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.


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