The Job PDX
The Job PDX
43. Jesse Engum

Jesse Engum knows more about the food you eat and the water you drink than just about anyone.

The Interview

Jesse where are you from?
I was born in Vernon, British Columbia Canada in 1973. That’s in the Okanagan Valley, beautiful area of land.
Wait say that again, where are you from?
Vernon, British Columbia.
Is where I was born. I was there for the first seven or eight years I think.
It’s in the Okanagan valley in British Columbia, beautiful area. Well worth a visit if you feel like seeing some land and mountains and lakes.
Yeah. When did you become a … When did you move here, when did you become an expatriate?
We moved here when I was going to first grade, so …
Will that be like six years old seven years old?
Have you lived in the States since?
Apart from a couple of years of …
You don’t have any accent I’ve noticed.
Yeah that’s something you learn pretty quickly to ditch as of elementary school.
As a beat up able kid?
Yes exactly. I spent a couple of years out of country just travelling but otherwise have lived in the US since then.
Okay we’ll get to that. I should have brought a pen for notes hold on. Wait okay.
There’s probably one in here.
I like a little spontaneous, because I don’t have a pen why don’t you tell me about when you were out of country so that I don’t have to remember that for later.
Sure, so I had the opportunity to travel to Japan when I was 16. A private high school in Tokyo wanted to kind of expose their students to foreign students, expand their cross cultural opportunities there. They hosted two American students at the time that year and I applied to do that.
I wrote an essay and corresponded with them a couple of times and did do that.
It was awesome.
It was like an exchange program kind of thing?
Yeah, I don’t think nobody came in my steed.
Oh, I see.
I think that’s the traditional formula.
It was more of a hostage situation? I’m just kidding. Okay, when you came to the States was it Portland or where did you go then?
Eastern Oregon.
A small town called Umatilla. I was there through elementary school …
Yumetaa it just sounds like it has a new clear reactor?
There’s one on the Washington side of the Colombia River.
Called Hanford.
Okay, oh yeah sure, that’s the one that will probably get us.
It was decommissioned and they’re cleaning it up which will probably be centuries I don’t know how long it’ll take. Some sort of retention pawns I think that are still being cleaned up.
What’s the nearest city to where you grew up? Was there somewhere you’d go to hangout? Everyone had one.
Yeah it could have been Hermiston which is probably also … I don’t know that’s probably like at the time it was 12,000 people. Now it’s 17 or 18 or maybe 20. Pendleton was the biggest city in the area at the time.


Umatilla on the left, and Pendleton on the right. Photo Credit Wikipedia.

I went to high school there, three years of high school.
Okay. Do you know that the beach boys were originally The Pendletones?
No, and what would be the basis for that?
It was cool in Southern California to where Pendleton sweaters, that was their look. That was if you look in their album covers they’re always wearing those … That was the name they wanted. It was some kid at the record company decided that the beach boys would be catchier and just literary changed the name without their knowledge. So if not for some punk at Colombia …
Without their knowledge?
Or Capital rather. Yeah literary and they were like okay well the record is pressed …
By the way …
Beach boys that’s fine because they would I don’t for there to be something. They’re united a little Pendleton trivia.
That’s hilarious.
What happened between then and Portland, did you …?
Let’s say I went to school, dropped out of school travelled around Central and South America with my brother for a year.
Did you do a lot of Yage?
Yahweh, isn’t that like a … Did you do a lot of drugs?
Oh Yage?
Yahweh maybe I don’t know. No that’s like God.
Yeah maybe …
I read too much William S. Burroughs.
Okay yeah, no well some I suppose.
I determine the derail as an interview because just for the listeners out there I’ve already had a couple of drinks.
No, I mean I’ve never been that much into drugs, casually I suppose.
During that time absolutely.
Yeah casual.
Lots of marijuana during that time but …
Yeah you know its South America kicking back.
When in Colombia, I guess that would be a different drug.
Yeah perhaps I mean I don’t know. I wouldn’t know. Why did you come to Portland, what makes Portland special?
Let’s see, actually I had a funny experience, that lead directly to Portland. My brother and I were working saving up money to go down to Central and South America. I was playing the bass as I do still. Living in a duplex, split level duplex, I was practicing one night, this is shortly within weeks before we were going to leave for the trip.
Apparently there was somebody downstairs even though the cars were gone. Somebody was downstairs I was disturbing their peace and a knock at the door and it was a policeman and the policeman issued me a ticket for playing the bass.
It was inaudible outside, but apparently it disrupted the downstairs neighbor. I got a ticket and I forgot about it, I didn’t even really try to blow it off. I left the country without responding to the ticket. I had a great trip, came back and was in Pendleton and looking for jobs and at this point I spoke Spanish and Japanese. I applied for a job at the county jail as an interpreter and went through one interview successfully and at the second interview was arrested.
I’ve never heard that story.
Which was a surprise, at first I actually thought this was a psychological test, like what do I do under stress.
But no they threw the first going through the due process, discovered I had a warrant for my arrest because I did not respond to this ticket for playing the bass too loud in a shared living situation. That’s when I pretty much for better or worse decided I didn’t want to live in Pendleton.
Even though didn’t have anything to do with the experience of living in Pendleton it’s just something about it I decided I wanted to move. I dealt with the ticket and within a week I had shacked up in a friend’s apartment and started the transition. Started working at a local bakery that I’m not even sure it’s still open, Three Lanes Bakery, but it was pretty big for a while.
Where was this?
It was on 5th and Davis here in North West.
Sure, I vaguely remember that.
I worked a swing shift as a principle baker and did pastries and croissant and bread and cake that sort of thing. Yeah and that’s how I started moving in Portland, that’s when I started living in Portland.
I’m still the lookout here. Okay so is that the first job you had in Portland, was baker. Okay and then where did you go from there in Portland?
Let’s see. I decided that the restaurant business didn’t make sense, so I worked at restaurants and bakeries here in Portland and before that. Started a few, started two at that point, a bakery …
Started two?
A bakery and a restaurant.
I learned to those processes that like margins or razor thin.
Even if you’re an integral part of the business but don’t own it, you still don’t make that much money and you’re going to work lesser evenings and weekends.
What type of restaurant did you open, what was this project here?
Yeah. Let’s see, there were two bakeries and one restaurant at that point and the restaurant was in Guatemala, the trip that my brother and I took. There was a German couple that we meet in Guatemala where we were running a bar. This couple wanted to open a restaurant. They had worked in restaurants but didn’t know that much about them and I helped them like set up the menu and the kitchen and did some guest cooking. Just helped them get the ball rolling and it worked well within a few months. Let’s see, what’s the question?
What kind of restaurant was this?
What kind of restaurant, so it was pretty standard European fair. There were Germans and we were working with what was available at the farmers market.


