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Thursday, July 21, 2005

PGE to City: No thanks

Apparently the folks in charge of the Enron bankruptcy carcass have no interest in entering into a sale contract with the City of Portland for Portland General Electric. City Commissioner Erik Sten is returning home from the Big Apple having had his fancy purchase proposal brushed off, if not laughed out of their office.

Now the talk among the City Hall bobbleheads (thanks to "Frogger" for that one) will turn to the city's condemning PGE, which seems highly unlikely.

Hey, Opie! We've blown, what, about $3 million of general fund dollars on this Big Idea of yours? And it's going nowhere. Can we redirect your Sprinkler of Tax Money to something more do-able, like, say, oh, I don't know, reopening the police precincts at night?

In truth, what the city should have been doing for the last six months is spending big bucks to pressure the Legislature to pass genuine utility reform at the state level. That way, when Enron's creditors get hold of the company's stock (or sell it to another Goldschmidt-esque group of private investors), they couldn't pull the stunts that Enron pulled when it owned PGE.

But that wouldn't get anyone's picture in The New York Times, and so instead we did this. Millions in exploratory costs down a rat hole, and the continuing risk that ratepayers will be abused by another group of owners. If this were a business, it would have been out of business long ago, and Opie would be looking for a real job, perhaps as a receptionist in a luxury condo tower.

Comments (29)

Plus, what will Sten do now? He only got like two bureaus in addition to the PGE deal assigned to him by the Mayor.

Plus, what will Sten do now? He only got like two bureaus in addition to the PGE deal assigned to him by the Mayor.

We can only hope he'll take the Charlie Hales' approach to summers in Portland.

I'm sure he's not done. We've got at least six months of screwing around to do with condemnation. I'm sure he'll blow another half million before "declaring victory" and finding another windmill to tilt at.

C'mon, look on the bright side. He lost far less at this deal than he did with the computerized billing system at Water. In a couple years he'll screw something up with Qwest, but that will only cost 1 million. Before you know it, he'll be breaking even with his boneheaded moves involving local utilities.

By the way: $3 million...that's how many cops/jail beds/mental health beds/firemen, Eric?

I'm not sure which is worse:

that the city wasted $3+ million on this goose-chase, or,

that they jumped in headfirst without establishing the support of Portland voters and the necessary regional partners.

The irony here is that a lot of folks regard libertarian activists as tunnel-visioned political novices who refuse to acknowledge when their worldview is out of step with reality.

It seems in this case, that description better suits Sten and Co.

Jack--where are you getting the $3M number from? I remember they agreed to pay something like 1.6M for the preliminary study and then additional money once that happened, but I haven't seen any actual citation of what has been spent so far.

between the water bureau BS and his PGE pursuit so far this guy has cost us like $40 million that didn't have to be spent. Let's see what we can get for $40 million...our new tram, fixed roads, business tax relief...hmmm what do you think will be cut to pay for his blunders...I say the tram!

Can't ANYONE in this town run against Sten? Good lord. The attacks ads practically write themselves.

We'll probably never know how much has really been spent, but by June 2003, the tab had reached $850,000. I'm extrapolating that we've burned another $2 million or so since then, particularly with a couple of outside law firms involved over the past few months. Perhaps the good commissioners can give us the official damages so far.

I'm all for snark... but no actually believes this is the reason do they?

"But that wouldn't get anyone's picture in The New York Times, and so instead we did this."

At Portland City Hall, a New York Times quote with a picture causes more orgasms than hardcore porn.

Ouch Jack, that was harsh, even for you...

Well done!

On the other PGE thread, someone made the point that condemnation is a lousy idea because it would only apply to assets within the city limits, and since the generators are outside the city, Portland could condemn the utility, and then would end up buying the electricity anyway. Since this is such an obviously bad idea, I wonder when Sten will start talking like it's a reasonable next step?

Tomorrow morning at 9:30, "time certain."


PGE soaks us for $2M EVERY WEEK...and you're complaining because he tried to find a solution. Shouldn't you go back to burying your head in the sand? Hooray for capitalism.

