Jack Pollock
down but not out With a $2 million campaign--the most expensive in Oregon's history--scare tactics and papering the city with glossy pamphlets, PGE steamrolled a voter initiative intended to create a people's utility district (PUD). The initiative would have been the first baby step towards taking over the electric company and creating a publicly held entity. But the vote failed by almost three to one.

Proponents for public ownership had hoped that success on election day would corner PGE into selling the utility company to the city. Ever since Enron's bankruptcy put PGE's future in question, city hall has expressed interest in purchasing the company. Although the ballot measure said nothing about the city's purchase, it was believed that the creation of a PUD would put PGE on the defensive and might force them to sell to the city. Most observers agree that PGE would receive a more bountiful offer from the city than from the PUD.

But the day following the election, PGE emerged stronger and more confident than ever. On Wednesday, in an interview with the Oregonian, PGE CEO Peggy Fowler said that the voters had clearly endorsed their belief in private ownership of utilities. She added that a purchase by the city would be a bad idea.

Even so, city hall is saying that they will not back down. And neither are the PUDs, who continue to press forward similar ballot measures in Washington, Clackamas and Yamhill counties. Those initiatives will appear on the ballots in the spring. PB

POWELL'S WALK-OUT With no resolution for contract negotiations in sight, employees at Powell's have determined to walk out. For the past several months, Powell's has been at loggerheads with its union. The union wants cost-of-living wage increases and improved healthcare provisions. Instead, Powell's has offered incremental wage increases on an annual basis while rolling back healthcare provisions. Neither side wants to budge. Timing for a labor union walkout couldn't be any worse: The holiday season officially begins this week.

And for us, the timing could also not be more annoying: With no regard for the Mercury's deadlines, union organizers planned to begin their walkout just hours after our deadline. For updated information, check out: portlandmercury.com /news/current/other_news.html.