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  • 20 Dec 2014

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Portland water and sewer customers get new consumer advocate

The Citizens Utility Board has hired longtime campaign finance reformer Janice Thompson as its new consumer advocate for Portland water and sewer ratepayers.

CUB was enlisted by the Portland City Council to serve as an independent advocate for city ratepayers, in light of longrunning allegations of out-of-control spending by the Portland Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services, especially on projects unrelated to water, sewer and storm drainage services. CUB hopes to pay for its work by collecting donations from city residents.

Thompson formerly led Common Cause Oregon and Democracy Reform Oregon, (previously called the Money in Politics Research Action Project.) She left Common Cause to return to her home state of Minnesota to run the Midwest Democracy Network, but recently moved back to Oregon.

Jeff Bissonnette, organizing director for CUB, says the nonprofit is taking a “deep dive” into operations at the two bureaus.

“One thing we’re looking a lot at is the capital expenditures, because that’s where the big money is,” he says.

Critics of the two bureaus have complained about new ratepayer-funded office buildings for both bureaus, projects to cap reservoirs at Mount Tabor and Washington parks, a new water storage facility on Powell Butte and other projects.

One “common theme” CUB has found so far is that ratepayers don’t understand the rationale or reasoning for bureau actions, Bissonnette says. CUB will be ready to discuss some of its early findings early next month, he says.

Not coincidentally, that’s about the time when a campaign should be heating up for a May 20 ballot initiative that aims to shift control of the two city bureaus from city commissioners to an independent elected board, and create the Portland Public Water District.

Steve Law can be reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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