Sewer till raid for bike toys continues to rile Portland public
Portland's unzipped mayor and his court jesters on the City Council have really hit a nerve with this sewer-bills-for-bike-boulevards thing. Last night members of the citizen utility board gave the council a piece of their minds, although of course, the politicians weren't around around to hear it. And there will be another opportunity for public expression on this issue quite soon. Sewer customers who live in town will get to vote on city commissioners Nick Fish and Dan Saltzman again in May. The sewer-bike scam is the kind of issue that can sway many people's votes, if their opponents handle it properly.
Apparently commissioner Amanda Fritz is also learning a bitter lesson here: When you cast your rush-rush vote for one of these Sam-Rand pigs in lipstick, don't try to explain yourself. You make yourself look really foolish when you do. Now she's correcting her highly inaccurate justification from the other day for voting yes on the sewer money raid, when she said the cost of the diversion would be just 90 cents to the "average" sewer customer. Er, no:
If $20 million were cut from BES's Capital Improvement Projects for the purpose of cutting rates and reducing ongoing debt service, the impact to a typical residential customer would indeed be about 7.5 cents per month, in the first year. The impact in the second year would be greater, up to 15 cents per month, and top out in the third year at 22.5 cents per month. So the annual return to ratepayers would be $0.90 in year one, $1.80 in year two, and $2.70 in years three through twenty-five. Overall, the total amount over 25 years would be about $65."I do what Sam Adams wants first, voting on an emergency basis even when it isn't really an emergency, and ask questions later." Not acceptable. Not even close.
I don't know if having the information about ongoing rate impacts would have changed my vote, if I had received it earlier. Our federal government borrowed billions of dollars last year, and by doing so was able to send money to states to fund projects to provide jobs. This investment in jobs, instead of paying off the debt, can be seen in the same light. On the other hand, our Portland Utility Review Board voluteers are charged with commenting on ongoing rates, and I would have liked their input on a decision that affects ongoing rates in this manner.
This has been a challenging week, with the proposed changes to the Independent Police Review process being considered today after only being released for public review on Friday, and with the intense Council debate on the Hurley case in the Fire and Police Disability and Retirement system yesterday. My staff and I work long hours doing our best to find out accurate information, and to make good decisions based upon thoughtful consideration of facts and public input. I am not always successful in these goals. I will continue to base my actions on what I believe is best for the public good in Portland, recognizing that reasonable people can and do disagree on what that means. Sometimes I disagree with myself after further discussion. You're welcome to continue the debate and input here, however I will be unable to check back until Sunday due to a packed work schedule on Friday and family obligations on Saturday.
And besides, this isn't about jobs. I'm sure most sewer customers are fine with the city using their sewer bill payments to hire construction workers to build improvements to the sewer system. But when you take the money and throw it at some la-la bike plan, those are the wrong kinds of jobs -- jobs that sewer users rightfully resent being placed on their backs.