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New PUD Initiatives - An Uphill Battle for the People

Hey, look! PGE is spending more of our money to lobby on their own behalf . . .
PGE solicits Clackamas County cities to oppose PUD
"Some city councils are considering resolutions using language that was supplied by the electric utility"
by Sarah Hunsberger and Tonya Alanez
The Oregonian, December 31, 2003, Section B, Pg. 2

Portland General Electric is asking cities in Clackamas County and elsewhere to approve resolutions opposing a proposed Clackamas County people's utility district.

Estacada city councilors approved a resolution December 22, and city councils in Happy Valley, Milwaukie and Gladstone are scheduled to consider similar resolutions during meetings in January.

In most cities where a resolution is under discussion, Portland General Electric supplied the suggested draft language, PGE and city officials said.

PGE officials are getting an early start on the campaign. The PUD election date hasn't been set, and no formal campaigning has begun. The Clackamas County PUD would have the authority to condemn PGE's assets and begin supplying power to customers.

Tom Civiletti, coordinator of Clackamas Public Power, a group working to form a people's utility district, said it's PGE's right to ask cities for support. But he said cities should notify PUD supporters of the discussions and give them an opportunity to present their side.

"We want there to be information from both sides presented so that city councils can make an informed decision," Civiletti said.

He said backers of the PUD proposal have not yet sought support from cities. He said he would consider providing a city with suggested language for a resolution supporting a PUD if asked.

But he said he would be concerned if cities approve the language offered by PGE without much discussion. He said he thinks it's better for city councils to write their own resolutions rather than adopt language written by opponents or proponents of an issue.

"It suggests that they really don't understand the situation; they're not looking into it," Civiletti said.

Deane Funk, PGE's government affairs manager, said it's routine for groups to suggest resolutions, along with sample wording, to public boards and councils.

"It's not like spoon-feeding or force-feeding," Funk said. "It's more of a discussion that we basically help frame in language that they're used to."

If city councils line up to oppose the formation of a PUD, that would lend credibility to the effort to defeat a people's utility district, Funk said.

"That carries some weight, and frankly, it's something that the campaign, when it's formed, will use," Funk said.

Petitioners this year turned in ample signatures to qualify a PUD measure for the Clackamas County ballot. County commissioners will hold a hearing on the proposal in February before they set an election date. The election is likely to be in May.

A measure that qualified for the ballot in Yamhill County will go before voters in the March 9 election. Petitioners continue to gather signatures for PUD measures in Washington, Marion and Polk counties.

The PUD proposals are similar to the one that Multnomah County voters defeated by a wide margin in November.

Earlier this year, PGE solicited and won resolutions by local governments in Clackamas County and elsewhere opposing the proposed takeover in Multnomah County.

Resolutions were approved by cities including Gresham, Milwaukie, Tigard, Tualatin, Salem, Hillsboro, Hubbard, Silverton and Keizer. Clackamas County commissioners approved a resolution in opportion to the Multnomah County proposal with language drafted by PGE.

The new push for cities to oppose the Clackamas County PUD proposal includes Happy Valley, which will discuss the resolution Tuesday.

"PGE offered a draft resolution for our consideration," said Clint Holmes, Happy Valley city manager.

The Milwaukie City Council will hold a work session on a PUD resolution at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday.

The Gladstone City Council will consider a draft resolution suggested by PGE at its January 13 meeting.

Information on whether the city of Sandy will consider a PUD resolution was not available Tuesday.

In Lake Oswego, PGE representatives and PUD supporters will make presentations to the City Council at its February 17 meeting. City Recorder Robyn Christie said there is no proposed resolution on the agenda, nor has the city received a sample resolution from PGE.

West Linn has not scheduled a meeting to discuss taking a position on the PUD proposal, said Sandi Farley, West Linn city manager.

Wilsonville City Manager Arlene Loble said PGE asked the City Council to oppose the PUD proposal, but councilors decided not to take a position.

Sarah Hunsberger: 503-294-5922