Portland Commissioner Nick Fish promises to investigate corruption claims after angry Mt. Tabor reservoir activists crash 11/18 meeting

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.

An aerial view of the Mt. Tabor Park reservoir system.

7 thoughts on “Portland Commissioner Nick Fish promises to investigate corruption claims after angry Mt. Tabor reservoir activists crash 11/18 meeting

  1. Please see the following 40+ year chronology of cronyism and conflict of interest with negative impact against the common good. It reveals the parties involved in manipulating the EPA LT2 rule making process, the National Academy’s report on radon in drinking water, the Oregon Health Authority’s “decision” on a variance for our open reservoirs, the City’s feigned “attempt” to save them, the potential for a west coast intergovernmental agency fronted by CH2M Hill that could be formed without a public vote, the ubiquitous involvement of Joe Glicker in every step of the EPA and PWB processes, and more.


  2. By the way, Fish claiming he will answer all written questions on the city’s website is not at all the same as actually investigating the claims. He already knows the truth, and he has been complicit in the lies, particularly when he guided NPR’s coverage of the e Coli paranoia. It’s like asking the fox to guard the hen house.

  3. SamsaPDX says:

    Thanks for your coverage of this issue, Andrew.

    I second Kenric. The reason they promise to post answers online, instead of answering the public directly at the meeting, is because they want to put time between the angry public and the evasive written response they’re going to have the City Attorney write for them. (That is, if they respond at all.)

    Though the public got a lot of flack for its yelling, as you probably noticed a good portion of the yelling was being done by the City’s facilitator, who scolded people for applauding, and launched into a tirade when some citizens offered to cede their mic time to the Commissioners. No doubt she will be rewarded handsomely, at our expense, for reciting her part of the City’s script.

    But despite the City’s efforts at distraction, there were some notable awkward pauses when even the prepared script offered no way out for the Commissioners.

    If you’ll recall, one of those moments of silence followed my own question, when I asked the Commissioners if they would please bring forward a resolution to overturn Council’s formal resolution to decommission the reservoirs; and if they would also bring forward another resolution re-setting Council’s self-imposed rush decommissioning deadline, and re-setting that deadline to a point long after the feds have had a chance to rethink reservoir regulations. (That is what other open-reservoir cities have done, successfully.)

    This is the third time I’ve publicly asked that question, and the third time it’s been answered by awkward silence.

    I hope that you, and others, will start asking as well.

  4. Johnny says:

    Thanks for covering this Andrew! However, the claim you make in the title of this post is not accurate: Nick Fish NEVER said he’d investigate corruption in the Water Bureau. He said he’d respond to these allegations in writing. That’s a HUGE difference! If Fish isn’t already aware of the rampant cronyism in our Water Bureau then he’s arguably not qualified to be it’s Commissioner (which he actually admitted at the hearing!). And if he is aware, then he’s an active player in the ill-founded move by companies like the admittedly criminally fraudulent CH2M Hill to privatize our public water infrastructure. Why, in this age of great fiscal challenge, and in a supposedly free-market economy, is Portland giving no-bid, no-cap contracts to one single company with a track record of waste, pollution, and rampant mismanagement?

    1) learn about CH2M Hill’s criminal misconduct: http://www.contractormisconduct.org/index.cfm/1,73,221,html?ContractorID=19&ranking=45
    2) learn about chronic cronysim in the Water Bureau: http://www.whoisjoeglicker.com
    3) and also: http://www.friendsofreservoirs.org/Consultant%20Contracts3jan11%2011×17%20LT2.pdf

    1. I just watched the video again, and I’m fairly certain he said he’d respond to the questions at one point, and investigate the allegations in another. I’ll give it another look and find the 0:00 for you. Either way, he did his best to avoid the question and must be held accountable. Thanks for your input!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s