Just imagine the fun if the city takes over PGE
First, can we all agree that we'd rather have Saddam Hussein own PGE than let Enron keep it? Iraq isn't the only entity that could use a regime change. The sole decision Enron executives should be making is who gets the top bunk in prison. So it figures that the next people in charge of PGE would have to be an improvement, right?
Not necessarily. The city of Portland has shown some limited interest in acquiring the utility. Suddenly, visions of PGE under city management leap to mind, and they are not pretty. Haven't we already documented that the city of Portland is to business what John Ashcroft is to civil liberties? What would city management of a power company look like?
First there'd be the initial fact-finding studies: We could start with $100,000 to find the best way to screw in a light bulb. Maybe hire some expensive consultants to examine the difference between the 'on' and 'off' positions on a light switch.
Then there would be the endless permits required. You want to add an extra room onto your house? Maybe add a new lamp to the den? Well, get in line for an additional electricity usage permit, Form 1139-B.
How about a Christmas tree with lights? OK, get an environmental impact statement Ñ and get set to pay a seasonal power fee.
Naturally, there would be extra taxes. You want one of those gadgets that turn out the lights when you clap? Sorry, but we'd have to add a Clapper tax. Plus a tax on dimmer switches to make up for the reduction in revenue. Finally, if anyone uses a light bulb over the head to indicate a good idea in any context, they'd be hit with an electrical metaphor tax.
Of course, once the City Council got familiar with its new toy, the big projects would kick in. Electric streetcars, with technology from 1938, would be reintroduced to handle our future transportation needs. Wait a second Ñ that one already happened. But can you imagine if the city had a stake in streetcar electrical use? They'd be running them around the clock. They might turn the entire TriMet fleet into electric trolleys.
Hey, as long as we're into old energy technologies, maybe we could reintroduce Ben Franklin's kite, and try to harness lightning? After the proper kite-lightning feasibility study, of course.
Let's face it: Every way the City Council could bill us for more electricity, they would. It would be too easy. The quaint hand-operated scoreboard at PGE Park? Gone, by a city ordinance that mandates giant electronic scoreboards at all athletic events.
Actually, PGE Park would be one of the nice things about seeing the city buy the power company. We could return it to Civic Stadium Ñ although the way that place loses money, maybe we should name it after the water bureau.
Finally, there would be that one expense that really goes over the top.
The ridiculous kind such as charging a pizza business $17,000 to move across the street. I know! How about converting the new Eastbank Esplanade to a people-mover conveyor belt like the ones at the airport? It's perfect.
With that, the city would do the impossible. It would make PGE customers nostalgic for the good old days of Enron.
Bill McDonald is a Portland writer and musician.