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TIGARD CITIZENS FOR SAFE WATER
P.O. Box 23954, Tigard, Or. 97281
Email: drj@hevanet.com
Fax: 590-0425

 

A CITY’S FALL FROM GRACE

When Tigard residents read in the Oregonian in January ‘98 that Tigard Mayor Nicoli announced that the city was building a filter plant on the Willamette river as Tigard’s new drinking water source, they were surprised. There had been no news or public discussion of their plans. And who in their right mind would want to change from a water source (the Bull Run) rated as one of the 6 purest sources in the nation to a source rated by the US Geological Survey as one of the worst in the country for fish habitat with over 50 pesticides detected, and described by Governor Kitzhaber’s task force as being "sick", with dioxins, PCB’s, sewage, and fish deformed by birth defects and abnormal livers? It was learned that the city had hired two engineering firms for planning and preliminary study, and had hired a public relations firm and pledged $162,000 of taxpayer dollars to "sell" the issue to the citizens. The city has committed close to one million dollars so far for "preliminary planning" of a minimum $44,000,000 expenditure as Tigard’s share of a $92,000,000 filter plant.

The Decline of a Democracy.

Throughout 1998 and 1999 the city included flyers with the water bills describing the "latest state of the art" filter plant. City staff gave talks at neighborhood and professional organization meetings selling the filter plant. The mayor said he personally spoke 23 different times. Meetings were held with the Editors of the Tigard Times, Oregonian (SW), Regal Courier, etc. to try to get them to assist Tigard in their public relations campaign to promote the river. During 1998 the city paid for 6 brochures to be mailed to all residents in Tigard promoting the Willamette River source (at a cost of about $5500 each), and not even mentioning the Bull Run. The City web site stated that the Willamette was clearly the best water source.

The Polling of the People

In order to satisfy the requirement for public input before Nicoli announced that the city was building the filter plant, Tigard hired the public survey firm Davis and Hibbits to do a "focus group study." In Nov. 1997 twelve Tigard residents were placed in a room for two hours, sold on the latest "state of the art" filter plant, paid $50 each, and then asked if they might consider the Willamette River option. Even after this, four said they would not consider it, and eight said they might if they were assured that all of the contaminants were removed from the water.

A 1998 survey by Davis and Hibbits of Wilsonville residents showed that 78% preferred Bull Run water. If the filter plant is built, the City of Portland will not accept Willamette river water even as an emergency back up source. Tigard has never done a telephone survey of its residents asking for their preference of Bull Run or Willamette water, because the city knows the citizens would overwhelmingly prefer Bull Run. They instead, in Aug. 1998 had Davis and Hibbits do a "generic" telephone survey of 305 residents in the Tigard Water District, which did not mention the actual source of the water. The residents were asked to weigh the importance of eight different aspects of a water supply.

The results of this survey (in order of importance) was as follows:

1. Tap water quality 2. Certainty of supply 3. Diversification of water supply sources. 4. Ongoing or operating costs 5. Construction cost 6. Environmental Impact 7. Untreated Water Quality 8. Ownership.

 

At the Oct. 20, 1998 Council meeting, the City Council did not like the priorities of the citizens of Tigard, because it favored the Bull Run water supply. So they simply "rearranged" the priority list, putting lower importance items higher in the list, to (in their opinion) more highly favor the Willamette river option.

They added new items, and moved "ownership", which was last on the list of eight, to the number four position, and moved "cost of water" from number four to number two. (Regarding the "cost" comparison, the City lowered their Willamette water cost estimate, by reducing the true cost of Willamette water by deducting projected profits from increased system development charges for each new home in the amount of $1475, and also deducting projected profits from bonds reserves.)

They removed "diversification of water supply sources" from the top three, and replaced it with a lower rated "cost of water", and then made those top three items "equal" in importance. So when they made their decision on April 27, 1999 to go with the Willamette instead of the Bull Run, they used these "revised" criteria to justify their decision, although this is not what the citizens wanted.

Last fall the City sent a press release to the media summarizing the results of the 305 person telephone survey. The press release stated that the citizens were "equally divided" on their preference of Bull Run or Willamette River water. The press release was a complete lie. A member of CFSW talked to Adam Davis of Davis and Hibbits and he agreed that there was no question in the survey that asked for a preference - the Willamette and Bull Run options were not even mentioned.

