By Jeff Klatke, Oregon AFSCME President
The proposed Portland Water District Measure 26-156 that will appear on the May ballot has so many flaws that it is hard to list them all. The main concerns, however, are quite simple, especially to union members. Please keep in mind these few things when you talk to your co-workers, friends and family about it.
This ballot measure was written by a lobbyist for known corporate polluters. These large, industrial water users and polluters don’t want to pay to clean up our rivers or to use our water. Siltronic, Portland Bottling Company, American Property Management, and others want you to pay for it.
As of this writing, those industrial water users and polluters, and the law firm that represents some of them, have contributed over $165,000 to this campaign — 79 percent of the total contributions received. Why, one might ask, would these large, industrial water users and polluters and their lawyers be willing to spend so much money to change the oversight of our water and environmental services infrastructure? Is it for the benefit of the public and residential rate-payers? Of course not.
The Portland Fire Fighters Association, the Portland Police Association, and the Portland Association of Teachers urge you to vote no on Measure 26-156. According to estimates by the City of Portland auditor, the City would lose about $20 million out of its general fund, most likely causing cuts to police, fire, schools and parks, among other things.
The Portland League of Women Voters urges you to vote no on Measure 26-156. About 20 percent of all Portland residential water users, those living in east Portland, would be excluded from any voice in the oversight of this proposed water district. According to Multnomah County Judge Leslie Roberts, all Portland residents in the David Douglas, Parkrose, Centennial and Reynolds school districts would be barred from voting for or serving on the board of this proposed water district, and would not have representation. This is an affront to democracy itself.
Laborers Local 483, Professional and Technical Employees (PTE) Local 17 and AFSCME Local 189, urge you to vote no on Measure 26-156. The jobs of nearly 900 union employees of the City who work in the Water Bureau and Bureau of Environmental Services — members of Local 483, PTE 17, Operating Engineers Local 701 and AFSCME Local 189 — would be up in the air. The new structure has yet to be plausibly explained by proponents, which means there is no job security in the measure.
For these and so many other reasons, the Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council, the District Council of Trade Unions, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, and the Oregon AFL-CIO strongly encourage you to vote NO on Measure 26-156.