After a dramatic meeting on the issue earlier this month, the deadline for comments on plans for the Mt. Tabor reservoirs post-disconnection is 10 am, 12/1. Take the survey here.
Friends of the Reservoir is asking the public to choose option #1: Fill the reservoirs and maintain them. The full description of options for the reservoirs is described here; a description and video of how our drinking water will be re-directed is here.
Earlier this month, reservoir activists stormed the first meeting, and it was broadened to discuss the entire issue— not just what should be done with the historic reservoirs after disconnection. Activists made impassioned claims of corruption, and city leaders promised to follow up on what was alleged.
It seems strange that the comments are due before the second meeting on 12/10, but after attending the first meeting 11/18, it seems like there’s been a lack of process throughout the entire ordeal. My post started a good conversation on Reddit/Portland, and the new information brought to the table probably deserves a post of its own. There’s an un-sourced but interesting look at claims of inside dealing, and here Scott Fernandez, scientist and water activist, addressed the issue of radon in Portland’s water.
Brad Yazzolino, who’s been documenting this issue for years, posted video from the first meeting last week. As I described in a previous post, it was extremely intense. I watched it again, and thought I’d highlight a few moments that I thought really summed up the activists’ charges of back-door dealing/corruption.
Throughout the meeting, both Portland Commissioners Amanda Fritz and Nick Fish seemed reluctant to address the activists’ point that there was anything improper in Portland’s switch from the reservoirs to underground water tanks. Friz said they’d explored every option and that all contracts awarded go through a public process.
What wasn’t said was that many of the contracts were awarded as emergency ordinances— meaning they go into effect immediately after passing and don’t require the public process of a 30-day notice and two readings. (Follow this link and search “emergency.”)
The website Who is Joe Glicker? estimates that about $400 million in contracts were awarded this way. (I reached out to the author, but never got a response.) Fritz also said she’d never heard of Glicker, but would look into it. Fish said (in the second video) he would look into the charges of corruption personally.
28:44 – Brad Warner, with PWB, describes the options on the table for the Mt. Tabor reservoirs.
49:12 – Floy Jones, who is one of the lead organizers with Friends of the Reservoirs, begins her testimony. It’s incredibly informative, and she begins by describing the lack of process and why she thinks the EPA rule is flawed. Thirteen municipalities have said they aren’t going to go through with the expensive upgrades needed to follow the rule, she said, and New York has received an extension to update their water system.
52:00 – Jones said she has proof that Portland Water Bureau was working “behind the scenes” to kill any chance of a water system upgrade deferral for Portland, and would share that with Fish and Fritz. She also said Mayor Charlie Hales’ chief of staff Gail Shibley contacted the Oregon Health Authority to kill the deferral.
54:40 – Jones makes the point about problems with the LT2 rule most succinctly: “There was only one utility in the nation involved in crafting this: the Portland Water Bureau. And that was all done in secret. They hired the consultant to go back and help them, you know, develop this regulation, and then the same consultant got the contract.”
5:00 – A song about the reservoirs!
17:00 – Scott Fernandez begins his testimony. He repeats the point that the PWB lobbied the Environmental Protection Agency to kill a waiver for Portland. He also says that Portland hasn’t done the science to prove that the disconnection/replacement of the reservoir was necessary.
35:05 – Dan Burger, an emergency room physician, said he has done a ton of reading on this issue and found that corruption is driving this whole thing. He said Joe Glicker was in many executive roles in the PWB including commissioner up to 1994.
“All the no cap no bid contracts have followed this guy. And every contract went to MWH, and when he went to CH2M Hill all the contracts went to them,” Burger said.
“When he was water commissioner, his wife was already an executive of one of those companies. Portland continues to pay him as a consultant,” Burger said. “We’re paying this guy to sell us a bunch of stuff we don’t want. And this guy helped write the L2T rule in the first place. It’s really tuned into a self-serving, corporate sellout of our water.”
35:66 – A dramatic moment begins when Burger asks why the city is still paying Glicker as a consultant, and why the city is awarding no cap no bid contracts. Fish never answered the question directly, but said he would on the city’s website.
Beyond filling out the survey, it’s hard to know what’s the best way to push back on all this. The activists are asking the city to move back the date (12/31) of the reservoir disconnection, but neither Fish or Fritz responded to this request.
It all seems like a dirty deal, but were any ethical rules violated with Glicker’s maneuvers? And, at this point, what can be done? Both CH2M Hill and MWH are multi-billion dollar companies, what is the recourse if corruption is proven?