Fresh air: Novick stirs pot on reservoirs
We're not sure that our nickname of "Napoleon" is going to stick to new Portland commissioner Steve Novick. But the news that he's been quietly running the city's water bureau, including its street toilet program, for the last month sure sounds like he met his Water-loo.
Anyway, Novick's now handed the reins over to the mayor, who will be administering all the city bureaus for a while. Maybe the rookie will get it back later this year.
We hope so, because one of the things Novick did in his brief interim tenure was to take another run at the bureaucrats in Salem who are forcing the city to cover its reservoirs. Replacing the reservoirs with underground tanks was a pet project of Novick's predecessor, Admiral Randy, and while the city has gone through the motions of petitioning the state for an exemption or a delay, it's been obvious that City Hall has actually welcomed the excruciatingly expensive and utterly unnecessary cover mandate. The state health authority, no doubt reading the Admiral's clearly legible body language, so far has held the line.
Interestingly, those rulings were made back when Gail Shibley was one of the head honchos at the state health agency. But now she's the chief of staff to the mayor of Portland, who's desperately trying to run a city with a cash flow that's already been frittered away on debt for the Admiral's toys. Perhaps in her new role, Shibley can join Novick in getting the state to back off.
Alternatively, maybe the city's extensive lobbying crew can convince the legislature to intervene and let the city off the hook. Perhaps they could work it in between repealing Measure 5 and preserving the corruption known as "urban renewal."
It was interesting to read the dialogue between Spineless Jelly Fish and water bureau expedition leader David Shaff about why Portland hasn't gotten the same deal that Rochester, N.Y., has managed to get:
"There's nothing that we've learned in the Rochester application that would give us a basis to say, reconsider here in Oregon?" Commissioner Nick Fish asked during the Dec. 12 meeting. "Was there a different argument or a new argument or new evidence that would give us basis to seek reconsideration here?"
"No," Shaff responded. "As a matter of fact, I think we have a better case," he said, noting that Portland received a variance from treating water for cryptosporidium.
Shaff told the City Council that his bureau argued rising costs and broad expenses to state regulators, "just like Rochester did."
"If we were in New York, it's very possible we would have gotten an extension from the state agency. But we didn't," Shaff said in December. "We're in Oregon, and it was Oregon that said no."
What a load. Rochester got an exemption because it really wanted one. The Admiral didn't want one, and everybody knew it. Including Shibley. And including Fish, who along with Shaff was obviously providing cover for his bosom buddy Randy. Well, Randy's gone now. Maybe Shaff and Fish will be gone soon as well. Let's hope that Novick was sincere, and that this time somebody through the looking glass in the state capital will listen.