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City Club snubbed measures, not issue

Soapbox

The City Club of Portland challenges the assertion by Peggy Fowler, chief executive officer of Portland General Electric, that the defeat of the people's utility district ballot measures should be interpreted as a rejection by voters of public power in Portland and Multnomah County. (In A war of words, a front-page article about the election published in the Nov. 7 Tribune, Fowler says: 'I think it sends a pretty clear message that people want to keep PGE.')

After weeks of intense study of Measures 26-51 and 26-52, a City Club committee recommended a no vote on both measures. The recommendation was based on, among other things, the failure of the measures to provide sufficient specificity concerning the proposed formation of a people's utility district.

Our committee did not address the general desirability of a publicly owned power system in Portland Ñ that was not the focus of our study. Without additional polling and voter research, the rejection of the two ballot measures can only be interpreted as the rejection of a specific, poorly conceived proposal for a PUD in Multnomah County.

Our committee can envision the possibility of a public power system that would provide stable and competitively priced electricity, and we recommend further study of that possibility. It is quite possible that many other Multnomah County residents concur, believing that a properly designed and managed public power system could have many benefits for PGE ratepayers.

The City Club's position is based on the work of a volunteer citizen committee screened for conflict of interest and was affirmed by a majority of members present at a public forum.

At this time, the City Club neither opposes nor supports public ownership of an electric utility in Multnomah County. What we do support is a balanced presentation of the facts and an honest public debate about what utility system will most benefit ratepayers.

Jonathan Hart was the chairman of the City Club of Portland's Study Committee on Measures 26-51 and 26-52. Hart is the president of Hart of Oregon, a property management company. He has degrees from Oregon Technical Institute and Portland State University. He and his family live in Southwest Portland.Ê