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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on November 7, 2004 5:56 PM. The previous post in this blog was Gotta keep those lovin' good vibrations happenin'. The next post in this blog is Exactly four years ago this hour. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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E-mail, Feeds, 'n' Stuff

Sunday, November 7, 2004

Your tax dollars at work

Well, it's great to see that the City of Portland is flush with cash. I guess the days of tight budgets for our local government must be over.

How else do you explain the four-color, 22-by-17-inch brochure that arrived at our house the other day from the Water Bureau? It explains in great detail the wonders of the current sewer improvement project that's going to help keep the untreated human waste out of the Willamette River -- even if it means the highest residential sewer bills in the world.

This flyer is a real work of art. We hired artists, photographers, graphic designers, copy writers -- and there's even an invitation to view a 17-minute movie narrated by Walter Cronkite about the river's "return to glory!"

And of course there's the lovely quarter-page message from City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who oversees all these wonders. He took time out from his busy schedule of rigging bids on eBay and making a mockery of public process to take credit for the project and show us his bar mitzvah picture again.

I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot of that shot in his campaign literature when he's up for re-election. But before Homer Williams and Gerdling-Edlin start paying for the campaign ads, I guess it's only appropriate that the taxpayers pay for the pre-campaign. Or maybe it's a coincidence that this thing went in the mail the day after the election.

Hey, Mayor Potter! Is this our fresh, new direction?

Comments (17)

Where is Nick Fish when you need him?

Of course, Potter's not exactly in office, is he. Nor, for that matter, would Fish had he been elected.

Potter doesn't need to be in office, does he? Can't you call his advance man, Erik?

So they say. And ain't that perfect.

Mr. Potter has announced that he will pull all the bureaus from the commissioners for (I think)six months or so after he takes office, so if the Commissioner of Public Utilities wants to send brochures out on the public dime, now is the time to do it.

Saltzman has good reason to smile. Water bureau billing program fiasco number two, which is looming on the near horizon, has been pulled from his portfolio into Office of Management and Finance, which is Vera's. That actually makes some sense, because most billing systems are an accounting function, and OMF is essentially the accounting department. Politically, the beauty is that, once again, the commissioner in charge of the original decision can disavow responsibility as the city plays "bureau shuffle". And with a newbie mayor and a newbie commissioner coming in the old tune of "it wasn't on my watch" will be heartily sung.

Glossy and pointless brochures aside, are you opposed to the "big pipe," Jack? Are you angry that your fellow faculty member Mr. Johnston led the charge to stop Portland dumping their sewage into the Willamette, because it increases your sewer bills? How would you pay for it alternatively? Was there a more cost-effective method to clean up the river that I'm not aware of?

I don't mind the Big Pipe so much. Sure, we're paying now for an infrastructure that our predecessors should have built long ago. But it's the responsible thing to do.

I do resent it, however, when the few, the proud, the truly anointed Native Oregonians call me a "newcomer" from California. I'm paying to clean up their parents' problems.

I liked the brochure. I didn't know much about the project from the piecemeal reporting in our local media, and this was the first time I got to see the project in an easily digestible format.

Short on details? You bet. But I've dropped this the junk drawer to refer to later, along with the urban renewal notice I got from the PDC.

"I do resent it, however, when the few, the proud, the truly anointed Native Oregonians call me a "newcomer" from California. I'm paying to clean up their parents' problems."

I have never done this. I have asked you who gets to draw that final boundary line, and when & how, that you want to start drawing now, and that Tom McCall and his devotees wanted to draw a long time back.

And NO ONE ever cleaned up, or needed to, any mess owing to my parents. They were and are as selflessly civic-minded as citizens come.

Me -- I left & you all can have it, messy or clean. I wish you well. There used to be a sense, or perhaps I imagined it, of giving more than was taken, and that the state itself mattered more than any one. Or coalition. Or group.

I really appreciated getting the brochure. It's been painful for this low income household to see the costs associated with this project, but after reading/viewing the information, I now believe that it will be money well spent. It seems like it's part of accountability -- something we always seem to long for, but grumble when we have to pay a penny for it.

Also, it was by no means "glossy." It was a very well done, yet exceptionally low cost newsprint piece. The fact that it incorporated good design was a bonus, and I hardly begrude hiring some "artists, photographers, graphic designers, copy writers" to help. The fact that a miniscule portion of the cost of this enormous project supported some of my peers makes me smile. [disclosure: I'm a designer and copywriter.] Support the arts!

Sally: Geez, I wasn't talking about you. Sorry I hit a nerve.

I understand, with all the irritaiton and attitude towards governmental spending that this brochure would grate on the nerves of the taxpaying citizen but what if they hadn't? Or perhaps sent out a small, cheap foldable bechure with little to no real information? I have a feeling that people would complain in either scenario just as loudly.

Personally, I can't be more apathetic towards this. Not that I think it's a bad idea at all... it's just that kowing that most city and county projects are grant funded and not necessarily taxpayer funded it doesn't really bother me all that much.

As long as the river doesn't catch fire I'm happy...

TTM wrote:

"it's just that knowing that most city and county projects are grant funded and not necessarily taxpayer funded"

The CSO project (aka the Big Pipe) is being paid for by your sewer rate dollars, and it’s why you’re paying about 3 times what you did 10 years ago for sewer service. By the time the project is completed in 2011 (if the city is lucky), rates will be close to $80/month...just for sewers! There’s very little grant money involved, so get ready to open your wallet.

