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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on August 16, 2012 7:38 AM. The previous post in this blog was New revelations, new charges in Portland parking bribe scandal. The next post in this blog is You, too, can be a scoundrel. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.



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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Busting Nurse Amanda's chops

WW spilled some ink this week making Portland city commissioner Amanda Fritz look bad. This story ridicules Fritz's proposal that the city stop building mega-million-dollar underground water storage tanks and instead simply put plastic covers over the existing open-air reservoirs. It's too late for her to be raising that issue now, the story suggests, because Fireman Randy and his water bureau henchpeople have already starting building the tanks.

The story's right about the facts, but the spin it puts on them is questionable. First, what the city really should be doing is fighting the unfunded federal mandate to cover the reservoirs. Covered drinking water storage has its problems, just as uncovered storage does. The budget-busting construction projects that Uncle Sam is requiring are not needed in Portland. But that argument isn't covered in the story, as if it's too absurd to deserve any attention.

Second, although construction of the underground tanks is under way, that doesn't mean that it has to be seen through to completion. Many more tens of millions of dollars will have to be borrowed and spent to complete the water bureau's pork-filled plans, and there's no reason not to revisit the wisdom of going forward every step of the way.

Third, the story asserts that "[t]his year, the Water Bureau convinced the feds and the state that Portland’s Bull Run water supply didn’t need a filtration system—blunting Fritz's claim she saved the city $500 million." Whatever the merits of the political observation, the fact is that the city bureaucrats had to be forced, kicking and screaming, to request an exemption from having to build the treatment plant. The cozy relationship between the city and water treatment firm Carollo Engineers badly taints its decisionmaking in this area.

But perhaps most importantly, the whole tone of the piece is anti-Fritz. Her good attributes are painted as a facade, and she's faulted for actually having principles.

Fritz has always sought to portray herself as a thrifty commissioner willing to take on big spending and question conventional wisdom at City Hall. Her iconoclastic style has fed her image as an ineffective outsider often on the losing end of 4-1 votes.

That's just five paragraphs into the story.

The boys at WW have never liked Nurse Amanda, and they would doubtlessly love to see Goldschmidt Party darling Mary Nolan run her out of office with all the West Hills money she can amass. But they could be more subtle about it. A lot more subtle.

Besides, when you're on a City Council with the Sam Rand Twins, a real estate tycoon, and a spineless jellyfish, being "ineffective" is a badge of honor.

Comments (12)

I'm alternatively amazed and amused by the argument that both WW and the daily O make, trying to marginalize Fritz because she is sometimes on the losing sides of 4-1 votes.
I'm sure the O made the same argument when Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening were the only votes against the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.
There's nothing wrong in standing up against nonsense and madness.

To be fair to the Oregonian, they endorsed Amanda and cited her principled stands as a reason to keep an independent city commissioner.

She must be viewed as threat by someone.

Apparently everyone seems to have forgotten that the Water Bureau DID IN FACT Purchase heavy, plastic covers for at least some the outdoor reservoirs, Which they promptly SOLD at something like 5% of what they had just WATER BUREAU employees. I'm going to guess that story can be found way back in some archives somewhere. I'll look when I have more time.

That was back when Saltzman was running the water bureau and things were being done pretty much above board. Under the Sam Rands, the decision to disconnect the reservoirs and replace them with tanks was made with little public process.

A number of things conspired drive Fritz into ineffectiveness.

First, she came in a supposed maverick who was going to clean up the place.* That doesn't work, because the mayor has the power to assign bureaus. If you're going try to slow down the Idiot Train, you're going to be stuck in the baggage car.

Second, Fritz is a great auditor, but a terrible manager. On top of that she has a firm belief that process is progress. Her pizza-to-staff ratio is through the roof, at least she did her part to stimulate Mississippi Pizza.

Third, Fritz has no initiative. I can't think of any major ordinance put forward by Fritz. Even the Office of Equity turned into Sam's baby at the end. Why couldn't she -- just once -- have a big idea that saves the city tons of money -- and push it. I love the penny pinching ads, but Portland is billions of dollars in hock. Fritz has no push.

Commenters on this board say over and over, "You get the city you voted for." True enough, but the power of the mayor cannot be overstated. Fritz came in with a reputation for getting in the way, and was quickly given a broom closet for an office. It's like having only one property in Monopoly, there is no way up.

Here's a tip: Watch Steve Novick. He has two paths he can follow. On one path, he can play ball with the mayor and get the bureaus he wants and leap frog into Wyden's seat. On the other path, he can be a thoughtful maverick and be consigned to throwing paper airplanes into his wastepaper basket.

*Randy Leonard began the same way. Most of the news from his first years on council are about Leonard rolling up his sleeves to fix (or micromanage) even the slightest of potential injustices. He quickly learned that the only way to get anything done is to buddy up with the mayor. If you're the mayor's #2 vote, you get the plum bureaus to run. Now, it seems that Randy and Sam share the same office.

Willy Week pimping for the West Hills crowd? Gosh I can't imagine why they would do that - it couldn't be advertising money and access to $$$power$$$?

Sounds like the Fritz is in...

The covers history can be seen at:

Money had been spent and plans were in place. I can't believe that she wouldn't know this. The problem with her plans for other bureaus, is she doesn't have the power and doesn't totally know what's going on. The covers have many (maybe more) of the problems of covered reservoirs in trapping animals/debris and deteriorating, unless this is a new generation beyond what was planned. I don't know why "Friends" would endorse this either.

