Portland Utility Board and Testimony, July 2017

My name is Dr Joe Meyer and I love ping pong. The doctor is in Physics and I understand something of the natural world and of complex systems. I speak as a Portland citizen and rate payer. I am also a citizen reporter and covered the Portland Water Bureau for KBOO News five plus years ago when our open reservoirs were condemned.

The similarities between the events five years ago and the events of today caused me to put down my ball and give up this testimony.

Five years ago every one involved, from the Portland Water Bureau, the Portland City Council, Friends of Reservoirs, and the County Health Doctor agreed that there was no public health benefit in the LT2 motivated projects. Likewise, the proposals at issue today have no public health benefit. In fact, considering the addition of known harmful materials into our drinking water system, the overall public health benefit must be considered a gross negative.

The simple truth is that 125 years ago the citizens of Portland constructed a simple and elegant drinking water system. In 125 years of use, no one has ever gotten sick from Crypto in our drinking water – the far greater dangers of Crypto are at swimming pools and daycare centers. For 125 years our drinking water has been inexpensive, safe, and delicious – the envy of other cities. Back 125 years ago, the citizens of Portland had the ingenuity and political will to control their own water supply – no multinational consultants required.

This time around, the Portland Water Bureau points to hypothetical future health benefits of infrastructure project at Bull Run. And, as per the minutes of your July 18th meeting, Commissioner Fish entered into the record that the number one common thread he got in feedback is ‘How should the City protect public health’. This is a wholly unscientific contribution to the discussion which insinuates a public health issue where there is none, like a little pee.

A hurried time-line is another consistent theme for Portland Water Bureau projects. Last time around, when I interviewed Commission Amanda Fritz for KBOO News, for example, she told me that she felt steam rollered by Commissioners Leonard and Fish on Water Bureau issues.

Five years ago citizen activist advocated for an extended delay in the LT2 compliance timeline. Citizens argued that rate payers were already burdened by rate increases and that alone was sufficient grounds for a delay in compliance. David Schaff, then director of the Portland Water Bureau stated on the KBOO Evening News that a delay on financial grounds was not even worth pursuing – and in fact Portland did not pursue this simple option. When, a few months later, Rochester New York received a delay until 2034 based on economic hardship, it was clear that the activists were correct and that the Portland Water Bureau had misdirected and misadvised City Council. Portland lost our open reservoirs and suffered another round of rate increases, all for no good reason. To this day, Rochester citizens still enjoy healthful water from their open reservoirs and reasonable water rates. Why this difference?

This time around the hurried time frame seemed to emerge with the Portland Water Bureau requesting that the Oregon Health Authority find them out of compliance seven months before the reporting deadline. Why would they do that? A citizen activist suggested to me that the Portland Water Bureau loves to move things through quickly in the summer to minimize public engagement and due consideration. At this point, that is hard to doubt. The hurry-up-don’t-think is again revealed in last weeks meeting minutes with commissioner Fish’s warning that if this body doesn’t quickly select either A or B than they will lose their voice altogether.

The third similarity between the campaign five years ago and the current effort is a lack of honest effort at seeking regulatory relief. Rochester New York worked with their senator, Chuck Schumer, to push back on LT2. Five years ago, when I asked Senator Merkely why Portland was spending a half a billion dollars to bury our reservoirs while Rochester was not, he replied that local leadership was required and that he had not heard from Portland City Hall. This time around, I again see no evidence of honest effort at seeking regulatory relief.

My first request is that this body takes due time to understand all available options and offer a well considered recommendation. Even a null result is much better than an ill-considered rubber stamp.

My second request is that you please study, and adapt as needed, a Rochester-style solution. A delay until 2034 will give rate payers a break and allow the science of LT2 mature. If everyone agrees that there is no public health benefit then what is the hurry?

My third request is that this body actively reach out to Oregon Senators Merkley and Wyden and New York Senator Schumer (who helped save Rochester’s open reservoirs), as well as Governor Brown who oversees the Oregon Health Authority, and even theRealDonaldTrump in updating LT2 based on the best available science.

As the saying goes, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. Portland deserves better.

Please enter into the record this 10 minute radio piece documenting David Schaff, then director of Portland Water Bureau incorrectly asserting that a Rochester style reprieve was impossible:

An Incident at Oaks Bottom

Ever since spinning myself dizzy at two years old, I’ve been interested in states of the mind. Why would the room keep spinning after I stop? The strangest thing I ever consumed in that regard, much later, is called salvia divinorum. I got it off the internet for twenty dollars. I smoked it up under a high temperature flame and saw Charles G. Waldman swimming backwards in time. I protested, “Hey, you can’t do that.” He just kept grinning like a smart ass ape. Getting hit by a moose on a skateboard was kind of an interesting mental experience, too.

