Fred Miller seems like a great guy to invite to a barbecue. We could talk about our shared hobbies: gardening and wine collecting (Shootout at the PGE corral, July 29). We could also talk about his statement Ñ 'pretty dumb' Ñ about the proposal for a public utility district.
My study of the issue indicates it would be 'pretty dumb' to let Enron and its creditors sell off PGE's most profitable assets to remove them from state regulation. This would lead to skyrocketing power rates.
Also 'pretty dumb' would be letting PGE charge ratepayers for the utility's liabilities in lawsuits charging fraud and retirement fund destruction. Condemnation and public ownership are the only way to protect our region from these disasters.
Your choice of the term 'outfoxing' to describe Miller's effort to prevent public ownership is superb. He truly is a fox in the henhouse. His $600,000 salary and bonus would evaporate under public ownership; public managers just don't make that much.
Also remember that Miller highly recommended Enron's takeover of PGE in the first place, a deal that put millions in the pockets of PGE upper management but has been nothing but woe for ratepayers, our economy and most PGE employees. Can we trust Fred Miller's advice when his own interest is at stake?
Public shouldn't bear
more debt for PERS
Recently, I learned that our North Clackamas School District officials, along with nine other Oregon school districts, issued $1.8 billion in Public Employees Retirement System debt bonds without a notice, hearing or vote. When I called our district office, I was told it was like refinancing your home. I disagree: When you refinance your home, you are mortgaging property you own. When the school district issued PERS debt bonds, it is pledging our property. It is as though you mortgaged your neighbor's house without his or her consent and spent the money on yourself. The school district officials who issued these bonds are all members of PERS, and the bonds benefit PERS.
And what about the debt the school district owes PERS? It was debt created by PERS for the benefit of PERS. There was never any negotiation with the public, because there was no one representing us at the table. The governor, Legislature and managers are all members of PERS. PERS used this fraudulent scheme to place us in debt, which our school officials have set in stone with these long-term bonds.
PERS, with about 285,000 members and control of our governments, is a formidable political force that makes it impossible for real reform. In 1994, the voters passed Measure 8, which limited PERS pensions. The Public Employees Union challenged the vote in the Supreme Court. In 1996, the court overturned the people's vote. The judges and the state attorney general, who was representing the voters, are all members of PERS. There is little wonder that the voters lost.
Meanwhile, on Sept. 16, Measure 29 will ask us to approve as much as $2.7 billion in PERS debt bonds to put another Band-Aid on PERS' hemorrhaging financial condition. The state is asking you to place a long-term mortgage on your property and income to support this fraudulent PERS debt. The beneficiaries of these bonds, the PERS pensions, are exempt from the state tax and will pay no part of this debt.
Our government's betrayal and lack of empathy toward its citizens has to be stopped. With the PERS control of our courts, I do not think we can be successful in any legal action regarding the school district bonds, but we can vote no on Measure 29.
J.F. 'Mac' Macdonald
Sales tax won't pass
and wouldn't help
Since 1933, a general retail sales tax has been defeated nine times by three or more generations of Oregonians, by margins of as much as 8-1, never receiving 30 percent voter approval.
Some feel that Oregon would benefit with a sales tax because it would tax tourists. Sounds good, but that would cost more to administer and collect than it would take from out-of-staters passing through or visiting Oregon, and it would lay a new tax on Oregonians year-round. Tourists don't make major purchases of big ticket items, so they would pay a very small share of the total taxes collected.
Business in border cities such as Portland, Hood River, The Dalles, Milton-Freewater, Medford, Ashland and Ontario have substantial income from shoppers who come to Oregon and avoid sales taxes in their states. Enactment of a sales tax would drive considerable business out of Oregon and cause heavy losses in jobs and income tax receipts.
A sales tax hurts low- and middle-income families. They're the ones buying the most clothing, shoes, appliances, furniture, sporting goods, auto parts, camping equipment, bicycles, household necessities, etc.
Isn't it better to assess taxes based on the ability to pay rather than on the necessity to consume?
Police officers overdo
the peacekeeping act
When I read that Attorney General John Ashcroft was going to be in Portland on July 18, I felt that it was my duty as a citizen to express my discontent with his actions in office.
As I stood among the peaceful crowd at the federal courthouse, I watched the macho posturing and stare downs by the Portland police, and I realized that these officers and/or their superiors viewed us as criminals; we were only one move away from being victimized by a baton, pepper spray or even bullets. That's an assault on my psyche that I'll never forget.
Can Portland afford a reputation as a city where the police march around like storm troopers and act like schoolyard bullies? While most people rarely express their political opinions on the sidewalk, I think they would like to think that it is still possible to do so without feeling threatened and intimidated, especially by the police.