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Cautious Endorsement of People's Water Trust
Posted May 21, 2014

At the moment as I'm writing this, I'm still bitter about the way certain members of the People's Water Trust campaign treated the longtime grassroots activists behind the PPWD water/politics reform attempt with such disrespect. I definitely understand the frustrations and in fact I was one of the first to lean against it and point out all of its various flaws and corporate funders and question whether it might impact environmental services. But the abuse, arrogance, deception, and hypocrisy that even I as a relative newcomer received from those Trust supporters (you know who you are) on a personal basis does not bode well for them. The paranoid thought even occurred to me ... what if the Sith lord Darth Glicker is subtly influencing the science-minded among them as part of his master plan as he wrote in 1990: Convincing the Public that Drinking Water is Safe.

HOWEVER, yesterday I had a great conversation with Jonah Majure, chief petitioner of the Trust referendum, and I now realize that the behavior of a few does not necessarily represent the whole. Also, I've done things in the past in the heat of a campaign battle -- particularly the fluoride fight -- that I regret myself. Never forget, but forgive.

More importantly, as Jonah said: "The Trust itself is pretty honest and straightforward. If you think it sounds like a good charter amendment to affect city policy and/or relationship with city government, then that's all there is to it." Of course there's no way of knowing until it passes whether it will be effective legislation or whether the City Attorney will ... ahem ... water it down (zing!) and relegate it to the status of a kangaroo court.

But MOST importantly, what else do we have left in our arsenal?! Short of a lawsuit -- which I believe is extremely unlikely to be successful -- this is our last line of defense.

I'm sure that many are still asking, defense against what? The PPWD went on and on about pet projects and rising rates, which are indeed valid concerns, but the main focus should have been on the major issues of revolving door collusion for profit & personal gain that prompted the water reform movement a decade+ ago.

For starters, what I believe is still the most important issue:

Let's take a closer look at the claim that these new covered reservoirs are a federal mandate, and how that came to be. First of all, former PWB director Joe Glicker (now CH2M Hill) and Rhodes Trussell (of MWH at the time) were involved in the EPA LT2 rule making process, including the National Academies' report on radon in drinking water. Huge conflict of interest! And there are allegations of manipulation as well. Second, the EPA transferred the decision on the City's open reservoir waiver request to the Oregon Health Authority. It has since been a state mandate for quite some time. City Council repeatedly claims they did everything they could to convince the OHA to approve the waiver, but actually Randy Leonard was all for complying with LT2. His public spin on that decision was based on the mere possibility that increased frequency of testing in the future might detect Cryptosporidium. I also find it interesting how the City conceded so quickly to the OHA's 2013 letter, especially when it took Friends of the Reservoirs 3 weeks for a proper scientific analysis and response, to which as far as I know the OHA has never acknowledged. There are many other details to this long and complicated story. Please refer to for a 40+ year chronology of cronyism and conflict of interest with negative impact against the common good.

The Trust measure addresses EPA LT2 -- without actually naming it specifically, but still for anyone in the know obvious what's implied -- in Section 6:

The City of Portland is bound by the affirmative duty ... to make all available efforts, in good faith, to keep Portland’s reservoir system operational including seeking exemptions, deferrals, and waivers on all possible grounds from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Oregon Health Authority, and the Oregon Congressional Delegation, and any other actions in the best interests of the residents of the City of Portland and the integrity of the City of Portland’s drinking water.

People's Water Trust should go even farther in its campaigning by discussing in great detail the elephant of which I speak, but it is nevertheless the last chance we have to save our open reservoirs and to protect our pristine Bull Run water from potential future privatization, regionalization, river commingling, and other important water issues.

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