Water Activists Gather Just 1,000 Signatures, Won't Seek November Ballot

There won't be another public vote on reforming Portland's water system anytime soon.

The coalition of environmental activists campaigning for a People's Water Trust—a proposed alternative to the water war on the May ballot—have scuttled their campaign for the November ballot after gathering only 1,000 signatures.

"We're not going to qualify," says Jonah Majure, a local organic farmer and the chief petitioner for the People's Water Trust. "We're still working on the campaign, but on a 2016 timeline."

The Portland Mercury first reported Monday that backers were suspending signature-gathering efforts.

The biggest legacy of the People's Water Trust, at least for now? It eroded political support for Measure 26-156, which would have wrested control of the city's water and sewer utilities from Portland City Hall. (Voters rejected the measure by 73 percent to 27 percent.)

Environmental activists announced last October they would seek a third way between City Hall and the business interests backing the creation of an independent board called a water district.

The People's Water Trust would have tightened the rules on what decisions elected officials and Portland Water Bureau staff could make without asking voters.

It would have amended city code to mandate a fight against federal regulations on burying open-air reservoirs, and required city officials to refer to voters any proposal to add new chemicals to the water supply—prohibiting another secret attempt at fluoridation.

Majure says the campaign, which waited for the November ballot while the water wars raged in May, got lost in the fight.

He blames a lack of media attention, and says the confusion made gathering signatures harder.

"Most people thought they already signed ours," Majure says. "They thought we were the water district, and they had heard bad things about the water district. Also, we were an all-volunteer campaign. We work on this because we care about it, not because we're being funded by some secret corporate group."

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