And it’s the Bureau of Environmental Services, not Water, that sent out that lovely brochure. What it doesn’t tell you is that about 80% of the ‘sewage’ going into the Willamette is runoff. The CSO project will spend more than $1 billion to capture, transport, and treat the rain. And the river will not be much cleaner, since the level of bacteria in the Willamette exceeds standards upstream of Portland.

Getting sewage, even the diluted stuff from combined sewer overflows (CSOs), out of the river is a good thing. But there are better ways of dealing with the rain that might be more cost-effective, and the CSO project does nothing for the real problems of heritage pollutants (like the Portland Harbor Superfund site), loss of riparian and floodplain areas, dam-controlled flows, or lack of watershed function in the urban area.

Our sewers, while old and in need of upgrading, have more than enough capacity for our sewage. We should be taking another look at the costs of the Big Pipe.


JIM Wrote: "Our sewers, while old and in need of upgrading, have more than enough capacity for our sewage. We should be taking another look at the costs of the Big Pipe."

Are you perfectly certain about this? I've heard something a little different from other sources. Not that it really matters in the end - just call me curious.

I support the Big Pipe Project - anything to clean up the Willamette... althouigh I have to agree that this project alone will not dop it alone. Which, in turn, may make you think 'What's the point?'

Until they can release a bio-safe organism that will comsume the pollutants and kill the bugs without harming either the environment or or drinking water we're pretty much going to have to go on as we've always been. That is, NOT swimming, NOT eating anything out of and NOT getting closer to the water than need be. ^_^

As far as the funding, granted that the increase in our water/sewage bills are contributing to this project it is my understanding they, alone, are NOT the sole funding source.

I could be wrong though - as I am getting this second-person.


“Cleaning up the Willamette” oversimplifies the issue. We’ve spent more than 150 years altering the river. Wheat farmers started pulling snags in the mid-1800s so they could get their crops to market, not realizing that those woody clumps were important for salmon. After major floods dams were built on the upstream tribs, changing the natural flow patterns and disrupting the life cycles of the ecosystems along the river. Midvalley meanders were diked to to create land for farming, river banks in towns were armored and filled, gravel bars mined for aggregate, and the channel dredged for bigger ships.

The result is a loss of more than 80% of the riparian area and floodplain, unnatural hydrology, and endangered salmon. Those structural changes did more damage to the river than the years of pulp waste, cannery dumping, and raw sewage. We’ve reversed the effects of most point source pollution. The water column itself is probably cleaner than anytime in the last century. You shouldn’t drink it, but that goes for surface water anywhere on the planet. Simple contact with river water is fairly benign.

It will take decades to get the river back in shape, and it may never happen if society isn’t willing to pay for it. The Big Pipe willl use just about all of Portland’s available funds just to deal with bacteria. It will be very difficult to find money to do the other work we’ll need to do, and the ratepayers may not trust the City when it comes back with its hand out after 2011.

As for the source of funds, here are some snippets from the City (note the steady increase in the cost estimate from $1 billion to $1.2 to $1.4, the last occuring over a few months)....

rate impact from 2000 brochure

"Rates have already risen from $14 per month in 1992 to $33 per month
currently. Rates will have to increase to $71 by 2011 to complete the
current CSO program.."

CSO costs (from pre-Portland Online BES web site, circa 2003)

"The estimated cost for the entire CSO Program is over $1 billion. While the
City will look for alternative funding sources, such as state and Federal
grants, most of the money will come from sewer rates."

rate impact from the BES Portland Online site

"The average residential sewer bill in Portland increased by 5.9% on July 1,
2004 based on projected water use through the year. The projected average
monthly residential sewer charge in Portland this year is $40.97. Here is a
summary of Portland sewer rates for fiscal year 2004/2005."

from BES brochure dated "Summer 2004"

"The CSO abatement program on the Columbia Slough and Willamette River will
cost about $1.2 billion by the time it is complete in 2011."

from BES brochure dated "Autumn 2004"

"The entire 20-year CSO Program will cost approximately $1.4-billion by the
time construction ends in 2011. There is currently no federal or state
funding available for the East Side Big Pipe project. Portland sewer
ratepayers are funding this project for a cleaner Willamette."

Well, ok.... if you're going to go and get all factual on me! ;0)

Seriously, thanks for the info.

You're welcome.

If only the City would be a little more forthcoming about the issues with the river.....



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Lange, Pinot Gris 2015
Kiona, Lemberger 2014
Willamette Valley, Pinot Gris 2015
Aix, Rosé de Provence 2016
MarchigĂĽe, Cabernet 2013
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Cleto Charli, Lambrusco di Sorbara Secco, Vecchia Modena
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Edmunds St. John, Bone-Jolly Rosé 2016
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Chehalem, Inox Chardonnay 2015
The Four Graces, Pinot Gris 2015
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L'Ecole No. 41, Merlot 2013
Della Terra, Anonymus
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Penda Diakité - I Lost My Tooth in Africa
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Anthony Holden - Big Deal
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Road Work

Miles run year to date: 113
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Total run in 2016: 155
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