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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Portland water, sewer mission creep makes the paper

Even the O gets it.

Comments (22)

My favorite part is Sam's quote: "I'm the first to say I've lost the spin on explaining the multiple benefits of green streets."
He lost the spin? That's the problem here? He doesn't even know how classic that is.

The other part that I don't think the Mayor appreciates is the symbolism.
Sam raises money using water. Then the money disappears again like water through his hands.
It's recycling.

Re: "The bureaus say low-income ratepayers can seek a $100 subsidy every quarter from the city through a program that's now underused."

From where, exactly, do the bureau heads who advise "a $100 subsidy every quarter from the city" imagine the cash would be taken? Other ratepayers? It is this sort of circularity that drives all rates higher and higher. It is also the sort of blank-check budgeting that calls out for the greatest of scrutiny.

Isn't scrutiny of bureau budgets the task of the Auditor's Office?

Don't look for help from the Auditor. That office is supposed to be impartial. Old LaVonne Griffin-Valade was in Leonard's pocket a long time ago. Leonard has locked up all city opposition through his usual "do it my way" tactics. We can just hear his "I run this city" patented cackle. Keep those ratepayer funded cash printing presses going 24/7 Randy.

Dean M., it would appear there is little argument with your conclusion:

Given the intimacy implied here:

during which the City Auditor asserted:

“I can no longer say this will not happen on my watch,” Griffin-Valade said. “What I will say (instead) is, never again. Never again.”

perhaps it is time for another round of suggestions here?:

"sewer mission creep"? Yet another nickname for hizzoner?

The Auditor is supposed to keep a distance from elected officials, not team up to propose policy. Your conclusions are based on superficial events and need a deeper historical understanding of the issue.

Re: "Your conclusions are based on superficial events and need a deeper historical understanding of the issue."

Given the City Auditor's recent involvement in management of the PPB and apparent disinterest in the alleged costs of providing city services, I have only concluded that I haven't an idea any longer of what the City Auditor's responsibilities are. Indeed, I cannot even say I comprehend what it is the City Auditor is attempting to say and do.

Please provide "a deeper historical understanding of the issue."

Commissioner Leonard says we should've increase your rates earlier, implying rates are just now catching up to where they should be. This doesn't cut it. I have an old bill from 2002, and using that bill and a recent 2009 bill, water rates have been escalating the last seven years by more than 5% per year. This compares excessively to the Portland/Salem Consumer Price Index measure of inflation at only a tad over 2% per year over the same period.

Not listed on our bills is the city's draw via franchise fees.

The water and sewer bureaus need to be franchised away from cityhall so the current council of spenders can't use them as a personal project piggy bank. Look at one of the line items Mayor Adams is seeking from water and sewer bills: an education scholarship fund. Can we be real. This is nothing more than a fund for the Mayor and other commissioners to hand out the "candy," and promote their political re-relections.

Leonard has been using that old line "I regret not increasing rates earlier" for years. He was given opportunities early- on to be fiscally responsible and refused to do it. All he wanted to do was grow the PWB by fear-mongering about EPA and pay for it with expensive muni-bonds....at ratepayer expense. Bringing dozens of BDS emplowees into the PWB last September for make- work projects didn't help.

There is no incentive for Council to keep sewer/ water rates in check. They have a 5% Utility License Fee tacked onto each bill that goes into General Fund for pet projects that get them re-elected. Keeps Council in-step with each other so they each get a piece of that big pie, and approve each budget.

"The Auditor is supposed to keep a distance from elected officials, not team up to propose policy."

Puh-leeze, the previous auditor just helped commissioners to justify bad ideas.

"Commissioner Leonard says we should've increase your rates earlier"

BTW - Let's not forget about SDCs. I called to ask about how much a SFR on a 35000 sqft lot would cost to connect to the sewer if the septic dies - about $45K according to BES. This is for a house with one toilet.

If we are not careful, the city will start charging to park downtown on Sundays!! :-)

Y'all, isn't it time to put our money where our mouths are? How about less griping, and mobilize ourselves to DO something?

We have a 1,000 square foot home with two residents. We don't water at all in the summer - not even a drop. We only run the dishwasher once/week, and take short showers. We are careful with clothes washing. We conserve right and left. Still, our new bill showed that our three month tab is $170!
And we only used 9 CCF of water!!

