This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 12, 2003 9:39 PM. The previous post in this blog was Here comes the Oregon sales tax. The next post in this blog is Why people voted for Nader. Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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Thursday, June 12, 2003


The Portland City Council has appropriated another $350,000 to continue its ridiculous pursuit of a municipal takeover of Portland General Electtric. That brings the tab to $850,000 and counting. How's the plan coming along? Sorry, the negotiations with the Enron bankruptcy folks are all secret. You'll just have to trust that the same City Hall financial wizards who brought you the renovation of PGE Park and the Oregon Convention Center expansion are hammering out a great deal for Portland's taxpayers.

I'll never understand this one. Here's a crew that can't run a water bureau, about to take the cash-strapped city government into all the risks of the cut-throat energy business. Maybe their hearts are in the right place -- they want to try to keep ratepayers from getting ripped off, and let's face it, under Enron's ownership PGE seems to have done just that. But our beloved politicians give us no confidence whatsoever that they'll meet their goals. Under Commissioner Erik Sten's plan, the city won't actually run the electric system. Oh, no, some private utility company will do that. And somehow, I guess, when it comes time to sign a deal with the city, that private utility will suddenly stop thinking about exorbitant profits. Yeah, right.

That private contractor will be so happy. It'll have all the upside of an operations contract with the city -- I'm sure it will come out with a sweetheart deal that would make a defense contractor proud -- and none of the downside risk and hassle of actually owning the system. If and when times get tough, the operator can walk as soon as its contract expires, while the taxpayers of Portland are left to mop up the mess.

This is progress? This is worth $850,000 to chase around? It reminds me of the Commish's other big windmill tilt -- his legal battle to force the cable companies to lease their lines to other broadband providers. That went over like a lead balloon, and I'm sure it cost in the healthy six figures to mess with. But that's nothing compared to the PGE takeover plan. The city's broke, folks, but we have $850,000 for this.

The city's dedicated financial consultant on this deal is Goldman Sachs. Of course, that firm's fingerprints are all over the Enron debacle. I guess they've reformed overnight, too.

Jim Francesconi was smart enough to vote against this one. Put a plus next to that guy's name the next time I try to figure out whom to vote for for mayor.

Mayor Katz's comeback? Well, $200,000 of this $350,000 has already been spent; only $150,000 is for new work.

Wow. $200,000 spent, even before the funds were authorized.

What this town needs are some local leaders who, sometime in their recent past, have actually run something real.

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