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Thursday, April 7, 2005

Frightening thoughts

If the City of Portland buys PGE, does that mean it gets to be in charge of the spent nuclear fuel pool at the Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, too?

And when times get tough financially, will the city cut security there the way it's cut police and other public safety budgets over the years?

Can you say "Water Bureau"? Yikes!

What brings on these nightmarish ruminations is a new report suggesting that the nuclear waste that's stacked up at places like Trojan is an attractive target for a terrorist attack. Coming from the National Academy of Sciences, which has been known to pooh-pooh the risks of nuclear waste at times, that's a chilling statement.

Which city commissioner would we be entrusting with that one?

Maybe we could buy some lead streetcars...

Comments (8)

Yeah, but think of the latent cash value that they can realize later by privatizing the storage! Admittedly the potential customer list is a little unsavory...

I thought that both federal and state law limited liability for nuclear accidents to 500 million. We could let a nuclear bomb go off and it would cost just a pinch more than the Portland Public School district had to borrow to cover the predicable calamity of PERS costs that the district continues to pretend do not exist until, surprise, surprise, surprise, the PERB demands something more.

Quit your worrying, the bond folks will offer a ready solution to cover the 500 million dollar cost, they might even find a way to call it economic development or social investing. There does not seem to be any horrible tragedy for which a bright side cannot be found, particularly if it might involve bonds.

How much could the City make selling used plutonium on Ebay?

Certainly not as much as a well respected private company such as Texas Pacific Group.

Has anyone noticed that big conglomerates aren't the best way to run a company? You get something like Viacom, which assembled dozens of media companies, only to find a few years later that maybe it better to spin off some of the holdings. You get something like the Blazers were until recently, where the same people were in charge of basketball, arena, concessions, etc. You get something like AT&T, which bought a huge cable company, only to find they couldn't do justice to any segment of their business, and now the cable is separate company (Comcast) and AT&T is about to be bought by one of the old Baby Bells.

In short, evidence continually points to the fact that conglomeration isn't the best path for a business to follow. If someone tried to get you to buy stock in a conglomerate (let's call it PortCo) that has divisions that do road construction, provide security, build sewers, does consulting for building design, fights fires, and runs recreation facilities, would you be interested in this company? If you were told that PortCo was interested in purchasing an electric utility, would your reaction be "Sure! The more, the merrier!", or would it be "What the hell does PortCo know about electricity?" That's pretty much what we have going on here: an attempt by a diversified conglomerate to pick up a business it knows nothing about.

Moreover, this conglomerate is going to operate the electricity business in territories it is forbidden from operating in in its other divisions (imagine if PortCo's security services tried to operate in Hillsboro). Maybe PortCo is attuned to its customers in St. Johns, but what does it know about the customers in Canby?

Conglomeration is a lousy way to organize. Corporations discover this fact all the time. Why would we think PortCo would be immune to the same problems?

I hear a lot about how the Water Bureau is somehow bad. I know absolutely NOTHING on the topic. Anybody care to enlighten me?

They had a huge financial disaster when Commissioner Sten bought them a billing system that never worked, even after many millions were thrown into it. Then they tried to pull a Goldschmidt-style pork barrel stunt and rip out the city's historic reservoirs and replace them with underground tanks, all in the name of Homeland Security. When the West Hills Historical Society types finally squawked about that one, they backed down. They also wasted many hours and countless tax dollars pushing a plan to turn the Bull Run reservoir system over to a "regional consortium" -- in effect, selling control over the system to the suburbs to pay for upkeep.

I'm sure there's more. Perhaps readers will expand.

In the original (billing fiasco) story, you forgot the part about how The Oregonian effectively gave Sten cover, and little coverage, until he was safely re-elected and sidled out of that bureau, and that the powers that were rolled a different head down the hill to absorb any residual heat.

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