Each month, the City of Tigard has a "CIT" meeting. These are "Citizen Involvement Team" meetings, during which they have "Breakout Sessions" in which those interested in specific issues, such as parks, or traffic, etc. can meet with city officials (who supervise that particular issue) for about an hour to let the citizens express their opinions. The City assigns each breakout session a "facilitator" to conduct the flow of the meeting. One of the jobs of the facilitator (as is stated on the City’s web site) is to assure that everyone who wants to speak has an opportunity. During the Spring and Summer the city had six meetings in which they had a Breakout Session for the Willamette River water issue. During each of these sessions, they had one of their engineering firms or the Public Utilities Director do a dog and pony show to sell the wonders of the Willamette filter plant. But there was one thing lacking in these sessions from all the other CIT breakout sessions- the city would not allow the citizens to express their opinions! Every time the citizens tried to talk they were cut off and told it was not allowed. The citizens were also told by city manager Bill Monahan that they would not be allowed to vote on the issue. By the sixth meeting, the citizens were so irate that they just kept talking. It was after this meeting that the city dropped the water issue as a Breakout Session. But it was also during one of these meetings that the frustrated citizens formed their "Citizens for Safe Water" organization.

The city even lies to the citizens at its council meetings. As an example, at the Sept. 15, 1998 City Council meeting, a citizen asked mayor Nicoli why he would even consider the Willamette when Bull Run water was available. His response was "A lot of people think Bull Run water is pure, that’s not the case. They don’t treat Bull Run water. What comes down out of that mountain is put into a pipe." The truth is that, in order to comply with State and Federal law, Bull Run water is treated with Chlorine at the headworks, and also with ammonia and sodium hydroxide a few miles down the conduit. At this same council meeting Public Utilities Director Ed Wegner was asked by a citizen as to how many Tigard citizens were surveyed at the above mentioned Nov. 1997 survey. Mr. Wegner indicated around 300 citizens, when in fact there were only 12 (and, as previously described, they were paid $50 each). At the Feb. 9, ‘99 meeting, a member of CFSW mentioned the well publicized $162,000 which was being spent to promote the filter plant. Councilor Brian Moore said that the $162,000 was "to study the river, not promote it". Perhaps the citizens of Tigard would have been better served if the city had hired a firm other than the Rockey Bowler Public Relations firm to "study" the river.

Another "end run" around public input:

One manipulative tactic used by this city was pointed out in a Tigard Times Soapbox article and identified as the "Rohlf policy" (named after former Tigard Councilor Bob Rohlf), which " permits elected officialdom to completely subvert existing policy. All that is required is to appoint a vested task force and make knowledgeable staff subordinate to this self-serving group. Then, once the officials have been effectively silenced, any half-baked scheme can become reality." The most recent example of the "Rohlf" policy is the "Citizen Task Force" recently established for the water issue. The mayor, the Chairman of the Willamette Water Supply Agency (Paul Hunt) and a few others from city staff selected 30 citizens to study the water issue for about 6 weeks and then make a recommendation to the city council as to their choice. The mayor admitted that he personally knew half the members of this "independent citizen task force".

The result of this "task force" is best illustrated by the following Letter to the Editor sent to the SW edition of the Oregonian, by the sole member of the Citizens for Safe Water group who was on the Task Force:

 

 TIGARD’S CITIZEN TASK FORCE ON DRINKING WATER SOURCE SERIOUSLY FLAWED

The continued use of Safe Bull Run water v.s. the future use of questionable Willamette River water for Tigard’s future long term drinking water source was the case for the 30 members of the Water Advisory Task Force to decide. Their job was to attend a two hour meeting once a week for six weeks, thereby learning all they need to know about both the Bull Run and Willamette River drinking water options (in a total of 12 hours, if they attend all the meetings), and then make a recommendation to Tigard City Council on April 13. The Council will make a final decision on their long term drinking water source on April 27.

