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Sources Say: Cheap public loos go down drain if city wins

(Image is Clickable Link) by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - A Portland Loo installed three years ago in downtown, cost nearly $90,000 to build. Portland is suing a Roseburg company to stop production of similar outdoor toilets that could sell to other cities for less than half the price.How is a private company able to make a public toilet so much cheaper than Portland?

That obvious question is not among those the city is asking a federal court to resolve in its copyright lawsuit against Romtec, a Roseburg company that makes outdoor toilets. The lawsuit, filed Aug. 19, accuses Romtec of selling a toilet that is “strikingly similar” to the Portland Loo, which the city has copyrighted. The suit even details all the similarities, including the dimensions and placement of the louvers.

But the suit does not say Romtec is asking $38,500 for its toilet, less than half Portland’s $90,000 price.

If Portland wins, the secret to the bargain-basement price may be lost forever. Among other things, the city wants the court to order Romtec to stop making its toilet and destroy all existing ones.

Despite the omission on the price difference, the lawsuit is full of fascinating trivia about the Portland Loo. Everyone knows the project was pushed by former Water Bureau Commissioner Randy Leonard, but who knew his full name is actually Charles Randall Leonard and that he came up with the idea after traveling to Italy, where he was “impressed with the modern, self-cleaning toilets throughout the country”?

And who knew that a Portland Loo purchased by the city of Victoria, British Columbia, in 2011 was awarded “The Best Public Toilet in Canada” by the Cintax Corp., which makes restroom cleaning supplies? According to the city’s filing, the EfficientGov.com newsletter selected the Portland Loo as its 2012 Intelligence Award winner. It also has received the Bright Ideas in Government Award from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in both 2011 and 2012. And it was the focus of an award-winning short documentary called “People Can’t Wait.”

And, oh yes, sales of the Portland Loo are intended to create “a valuable revenue stream” for the city that Romtec threatens to disrupt with its more affordable version — although Ketchikan, Alaska, is the only other city to buy one so far.

Possible Cogen opponents still laying low

Sources made a rookie mistake and forgot that campaign spending reports do not have to be filed with the Oregon secretary of state’s office very often between elections. As a result, it turns out that Jeff Cogen did not renew the website for his Multnomah County chair campaign committee after the scandal broke about his affair with a county employee. He renewed it before the news got out, but reported the $200 payment afterward.

So it seems Cogen was planning to run for re-election before the scandal broke, which is not news. What is getting to be news, however, is that no one else has yet announced a run for the office next year. Cogen is not expected to make a decision until after the state and county investigations into the situation are resolved. Even if he is cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, Cogen would have to be considered a long-shot underdog if he runs for re-election.

But so far, there aren’t any serious rumors about potential opponents. And the first day anyone can file for the office is Sept. 12, which is less than two weeks away.

Campaign fundraising shows no rhyme or reason

The campaign season in Oregon traditionally doesn’t start until Labor Day. Perhaps that explains the strange campaign fundraising pattern at Portland City Hall. So far this year, the two City Council members who are up for re-election in 2014 have raised far less than most of those who are not.

Commissioner Nick Fish reports raising just $1,550, including a $1,500 personal loan. His committee is $2,975 in debt. And Commissioner Dan Saltzman reports raising nothing for his re-election so far this year, though his committee has a $8,849 surplus.

Meanwhile, Mayor Charlie Hales has raised $52,525 this year, much of which went to paying off personal loans to his campaign committee. Commissioner Amanda Fritz has raised $15,546 so far this year, but her committee still owes $124,017, mostly to her for unpaid personal loans.

The exception among those not up for re-election is Commissioner Steve Novick. He has not raised any campaign funds this year, but his committee has a $1,197 surplus.