7.31.02 at 7pm at Southeast uplift... the Portland Metro Chapter of the Pacific Green Party and local concerned community members met today to discuss and formulate a plan to create a PUD, a people's utility district. A PUD is a democratically controlled and maintained not-for-profit public utility. The current proposal is to take over for Portland General Electric. As the Greens state in their earlier proposal, entitled "Proposal to Form a People's Utility District in the Portland Metro Area" (July 24, 2002), A PUD "... is intended to lower and stabilize utility rates, protect Portland ratepayers from the predations of large, for-profit energy corporations like Enron, and provide the public with greater opportunities to benefit from renewable energy sources". The Portland Greens argue that having a publicly elected, maintained, and accountable utility would aid in preventing price fluctuations and corruption as seen with Enron. Furthermore, the constitution allows the voters to obtain PGE's assets at very low price through the power of eminent domain. This means that a PUD is able to buy PGE's assets for just compensation, which is decided by an Oregon jury in an Oregon court. This court would also take into consideration the billions spent on hiked rates by local ratepayers. Accountability is achieved through a five-person elected Board of Directors. For more information check the Pacific Green Party website http://www.pdxgreens.org/
The first order of business was to find a name for the coalition pushing for a people's utility distinct. A temporary interim name was chosen, The People's Utility District Coalition. A more permanent name would be decided next week for the prospective printing of petitions.
Attending members emphasized the desire to create a broad-based nonpartisan grassroots coalition. Steps will be taken in coming days to reach out to citizens, nonprofit organizations, and local activists in coming days.
The meeting set out to decide the elections to place the PUD on. The March 04' election requires the petitions to be in sometime around October-November, and the May 04' election has a rolling deadline of December. The group expressed the desire to act swiftly to maintain public momentum due to corporate terrorism and high energy rates. They decided to work towards the March election if possible, but at the least the May election.
The Coalition must choose the boundaries for the People's Utility District's governance. Once the district's boundaries are specified and voted in, other regions may later on choose to join through another vote. The debate centered on whether or not to include all of PGE's former service area (which includes portions of Washington, Clackamas, and other counties), or only Portland. Speakers emphasized that limiting the area to Portland only would not disrupt service to other areas, or affect current jobs. Furthermore, Portland is seen to have a solid support base due to the city's traditionally progressive legislative policies. Defenders of the wider service area argued that no one should be left out of stable low rates, and that the Enron affairs, among others, have left the populace on all sides of the political spectrum ready for change. The Portland sympathizes restated that other areas could vote to join should the measure pass.
The group expressed a great desire to include and gain the support of labor unions in their struggle. A Green-Labor coalition is greatly desired both in this campaign and generally. The law requires, and the Coalition supports, upholding current Union jobs and contracts. Some members volunteered to attend meetings of local labor groups to press their case and attempt to build a collaborative team.
With voting on universal health care http://www.healthcareforalloregon.org/ , a people's utility district, and more long over due initiatives, Oregon is on the verge of breaking through to put the state in line with the rest of the industrialized world. America is one of the few industrialized nations left that does not guarantee such rights and security to it's citizens. The hope is that a grassroots movement supported by a wide range of citizens can battle the propaganda onslaught by the well endowed media bombardment of the health care and utility corporations.