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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on April 4, 2013 9:46 AM. The previous post in this blog was Char-Lie shows his hand. The next post in this blog is Ludlow wants to stop revolving door. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Portland water bureau not under control yet

One of the truly rogue Portland city bureaus during the Sam Rand reign of terror was the city's water bureau. Admiral Randy and his henchmen in that office ran up huge debts, jacked up water rates astronomically, and misspent water revenues wastefully and illegally -- so much so that they were sued, and are still being sued, over it.

With a new mayor, one might have expected new bureau leadership, but so far that hasn't been forthcoming. The Sam Rand children in the transportation bicycle bureau got their walking papers immediately, but nothing's been said publicly about the figureheads in the water empire.

Meanwhile, the city has stopped borrowing money for the time being. In the heyday of Mayor Creepy, the city would "issue bonds" (fancy talk for using a credit card) at a breathtaking pace -- seemingly tens of millions of dollars a week. Over the last six months, the bureaucrats have probably tapped some of their secret lines of credit for some big bucks, but no public bond sales have been held.

You just know it's a temporary quiet period. After a while, they'll go back to the banksters for another fix. And the water bureau will no doubt be first in line to head further into hock.

Kent Craford, one of the many effective critics of the water bureau's shenanigans, has written a letter to editor of the Wall Street Journal about some of them. We hope we're not spoiling its chances of publication by borrowing this excerpt from the letter:

Here in Portland, Oregon our City Water Bureau is about to market $186M in new bonds mostly to finance large unnecessary capital projects, including a $44 million headquarters facility for themselves with a staggering price tag of $289/sq. foot. In 2000, the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) held $134.8 million in outstanding debt, with annual debt service of $12.8 million. As of July 1, 2012, the PWB was carrying $440.1 million in outstanding debt, with annual debt service of $36.1 million, representing about 26% of annual revenues....

The City of Portland's water debt binge continues despite a revenue faucet that is more constricted every year. Portland has seen a steady decline in both total and per-capita water consumption over the last 25 years. In order to compensate for falling demand and service a burgeoning debt, rates have risen 133% since 2000 and are projected to rise another 66% over the next five years. As recently reported by local media, rate rebellion has begun. Large industrial water customers like us are considering our options -- cut back usage even further, pursue alternative governance of the utility in the form of a PUD, or simply relocate. Water rate revenues are nearing a diminishing marginal return wall.

Watch the water bureau. If Randy's BFFs, David Shaff and Ty Kovatch, are still working there under the next commissioner, you'll know it's still as dangerous as ever. It probably will still be trouble even if those two walk, but if they're around, you know the Admiral's games are continuing. And don't be surprised if they've already got some backroom deals in place that will set off fireworks when they see the light of day. We can hear it now: "It's too late to turn back."

Comments (8)

Unfortunately lawsuits are the only thing that work around here. Thanks to Kent Craford's group and to you for going after the arts tax. They simply won't listen in this town unless forced to.

"representing about 26% of annual revenues."

Obviously, you should be seeing the need for rate increases, erm, further testing of water purity in anticipation of EPA actions in 2093.

For a water system that captures mountain fresh rainwater and then uses gravity to move it to town, it is really incomprehensible how they have managed to screw this up so bad.

I really hope the Mayor comes to his senses and puts a halt to most of these unneeded projects and gets back to fixing the rotting infrastructure.

Unfortunately his position on adding poison to the water (industrial fluoride) is not very encouraging.

Thanks to Kent Craford for gathering and presenting the information about Portland Water Bureau debt and water rates, and to Jack Bogdanski for posting the excerpt. It is an informative and well written excerpt. Now I would like to learn more about the capital projects that brought about the debt, in addition to the above mentioned 44 million dollar headquarters facility.

Saw demonstrators with signs outside the Central library today protesting fluoridation. I'm not sure why they were there instead of at City Hall but at least there was a strong presence.

Unfortunately it's going to play out just like the apartment complex situation on Division. City Council will decide what's good for us. And those of us who disagree will get to pay more for bottled water on top of the cost of our escalating water bills.

Honestly, wouldn't it be less expensive -- and fairer -- to let those who want to imbibe fluoride simply buy and add it to their own water or make sure their family get its in their toothpaste? Why should I have to pay for someone else's fluoride jones? What's next?

NW Portlander - people buying their own fluoride? Where's the (big) money in that?

Portland water bureau not under control yet
No and in my opinion:
They may very well come out with "It's too late to turn back" as they have been incrementally taking us down this expensive path towards privatization VIA the
spending and debt. Watch out for any efforts towards a regional plan leading towards privatization where others in the region or global interests will be controlling our water and we could lose our water rights. Is this the path for those who have been salivating to take over our water and make money on it? How nice of our council to have set this up or have gone along with this. They are not our friends. Don’t count on Charlie to be our friend here either. We are at crossroads. First we need to stop the fluoride from being implemented. These entities that want our water want US TO PAY for all the incremental parts of the big plan so they can eventually get what they want without paying the big price tag. That is what we are for, to pay for it and as a final parting gesture we will be stuck with seriously degraded water.

http://www.privatizationwatch.org/

April 5, 2013
Posted on April 5, 2013 by Editor

News
Privatized Water Systems More Costly Than Loans. In these deals, the private company will give the local government what is effectively an upfront loan for control of the water system, while ratepayers, not the municipality, are expected to repay the loan through rate increases and other fees. “Water system concession contracts are a new form of predatory lending, targeting cash-strapped, financially desperate cities and towns,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Because they do nothing to address the source of budget problems, long-term water system leases just use fiscal smoke and mirrors to obscure them, transferring a municipality’s money woes to local taxpayers through rate increases.” eNews Park Forest


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