POL Government Elected Officials Commissioner Nick Fish News Blog Archive Blog

Outside council report on BES Columbia Building

In response to the Auditor’s report about the new Bureau of Environmental Services employee building at the Columbia Boulevard Wastewater Treatment Plant, I committed to bring in an outside law firm to review the findings, conduct an investigation, and issue a written report on lessons learned and “best practices.” Attached is a copy of the report.


In its report, Barran Liebman LLP found no evidence that laws, rules, or ethical guidelines were violated. However, the report raises a number of red flags about bureau practices and decisions.


Barran Liebman’s report includes eleven thoughtful recommendations for improving how the bureau completes capital projects. We are reviewing them carefully, and expect to implement many of them.


Prior to the issuance of this report, I already initiated a number of reforms that address many of the findings. They are designed to strengthen accountability and transparency. For example:

  • Projects with investments totaling more than $500,000 now come to Council on the Regular agenda (not Consent agenda) to ensure robust public discussion. 
  • The Citizens Utility Board has been brought in to conduct regular, independent reviews of bureau capital projects.
  • This fall, based on the recommendations of the Utility Oversight Blue Ribbon Commission, we will launch a new Public Utility Board, with independent professional staff to scrutinize the capital projects and budgets of both BES and the Portland Water Bureau.

Next week, I am launching a national search for a new Director. I am confident that with new leadership, a renewed commitment to transparency and accountability, and with the full support of our dedicated employees and the Council, BES will continue to deliver high-quality services to Portlanders.


Please let me or my staff know if you have any questions about this report.

Barran Liebman LLP Report

Portland investigation says Columbia Building payment process 'appears improper'

Brad Schmidt in The Oregonian

Sewer Office Building Investigation Says City Bureaus Should Report When Projects Get Bigger

Aaron Mesh in the Willamette Week

February 19, 2015

Jerome Kersey, 1962-2015

Yesterday, our community lost one of the greats: former Portland Trail Blazer Jerome Kersey.


I do not have the words to express my shock and sadness at his sudden passing.


I was lucky enough to spend some time with Jerome at Schoolhouse Supplies' Celebrity Spelling Bee last month -- we were on the same team. He brought his lovely wife and step-daughter as guests.


It was easy to tell that Jerome was the biggest "celebrity" there -- throughout the evening, people asked for his autograph and a photograph. He was always more than happy to oblige.


Before that, I once played a game of H-O-R-S-E with him.


I lost, naturally.


Jerome was a great player and ambassador for the Trail Blazers and our entire community. He was also a wonderful human being. Wherever I saw him, people were drawn to him. He always found time to give back.


It was an honor to know him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and fans today.



February 19, 2015

Improving our Surplus Property Policy

This morning, Nick was pleased to brief City Council on a new “Surplus Property Policy,” developed by the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Water Bureau.


The new policy increases transparency and accountability, and creates a robust public process for selling public land.


After Nick became Commissioner in charge of our two public utilities in 2013, he learned that the “Freeman Tank” property, a surplus Water Bureau site in Southwest Portland, was being sold to a private developer.  Community members in the Multnomah neighborhood objected – claiming they were not adequately notified of the sale, and were not briefed on the future plans to develop in their neighborhood.


While the Water Bureau followed the City’s then existing policy for surplus property, Nick agreed with neighbors – the policy needed to be strengthened! 


The new policy, developed with significant community input, includes expanded public notices to our local government partners like Metro and Multnomah County, and to neighborhood associations and business associations, ads in community newspapers, and a new “Surplus Property” section on each of our bureaus’ websites. The new BES and Water Bureau sites include photos, detailed information about each surplus site, and information about each site’s status.


This new policy would not have been possible without the thoughtful feedback and recommendations from Moses Ross and fellow neighbors in the Multnomah Neighborhood Association.


Tell us what you think! Review the new policy online, and submit your feedback.  


Policies set for sale of city properties

Jim Redden in the Portland Tribune

February 18, 2015

Planning a greener future for the Central Eastside

This Thursday, the Southeast Quadrant Plan is offering an open house for Portlanders to learn about the future of the Central Eastside.  It’s a great opportunity to get involved and discuss goals, policies, and upcoming projects in the district. 


