In the Hotseat with a Willamette Week reporter, Mayor Hales called the citizen initiative to place the water and sewer bureaus under a single-mission, elected board... "political terrorism" and a "corporate takeover." That's strong language designed to incite our progressive population against a progressive movement.
It seems to me we are living a corporate takeover NOW, with our current system of managing Portland's most valuable asset and its most dependable income stream (water). Corporations manipulate the mechanisms that control our government spending, so that our spending specifically targets their businesses, thus directing public money to increase their own wealth. Water Bureau employees and City Council alike have looked the other way for the last 10 years as they've steadily marched us into massive build projects we don't need, because the corporations that write our long-term construction plans embed massive make-work in those plans while no one is watching. The corporations that make money building big, don't make any money when we don't build big things.
Our Commissioner form of government fails a public utility, whose intrinsic value makes it a juicy target for corruption. We must move beyond the Commissioner led utility, and provide our water and our ratepayers with better protections. In all the years Portlanders have talked about the failures of the Commissioner style of government, this is the first year citizens/businesses have opened their pocketbooks to hire the legal team required to write a ballot measure aimed at a solution. We need to try something, and if that something doesn't work we need to try something else, but we can't just sit here in a state of analysis paralysis. It is irresponsible.
The level of debt we see today from our Water Bureau isn't normal for Portland. You don't have to look back that far to see a time when Portlander's paid in full for their water system as they went, with today's projects being funded by today's population, leaving tomorrow's population free to afford the projects that come up, tomorrow. The debt load we carry today isn't just normal operating procedure, it is the result of years and years of mismanagement, favoring massive new construction while neglecting normal, necessary maintenance. Our water system is a rare and highly attractive asset that will always be a rich target for the unscrupulous, and we need more eyes watching it.