Six people gathered ’round the large table in the Bipartisan Cafe on Thursday the 13th, with a variety of opinions. Gary and Carlene Jones came by to learn more about the Party, and they took home the Green Party platform to study. Daniel Wilson had to advise the group that he’ll be back in Oklahoma for the next few months. Stephen Amy made a strong argument that the Public Utility District initiative, which the Portland electorate will vote on in the upcoming May elections, is subject to domination by corporate interests.
In particular, Steve said the P.U.D. initiative puts the Bureau of Environmental Services, in addition to the Water Bureau, under the control of a seven-person board rather than the City Council. Even if you believe the City Council completely unjustified in its covering of the reservoirs and quite unresponsive to rational argument regarding wise fiduciary practice, the extension of the solution to the BES appears to threaten much of what progressives in the city of Portland most cherish in their local government.
Because the meeting was only a few days prior to the long-awaited Fairness Hearing regarding the proposed settlement of the Department of Justice finding, that the Portland police have engaged in a practice of unconstitutionally mistreating citizens perceived by them to be mentally disturbed, that was my own main interest when Mark Seibold asked me to say a few words for his camera.
I spoke to the judge at the DoJ hearing, making the simple point that the proposed settlement does not address the root problem, the lack of institutional oversight of the Portland police empowered to reprimand police misconduct. I suggested that if the judge were willing to look at another closed institution for which decades of urgent pleas to “change the culture”, in the absence of independent oversight, had had little or no effect, he ought to consider the Roman Catholic Church.
A week later, Seth Woolley came by and entrusted the Chapter with petitions and initiative texts for the alternate initiative regarding the municipal water supply, the one setting up a Water Trust. In this instance, rather than set up a wholly separate entity for administration of the provision of water, the effort for a ballot initiative focusses on legally stating the public responsibilities under which the City Council (actually, it would also apply to the P.U.D. if the voters approved it, as well) administers the resource, and specifies a legal means for demanding accountability if, as most knowledgeable observers believe has happened up to now, it fails in that responsibility.
In addition to Stephen Amy’s point about the Bureau of Environmental services and my own concerns about a little-publicized bureau being open to domination by corporate representatives, Seth pointed to the drawing of district boundaries, which he believes sets the proposed P.U.D. into a status-quo political position, limiting the power of progressive political influence.
For the immediate future, there will be an upcoming trial of Your Intrepid Reporter and six other protesters for trespassing in the Main Post Office in downtown Portland, when we asked to speak with Erica Brix, the District Postmaster regarding our concerns about privatization by covert executive action. The trial of what I call The Magnificent Seven (but the court, with considerably less approval, calls the Post Office Seven) will begin on March 10 at the Multnomah County Courthouse, 1021 S.W. 4th Avenue, and is scheduled to last the rest of that week.