The Central Eastside is a dynamic part of Portland’s tech and factory industry.  It significantly contributes to our economy and job growth. 


The Bureau of Environmental Services is proud to partner with fellow City bureaus on the Southeast Quadrant Plan.  Last year, BES staff helped complete the SE Clay Green Street project.  This year’s focus includes adding more green infrastructure to address stormwater runoff.  Other topics include enhancing river habitat, providing park-like spaces, improving bicycle and pedestrian corridors, and more!


Check out the Bureau of Environmental Services’ website for more information about the open house.


Southeast Quadrant Open House

Thursday, February 19, 4 – 7 pm

Oregon Rail Heritage Center

2250 SE Water Ave.

February 17, 2015

Let’s show small businesses the love this Valentine’s Day!

This morning, Nick was pleased to help kick off Hidden Hearts at Crafty Wonderland.


Hidden Hearts is a Valentine’s Day shopping event that showcases Portland’s great neighborhood small businesses.  It was created by Supportland co-founder Katrina Scotto di Carlo as a way to reward those who shop locally. 


Here is how it works: collect ‘Hidden Hearts’ at participating Supportland businesses today. On Sunday, each heart will become 20 Supportland Merits to use towards a 24-hour shopping spree!


Neighborhood small businesses are the backbone of our local economy.  They strengthen our community and support good causes. For every dollar spent at a local small business, 70 cents stays in our community. 


So this Valentine’s Day, let’s show them some love. 


Special thanks to Supportland co-founder Katrina Scotto di Carlo and Crafty Wonderland Co-owner Torie Nguyen!


Check out Supportland’s website for more information.

February 13, 2015

Friday Roundup

February 12, 2015

Keep your family safe from lead exposure

Homes built between 1970 and 1985 may have lead in their pipes, which can add lead in your water. It’s a major health risk for children and pregnant women.


The Portland Water Bureau wants you and your family to stay safe! They offer free lead testing kits to all customers. Order a lead kit today to test your tap water. 


The Water Bureau also has simple tips to avoid lead exposure from household plumbing.

  • Avoid using water that has been standing in household pipes. Let faucets run for at least 30 seconds to allow fresh water to come through.   
  • Use a filter that removes lead.
  • Buy low-lead fixtures.

Check out Multnomah County Health Department’s LeadLine website for more information, and to order a lead-in-water test kit.

February 12, 2015

Shop local this Valentine’s Day weekend

Show our small businesses some love this weekend by shopping local this Valentine’s Day weekend!


Hidden Hearts is a new Valentine’s Day shopping event that rewards Portlanders for buying their Valentine’s gifts at local, independent retailers.  The brainchild of Supportland co-founder Katrina Scotto di Carlo, Hidden Hearts showcases Portland’s small business community and gives shoppers the opportunity to cash in while supporting their neighborhood stores.


Shoppers can collect a Hidden Heart at each participating Supportland business through February 14.  On February 15, each heart will turn into 20 Supportland Merits to use during a 24-hour shopping spree on supportland.com


As a champion for small businesses, Nick will help kick off Hidden Hearts at SW Portland’s Crafty Wonderland on Friday morning at 8 am. 


Local small businesses are part of what makes Portland great. They employ half of our workforce and strengthens our neighborhoods.  For every dollar spent at a small business, nearly 70 cents stay in our local economy.


Check out Supportland’s website for more information. 


How Portland's small businesses are gearing up for Valentine's Day

Andy Giegerich in the Portland Business Journal

Nick Fish Asks Portlanders to Shop Locally for Valentine's Day

Skye McKizzie in GoLocalPDX

February 11, 2015

Put this rainy weather to good use

This rainy season is the perfect time to utilize rain barrels in your gardens.


Rain barrels are simple rainwater collectors that store runoff from a roof downspout.  The purpose is to temporarily hold water for irrigation and other exterior uses. It’s a great way to manage stormwater overflow on your property - and save money on your utility bill. 


