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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on October 12, 2011 3:21 PM. The previous post in this blog was You're *not* safe, even in the bike lane. The next post in this blog is Dr. Darm slinks off. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Portland charter change getting serious

Here's some interesting news from the commission that may be referring a city charter change to Portland voters. You know that new utility ratemaking commission they've been talking about? The latest version under discussion would require a unanimous City Council vote to override the rates set by the new utility board. The politicians would need five votes rather than three to flip the commission's determination. Now, that would be a serious reform -- and given the junk projects that water and sewer revenues are going for these days, long overdue.

Comments (7)

That would be a serious reform, but doesn't the city council pretty much vote unanimously on just about everything anyways? I guess the hope is it won't necessarily always be that way.

There have been quite a few 3-2 and 4-1 votes.

I stand corrected then.

Doesn't mean much unless the council is unable by any means to stack that commission much in the way PURB gets selected now. Or the "independent" police commission... or that CRC voting group selected by the Mayor after two years of public committee meetings, ... and on and on.

Even then, our Council has approved a number of questionable expenditures in the face of written concerns by the City Attorney to OMF. For instance subsidizing the Rose Festival by "acquiring" from PPR and then renovating McCalls. The City attorney clearly said this would go beyond that scope allowed as related to the water system and delivery. This was clearly written into the budget proposal submitted to OMF and the Mayor.

How does a non revenue bureau (PPR) transfer title to a property (valued at $2.1 M) for a property held by a revenue bureau (valued at $35,000)?

Exchanges of this sort between bureaus are supposed to be of approximately equal value.

No appraisal was done and this transfer was completed without any public process except Council voting.

If a non revenue bureau considers disposal of a real property, there is a required public process for disposition, culminating in a council vote.

These non revenue managed properties are public properties and managed not owned by that bureau, so the required process.

It seems this Council knows no law or rule that cannot be rewritten retroactively or overcome by obfuscation.

I hope the Charter review committee considers the likelihood of a political end around to whatever language they propose.

Mark,
Agree.
This doesn't mean much with this council appointing and when they "need" to on a critical issue, they are very capable of joining together for an unanimous vote. Saltzman said he wanted this to be an "appointed" commission. Haven't we had enough of those?

I have heard about some committees that after having spent much of their time coming up with solutions, they were essentially told thank you, but we won't do what you came up with. I can only assume that some good citizens would think twice about serving after that.

I know my comments are cynical, but the way I see it is that this is being done so that the people will think that the city is going to do something about our rates by setting up this utility commission now. Unfortunately, by the time this commission is in place, the damage will have been done as far helping out on our water rates, as PWB is continuing to spend. Knowing them, they will spend as much as they possibly can before any commission is implemented.

What about the Portland Utility Review Board? I thought that was to serve this purpose of a check on the rates, why set up another group?

I can just about smell the payoffs...


Backdoor bonuses aside, this might be a good idea - where do I sign up?

"...where do I sign up?"

Ralph Woods,

Although the possibility of reform is becoming opaque, the current Utility Review Board is seeking volunteers:

"Commissioner Amanda Fritz invites applications for volunteers to serve on the Portland Utility Review Board, to fill vacancies in the positions for

* East Portland Representative (vacant as of October 31, 2011)
* At Large member (vacant as of October 31, 2011)
* Local Business member (vacant for several months)

According to their web site..., the purpose of the Portland Utility Review Board is to provide independent and representative review of water, sewer, stormwater and solid waste issues having significant impact on rates and customer service. The Board endeavors to complement – not duplicate – the activities of Council and professional management. The Board meets monthly, and members are also asked to serve on a subcommittee."
http://www.portlandonline.com/oni/?c=29385&a=369139

This is, of course, the board regularly and routinely ignored by the Gang of Five at the expense of the city's residents.


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