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The editorials in The Oregonian are often so odd as to be comical, but today's lead screamer is a real classic. It's a nasty, nasty, nasty one, wherein the local daily once again confirms its role as the Official Mouthpiece of the Portland Old Boy Network. The paper rips into the Portland City Council for having the nerve -- the nerve! -- to question the billing practices of Portland General Electric. Sure, they collected from customers hundreds of millions for taxes they never paid, but according to the O (which of course never noticed or said boo while they were doing it), no one at City Hall should dare be bothered with that.
No, no, the tenacious watchdogs down in Salem should be handling this. Governor Ted will protect the little people from getting ripped off by Big Money. You know, the way he and his predecessor have done so well for the last decade.
They must have been into some pretty strong eggnog at Broadway and Jefferson yesterday afternoon to knock out gems like this:
Commissioners Randy Leonard and Erik Sten seized on one line in the report suggesting that PGE itself retained more than $88 million in income taxes never paid to taxing authorities. Leonard and Sten claim that the report suggests for the first time that PGE improperly "kept" taxes for itself.That's right. No story here, folks -- go back to your little Portland worlds. Hey! Meier & Frank Santa! Season of Giving! City Hall blog!
It's more likely that the commissioners don't know what they're talking about.
Trust the bright lights at the O, people. There's nothing to worry about. And they know an affair when they see one.
In the long history of the city's expensive, and so far fruitless, attempts to socialize electricity, the current proceedings about the PGE books are actually the first that make sense to me. Someone in the public sector should have been asking these questions long, long ago. And whether the O likes it or not, the city has the power under state law to set electricity rates if it wants to do so; therefore, it is well within its rights to call PGE to account for itself.
Electricity ratemaking is an ugly business, but it's not that hard to understand if you're willing to dig deep and pay attention for a long time. Rather than do that itself -- rather than spend the time and money it would take to educate us all, which I thought was its job -- our monopoly daily would just have us accept the assurances of the utility executives whose actions are being called into question.
Not only does the paper write its own little overheated editorial, but of course, in case you only read the odd-numbered pages, they've got a defensive op-ed piece from a PGE face card on the facing page in the same edition. See? Everything's fine. Really. Seriously.
When the Old Boys start screaming this loudly, you know you're on to something. I opposed the whole city takeover of PGE, but I'm loving what's happening now. May Sten and Leonard keep the spotlight and the pressure on for a good, long while. If there's really nothing to hide, then the Suits Who Brought You Trojan should have nothing to fear.