These 30 individuals for this task force were chosen by Tigard mayor Nicoli, Tigard Councilor Moore, Tigard Public Utilities Director and Willamette Water Supply Agency member Ed Wegner, the Chairman of the Willamette Water Supply Agency (and Tigard City Councilor) Paul Hunt, and a few other members of City staff. So it came as no surprise to me that over half the members of this "independently selected task force" were either members of the Tigard Water District, Intergovernmental Water Board, or City Councilors - all of whom were strongly leaning toward the Willamette River option. Hardly an "independent selection of impartial citizens". One of the selected members turned out to be deceased, another - Clarence Nicoli (the mayor's father), only attended 3 meetings, but showed up to cast his vote. At the Feb. 9, ‘99 Council Meeting, Mayor Nicoli admitted to me that he personally knew at least half the members of this "independently selected task force", but assured me that they would be an open minded, autonomous group operating on their own, making their own decisions, with no influence of City staff. But as I suspected, that’s not the way things worked out.

Although the task force was supposed to select its leader from its own ranks, and conduct the meeting without city influence, the leader (facilitator) of the group (Lenny Borer) was the same individual the city has used for years to train CIT meeting facilitators, and is being paid by the City. During each of the meetings, City manager Bill Monahan and Public Utilities Director Ed Wegner were at the front of the room with the facilitator, and Mr. Borer consulted with Mr. Monahan and Wegner on numerous occasions during each meeting regarding the conduct of the proceedings. On one occasion, I was talking to Mr. Borer before the meeting started, and told him that I would be unable to attend an upcoming tour of the Corvallis filter plant, and asked him to ask the task force if they would allow me to have a substitute attend the tour in my place. Mr. Monahan overheard our discussion, and told me (very strongly) that only the Tigard City Council could make that decision.

The two engineering firms contracted to do preliminary planning for the Willamette filter plant (and who will make millions if this plant is built) gave frequent presentations to the group, assuring them that the filter plant will remove all harmful contaminants. The Tigard city finance director gave a presentation of what he called an "apples to apples" comparison of cost between the Bull Run and Willamette river option, telling them that the Bull Run water option will cost much more. (Another fairy tale, since he said that the filter plant will only cost about $20 million, paid off over 25 years, with no additional capital cost to accommodate the changes in EPA requirements. As an example, it is anticipated that the forthcoming change in minimum safe levels of Arsenic alone, from 50 to 2, will double the cost of the filter plant). He also neglected to mention that the Bull Run option would supply 25% more water, with a 25 million gallon a day capacity, but the Willamette option only 20 mgd. (This extra water could be sold to offset the cost of the Bull Run water).

 

On April 1st (the sixth meeting of the task force) I cast my verbal vote against going to the Willamette River, and resigned from the group because in all good conscience I could no longer participate in such a flawed process regarding such an important issue on behalf of the citizens of Tigard. The following are some of the reasons for my resignation:

The mayor’s public statement that he wanted a "speedy" recommendation to be made by the task force

(There is no need to rush. Tigard’s contract with Portland for Bull Run water does not expire for another eight years, and Portland Councilor Eric Sten says that if Tigard came to him today, he would sign a new long term contract. In fact, the contract will automatically renew at the end of eight years, unless Tigard chooses not to do so.  In addition, with the addition of pumping, the existing water line will convey enough water for another 20 years, when combined with the existing other water sources Tigard is presently using).

The flawed testing of Willamette River water by the contracted engineering firms, who have a strong motivation to see the filter plant built. (See testimony given by Toxicologist Dr. Charles Scott, and Dr. Marvin Hausman, M.D., given March 11, 1999). To date, the flaws pointed out have never been refuted by these contracted engineering firms testing the water.

There were complaints by members of the task force that the hired engineering firms "hovered" over the conduct of the task force meetings, and influenced their decision making process.

The issue of "ownership and control of a water source" instead of "tap water quality"seemed to be promoted as of utmost importance in the task force decision, in spite of the fact that the Sept. ‘98 poll of citizens in the Tigard Water District placed "ownership of a water source" last in importance in a list of eight criteria, with "tap water quality" being first.

The hostile attitude of many of the Task Force members toward wanting the City of Tigard to negotiate with the City of Portland for a new long term water contract, even though Portland has said they would be happy to address all the concerns of Tigard, such as ownership, a guaranteed supply not limited to only "surplus water", a formula for cost increases, etc.

The Tigard mayor and other Tigard officials’ public statements to the media and various groups stating that they unequivocally advocated going to the Willamette River could have unduly influenced some task force members.

