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Water and sewer oversight commission named

Mayor Charlie Hales and Commissioner Nick Fish announced the formation of a 12-member commission to review the oversight of the Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services on Thursday.

The Utility Oversight Blue Ribbon Commission is charged with recommending changes to increase oversight of the two bureaus, if they consider any to be warranted.

Appointment of the commission fulfills promises made by Hales and Fish during the fight over the proposed Portland Public Water District, which appeared on the may 20 primary Election ballot. Hales and Fish opposed the measure, and promised to appoint the commission if it was defeated. The measure failed overwhelmingly.

According to Hales and Fish, commission members represent a variety of technical and management disciplines including public and private utilities, engineering, communications, environmental science, and organizational development. The panel includes a current wholesale water customer, and a representative of the independent Citizens’ Utility Board.

“Mayor Hales and I pledged to appoint a Blue Ribbon Commission to consider a number of reforms to the oversight of our public utilities, provided voters rejected the proposed Water District,” says Fish, who is in charge of both bureaus. “I am gratified that such a distinguished panel of experts has volunteered to dig deep into how the City does oversight and rate-making.”

“Reaching out to this committee and seeking their advice makes sense. We don’t want to pretend that we have all the answers. Often, third-parties see these issues better than we do. We look forward to their recommendations,” says Hales.

The commission will convene in July and will present recommendations to the Portland City Council in a Work Session to be held in November. All meetings will be open to the public. The public will be invited to testify at two Commission meetings.

The city has contracted with community engagement and planning firm, Cogan Owens Cogan, to facilitate the meetings and assist the Commission in writing its final report.

The 12 commission members are:

• Chair, Dwight Holton, CEO of Lines for Life, the state’s leading nonprofit working to prevent substance abuse and suicide. Holton previously served as United States Attorney for Oregon in 2010-2012, where he launched a civil rights initiative and led community initiatives to combat mortgage fraud, domestic violence, human trafficking and prescription drug overdose deaths. Holton lives with his wife Mary Ellen Glynn and two children in Southeast Portland.

• Vice-Chair, Isaac Dixon, Associate Vice President for Human Resources at Lewis & Clark College. Prior to moving into the world of higher education Isaac worked for companies such as Providence Health and Services, GE Capital, Pitney Bowes Financial Services and NIKE. He also served in human resources roles in federal, state and local government agencies. Dixon is a long time resident of Portland and has served on numerous committees, boards and commissions.

• Barbara Byrd, Secretary-Treasurer of the Oregon AFL-CIO. Byrd oversees economic development, workforce training and climate policy issues for the state federation. On behalf of the federation, she sits on the Oregon Workforce Investment Board and on the Advisory Council of the Oregon Employment Department. She also coordinates the Oregon BlueGreen Apollo Alliance, a labor-business-environmental coalition that promotes clean energy and good jobs. Since 1995, she is has been on the faculty at the University of Oregon's Labor Education and Research Center.

• Christine Chin Ryan, founder and President of Synergy Consulting, Inc., which provides comprehensive IT software solutions to federal, commercial, and not for profit enterprises with emphasis on Customized Software Development and Staff Augmentation. Ryan is a passionate advocate for small businesses. She serves as Chair of the Oregon Small Business for Responsible Leadership, and as a member of the Small Business Majority Network Council. She previously served as Chair of the Governor’s Small Business Council and as a member of the Oregon Business Plan Steering Committee and Congressman Kurt Schrader’s Small Business Advisory Board, and served as Chair of the Oregon Small Business Healthcare Initiative.

• Rob Doneker, a registered Professional Engineer (PE) in the State of Oregon and has a Ph.D. degree in Environmental Engineering from the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University. Doneker consults on water management issues for USEPA, US ARMY COE, ODEQ, and other governments, universities, and businesses worldwide.

• Bill Gaffi, General Manager of Clean Water Services, the wastewater and surface water management utility which serves over 550,000 customers in Washington and parts of Clackamas and Multnomah counties. Clean Water Services is a leader in watershed management and has also been recognized as one of America’s most effective and innovative small businesses.

• Marion Haynes, Vice President of Government Relations and Economic Development for the Portland Business Alliance. The Alliance represents over 1,700 small, medium and large employers. Haynes served on the Portland Charter Review Commission, which investigated changes to the structure of the City’s water and sewer bureaus. Prior to joining the Alliance, Marion worked at Portland General Electric in state government affairs.

• Chris Liddle, Manager in Regulatory Affairs for Portland General Electric. Liddle recently chaired the City Club of Portland's research committee on Water and Sewer Rates and Governance. He has a BA in Finance from the University of Oregon, and an MBA from Portland State University.

• Kendra Smith, a restoration ecologist with 21 years of experience working in streams, rivers, and storm water management throughout the Willamette Basin. She currently serves on Metro's Natural Areas Oversight Committee, and Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board's regional grant review team. Smith has been a consultant, public employee for Clean Water Services a sanitary and storm/surface water utility, and currently works for the Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

• Brian Stahl, Water Division Manager for the City of Gresham. Stahl has more than 30 years of experience in municipal enterprise fund budgeting, serving on numerous regional and state committees addressing water management issues. He is the current Chair of the Oregon Health Authority Drinking Water Advisory Committee.

• Janice Thompson, Consumer Advocate with the Citizens’ Utility Board focused on Water and Sewer issues. Thompson comes to the CUB Board after over 15 years working on democracy reform issues where she fought special interests, demanding government and corporate accountability. She began her career at the Minnesota Energy Agency with a focus on community based energy programs. A stint teaching middle school science with an emphasis on stream and watershed studies provided many opportunities to communicate complex topics in readily understandable ways. Janice has degrees in Biology and Education from Carleton College and the University of Minnesota.

• Lawrence Wallack, who has more than 40 years of experience in various aspects of public health. Wallack previously served for nine years as Dean of the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University. He has substantial background in social advocacy, communication, and translation of research.

Updates on the commission’s activities and schedule will be available on Fish's website at: www.portlandonline.com/fish/index.cfm?c=65200