Nothing better than a five-mile bike ride to the river on a still warm Sunday evening. I love to dive in and give strong dolphin kicks before emerging face up. I love to float in boat-pose: arched back; hands grasping ankles; face bobbing like a bobber in the sun. A quick deep breath in just before I submerge. A long breath out, cetaceously spouting as I slowly surface. Ten breaths and enough! Much better than last year and I felt good.

I wave to the folks back on the pier, “I’m OK!” I never did ten breaths before and can image that it might look alarming. Concentrating on breath is good, too. Next time out, I’ll give them a heads-up before I dive in.

I swim back in strong like in Camus’ Stranger. I pull out and step on the pier in one motion. Daily yoga and my summer weight have me feeling good. “Well I keep getting younger,” I sing out to no one and everyone, “my life’s been funny that way.” I start my yoga routine chilly-wet in warm late-evening early-summer sun. “Before I could talk, I forgot what to say…”

A young person stood before me, ‘Don’t you teach table tennis at Reed?’ It took me a while to recognize them, without glasses and out of context. When they told me their name, I did remember them. They were a great student: they had fun and got really good at table tennis. They are studying philosophy, so I even got to talk about K. Popper. I was happy.

The top West Hill fir balanced the giant setting sun, and it was time to ride home. I still didn’t quite love my new-old Raleigh ten-speed single-gear. After I got the gearing right, new peddles and toe-straps though, it isn’t so bad. Not yet beloved like my ex-Clubman, still, kind of a fast bike.

The Spring Water Corridor is a jewel of the Portland area and my path to Sellwood pier. When I’m in a little better shape, I’m going to take it all the way out to the Sandy River, about 24 miles each way. A place called Oaks Bottom is the lowest point on my ride home. There is a foot path there that goes in East towards the river. I love to bike there for toe-shoe running on the dirt paths. Opposite the foot path, and also perpendicular to the Spring Water Corridor, is a paved path up the hill to the Oaks Bottom parking lot on Southeast 13th Avenue. I’m sorry to say that folks sometimes like to start at that parking lot and skateboard down.

A cyclist with a blue and white helmet came downhill from the North towards Oaks Bottom. I came downhill from the South. My shorts were still a little wet an I had neglected my helmet for the sweet breeze. Sometimes three things happen at once. This time a moose on a skateboard came downhill from the West: Out from the tunnel under the tracks; Out onto the Spring Water Corridor tucked low into the turn; Right shoulder right into my right ribs. A better hit than any sports reply I ever cheered.

Right around then the laws of physics and my mind took different paths.

In my mind, things were simple. There was no time, only sequence. There was no control, only observation. Undistracted by thoughts of past or future, the brain sees things in the present, each sparkling one at a time, just as they are, without responsibility: I’m going to collide; I’m going to fall off my bike; I’m going to land on my left elbow; I’m going to land on my left upper back and that will hurt; I’m going to have to breathe.

The physical movement of my body I can only guess at using forensics and my mid-air mid-conscious remembrances. That my left elbow has a small circular scab jibes well with my recollection of landing first on my left elbow. That there was no road burn indicates that the moose and I had roughly equal linear momentum. My bike and I must have been going at least 15 miles per hour and thus the moose around that speed as well.

Probably the right side of the face hit the moose’s back as the body folded under the blow. The right hip likely continued forward, meeting the handlebars to receive that elongated bruise. Probably the body had considerable angular momentum. After landing almost lightly on the left elbow, the body likely continued to spin and fall, eventually meeting the path hard with the left upper back, where the pain can still flair most acute. Finally, the legs probably swung around to receive the slight bruising to the outer right foot and shin. The hands were untouched. The body ended in a right-sided fetal position, with face facing roughly North.

Why wait? reasoned the conscious mind and I drew my first sip of breath. White lightning shot from my spine out my left foot and then two bolts through the top of my head.

“Time to call 9-1-1?” asked the cyclist with the blue and white helmet. I sipped a little more air and replied, “iiim eeee aaaaa ineeet.” I took a breath low and worked up to child’s-pose, exhaled and cried out like the first man. I took a slightly deeper low breath and pushed out into downward-facing puppy. As I exhaled and pushed my chest forward and down something popped and the white lightning again shot down and out of my left foot. After a few more breaths I was able to stand up.

The moose was friendly and came over to say, “Sorry about your bike dude, but I’m poor as shit and don’t have insurance.” I mumbled that he was good. “Really?”, he was surprised. “What else could you do?”, I wondered. “Oh, yeah,” and, as he skated off, “Next time I’ll stop at that stop sign, for sure.”