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Water and sewer board will make ballot, supporters say

Despite mounting criticism from City Hall and environmentalists, supporter of the initiative petition to create an elected water and sewer board say it will make the May 2014 ballot.

At a Thursday morning press conference, co-chief petitions Kent Craford and Floy Jones say they have already collected half the approximately 30,000 Portlander voter signatures needed to qualify the measure for the ballot.

Both said they intended to collect 50,000 signatures by Dec. 31 to provide a cushion for those signatures that are likely to be ruled invalid by elections officials. The deadline for filing the signatures is Jan. 21, 2014.

"The measure is going to make the ballot, there's no count about that," Craford said.

Craford and Jones also criticized Mayor Charlie Hales for calling the measure's supporters "political terrorists" and "clowns" in a recent Willamette Week interview.

"That kind of name-calling coming from City Hall is totally inexcusable. It's time to start debating the merits of the measure, and it time for Hales and [Water Commissioner] Nick Fish to begin explaining why having an unpaid board running the water and sewer bureaus is inferior to leaving them with full-time politicians," said Craford.

Several prominent local environmentalists have also come out against the measure, including Bob Salinger of the Audubon Society of Portland, which criticized it in a recent Portland Tribune story. Among other things, they are concerned the elected board will be dominated by representatives of businesses who will reduce funding for environmental programs administered by the Bureau of Environmental Service. It operates the city's sewer system and storm water management programs.

Most of the financial support for the measure is coming from businesses that use a lot of city water. Craford said they are interested in reducing the rates that everyone pays.