October 30th, 2013 | Aaron Mesh News | Posted In: City Hall, Environment, Business, Health

Former Water Allies Exchange Fire

news2_water_3936ILLUSTRATION: Lukas Ketner

The latest ballot initiative attempting to wrangle control of Portland water from City Hall has drawn fire from the backers of the first ballot initiative.

The coalition of environmental activists on Monday submitted the new ballot initiative, which would create a "people's water trust" to oversee city decisions on water.

They say it's designed to work with or without the first initiative—which was crafted in July to strip utilities from City Council and create an independently elected Portland Public Water District.

But the new proposal shows some environmentalists who protested this summer at Occupy Mount Tabor have now defected from a coalition of businesses and activists who joined forces to launch the water district plan.

Kent Craford, co-petitioner on the water district initiative, says in this week's Murmurs he's unconcerned by the new plan.

"I haven't read their initiative," Craford tells WW. "I wouldn't take it too seriously."

Craford singles out Seth Woolley, who helped draft the new plan, for criticism.

Seth Woolley is a perennial political candidate and initiative sponsor who has been on the ballot more times than Jim Spagg and Extremo the Clown," says Craford. "He probably wrote this in his mom's basement between rounds of Dungeons and Dragons."

Woolley's water trust initiative has also drawn ire from Stephanie Stewart, a land use chairwoman for the Mount Tabor Neighborhood Association and a fierce opponent of the city replacing open-air reservoirs with underground tanks. (Floy Jones, another Tabor reservoir activist, is Craford's co-petitioner.)

On her blog, Stewart also rips into Woolley, saying he isn't dedicated to preserving open-air reservoirs even though his proposal demands the city make a "good-faith" effort to keep them.

"Woolley is quoted saying the Trust will address transparency, accountability, and 'public perception around water,'" Stewart writes. "That last little tid-bit, 'public perception around water,' sounds like a line from a guy who thinks citizens don't know how to think for themselves. That is a certain brand of politician I don't particularly care for; I'd watch out for this one."

But the new proposal has received a friendlier response from City Commissioner Nick Fish, who oversees the Portland Water Bureau.

Fish says he hasn't examined every detail of the water trust initiative, but says he likes the emphasis on protecting the city's water from being sold to private interests or mixed with other sources.

"The mayor and I are deeply committed to protecting the Bull Run Watershed," Fish says. "There is no chance, now or in the future, that the city will support privatization, regionalization or co-mingling. And if anyone doubts our resolve, I would be open to the city reaffirming its position on these issues."

Fish also tells WW the new initiative suggests the united front behind the water district coup is crumbling.

"This most recent effort now begs a big question," he says. "What's left of this coalition purported to be behind this ill-advised and poorly written water district?"

That coalition is currently hashing out its differences in the comments section of Murmurs.

 
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