In capitalism, man exploits man...but in communism, it's just the opposite.

so enron figures it can make more by selling to another investment group than selling to a city and you want to see sten in the pioneer square stockades.

Oregon has six PUDs: Newport, Clatskanie, St. Helens, Eugene, Wasco County PUD and Tillamook. and there are 28 washington, but i haven't heard any complaining until pdx wanted it.

if you want to start a rant, jack, about city waste, why don't you discuss the pension & disability fund? $2000-5000 per month to babysit paul allen and hone one's culinary skills and report the traffic in a helicopter.

this money comes out of property taxes. this bugs the hell out of me and i don't even own a house. wow, it's as if i'm trying to empathize with hoemowners and we all know that's impossible.

and about what i said about pdx being on the 'green' vanguard, not just #1 in green buildings per capita, but #1 in total green buildings period.

did you catch:

p.s. mental/jail beds are county, not city.

Hey, county, city, they talk about merging them all the time. I write one property tax check for them all.

so enron figures it can make more by selling to another investment group than selling to a city

"Make"? As in, the creditors getting paid 15 cents on the dollar for their Enron debt rather than 12 cents? If you understood how bankruptcy works, you'd see how absurd the latest "profiteering" cries are. But hey, don't let the facts get in the way of another Erik Sten Fable. Just keep throwing my money.

"... Portland Mayor Tom Potter said the city's $2.6 billion offer for PGE, which includes $2 billion in equity, remains on the table.
"He accused the bankrupt Houston energy giant of setting up insurmountable obstacles and of failing to fulfill its pledge to negotiate with the city in good faith..."
"...City Commissioner Erik Sten, who championed the cause for the city, was unrepentant and said Enron appears to have found a more profitable way to dispose of its most lucrative asset.
'They intend to make a lot of money through the stock distribution plan,' he said...."

Arrogance and ignorance is a particularly bad combination. Really unflattering, to say the least. These people, Sten and Potter, are laboring under a number of boneheaded delusions, but most particularly are, (1) that the bankruptcy court's number one concern is to fulfill Potter and Sten's fantasies about being utility jockies, and never mind that it'd be at the further cost of Enron's creditors, who've already been jobbed bigtime, and (2) that Enron itself enjoys some kind of unfettered discretion about which offers to accept and which ones to reject.

All of this stuff is strictly overseen by the bankruptcy court, the trustee, and Enron's creditors, and they are all concerned only about maximizing liquidation proceeds to pay creditors. That's the only thing that matters to them. Whatever Portland is offering is obviously not even within range. And Potter and Sten, meanwhile, got their feelings hurt, and are taking it all personally.

And I'd imagine that any effort by the city to condemn PGE would be viewed most unfavorably by the bankruptcy court as a violation of the automatic stay.

Where'd these clowns come from? Doesn't the city have any lawyers that are knowledgable about bankruptcy who are advising them?

Its amazing that people are so gleeful about this. What did we win? More criminals with no competition ripping off the public. Sten and friends may make mistakes, but at least they put the interests of the community first and formost. What does some shmuck from Texas care about grandma milly's energy bill. Enron didn't sell to PDX because it would end up proving that public ownership is a better deal for the PUBLIC compared with private ownership sending HUGE profits out of state to shareholders.

The knowledge in the legal community that the limit of the City’s reach matched the city’s boundary is not new, indeed it was a stretch so far out to ponder otherwise that some lawyers’ heads should roll. The DA or the OSB need to get with-it and get some lawyers to return the gains that they claim they earned leading blind Erik down the yellow brick road. As I understand it, the OSB inquiry of misconduct by certain legal folks was stalled due to the City’s signed confidential agreements with Enron. The door for the OSB to restart their inquiry should open immediately.

It was only a week or so ago that Ted K. (a former Oregon Supreme Court Justice) pledged to use his power as Governor to support the City of Portland’s reach beyond their legal boundary. Was his target audience the folks at Enron? What am I to make of the ethical implications of Enron themselves rejecting a deal as legally unsound? Surely Ted is not blind to the law so it was clearly, and exclusively, a political move . . . but one who’s premise was on defeating clear Oregon law. Was Ted acting as some sort of Godfather like figure assuming the responsibility of little Erik’s push for PGE? I think yes, thus the heat on Erik should instead flow upstream right into the Governor’s lap.