Some task force members - such as Clarence Nicoli (Tigard Mayor Nicoli’s father, and former treasurer of the Tigard Water District) only attended two or three of these informational meetings before they showed up on April 1 to cast their vote for going to the Willamette River. Could they have been fully informed on the issue?

As the only allowed representative from the Tigard citizens grass roots group "Citizens for Safe Water" (which is opposed to drinking Willamette River water) I was treated with hostility, disrespect, and was laughed at and jeered by many members of this group (most or all of whom were members of the Intergovernmental Water Board or Tigard Water District). I was astounded by their lack of civility.

All of those in favor of the Willamette who gave presentations to the group were given one and one half hours to speak, but when the one and only time that "Citizens for Safe Water" was allowed to give a presentation, they were limited to one hour, and the task force insisted that they be given the credentials of those who would speak, and a synopsis of their presentation and arguments two weeks before they spoke.

 

The "Citizens for Safe Water" group is circulating a petition to require a vote of the people before Willamette river water can be used as a drinking water source. One member of the task force stated, "Asking voters to decide which water source to use would be like getting surgery and asking people off the street to decide what course to take rather than trusting trained doctors". If the members of this task force, and the Tigard City Councilors are the "trained doctors", I would just as soon take my chances with the people off the street, who will be paying for and forced to drink the water.

If you would like the right to vote on your water source, or would like more information call Citizens for Safe Water at 590-2818. Such an important PUBLIC HEALTH ISSUE such as this should require a vote of the people.

Bonnie Bishop, Ex Task Force Member

Note: The Oregonian never published this letter.

At the first Task force meeting, Bonnie Bishop requested that the group "Citizens for Safe Water" be allowed to give a presentation. On Mar. 1, ‘99 Citizens for Safe Water received a letter from Tigard city manager Bill Monahan, stating that CFSW would be allowed to have speakers at the Mar. 11 meeting, but that he required he be given background information and a statement of qualifications of each of the presenters, plus an abstract of any reports, studies or other written materials or presentations that they intended to use. (These materials were never demanded from prior speakers) . He said that these materials must be delivered to him before the Mar. 4 meeting of the Task Force. This only gave CFSW 2 days to locate the speakers, and assemble all the information they requested. Also, with the CFSW presentation, the Task Force changed the rules, and only allowed a one hour presentation (all prior presentations were 1.5 hours.

 

The Bully on the Block

This city spent 2 million taxpayer dollars to take the Dolan family to the US Supreme Court on a "land taking" issue and losing. The city has been using the same legal firm for 20 years (the same firm that City Manager Bill Monahan used to work for). At the city backroom "executive and study session" council meetings (which are closed to the public), taxpayer dollars are freely disbursed. At the Nov. 10 meeting they gave former councilor Rohlf $7680 for his personal legal expenses incurred defending a state ethics complaint. But, regarding the water issue, the city may have bitten off more than they can chew in opposing the will of almost all the citizens in the Tigard Water District.

 

The Fox is Guarding the Chicken Coup

Throughout 1998 and the first part of 1999 the Mayor, Councilor Hunt (the Chairman of the Willamette Water Supply Agency) Council President Moore, City Manager Bill Monahan, and Public Utilities Director Ed Wegner actively campaigned for the Willamette filter plant. Weekly reports were presented to the council from Hunt, on the progress of the filter plant planning, along with frequent presentations from the two contracted Engineering firms "Montgomery Watson" and "Murray Smith" who gave reports on both the planning and the water testing program. Montgomery Watson was paid $80,000 for a year’s testing of the Willamette. During these tests (which are still ongoing but are no longer being funded by Tigard), a Tigard employee drew water samples (assumably) from the river, and shipped them off to a lab back east, and Montgomery Watson interpreted the results to Tigard.

 

During March and April 1999, the city sponsored two "public hearing" or perhaps a better term would be "forum" type meetings to discuss the two water source choices, but the City Council was not present. Finally, the City invited 7 groups to speak for 15 minutes at the April 13th ‘99 City Council Meeting.

