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Sources Say: Drowning in water district confusion? Read voters' guide

Get ready to do some reading if you haven’t made up your mind yet about the proposed Portland Public Water District on the May 20 ballot. The Voter’s Pamphlet for the primary election contains 39 arguments for and against it — 12 in favor and more than twice as many — 27 — in opposition.

The arguments cover a lot of ground, from rising water and sewer rates to the rights of citizens in a democracy, and alleged drafting problems in the measure. Many, if not most, of them boil down to a single theme, however — the other side can’t be trusted. Supporters repeatedly claim the City Council cannot be trusted to manage Portland’s water and sewer systems efficiently, while opponents claim the measure is a thinly disguised corporate takeover of critical public programs.

Supporters quote incomplete information

One of the pages filed by supporters quoted from an Aug. 22, 2013, story in the Portland Tribune that said some of the environmental groups supporting the measure had received funding from the Bureau of Environmental Services, which would be transferred to the district if it passes. The story concerned a letter signed by leaders of the groups, some of which contributed to the opposition campaign after it was published.

One of those groups was the Audubon Society of Portland. The Voter’s Pamphlet page fails to note a correction that ran in the next issue of the Tribune, however, which reads, “The Audubon Society of Portland is scheduled to receive up to $43,290 to conduct multiple bird surveys at 10 locations during a six-year period as part of the city’s watershed monitoring program. Audubon donated more than 50 percent of the hours required for this project. A story in the Aug. 22 Tribune misstated terms of the contract.”

Cover Oregon becomes political wedge

Republicans are working hard to make the Cover Oregon fiasco an issue in this year’s governor’s race.

The Republican Governors Association has sent a series of emails highlighting the website’s ongoing problems. The second, sent on March 24, quoted heavily from the follow-up report ordered by Kitzhaber that blamed the problems on widespread management and communication breakdowns.

“After receiving over $300 million to build the exchange website, Gov. Kitzhaber spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on a review that showed Oregon’s health care exchange website is ‘among the most dysfunctional’ and ‘worst’ in the nation,” said RGA Communications Director Gail Gitcho in the second release.

Democratic Party allies also are working hard to increase registration before the new April 30 deadline, however. The Service Employees International Union has announced it signed up 6,000 Oregonians since the fall and is renewing its efforts this month.