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Friday, July 15, 2005

Ask and ye shall receive

That was quick. Yesterday I dropped an e-mail line to the Ask the Voters First folks, asking for a copy of their petition to put the City of Portland's acquisition of Portland General Electric on an upcoming ballot. Today the postman had it for me already:

It's a two-page document -- one that I'm eager to sign. Maybe even collect a few additional signatures myself. Power to the people! No, wait, that's not how I want to put it...

UPDATE, 7/20, 1:28 p.m.: I've changed my mind.

Comments (11)

I was listening to OPB (link below) the other day and caught the piece on the PGE bonding referendum in Portland. They interviewed Sten and he used the opportunity to try to link the libertarians working on this to Enron or something, rather than address these petitioners' main beef - that the voters were never consulted.

It was almost as if he felt it was beneath him to answer that basic question. I got a mental image of Sten (channelling Eric Cartman on Southpark),

"Respect my authoritay!"


I'd vote for Cartman over Sten any day.

What cracks me up is how Sten keeps talking about "what Enron will do" with PGE. Folks, Enron is over. It's in bankruptcy. If the city leaves the process alone, PGE will be owned by a group of frustrated creditors of Enron, not Enron itself. Enron won't exist.

Talking about what Enron will do with PGE in the future is like talking about what Paul Allen will do with the Rose Garden. They won't do anything with it, because they no longer own it.

Sign the petition!

Shouldn't the relevant territory, for signature gathering, be that of PGE itself?

Oh yeah, we already did that with our statewide laws that confine a city government's reach within a geographic box . . . their sand box within which to play.

Ted needs to tell little Erik to get back into his sand box.

The good folks of the city of Portland cannot use their limited authority to lock-in any and all future electricity revenue to cover bond payments (particularly for electricity ratepayers outside Erik's sand box), on behalf of the bond peddler pigs. The bond pigs want to jump to the head of the line, to get first priority (for bond coupons) before any dollar goes toward generating and delivering electricity.

Will Erik make sure that only the revenue of electricity buyers exclusively within the City of Portland are dedicated to cover the bonds for the entirety of the PGE deal? If the City of Portland resident is uniquely responsible to cover the PGE debt, perhaps in a ratio of 10 to 1 (but probably larger) could we have perhaps 50 percent of our electricity revenue dedicated to cover bond payments before a dime (a dime for the cost of electricity) could ever go toward generating and delivering electricity.

Ah . . . the lure of it is just a revenue bond.

The water boy needs a job controlling the automatic sprinklers at a football field somewhere.

I hope the recall folks are not implicitly acknowledging that baby Erik really has the power to do what he has done.

If a deal goes through and then the folks outside the reach of the City of Portland subsequently extract themselves from it then the battle will be exclusively between the bond peddlers and the electricity ratepayers within Erik's sand box. Just as with WPPSS bonds, one should consider them unlawful right from the outset. I do wonder if the District Attorney could prosecute Erik for knowingly exceeding his authority so as to make the bond peddlers rich. Would Erik's defense be that the bond peddlers would not fund project x y or z unless the City of Portland also followed through on the PGE deal; to artificially boost the value of the PGE for the benefit of who-knows-who?

Jack, you're a knowledgeable one about such things, I believe, set me straight on this.

Enron is out of business and its assets like PGE are in the purview of the bankruptcy court judge(s) to sell to the highest bidder.

The City or the State could make offers and so could other bags o'money, at eBay or Sotheby's or somewhere, and the highest bidder owns PGE, unless some jurisdictional or civil authority with the vested power, like the City or the State, reclassifies PGE as Not For Sale by imminent domain or manifest destiny or public utility or something.

Otherwise, For Sale unencumbered, whoever makes the high bid owns it, like ... that could be China?

I'm not a bankruptcy expert. I crudely understand it this way:

In the end it's up to the bankruptcy judge, but as a practical matter, the creditors (the people whom Enron owes money and who haven't been paid) call the shot. Everything that's going on now is about them. They can take whatever third-party proposal nets them the most in cash, or they can take the stock themselves.

