We know that we pay some of the highest rates in the country, but Portland City Club's trying to defend them:
“A recent independent survey of combined water and wastewater rates for both residential and commercial customers shows that Portland’s rates are generally comparable to those in other large cities on the west coast,” read the draft version of the report, shared with reporters on Thursday.
Um, no. In Phoenix, rates are less than 1/3 the Portland rates. Los Angeles residents pay just over half the Portland rates, as do Las Vegas users. You may notice something interesting, here: all three of these locations are in the freaking desert.
And oddly, Seattle's rates are even higher than ours. How is it that cities located in rainforests charge so much more than cities located in deserts?
One answer may lie in the bureaucracy: the water bureau in Portland has 33 "managers" who "supervise" three or fewer staff, while the Bureau of Environmental Services (sewers) has 29 of them. That's according to City Hall's own study, which was ordered by Councilors Nick Fish and Steve Novick. Novick, by the way, seems to have been a good selection for Portland City Council; he hit the ground running and hasn't slowed.
Fish, on the other hand, hasn't been especially productive. And as he's in charge of the Portland Water Bureau and BES, you might think he'd push for changes - especially in light of the fact that a measure to remove both agencies from City control hits the ballot in May. Instead, he and mayor Charlie Hales are fighting to retain control of the two, and that's raised yet another issue: state elections officials are looking into whether or not Hales' staff broke state law regarding use of public resources to campaign for political purposes.
Charlie's latest press release attacking the measure wasn't written by him, but by a staff member. The mayor's in South Africa, attending an environmental conference, so the release was sent to him - and cleared for distribution - by email; suggesting that public resources were involved.
The fun and games never stop around here.