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Sources Say: Fish says foes put him in political hot water

Commissioner Nick Fish suspects some of those opposed to the sale of Water Bureau property in Southwest Portland are trying to embarrass him politically. Fish, who oversees the bureau, notes that their lawyer also represented sponsors of the proposed Portland Public Water District when its ballot title was challenged.

Petition sponsor Kent Craford admits recommending the lawyer, Kristian Roggendorf, to one of the sponsors several months ago. Craford said he did so after the opponent sought his advice on how to fight the Water Bureau.

Five of the opponents who spoke to Sources said Roggendorf was just one of several attorneys they interviewed, however. He was chosen, they say, because he seemed the most qualified. All five said they oppose the proposed water district, which could appear on the May 20 primary election ballot.

Whatever the case, Fish has brokered a three-way mediation process between the bureau, the opponents and the buyer, Renaissance Homes. No schedule has been set for resolving the dispute, if at all possible.

If it worked with the fluoride fight ...

In the meantime, Craford says he thinks the water district measure will be opposed by political, business, labor and environmental interests if it qualifies for the ballot. The measure already has been denounced by practically every member of the City Council and several environmental organizations.

Craford, a former lobbyist who represented large water users, says other business leaders tried to discourage him from pursuing the measure, and he expects public employee unions who represent city workers to be against it, too. He thinks much of the opposition is because the measure challenges the status quo by creating an independently elected board to manage the Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services, which operates the city’s sewer system and stormwater management programs.

“It’s anti-establishment,” says Craford, who notes Portland voters overwhelmingly rejected the plan to fluoridate the city’s water system that was supported by many political heavy hitters. It was opposed by a number of environmental organizations, however.

Petitions with more than 50,213 voter signatures were submitted to city elections officials on Jan. 22. They have until Feb. 20 to determine if 29,786 are valid, requiring it to be placed on the ballot.

Getting their name out there

The 2014 election season is off to a fast start. The filing deadline is still more than six weeks away, but a number of candidate appearances already have been scheduled and held.

Leading Republican candidates for U.S. Senate debated on Jan. 25 before the Western Liberty Network. They included Mark Callahan, Jason Conger, Jo Rae Perkins, and Monica Wehby. Republican gubernatorial challengers Bruce Cuff, Jon Justesen, and Dennis Richardson also appeared.

The two candidates for Multnomah County Chairman, Jim Francesconi and Deborah Kafoury, appeared before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce on Jan. 28. Two weeks earlier, Francesconi spoke before the Columbia Corridor Association.

The filing deadline is March 11 and the primary election is May 20.