The Portland Water Bureau, recently the subject of a critical financial audit, has hired a formerly retired Water Bureau employee to update the history of—you guessed it—the Portland Water Bureau.
Casey Short, a longtime city employee who first got a job in city government with former Mayor Frank Ivancie in 1982, wrote the original history of the utility bureau in 1983. That book, called Water: Portland's Precious Heritage, was Ivancie's brainchild. Portland schools, city commissioners and Water Bureau employees all got copies.
Fast-forward almost 30 years. According to a Water Bureau newsletter, Commissioner Randy Leonard, who now oversees the Water Bureau, last year asked Short to update the book. "Commissioner Leonard wants it updated, and he asked me to do it when I announced my retirement," Short says in a Q&A in the newsletter. "After 30 years, it's time for an update."
Short earns $500 a week for 10 hours of work writing the book, according to the city's Human Resources department. He's worked on the project since 2010, the Water Bureau says.
We just asked Leonard's office whether the new book will include information about Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade's new report on the Water Bureau, "Spending Utility Ratepayer Money: Not always linked to services, decision process inconsistent." That audit, released Wednesday, highlighted a number of other recent Water Bureau projects funded by ratepayer money that are only loosely or indirectly related to the delivery of water. In her report, Griffin-Valade called that trend a considerable risk for Portland since city code, state law and bond rules say ratepayer money should pay for ratepayer service.
But that audit is unlikely to be a topic for consideration in the book, which the Water Bureau says is now almost done.