It may seem like a utopian dream, especially in this 21st Century business world of bankrupt corporations and swindling corporate officers. But Portland could soon be home to a public utility operated without profit motive and with no CEOs to bonus. It is the type of power-to-the-people municipality that would make Vladimir Lenin smile.

But even though the fight over Portland's power company has left the corporate boardroom, it is not free from power struggles. Exactly who will run and control the utility--the city or a private citizens group--remains a heated debate.

Currently, the City of Portland is bidding to buy the assets from PGE. (PGE was a holding of Enron and was left bankrupt.) But groups like the Oregon Public Power Coalition (OPPC), a local, non-governmental organization, also want to bid for ownership. OPPC wants to allow local, voter-approved public utility districts (PUDs) to purchase PGE and maintain its assets on a county-by-county basis. The outcome of this battle will determine whether Portland's power company is managed by the city, like its current water bureau, or a citizen-organized group. More specifically, it will determine how much control residents will have over public-owned utilities.

"[The PUD] would be localized to each county; people would be buying their electricity from a local non-profit rather than the City of Portland or Enron," explains Joan Horton of OPPC. Currently, though, only Multnomah County has enough signatures to put the initiative on the next ballot.

Commissioner Erik Sten says that OPPC's plan is valid, but still believes that the city will prevail as the owners. The outcome of the city's bid could come as soon as the end of this month. But Sten assures that no matter who ultimately owns the power company, the services will be the same. "I think for the average person at home, the difference between the city's approach and the PUD would be very little," Sten says. "It's the old 'belt versus suspenders' argument."