Maybe someone better versed in bankruptcy matters can correct me on this.

This blurb happened by today: Enron Board in Houston Gets Hefty Pay Raise, Thu Jul 14, 7:52 PM ET
"The five-member Enron board has approved raises for themselves that will up their pay by as much as one million dollars.
The Houston-based company revealed the move in a filing with the New York bankruptcy court that oversaw its reorganization last year. ..."

When it says they filed with the court, does it mean the court has to rule, and has final say?

Public ownership oversight sure does not show much reason to believe in best performance when the public is all people blind and spent before everything beyond a narrow self-interest survival struggle. Except as compared with the way it is, which is not only not best performance, (rates and service ARE unstable verging on chaotic), but also has as fundamental in the definition of private ownership and secrecy (or closed meetings) that they, or their profit axiom, intends and is TRYING EVERY WAY POSSIBLE to screw all of the 'customers' all of the time. That's the DEFINED PURPOSE of private stakes.

And every civilian resident in the Service District has no standing or representation in the design or arrangement of the energy utility, now, when it is capitalized and 'owned' private and secret. Public ownership, in definitional theory at least, offers equal standing to everyone who elects to contribute or participate.

Here's what I think I want. I want the electric utility to loan money to homeowner-me to capitalize electric generation equipment (solar-, wind-, hydro-, biomass-generation), as property and resale-value improvements, which loan could be repaid by homeowner-me as well or poorly as I pay an electric bill now.

At some ultimate extent, when every residence makes its own electricity on the property, the electric utility would evolve out of manufacturing and supply operations and into finance and locality investment.

It is debateable how far we get as a practical matter toward that ultimate 100% policy. But whatever we are going to get to, we can get started with public ownership and a proposal in good standing, whereas it is impossible with private ownership (which can stone cold refuse to start, not lend the first dime).

sign the petition. please.

disclosure: i work at PGE. i didn't lose a dime to enron. i do, however, know a lot of folks who did.

but mostly ... i'm just really sick of sten's trash talk. especially his smack about how no one without a "deep pocket sponsor" could POSSIBLY refer this to a vote of "the people," i.e., thwart his will. hubris, much?

do you really want erik "water boy" sten, et al., in charge?

how would i feel about "public power" if i didn't get my paycheck from PGE? dunno. honestly, i can't remember which, if any, of the dozen or so electric utilities from which i've had service have been public or IOUs.

does it matter, much? are your lights on?

if this city is going to encumber itself with $3 BILLION in bonds, don't you want to say "yes" or "no"?

don't you just want to spoke erik's wheel? c'mon!! this little pr#!k's going to run for mayor some day soon ... what has he ever DONE for us?

think. don't be a sheeple. public power may be a wonderful thing ... but NOT under erik's watch.

If the City doesn't purchase it, you are almost guaranteeing yourself outside ownership, higher rates, and poorly maintained facilities. Local, public control is consistently a smarter way to go.

It's the City or someone who will buy it to sell it--cannot for the life of me understand why some people want to engineer the latter.

Because we don't trust the people in the city not to bungle it beyond belief.

And because the city will be hiring a private company to actually run the utility, and that company will demand and get a hefty profit. Between that and the incompetence that has already been seen in the city's utilities functions, the promised rate savings seem wildly speculative.

And anyway, this petition is just to put it on the ballot. If ever there was an issue that deserved a public vote, this is it.

Portland residents need to think about the aggregate of the city's debt when considering another 3 billion, because we are all on the hook for it, one way or another. Also, don't forget the future unfunded liability of the police and fire pension and disability fund... 1.2 billion and climbing. One third of your property tax going to the city is funding that, and it will only increase over time. Your sewer and stormwater bills are going to increase another 18% to 25% by the time the big pipe is completed. The city council is writing checks that the citizens have to back and I think it's time we had a say on it. The referendum, in my opinion, shouldn't just deal with this particular bonding authority. I think the council should have to go to the voters for bonding authority whenever the amount of debt exceeds a certain amount... maybe 5% of the previous three years average city budget or some such.

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