The City of Portland offers financial incentives for using rain barrels in approved locations, where overflow water soaks into the ground. 


Check out the Bureau of Environmental Services’ downloadable guide to learn more about rain barrels. 

February 10, 2015

The Jungle Book

Northwest Children’s Theater and School is presenting The Jungle Book!


The Jungle book is a beautiful interpretation of Rudyard Kipling’s classic story, brought to life.  It follows the journey of a young boy raised in the wild, and features vibrant, traditional Indian dance, with Bollywood flair.


Northwest Children’s Theater and School seeks to enrich and educate youth in our community, through wonderful theater arts performances and programs.  It is funded in part by the Regional Arts & Culture Council’s General Operating Support grant. 


The Jungle Book was created in partnership with Anita Menon’s Anjali School of Dance.  It runs now through March 1st at the Northwest Children’s Theater and School. 


Visit the Northwest Children Theater and School’s website to learn more. 


Photo courtesy of RACC.

February 9, 2015

Friday Roundup

February 6, 2015

Portland International Film Festival

Don’t miss this year’s Portland International Film Festival (PIFF).


Presented by NW Film Center, PIFF is celebrating its 38th year showcasing global diversity through cinematic storytelling. The festival highlights an array of films, documentaries, and shorts from over 50 countries!


The NW Film Center receives support from the Regional Arts & Culture Council.  The Center is dedicated to providing many exhibitions, festivals, educational programs, and art services to our community.  


PIFF starts today and runs through February 21.


Check out the the NW Film Center’s website for more information, including showtimes and locations. 

February 5, 2015

The weeds are blossoming

According to the groundhog’s prediction, we have another 6 weeks of winter. And, though spring is far away, the invasive weed, spurge laurel, has started blooming. 


Spurge laurel is a large, invasive weed that grows in clumps that are 3 to 5 feet tall.  Its blossoms are yellow-green and have a bitter scent.  


The Bureau of Environmental Services recommends to remove the weed by completely digging it up, down to roots, to limit re-growth.  Spurge laurel is toxic, so take precautions to stay safe and avoid a nasty rash. 


Check out Bureau of Environmental Services’ website to learn more. 

February 5, 2015

Give Kids a Smile

On Saturday, in honor of National Children’s Dental Health Month, Kaiser Permanente Northwest will Give Kids a Smile. It’s a free dental care day for uninsured and underinsured children in the greater Portland area.  


Oral health care is very important for overall wellness. Cavities and tooth decay, known as ‘caries,’ are the most chronic childhood illnesses. We want all of our children to start out life with healthy, pain-free teeth. Children who receive dental sealants are significantly less likely to need fillings in the next three years. 


Kaiser’s free services include dental sealants, vaccinations, and fluoride varnishes.


Clinics are open to the public from 8 am to 1 pm. Check out Kaiser Permanente Dental’s website for more information and locations. 


Kaiser Permanente Northwest to ‘Give Kids a Smile’

Kaiser Permanente Northwest in The Oregonian


Kaiser offers free dental care Feb. 7

In the Hillsboro Tribune

Photo courtesy of The Oregonian.

February 3, 2015

How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes

This month, Portland Playhouse presents Sojourn Theatre’s How to End Poverty in 90 Minutes (With 99 People You May or May Not Know).

How to End Poverty is a provocative and interactive play that uses the arts to ask hard questions about a timely subject: the growing inequality in our country.

Written by Michael Rohd and Sojourn Theatre, the play encourages audience involvement as it explores ways to attack poverty. At the end of each performance, the audience will be asked to decide the “best” way to combat poverty. Based on the result, a local non-profit will receive $1,000!

Nick is proud to support the play, and to participate in the discussion with the audience on Friday, February 13.

Portland playhouse is local non-profit arts organization dedicated to providing diverse audiences with delightful, interactive performances that celebrate the complexity of life.

How to End Poverty runs from February 4 – 22 at Portland Playhouse. Check out Portland Playhouse’s website for more information and to purchase tickets.

February 2, 2015

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