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Council strays from its mission

The City Council's continuing obsession with Portland General Electric distracts city commissioners from a variety of key issues that are more germane to the business of City Hall.

In recent weeks, commissioners have transferred their focus from purchasing PGE to raising questions and challenges about the utility's past income-tax and power-trading practices. But we believe such matters are best handled by the state Public Utility Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, not the City Council.

Rather than continuing to expend its energies on a private utility company, the council ought to concentrate on issues that are both central to the city's mission and in need of prompt attention. In that spirit, we offer the following action list:

• Think schools, schools, schools. Work with Portland Public Schools, the public and the business community to ensure that local schools provide an excellent education, while maintaining stable funding and effective spending practices.

Schools are unquestionably a greater concern in citizens' minds than the attempted PGE takeover. But the council's actions haven't always reflected that priority. By some estimates, the amount the city has spent trying to acquire PGE could have funded retooling of Portland Public Schools' curriculum and the purchase of new textbooks districtwide.

• Act out the mayor's Community Vision Project that not only will engage 100,000 Portland residents in conversation, but also involve them in setting priorities and achieving outcomes.

• Support efforts by the business community to implement a regional economic strategy that not only serves businesses, but also invests in community needs such as education and transportation.

• More urgently revitalize Portland's city center to retain it as the focal point for area residents to work, play and shop. The city's inner core should gain at least equal attention to that granted the Pearl District and the South Waterfront.

• Preserve Portland's working Willamette River waterfront as a place where manufacturing, international shipping and warehousing can excel without the threat of being forced out by new trends such as waterfront neighborhoods.

• Improve public safety by supporting police, jail and rehabilitation programs that place cops on the street, keep criminals incarcerated and help end the cycle of crime that afflicts many wayward people.

• Provide for complete and effective emergency preparedness. Is Portland the next New Orleans? Let's make sure it's not.

• Participate with the state's Big Look and Metro's New Look to plan a future that is likely to bring a million new residents to the region by 2025.

• Cooperate with suburban communities to provide for balanced expansion of regional water sources. The reliance on Portland's east-side-based Bull Run water system places the region Ñ and Portland Ñ at risk unless other sources are developed.

• Invest in projects and programs to reduce mounting highway congestion, which studies say will grow to cost the region's economy $844 million annually by 2025.

• Build a coalition of Portland-area legislative leadership to communicate and serve the needs of Portland in Salem. Many rural legislators view Portland as arrogant and needy, and as a hindrance to the state's ability to serve all of Oregon. A coalition of area legislators should work with local officials and community leaders to build understanding throughout Oregon.

• Focus on strategic outcomes throughout city government that serve a unified vision for Portland Ñ not the individual visions of a mayor and four commissioners.