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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Food fight!

Reports out of this morning's Portland City Council meeting are that the boys at City Hall, sensing the imminent breakup of the current Multnomah County commission lineup, are picking up the Mantle of Dysfunction. Meow! The spat is over the latest water billing switcheroo, which we blogged about here several weeks ago. Apparently Big Pipe and Fireman Randy are going at it. It's all supposed to calm down at 2:00, but that remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, they're throwing the rest of the eight figures of budget increases around like it's nothing. They substituted a whole new proposal right before this morning's hearing, based on the work session (no public testimony) yesterday. But hey, it's just our money, why would the public get any opportunity to make meaningful suggestions? Meanwhile, back to the back-biting.

Comments (10)

The City Council taking up where Multnomah County left off? Please. Let's give Diane Linn and the gang their due. That was one of the finest circuses ever to hit town. If they had all crawled out from the back seat of the same clown car, it couldn't have been any better.

That was one of the finest circuses ever to hit town.

Exactly. They've still got a long way to go before they reach those heights. Having never been to a meeting, do they text each other on their Blackberry's during the session? When they start doing that, we'll know they're close to greatness.

The junkets to Guadalajara, Prague and China give the City Hall version a kind of Cirque du Soleil feel.

...a kind of Cirque du Soleil feel.

Who comes out with the cool Photoshop first? You or Bill?

The water billing dispute needn't be going on at all. It's pretty much about Randy insisting that his customer service people also handle billing issues. Centraliziing billing functions citywide was a prudent business move and they should not depart from it. They have too many independent databases and computer systems as it is.

Why couldn't they just put two phone numbers on the bill, like Qwest or other utilities?

For customer service call XXX-XXX-XXXX
For billing questions call YYY-YYY-YYYY

Oh Dave, what a sensible suggestion - like that would happen!

Randy says the problem is that the Revenue Bureau can turn off the water service for non-payment, and then the resident calls Customer Service in the Water Bureau and gets upset. Seems to me that problem could be solved by the Revenue Bureau notifying Water of non-payment, and having an interbureau decision about whether to shut it off. For $240,000, the annual savings in costs by keeping billing in Revenue, we could pay a lot of delinquent water bills.

Bill and Chris - I was at Council this morning. It wasn't subtle Blackberrying. The man sitting next to me in the audience shook his head incredulously and said, "this is like kindergarten". Interruptions, arguments about parliamentary procedure, "don't use that tone to me" (yes, really, that was actually said, and until the Mayor laughed I don't think everyone took it as a joke). Commissioners not understanding what was in the proposal, and not knowing what was in the amendments proposed before and during the hearing. The City Attorney saying, "I'm not sure of the answer to your question, this has never happened before". And then after all the Council's arguing was postponed until 2 p.m., the Mayor had to be reminded to ask for public testimony (as if it mattered, which it clearly didn't).

I had to be at a meeting on health care for all Oregonians in the afternoon, so I didn't see the final outcome. I plan to try to catch the rerun on cable, though.

"Seems to me that problem could be solved by the Revenue Bureau notifying Water of non-payment, and having an interbureau decision about whether to shut it off."

One would think that could happen, but despite my offices best efforts, we could not get the cooperation of the Revenue Bureau management to coordinate with the water bureau on shutoffs, billing mistakes or payment plans.

Just one example, in spite of our request that no ones water be turned off on days when the temp was above 95, it was, including a single Mom with a disabled child whose landlord offered to pay the bill over the phone with a Visa.

The response? "We don't take credit cards".

I realize this move may cost more, however, I believe city government is here to provide service to its citizens. When that is not happening, we need to put processes in place that insures that happens....even if it costs more to accomplish that.

Finally, I admit to being very frustrated in my public interactions with Commissioner Saltzman about this subject. I should have not reacted the way I did to him.

I realize this move may cost more

So what's the price tag?

The problem is as long as we have combined sewer and water bills you're going to have to share the responsibility. At least the revenue bureau provides a common database and a common system. Considering the history of water billing systems in Portland I can't imagine why you'd want it. There's got to be a way you can smooth out those communication problems. Fragmenting the billing systems again is a very bad idea. You're using an elephant gun when all you need is a fly swatter.

That's from the perspective of a guy who is not only familiar with city hall but has also been designing, coding and implementing billing systems for nearly thirty years.

Dave: buy a Prius, issue monthly anti-War press releases, and reregister as a Democrat (as KGW looks on, film at 11)...It would help if you got a medical marijuana card wore a black beret. Start playing the groundwork now...AND PLEASE RUN FOR City Council AGAIN!

Better yet, go for the easy $150,000 in campaign funds and you can say that you've SEEN THE CLEAN MONEY LIGHT, and it is good.

Or maybe you could move into Maria RdS's district and run for MultCo commission. Open Wapato, build a 4 lane bridge to replace the sellwood (with a variable direction lane in the three lane Tacoma Street portion), and direct more resources to drug treatment (and less to public art and bailouts for failing newspapers).


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