Your City Hall: City land swaps, water protection on council agenda
WHAT IS HAPPENING? The City Council will consider sending three City Charter amendments to the voters Wednesday, June 26. Two concern the Portland Water Bureau, and all three are sponsored by Commissioner Amanda Fritz, who was assigned the bureau by Mayor Ted Wheeler in August 2018.
They accompany an ordinance for a land swap with the U.S. Forest Service within the Bull Run Watershed intended to consolidate city property holdings around the primary water source for the city and much of the region. (See story, page A4).
If approved by the council, the amendments would appear on the November general election 2019 ballot in Portland.
WHAT WOULD THE AMENDMENTS DO? One of the proposed amendments would enshrine existing protections of the Bull Run Watershed into the charter. The other two would allow the ratepayer-funded bureaus to pay for activities and projects that a Multnomah County judge ruled are not allowed currently.
The ruling came about due to a lawsuit brought by ratepayers.
Oregon law currently requires the city to protect the watershed, and people currently are prohibited from entering it, except for bureau employees and authorized visitors. But, in a blog post, Fritz said these mandates are set to expire in 2027, which is when the city is scheduled to complete a new filtration plant to remove contaminants from Bull Run water.
"I want to leave office next year with Bull Run protections safely enshrined in the Charter," wrote Fritz, who has announced she will not run for re-election in 2020.
One of the other amendments would allow bureau properties outside the watershed, including where storage tanks are located, to be converted into such public use as greenspaces or gardens.
The judge in the ratepayer case ruled that the previous conversion of tank locations to "aquaparks" violated charter restrictions on ratepayer spending.
The other amendment would allow the city to give or receive aid in the event of a disaster. The judge in the ratepayer suit ruled that Bureau of Environmental Services ratepayer spending to help New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina violated the charter restrictions.
WHY CONSIDER THESE AMENDMENTS NOW? In her blog post, Fritz admitted that the council will appoint a charter review commission in 2021 that could consider such amendments. But, when it comes to the Bull Run amendments, she wrote, "This summer, the City will enter into an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service to swap land parcels within the watershed to consolidate City land ownership around the drinking water system. As we take this important step, it's appropriate to take another to add protections for the Bull Run in the City Charter."
WHAT CAN I DO? You can read the proposed amendments on the council's June 26 agenda posted on the city's website. They are items 625, 626 and 627. The proposed land swap is item No. 624.
You also can find contact information for all council members on the same wesbite, portlandoregon.gov.
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