The latest news coverage of Amanda's work for you in City Hall

PolitFact Article "Mostly True" - really?

Janie Har of the Oregonian worked for about a week researching her PolitiFact article published 10/11/11, reaching the conclusion that my claim of saving Portland ratepayers $500 million is "Mostly True". She wrote, accurately, that the record shows I did indeed persuade all four of the men on the Council that we do not need to build a filtration system for delicious, pure Bull Run water. My action saved hundreds of millions of dollars, even according to Ms. Har.

PolitiFact gave me a "Mostly True" rather than "True", because Ms. Har thinks the cost of interest on the bonds sold to pay for the facility over time should not be counted in the savings. She claims, "Regular people don’t think in terms of what a big-ticket item like a house or car might really cost, over the long term, with interest". I disagree. Prudent regular people buying a house or a car look for the most favorable rate of financing and cash-back incentives, and fiscally responsible homebuyers consider whether to finance over 15 or 30 years if their income/debt ratio allows them the choice. And in government, it's my job to factor in the long term consequences of taking on debt for future generations, and the true cost of projects -- as noted in the Auditor's Fiscal Sustainability Audit published recently. But still, even under Ms. Har's thinking that government shouldn't consider the long term costs of a purchase, only the cash sticker price, she agrees the savings was at least $285 million. Not too shabby for a first-term legislator. Elect me to a second term, and I will be in position to save you even more.

Ms. Har also asserts, "Second, Fritz’s grand persuasion hasn’t saved ratepayers any money yet". This statement is simply Not True. The 2009-10 rate increase proposed by Commissioner Leonard was 18% before I persuaded the Council to change course and plan for the less expensive UV plant. The switch lowered the rate hike to 12%, saving ratepayers money -- 6% -- over what you would have paid, starting in July 2009 and continuing forever. That's money that stayed in your wallet during the harshest free-fall crash of the recession, and continues to stay there.

The rate increases in the Water Bureau are still too high. I will keep working with community partners to do whatever can be done responsibly to reduce rates.

Update 10/23/11: The O amended the version of the article now posted in the archives, without noting the changes. Instead of "Second, Fritz’s grand persuasion hasn’t saved ratepayers any money yet", the article now says, "Second, Fritz’s grand persuasion hasn’t saved ratepayers anywhere near $285 million or $500 million yet", and adds, "(We will say, however, that her push resulted in water rates being lowered from nearly 19 percent to 12 percent in 2010-11, a savings of roughly $6 million that year.)"

I'm glad to see recognition that I did, in fact, save ratepayers money already. The lower rates cited started in 2009-10, not 2010-11. Those savings of about $6 million stayed in ratepayers pockets in 09-10, and again in 10-11 and thereafter. So, $6 million per year in savings due to my actions, regardless of whether any treatment facility eventually has to be built.

Downtown Alcohol Impact Area

One of the many initiatives I have worked on in my first term is the proposed Alcohol Impact Area limiting sales of alcoholic beverages by convenience stores downtown, based on data showing which beverages consumed illegally on Portland's streets contribute most to public intoxication and need for police and/or detox services. Background information on my City blog here. Getting the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) to accept our petition with a vote of 3-2 was one of my most satisfying partnerships with multiple advocates including the Citizens Crime Commission, Oregon Partnership, and many citizens.

OLCC staff are reluctant to approve rule-making based on the evidence and the City's request, so we are negotiating with the staff and encouraged the formation of a balanced community advisory committee to review the different options for moving forward.. See here for an overview report by the Oregonian's Beth Slovic. This is not Prohibition, it is data-based action to limit particular problem sales to promote public safety, reduce social service and police costs, and improve neighborhood livablity downtown. The proposal addresses a known and documented problem. I am proud of the diligent work of my staff, and of the partnership with businesses and residents downtown that this endeavor exemplifies.

Citywide Broadband Plan

Recent press coverage:

Citywide Broadband Plan adopted by Council 9/14/11 The linked article by Mike Rogoway in the Oregonian gives a summary. I initiated the development of this plan in partnership with the Office of Cable Communications and Franchise Management when I was the Commissioner in Charge of that bureau, which brings in over $70 million to the General Fund annually. Commissioner Saltzman took up the baton and brought the Broadband Plan to Council this past week. It was unanimously approved.

My comment quoted in the article, that "this is a prudent plan for tough times", responds to some who asked the City to move forward with a city-owned and taxpayer-financed fiber optic network. That would be wonderful, but we can't afford it right now. The need to bridge the "digital divide" and provide affordable high-speed Internet service to all is urgent, however, and the Plan sets priorities and goals to do that. It is the beginning of the work. Both the plan and the future actions depend on continued collaboration with industry, educational institutions, and other community partners.

Further coverage of this issue on KPTV

Commissioner Leonard brought up the topic of taxes on cell phone use during the hearing. Users of land line phones pay usage taxes to the City, users of cell phones do not. While there is definitely an issue of tax fairness that needs to to be addressed statewide, the Legislature did not do so this past session. Portlanders are struggling to survive the recession, and now is not the time to add taxes to cell phone use in a Portland-only manner.


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