Incumbent Portland commissioner Amanda Fritz and leading challenger, Representative Mary Nolan, traded rhetorical jabs Monday on OPB’s Think Out Loud.
The two candidates clashed over a claim that commissioner Fritz has made repeatedly – that she has saved Portland ratepayers $500 million by getting council support in 2009 for a cheaper way to treat Bull Run water.
Mary Nolan told Think Out Loud host, Dave Miller, that the city recently got relief from the underlying clean water rules.
Mary Nolan: “But last month, the Water Bureau – without help from commissioner Fritz – succeeded in getting a waiver from the Oregon Health Authority, that means they have to spend zero on new equipment or treatment. So, their plan - currently authorized - is to spend zero. And her proposed plan was to spend $200 million. Now, maybe before that waiver was granted, she might have had a basis for making that claim. But for the last month, it’s no longer true.”
David Miller: “Amanda Fritz?”
Amanda Fritz: “Part of your statement is also not true. We are spending quite a lot of ratepayers’ money in maintaining the variance and doing additional testing so that we make sure we keep the water supply safe. The $500 million was a projection off of - the ultraviolet would have cost $200 million, and the filtration system would have cost $700 million with interest.”
David Miller: “Because you’re including loan servicing, then.”
Nolan: “But as of today….“
Fritz: “As of today….“
Nolan: “We are not required to do any of that new treatment. We do have to do some testing and monitoring. But the city, the Water Bureau – today – does not have to add any new equipment or treatment to keep the Bull Run water safe. Is that right?”
Fritz: “No, not exactly.”
Nolan: “So, can we look at the order?”
Fritz: “In 2009, when I made the council make that change, we reduced the rate increase by six percent. That saved the ratepayers $6 million a year. Do you disagree with that?”
Representative Mary Nolan also challenged Amanda Fritz on the question of campaign finance. Fritz has limited her donors to $50 contributions. Nolan has not. But Nolan told Dave Miller that Fritz, the incumbent, is not consistent in how she imposes that $50 rule.
Nolan: “Amanda isn’t playing by those rules herself. She has set a limit that she thinks that it’s only ok to donate $50 per year to a candidate, and that it’s not ok to accept money from PACs. But she has personally written checks – available in the public record – to other candidates that exceed her own limit by five times. She has written checks to PACs.”
Miller: “To support other candidates.”
Nolan: “Right. So, if it’s ok for her, as a donor, to write a $250 check, why is it not ok for me, as a candidate, to accept one?”
Miller: “Amanda Fritz, how do you respond to that?”
Fritz: “I’m really glad I don’t have to spend time making the case of ‘you can trust me.’ When I go to donors, I don’t have to have that long spiel about here’s what you can expect of me. I go and say ‘can you give me five bucks?’. Because it was really meaningful to people in both 2006 and 2008 that they gave me five bucks, and it helped me.”
Miller: “But Mary Nolan here is making the distinction between being a donor and being a recipient. And you are apparently doing different things as a donor than you are accepting as a recipient.”
Fritz: “I’m giving many candidates $50 checks that don’t show up on Orestar. I occasionally make larger donations to things like school bond measures and to particular candidates who I feel have done a particularly good job.”
Nolan: “So, it’s ok, then to do that? It’s ok to accept a donation above $50? You can make one, why can’t I accept one?”
Fritz: “It depends on the realm that you’re playing in. You’re very much used to the way the legislature does its business. I’m used to the way Portland does its business. And I believe it’s possible to get re-elected without taking large campaign contributions. So, why would I not go ahead and try to do that?”
You can hear the entire candidate conversation with Amanda Fritz and Mary Nolan on the Think Out Loud site.