CurtS, don’t forget that it was the Oregon Investment Council that wanted to sponsor the TPG plan to buy PGE and to do it on behalf of the PERS (a little for the employer accounts and a little for the employee accounts) and directly against the interests of the ratepayers. The OIC, as an investor that is charged with a fiduciary obligation to the trust beneficiaries, would have gouged the Oregon ratepayers with that same glory and gusto as the cheesiest capitalist you could find. Indeed, as a partial owner the OIC reaped glorious returns from Enron, both in elevated dividends and – get this – elevated speculative paper gains from the bubbled-up stock value of Enron which then formed a part of the calculation of Underfunded Actuarial Liability for our public pensions. (Fair market value is used to measure assets upon which the fixed payouts and gains are then pegged.) You need to modify your skepticism meter such that it includes all of your follow humans not just a single set that can be labeled evil. I just hunt for evil, without regard to label.

Are we ready yet to get the OIC out of the business of investing in equities, and then pinning any loss upon the general public?

"Can't ANYONE in this town run against Sten? Good lord. The attacks ads practically write themselves."

In irrelevant, meaningless, but locally laden rhetoric, he's "for" sex, drugs & rock-'n-roll ... oops! .... peace & poor people. It doesn't matter what he does. His ticket is good for life.

HUGE profits out of state to shareholders.

Hello! The company's in bankruptcy! The shareholders have completely lost their investment and will get nothing, repeat, nothing.

Folks, please stop repeating nonsense, and get a clue.

I think the figures the city is releasing on money spent are probably only for checks they've issued. A full accounting should include city staff time and resources expended. High level staffers in the commissioner's offices make big salaries. I'm sure there are more than a few who have worked exclusively on this for the last couple of years. There are probably a lot of inter-agency billings to consider as well.

Jack, Jack:
If PGE is spun off to creditors, it will have shareholders. They will make profits. Those profits will offset, in whole or part or more than whole, the foregone proceeds of the PGE sale in the bankruptcy estate. The point is, however much they are, they will come from ratepayers here, either as phony tax payments or legitimate profits, or both.
There's nothing inherintly wrong or silly about public ownership of a public utility. It's just that we here in Portland have a government that falls short of the skills required to make one work.
Much as I applaud your efforts to raise awareness of our government's shortcomings, I find your other arguments against public ownership of our utilities uncompelling. Personally, I'd like to have a better government AND public ownership of all our infrastructure.

Bad typo -- read "inherently" above.

In irrelevant, meaningless, but locally laden rhetoric, he's "for" sex, drugs & rock-'n-roll ... oops! .... peace & poor people. It doesn't matter what he does. His ticket is good for life.

Yeah, I know, but c'mon. This is Portland, for crying out loud. There's not ONE person in town who can match Eric in the "fun lovin' pol" category and BEAT him in the "can actually tie his shoes" category?

Jack--want to form an exploratory committee? I've got the perfect name--JACKPAC.

There's nothing inherintly wrong or silly about public ownership of a public utility. It's just that we here in Portland have a government that falls short of the skills required to make one work.
Is that an argument for or against the City of Portland taking over PGE?

'Is that an argument for or against the City of Portland taking over PGE?'

Probably 'for'. Why settle for the lesser alternative -- higher utility costs and second-rate government -- when we could be demanding more of our elected public servants?

"Yeah, I know, but c'mon. This is Portland, for crying out loud."

Gee, I thought "This is Portland, for crying out loud" was my argument. :=) borrowing s-i-j's eyeroll: (^_^)

"Why settle for the lesser alternative -- higher utility costs and second-rate government -- when we could be demanding more of our elected public servants?"

Current abode is in a town with publicly owned utilities -- and even the combo of Enron (by way of PGE) and Portland Water Bureau (by way of aforementioned Opie) didn't hose me this bad.

I guess the devil is in the details, between private profit or public incompetence.


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