projects—like the massive Big Pipe, which keeps sewage from seeping into the Willamette River during rainy periods—that have most-influenced utility bills.

Sallinger and others (Mayor Charlie Hales is at the head of the opposition campaign) paint the proposed district as an attempt by industrial interests to hold out-size sway over their own utility rates. Big ratepayers Siltronic and Portland Bottling Company, along with property management groups, have primarily funded the water district campaign.

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