PORTLAND – Citing high rates, a new coalition is pushing to take away the City of Portland's ability to set water and sewer rates and instead set up a People's Utility District.
That would be an independent system where water customers would become owners of the utility and elect board members to oversee rates.
A poll by the Portland Water Users Coalition showed 71 percent of ratepayers think Portland's water and sewer rates are too high.
By a margin of four to one, voters would support an initiative to take control of water and sewer utilities away from the city. The coalition held a news conference Tuesday morning.
“There's simply no restraint on the insatiable appetite for more and more and more revenue from these two (water and sewer) bureaus,” coalition spokesman Kent Craford said. ”Water bureau rates have grown 133 percent (higher) than 2000, sewer rates have grown 147 percent. We now have higher water rates than Phoenix, Arizona, this is absurd.”
The group also blames city hall for spending water and sewer revenue for projects that have nothing to do with public utilities, an issue that has previously resulted in the city being named in a class action lawsuit.
More: Water bureau faces suit
An audit by the city also found that the water bureau used ratepayer money for projects other than water and sewer services.
“I think what lowers rates is spending money effectively and having a new organization called a PUD, it depends on the qualifications of the people running it,” water commissioner Steve Novick said. “What I think you need is strong professional oversight and it doesn't matter what the political entity is that is responding to the oversight.”
Coalition members say they will give city hall a chance to lower rates before moving forward.
KGW Reporter Ashley Korslien contributed to this report