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Sources Say: Opponents of new water district take fundraising lead

Supporters of the Portland Public Water District raised around $177,000 in cash and in-kind contributions to put the measure on the May 20 primary election ballot. But none of that money was spent to pass Measure 26-156, and now its opponents have the fundraising edge.

According to the most recent campaign filings, the committee supporting the measure, Portlanders for Water Reform, has raised just under $97,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. Recent big donations include $1,000 from Wentworth Chevrolet Subaru and $15,000 from American Property Management, which gave $31,000 to the successful initiative petition drive.

But the committee opposing the measure, Stop the Bull Run Take Over, has reported raising just under $225,000 in cash and in-kind contributions. Recent major donations include $2,500 from developer Robert Ball and $2,500 from Parametrix, an engineering firm. Commissioner Steve Novick also has chipped in $200.

Clock ticking for spending news to surface

With the primary election less than two weeks away, Portland voters are running out of time to learn anything new about city water and sewer spending. The City Council has postponed a briefing on the Portland City Club report of Measure 26-156, which would place control of the Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services under an independently elected district board.

Although the report came out against the measure, it also criticized the council’s management of the two bureaus and recommended the creation of a Portland Water and Sewer Authority to set their budgets. No new date has been set for the briefing.

And it looks like the Citizens Utility Board will not weigh in on next year’s proposed budgets for the two bureaus until May 22, two days after the election.

The council struck a deal with the statewide ratepayer advocacy organization to review and comment on the budgets back in early January. But it took CUB weeks to hire former Oregon Common Cause Director Janice Thompson for the job, and her findings won’t be released until CUB testifies before the council after the ballot deadline.

In the meantime, the CUB board has voted to remain neutral on the proposed Portland Public Water District. The organization is posting questions and answers about the measure on its website, however, at oregoncub.org.

Firefighters’ future may be in limbo

There hasn’t been much public reaction to Mayor Charlie Hales’ proposed budget for the next fiscal year. That could be because it does not propose any cuts, but only offers a relatively small amount of additional spending — $9 million to $11 million — because the economy is still recovering.

The loudest criticism so far has come from Alan Ferschweiler, president of the Portland Firefighters Association. He is upset that Hales did not recommend setting some money aside to retain the 26 firefighters whose salaries currently are being paid for by a $2.6 million federal grant that expires the following year.

Although the money won’t be needed until then, Ferschweiler suspects Hales does not intend to propose keeping all of the positions when the grant ends. Commissioner Dan Saltzman, who is in charge of Portland Fire & Rescue, has questioned some of the current staffing levels.

GOP pounce on Democrats for Cover Oregon failure

Republicans are jumping on news reports that the FBI is investigating the problems with the Cover Oregon website to attack Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and Oregon U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, two Democrats up for re-election this year.

Word of the FBI investigation broke during the weekend. Although it has not been officially confirmed, the Republican Governors Association sent an email news release Monday morning with links to some of the stories and calling the website “Kitzhaber’s epic ObamaCare failure.” It was followed a short time later by a similar release from the National Republican Senatorial Committee saying Merkley had promised the health care exchanges would be easy to use.

Both releases pointed out the troublesome Cover Oregon website has cost around $130 million, so far. Oregon is planning to switch over to the federal website for an additional $4 million to $6 million.