Our little house pays about the same as a house two or three times the size, according to the water bureau, for our sewer fees. How is that even right when our runoff is so much less?

Seriously, we cannot afford this. We make too much to qualify us for a $100 subsidy. Our furlough days and lack of pay raises due to economy means that we're paying out more than we were a year ago.

We also are bike riders. Since when is it okay to use sewer funds for bioswales???????

I resent these actions of not returning $20 million to us as ratepayers. It wouldn't be chump change.

WHO is minding the house, if it's not us???

Seriously asking, can't we DO something? Jack, you have a voice and a lot of followers. What do you suggest other than our being annoyed and griping here and at the Oregonian?

Tess - The $170 is for water, sewer, and stormwater. And while water rates are high, sewer rates are even higher. They told you wrong about the sewer rate - it's based on your winter water usage, not a flat fee - so you actually are metered in a sense on sewer charges; the model simply presumes that all of the winter water usage is disposed of in the sewer system, so that's what they charge year round. Avoiding summer landscape watering won't help your sewer portion of the bill, but it will save water charges, of course.

I don't know the model for stormwater charges, but the rate is considerably less than for sewer. They do differentiate by on-site and off-site stormwater, and if you have your downspouts disconnected (as I do), you can get all of the on-site charges eliminated - but you have to ask.

And finally, there's a $22.68 "base charge" per quarter just to be hooked up to the system, regardless of use.

John, thanks for the info. Yes, I'm more than aware that it is the sewer portion of the bill that accounts for the majority of the fees. I'll look into the disconnect aspect - that would save $80/year. Thanks.

The amount of water use DOES correlate with the sewer volume. I was assessed $6.500 per CFF of water used.

Well, my base charge is a few pence less than what you cite - guess I should be grateful for that, eh? $22.13.

Seriously, everyone, can we not do anything substantive to protest the use of the $20 milion?

The Portland Water Bureau proposed rate increases:
FY 2009-10 17.9%
FY 2010-11 18.9%
FY 2011-12 19.0%
FY 2012-13 18.8%
FY 2013-14 19.0%
In addition to the above proposed water usage charge, the base charge will
also be increased.

Reconsider the recall, help get signatures to recall Adams, a compromised Mayor who apparently will not stand up for the public interest regarding our water. This at least would be a first step to show our Council we want accountability, and basics taken care of.

Leonard has been using *emergency ordinances to move forward with expensive projects. The only emergency I see is to also recall Leonard. We can't afford Leonard in charge of our water and the water bureau's agenda.

(The * indicates an emergency ordinance, which takes effect immediately if passed. Non-emergency ordinances require two readings and a 30-day waiting period before taking effect. Resolutions, reports, etc., adopted by Council are effective after adjournment.)

Jack: where would find exactly how much both Portland water and sewer rates have increased since 2000? Lots of numbers flying around. What is a reliable document or reference. Thanks

My oh, my, Zoton, casting aspersions by deflection. Why ask Jack?

You know damn well where to get numbers.

Zolton, not Zoton.


9CCFs is pretty good for two people, but we two have been able to pare usage to 7CCFs while still keeping the birdbath fresh year-round. Yet the 22% difference between your usage and ours amounts to only a 10% difference in our bills.

You must cut back on your daily ablutions -- showering, shaving, and teeth brushing. You may think you have been parsimonious regarding clothes washing, but you must reduce that to a smaller quarterly number. Also, stop flushing the toilet. You'll get accustomed to this regime, although your friends and colleagues may not.

It is true that you reside in the sodden Northwest, where water is plentiful; but it is not true that our region's greatest natural resource is inexpensive. Water has been privatized by our alleged public servants. Bechtel could hardly have made it more expensive for us.

As for saving on sewer charges by disconnecting your downspouts, you may find that the building permits for the siting of your home were approved long ago in the expectation that runoff would be directed to the sewers but that you are now unable to disconnect. Since others are able to do so, thus reducing contributions to base charge, you will end up paying more and more in sewer charges. (The ticket to ride a train costs more for the remaining passengers when passenger usage falls off.) Alternatively, you may find that you can disconnect your downspouts and pass the extra charge to your neighbors.

What can you do? Try cycling unbathed to City Hall some Wednesday morning and expressing your olfactory protest in that impressive chamber made so offensive by the current Gang of Five. Let them know that water is essential to livability: in the pursuit of revenue, they pretend to have forgotten.

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