This was the craziest, angriest, public meeting I have ever attended in Portland. For a moment, I thought one gentleman with a jaunty moustache and fedora was going to physically attack Fish.
The meeting was planned to discuss options for Mt. Tabor Park after its historic reservoirs are de-commissioned. I missed the beginning of the meeting, but apparently the activists made enough noise to change the entire agenda and broaden the conversation. KOIN 6 said the activists were upset just because the reservoirs were being disconnected, but they left the meeting early and didn’t report on the activists’ claims of corruption.
The activists believe the EPA rules that required Portland’s new $137 million underground water storage tanks are unnecessary, and were made to enrich a company called Montgomery Watson Harza Global. It looks to them like another example of the shameful-yet-commonplace revolving door between government and private industry: a former Portland Water Bureau official went to work for MWH, the company that won the no-bid, no-cap contracts to build the city’s over-budget, cracking underground water storage tanks. MWH Global employees were also on the Environmental Protection Agency committee that crafted the new rules that required the new storage tanks
It’s a complicated issue, and I’m fairly new to it, but it’s laid out pretty clear at the Friends of the Reservoirs website. The activists are asking the city to delay the de-commissioning of the reservoirs— partly because the EPA is reviewing the rule requiring it. New York City received an EPA extension on its reservoir upgrades, and other communities are also fighting the rule.
The two-hour-plus meeting got extremely emotional, and we’re working on editing the video to make the case as clearly and succinctly as possible. Fish didn’t directly address the claims of corruption, but said he would answer all written questions on the city’s website. There’s another public meeting hosted by Commissioners Fish and Amanda Fritz on 12/10/14, I expect it to be just as intense.
Is this an issue well-known by Portlanders? I do my best to keep up with these kind of things, but I didn’t really understand the issue until I attended the meeting last night.