Power to the people!

Portland General Electric and Enron are telling you in advertisement upon advertisement and flier upon flier that condemning PGE and creating a public utility district (PUD) (Measures 26-51 and 26-52) in Multnomah County is risky, costly and bound to be tied up in litigation for light years. They are right, and so what? I can’t quite figure out how this is supposed to scare me away from supporting the PUD. I guess I should fear this ballot like poisoned candy this Halloween (which is the last day to mail your ballot and be reasonably sure it is counted).

A recent examination of the Voter’s Pamphlet is a ridiculous exercise in anti-government paranoia on the no-PUD side, and a yes-PUD, pie-in-the-sky, free-electricity-for-all view on the other. Each side makes lavish claims about the dangerous electric future of Multnomah County. Apparently, either way, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. According to the pamphlet, the lights will flicker either by the continued well-documented corruption and legally dubious future of Enron or a bumbling band of merry Portland liberals who will make up the Public Utility District Board.

What is a perfectly reasonable consumer of power to do? I stood in my room flicking the lights on and off, and besides actually enjoying the dark side of things for awhile, realized that Enron/PGE and the sham “citizen concern group” were lying, or at least scaring you with the worst possible, entirely unlit scenario.

Many of the hard-working men and women and other people who have devoted much time and energy into making PGE as reasonable and fair as possible are justifiably uneasy at such a sea change. It is not every day your employer is taken over by frustrated citizens. Imagine, torches in hand, demanding Meier and Frank to extend their triennial, half-annual, bi-yearly (or whatever) store clearance. When they refuse, we, the people, commandeer the registers and the sale lasts forever. Right? Well, not quite. I do not think that, as gleaming as the projections are, the PUD will be without problems or missteps or even litigation. It will, however, be public and, call me na퀌�ve, there is still some cach퀌� in that for me.

As I flicked the lights on and off a few more times I realized that Enron’s desperation in holding on to the “juice,” despite its own indeterminable future, was forged with a contemptible misinformation campaign against the PUD that was corporate citizenship at its most dim. And let’s be honest, Enron is not one of the thousand points of corporate light.

PGE/Enron wants you to fear a public utility district that is run by your neighbors because, somehow, running such a “big” project is out of the scope of the common citizen. This is insulting to my neighbors. They warn you that if you pull the plug on them that you will be pulling the plug on the poor and elderly who cannot afford their bill and are taken care of by a legal provision in their contract. This is insulting to my neighbors. It also assumes that PGE/Enron went above and beyond what they were required to do by law, which according to their own data, they did not. My neighbors can do better. They warn you that a vote for the PUD risks thousand of jobs, as if thousands of jobs already are not at risk (which they are under Enron). They have also warned that the dreaded “government takeover” (almost Orwellian in its cool hysteria) will threaten the region’s economy with astronomical electricity costs, yet they have higher or nearly higher rates than every local PUD in the region.

Afraid yet? Afraid of your crazy anti-Enron liberal neighbor with those crazy ideals about local control and community action? You should be more afraid, as I am, of the legal storm that dictates Enron’s, and thus PGE’s, future.

Enron/PGE does not want to lose money, it is as simple as that. They would rather you believe that what they perform is a miracle; brilliance of science seared with corporate goodwill. They would rather you believe that your neighbor is conspicuously less capable with the magic that he or she performs.

Will a public utility be costly? Yes, but no more costly than staying with the corrupted course that PGE is condemned to follow. Will it be risky? Yes, but unusual and groundbreaking actions usually are. Is it too radical? Too much? Too soon? Possibly, but I am voting for more than the cheapest possible power. I am voting for faith in my neighbor. I am voting Yes on Measure 26-51 and Measure 26-52.