Portland Mayor Charlie Hales and City Commissioner Nick Fish promised that if voters rejected a ballot measure removing the water and environmental services bureaus from City Hall control, they would appoint a "blue-ribbon commission" to make reforms.
Today, Hales and Fish kept that promise, and named former U.S. Attorney for Oregon Dwight Holton as chair of the commission.
"As a former U.S. attorney, he's someone that has earned a lot of confidence in our community," Fish tells WW. "He got high marks for how he engaged the public. That's one of the reasons I thought he was ideal for this assignment."
The commission has been told to look for reforms in setting water and sewer rates—especially ways to make the process more open to the public. It has until November to suggest changes to City Council.
Fish says Holton was the top choice to oversee reform of city utilities—wracked by spending overruns on capital projects like an office building for sewer workers—because he's not part of the culture at the Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services.
"As far as I can tell, he's a virtual stranger to the subject of utilities," Fish says. "We wanted someone who could put a fresh set of eyes on the subject."