The backers of a ballot initiative to overthrow Portland's water and sewer bureaus aren't just fighting City Hall—they're fighting Portland City Club.
And, for that matter, the Portland Utility Review Board.
The leaders of the campaign, lawyer Kent Craford and activist Floy Jones, announced in a public letter this morning that they've declined former Mayor Sam Adams' invitation to make their case before City Club's study of utility rate increases.
"City Club's water/sewer study," write Craford and Jones in a letter first reported by The Oregonian, "strikes us as a committee of foxes charged with reviewing henhouse security."
The letter specifically accuses Adams of voting for "illegal non-mission-critical projects" and possibly running a stealth campaign to defend the city's decisions.
City Club isn't the only panel the initiative backers have spurned. WW has obtained emails from Craford and Jones to the Portland Utility Review Board, the city's water and sewer citizen oversight board.
Craford and Jones declined an invitation from PURB chair Catherine Howells to make a case at the board's August meeting—and they accused her of making the PURB into a political tool of City Hall.
"Political debate on electoral initiatives falls outside the scope of the PURB," Craford and Jones wrote. "Your decision as PURB rotating chair to allot time to a political issue simply confirms the PURB’s mission-drift in recent years away from objective utility oversight, and towards something more agenda-oriented. We do not wish to contribute to that and therefore respectfully decline."
Craford and Jones are leading a campaign to create a Portland Public Water District, which would wrest control of the city's water and sewer bureaus from City Hall and create an elected board charged with lowering utility rates.
The water district backers say in their letters that both City Club and the PURB are part of a cozy circle the initiative is designed to break up.
"Further, current PURB members would all fall under the conflict of interest provisions in the new initiative as political appointees of the City Council," Jones and Craford wrote to PURB member Charlie Van Rossen.
"Given this," they continue, "we don’t think the PURB as a body can independently assess the merits of the proposed measure. Some of you would actually fall under two separate provisions of the conflict of interest provisions given members’ involvement with the bureaus’ budget advisory committees. Your Chair, Ms. Howells, might even fall under three separate conflict of interest provisions in the initiative given her professional affiliation with the Water Bureau."