Sources Say: Cost of EPA rules adding up, may fall in Fish's lap
After working to keep water and sewer rate increases down, Commissioner Nick Fish now faces the prospect of overseeing three costly utility projects — if he gets oversight of the Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services back from Mayor Ted Wheeler after the next budget is approved June 8.
Fish made a point of reducing projected double-digit rate increases after being assigned the water and sewer bureaus by former Mayor Charlie Hales, when a ballot measure was in the works to transfer them to an independent commission. Although that measure failed, Fish has kept annual increases in the single digits.
But now the Water Bureau may have to spend up to $20 million treating water to reduce lead from leaching out of pipes in older homes, and at least $100 million to fight the potentially deadly parasite cryptosporidium in the Bull Run Watershed, the primary city water source. Both projects are required by U.S Environmental Protection Agency rules.
And that's not counting the money the EPA is going to require the Bureau of Environmental Services to spend cleaning up its share of the Portland Harbor Superfund contamination.
Forbes writer targets state PR spending
A writer for Forbes has accused Oregon state government of spending $278 million on public relations over the past four years.
According to a piece posted on May 20 by Adam Andrejewski, "Since 2012, taxpayers paid $110 million to employ 303 public affairs employees, spokespeople, advertising, video, print, web, graphic designers, marketing and communications managers. But, it wasn't enough. The state shelled out an additional $168 million to outside PR and advertising firms. Some of those firms charge fees up to $260 per hour and one company reaped total payouts of $34 million — convincing Oregonians to gamble."
Forbes identifies Andrejewski as the founder of OpenTheBooks.com, a database of 3.5 billion federal, state and local government salaries, pensions and expenditures. You can read his article at http://tinyurl.com/ychu9sdz.
Serious or protest proposals?
Democrats in Oregon's congressional delegation are standing up to President Donald Trump by introducing legislation with no chance of passing.
For example, all six of the state's Democrats in the U.S. House and Senate recently introduced a bill to require every state to offer some version of Oregon's vote-by-mail system. Despite the convenience it offers voters, so far only three states have followed Oregon's lead to require vote-by-mail in every election — Washington, Colorado and California, the latter starting next year. Several other states allow some elections to be held by mail.
Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley and Portland-area Rep. Earl Blumenauer also recently introduced a bill to reduce spending on nuclear weapons programs by $100 billion over the next decade. Trump wants to increase defense spending and most congressional Republicans appear to support at least that part of his proposed budget. And Merkley has co-sponsored a bill to transition the country entirely off fossil fuels by 2050. Trump, of course, has talked about climate change being a "Chinese hoax" and is debating pulling out of the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which former President Barack Obama didn't even submit to Congress for ratification.
Of course, the odds for all these bills would improve if Democrats take control of Congress at the 2018 elections.