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  • 22 Nov 2014

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Sources Say: Politics swamp city water fight

A coalition that worked to repeal the City Council’s plan to fluoridate Portland’s water supply is continuing to fracture because of a new proposal to create an elected board to take control of the city’s Water Bureau and the Bureau of Environmental Services, which covers sewers and stormwater.

Major environmental organizations were among those who opposed Measure 26-151 on the May special election ballot. But now a number of environmental leaders have signed a joint statement opposing the initiative to set up a public utility district aimed for the May 2014 ballot.

The statement says the measure is supported by large water users who will manipulate the elected board to reduce their rates at the expensive of environmental programs operated by the Bureau of Environmental Services, which manages the city’s sewer system and stormwater management programs. Some of those backing the measure are challenging a number of those programs, including the use of sewer rate funds to buy a large tract of undeveloped land from the Riverview Cemetery. But co-chief petitioner Kent Craford says some stormwater management projects are justified.

Those signing the statement include such outspoken environmentalists as Audubon Society of Portland Conservation Director Bob Sallinger, Urban Greenspaces Institute Executive Director Mike Houck and Willamette Riverkeeper Executive Director Travis Williams.

Petition typos are water under the bridge

Meanwhile, the sponsors of the new measure withdrew and refiled their petition late last week. Craford says a typo and other nonsubstantive problems spotted after the original petition was filed needed to be corrected.

Significantly, the first petition was deemed constitutional by the city attorney’s office. Lawyers must determine the constitutionality of all proposed measures before they will write the ballot title necessary to gather petition signatures. The proposed water-sewer measure is far more complicated than most because it would amend the City Charter to create an elected board that would take control of existing city assets and employees.

Craford says the new measure also should pass constitutional muster because the changes were technical.

Portland’s younger crowd checks out of Obamacare

Is Portland a sign of how Obamacare will fare nationally? That’s the theme of a July 25 Wall Street Journal article that found some young Portlanders didn’t plan to buy individual insurance policies required by the federal health care reform act.

According to the article, the success of the Affordable Health Care Act depends on the 11.6 million uninsured people across the country between the ages of 18 and 34 who must buy health insurance policies instead of paying penalties for not having insurance. But the WSJ interviewed numerous young Portlanders who say they cannot afford even the cheapest policies to be sold through Cover Oregon, the state’s new health insurance exchange.

Those saying they will stay uninsured include bike shop owner Tom Daly, bike mechanic Jonathan Scarboro and food cart cook Gabe Meiffren. “I’m healthy, so it’s not in my budget,” Meiffren told the WSJ.

Some young people told The Wall Street Journal that they eventually might change their mind as penalties increase under the law.