City starting to admit water bureau mission creep is illegal
City Hall announced it on Friday afternoon so that you wouldn't talk about it, but there's big news in the lawsuit challenging illegal expenditures by the Portland water bureau under the direction of Fireman Randy. It appears that the city is going to "voluntarily" pay back the bureau from other general funds for expenditures incurred for setting up the Rose Festival headquarters building, which has been one of the subjects of the lawsuit. A new resolution to go before the City Council this week specifically refers to the suit, states that the council disagrees with it, but then reverses the expenditures and transfers the property, formerly the site of McCall's Restaurant, back to the parks bureau, from which the water folks acquired it in February 2009. (We questioned the move back when it was happening.)
This is major. And it is not the end of the litigation. It challenges many other expenditures, and it's not clear that all of the abuse has yet been uncovered.
There's an important lesson to be learned here. The City Council and bureaucrats in Portland are extremely arrogant people who abuse power. The Fireman, who walks around these days with his middle finger continuously extended to all the world, illustrated his attitude perfectly on Friday:
Portland Commissioner Randy Leonard oversees the Water Bureau and has been the fiercest defender of the Rose Festival building. "We're not backtracking on what we've accomplished," he said. "To satisfy the city attorney's office, they've suggested an alternative way to fund a project I wanted to get done. And I'm fine with that because the project's done."
We love you too, sweetheart.
Portland government officials do not listen to criticism. The only thing they understand is litigation. This one is getting their attention. Let it be a continuing lesson.
There are probably a dozen more lawsuits like this one that need to be brought, in many areas of city government operations, with a new outrage cropping up seemingly several times a year. Portland badly needs a good government league that will bring that kind of litigation as it's needed. And no, like you, we are not volunteering.
Will water rates go down as a result of the repayment? We doubt it. Because the council is also going to pass another ordinance this week, fattening one of its sweetheart consultant contracts with the ever-hungry CH2M Hill firm. The city will be throwing about $2 million more to that company for more work to replace the city's existing reservoirs with underground tanks. The contract started out at $8.5 million; it's now going up to $12.3 million, and counting. That's about a 45% increase so far.
The Hill crowd includes some of the same experts who helped federal officials write the rules that require the tanks, and now they cash in on the backs of little old ladies taking a bath in Portland. Meanwhile, other cities are getting excused by the feds from building tanks, but Portland really wants to build them and will do whatever it takes to get the multi-millions to the politicians' friends. We're happy that a little bit of justice is being done this week, but the overall picture is still disgusting. Portland needs new blood in the water bureau in the worst way. Let's hope Char-Lie puts Nurse Amanda in charge, if she makes it through tomorrow.