The problem is the lack of fight for a stop to the mandate (because the PWB helped write it and wants it). Mary wouldn't answer any water related questions during the campaign and with her ties to big water co's, is fine with the plans and future regionalization.

Therefore, I will vote for Amanda but it probably won't do much good.


Portland's Water Bureau Lists Reservoir Covers on eBay, Bids Itself, Then Balks
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The Oregonian

When the Portland City Council voted in July to ditch its plan to cover the reservoirs in Washington Park and Mount Tabor, it left a dilemma: what to do with two custom-made covers and related hardware the Portland Water Bureau had already purchased for $398,000?

According to a recent story in The Oregonian, the bureau decided to sell them on eBay, and it contacted the state surplus property program to list the items for auction earlier this month.

However, at the close of bidding on eBay Thursday, the highest offer for the whole package was a mere $18,100 to an anonymous bidder. So the city balked, rejecting the bid.

Turns out the bidding apparently was an inside job. Today it was revealed that several Portland Water Bureau employees apparently banded together under the eBay username "1trueseeker" and cast the winning bid.

Why they bid on the very covers they were selling is unclear, and so far those involved have not come forward.

Morteza Anoushiravani, chief of the 550-employee bureau, told The Oregonian he is investigating the bidding. He added that although it is legal for city employees to bid on items in a public auction, he needs to find out whether they did so on city time.

Back in 2002, the city council decided to bury the three reservoirs at Mount Tabor and float covers on the two reservoirs at Washington Park, at an estimated cost of $77 million.

However, opposition around Washington Park and Mount Tabor got organized with rallies, websites and lawsuits, citing aesthetics, effectiveness, cost and impact on water purity as their reasons.

Meanwhile, the Water Bureau, overseen by Commissioner Dan Saltzman, moved forward anyway. In mid-2003, the bureau hired a local contractor to custom-make covers for the Washington Park reservoirs. The contractor used a specially formulated brand of chlorosulfonated polyethylene called Hypalon. The contractor assembled panels of the plastic to fit the two reservoirs–one measuring 115,000 square feet, the other 106,000 square feet.

By October 2003, the Water Bureau was ready to have them installed. But about that time, Saltzman began to yield to the activists' pressure. He asked the bureau to hold off on installation. He formed a citizen-review board.

While the citizens deliberated, the rolled-up cover segments lined the banks of the reservoir like giant rolls of toilet paper waiting to unfurl.

On May 11, the citizen-review board came back with a clear decision: Abort the project since the cost outweighs the benefit. On July 28, the council decided to accept the panel's advice.

Instead, the council voted to improve security around the reservoirs and do some deferred maintenance using $6.2 million that will come out of the bureau's existing capital funds. In addition, the council authorized adding security staff, using $392,000 that is part of a 1.2 percent rate increase approved earlier, Campbell said.

That and other rate increases, along with increases to pay for sewer expansion, have given Portland ratepayers some of the highest combined water and sewer bills in the nation.

The city is also waiting for direction from the EPA about what is required for water supply safety and may revisit the notion of covering the reservoirs. But the bureau decided it couldn't wait for the EPA to decide the covers' fate.

Their shelf-life while rolled up is limited, Campbell said, and if they aren't serving their intended use, the warranties will expire–risking a total loss of resale value.
More like this

City of Portland Petitions for Variance from EPA
Oregon Town Unloads Old Water Tower on eBay
Portland, Ore., May Seek Drinking Water Variance
Oregon Town Lists Water Tower On eBay
Another California City Votes to Withdraw from Water Agency

Leave A Comment

Whether you agree with her or not on the issues, Fritz has another reputation as the “Hardest working member of the City Council”. In that she makes it a point to strive for and fully review what comes before the council (Sammyboy often throws things on the agenda at the last possible minute), and that she answers emails personally, any objective political observer would likely say that is mostly true.

There's nothing wrong in standing up against nonsense and madness.

She needs to do this in a big way. Amanda has projected a nice demeanor and smile, she may have been raised to go along to get along, but the community suffers, as it isn’t working on this issue and in my opinion:

If Amanda Fritz wants to win this election, she needs to show a real spine and go to
Washington DC to ask for a Waiver from the Federal LT2 Regulation, get off the merry go around we have had to deal with here and to get on the same path as NY has and separate herself from the “boys.” Playing around the issue with the variance and now covering the reservoirs is just another compromise and no real solution.

Lets’s face it, those “running” our city want to change our water system, water rights and then get the entire kit and kaboodle by the time they are done, a grand master plan here making some very rich and it is being done by putting complexities out to confuse the public while incrementally dismantling our 100 year sustainable Bull Run Water System.

Amanda initiated a work session on the matter recently only to have Leonard take over.
Leonard and his PWB must not be allowed to destroy our good system anymore. They have been on a race, plan being to put too much into this no turning back now. I believe the idea of not throwing any more money down a bad path must be taken here.

This coming Wednesday, PWB wants to spend more on another tank on Kelly Butte. This “covering of reservoir" may have been Amanda’s attempt to stop the Kelly Butte project.
I don’t know what she knows, but she may need to be very courageous and do some whistle blowing here on the entire episode in order to save our water and extract herself from this debacle. She may be trying to play both sides here, but it looks like a loss for her anyway by the WW so quite a predicament and not easy for one who is a go along to get along person.

This may be similar to what I observed on the national scene, where some cannot implicate others because they too have been in too deep by going along.

Maybe someday we will find out the story here and many could write a book on this, that may happen but too late. The spending and the debt has to stop NOW.


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