Both Sides of Water District Fight Want the Ballot Wording Changed

Turns out people on both sides of a proposed ballot initiative to wrest control of the city's water and sewer bureaus from City Hall can agree on one thing: They don't like how the city has worded its summary of the proposal. 

They cannot, however, agree on what the ballot should say. So they're going to a county judge.

The Oregonian reported this morning that Kent Craford and Floy Jones, the backers of a proposed Portland Public Water District, filed a challenge yesterday in Multnomah County Circuit Court over the city's wording of the ballot initiative.

Their appeal says the city incorrectly explains who could work for the new water district, and inaccurately describes its boundaries.

But Craford and Jones aren't the only people asking the city to change wording on the ballot initiative.

Vanessa Keitges, CEO of Portland eco-roof company Columbia Green, also filed a court challenge before yesterday's deadline.

And her complaint is far larger: She says the title question on the ballot initiative misleads voters by calling the new utility district "independent."

The measure currently reads, "Shall Portland create independent utility district to administer water and sewer services, with new legislative board elected from seven zones?"

Keitges argues the wording is unnecessary and "potentially misleading."

Keitges lists nine other complaints, including the argument that the city's wording doesn't tell voters that the new district would be outside the authority of City Council, the mayor and the city auditor.

She suggests that in several places, the initiative contains vague wording—including in promises not to privatize the water or sewer bureaus and and to "not adopt less-protective regulations for the Bull Run watershed."

Both of these phrases have become highly politicized in recent months, as public dissent grows over high water bills and multimillion projects to cover drinking-water reservoirs on Mount Tabor.

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