A letter to the editor of the Tigard Times illustrates what occurred at this meeting:

 

Letter to the Editor

I attended the Tigard City Council meeting Tuesday April 13, 1999 and was appalled by what I saw and heard from the Tigard Mayor and some City Council Members. Two of the City Council members seemed totally disinterested in what the public had to say (not sure if they were asleep or awake). Yet this was the last chance given to the public (as limited as it was) for testimony before the April 27 vote for the future long term water source for the Tigard Water District.

The City invited five groups which were in favor of the Willamette River, and two groups who were against it, to speak for 15 minutes each. This is the first time that the City Council has been allowed to hear testimony from technical experts who were not paid by the City, and who were unbiased.

Dr. Scott (an environmental toxicologist who has been studying the Willamette river testing for years) documented that only about 25% of the required testing of the water was performed by the city contracted engineering firm Montgomery Watson. Dr. Hausman (who is considered an expert in immunological disorders, and has been involved in recent discoveries for Alzheimer's Disease) talked about the fish deformities and also critiqued the past testing of the river water. He concluded by stating that independent testing of the water should be done, and a drinking water quality standard should be established before the river should be used as a drinking water source.

It was obvious that mayor Nicoli did not like what he heard. He viciously attacked Dr. Hausman's credentials, and his motives. These doctors do not live in Tigard and they were not being paid by anyone to be there. Just because they presented information Mayor Nicoli did not want to hear was no excuse to be so rude.

As a Tigard City resident I was extremely embarrassed by the childish behavior of our Mayor. There is no reason for this type of behavior. I hope in the future our Mayor will conduct the meeting more professionally.

Roberta Swearingen

 

 

In addition at this meeting the City allowed citizens to sign up to speak for 3 minutes. The names of those who signed up to speak were projected on a screen, and the mayor called on them to speak periodically throughout the meeting. However the mayor selectively did not call on three individuals and allow them to speak.. Two were from the Citizens for Safe Water group. One of them had signed up to speak an hour before the meeting started. These last three individuals could have been allowed to speak if the mayor had only allowed an additional 9 minutes. But he knew them and did not want the council and TV audience to see and hear what they had to say.

On Dec. 15, 1998 The Dec. 15, 1998 proposal for Willamette water provided by Murray Smith & Associated was biased.  For example, in the Willamette River proposal to Tigard, the water cost per hundred cubic feet was reduced by subtracting estimated profits from proposed new increases in System Development Charges (an increase of $1475 for each new hookup to water. They also reduced the cost by factoring in projected interest earnings on new bond reserves, leased capacity credits, etc. They also did not reflect the fact that the capital cost for the Willamette Proposal was for a 20 mgd facility, but the Bull Run option was  25 mgd.  In addition, they did not reflect the fact that the Dec. 15, 1998 Portland Bull Run proposal divides the cost of the source and transmission lines to 4 entities - those being Tigard, Wilsonville, Sherwood, and Tualatin. But the Willamette proposal divides the cost to 5 entities - adding the Tualatin Valley Water District.  

In the summer of 1998 the Citizens for Safe Water organizations in Tigard and Wilsonville funded an independent analysis of the projected water cost of each of the two proposals (Portland Bull Run & Willamette river), so that the citizens could compare them on an "apples to apples" basis. This report - called The Sheehan Report" is posted on this website under the heading "Cost Comparison".

 

What you can do. The Tigard group Citizens for Safe Water filed an Initiative Petition, gathered 4400 signatures, and forced a vote on  Sept. 21, 1999 which passed by 84%.  As a result of this vote the Tigard City Charter was changed so that in the future before the Willamette river can be used as a drinking water source, at least 50% of the Tigard voters must approve it. At this time Tigard Citizens for Safe Water are assisting Tualatin, Sherwood, Wilsonville and the Tualatin Valley Water District residents in their fight against Willamette river water.   If you want to help, you can attend our meetings, deliver fliers door to door in those towns with pending votes on this issue, or give a tax deductible donation. For more information, call 590-2818, fax 590-0425, email drj@hevanet.com.   If you would like to give us a tax deductible donation, give us a call at 590-2818. We would be happy to pick it up from you. Or it can be sent to: CFSW, P.O. Box 23954, Tigard, Or. 97281. (The first $50 per person, or $100 per couple can be applied as a tax credit and can be subtracted dollar for dollar from your tax bill. Thus your donation will be reimbursed to you in tax savings.)


For Questions or Comments, please contact:     drj@hevanet.com  
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