San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala. Where Jesse helped with the restaurant. Photo Credit Wikipedia.

I see.
The growing season is great in that part of the world.
The bakery is there as well?
There was one other bakery was there, one bakery was in Pendleton and then there was another restaurant here in Portland. The bakeries were all basically like European style like pastries and breads and cakes and stuff like that, muffins, cookies. The second restaurant was PSU’s Campus and that was heavily weighted port seasonal and local foods. Whatever was grown or could be grown like in a greenhouse or outdoors here is what we focused on. Mostly vegan and vegetarian but some meats carefully selected.
This is like through the school to get on campus or was it?
Right. Basically an organization formed that wanted to create a sustainable student run collective restaurant and it wasn’t associated with an academic program.
Were you a student at the time or?
I was a student. This organization had a board and an executive committee and they hired me to take it basically from business plan to the running restaurant. I outfitted the kitchen with equipment and hired staff and wrote the menus and that sort of thing. Let’s see …
How long ago was this?
This was 12 years ago, 13 years ago. What is this? 2014, so it is 14 years ago. I still think about the idea of creating a restaurant or a Deli of some sort but it’s a high risk way to lose.
Yeah, super high risk. It’s easier to focus on the, some people in Portland have been enormously successful but it’s really hard to predict when a place opens if that’s going to happen.
The caliber here is so high and there are so many good places. It’s a tremendous amount of work and it’s I assume that the payoff is proportionate to the work.
I swear if one of these people went Salem and did what people do here they’d just hit it out of the park. It’s like they just Salem and it’s dramatically a different story. There isn’t a good restaurant in Salem.
In my opinion.
Yeah. I’ve only been there a couple of times and it struck me the same way.
It’s like the State Capital as far as I have let’s say.
Yeah. You think there would be the clientele total support.
Right, right, right. I was going to, fat cats on there, I don’t know what they call those.
Part of the reason why Portland restaurants are successful or at least the ones that we’re thinking about here is that there is a broad base of customers who want the quality and want the variety and …
I have come to expect that over the last decade. I know I have, I’m cognizant of the fact that if you opened Ava Gene’s in Salem people actually wouldn’t go there.
Yeah. It could be.
It actually has to be in Portland or probably Brooklyn. Do you feel you yourself have strong opinions about food? Do you think that’s why a restaurant is something that’s always kind of in your mind?
Yeah. It’s probably strong opinions. I think experiences with music and with food. You see …
Pretty similar things I think.
They are in dimensions that are. You see what’s around and then you imagine what could be. You see the problems with what’s in front of you or you see opportunities for something a little cooler or a little more this a little more that and then I imagine what it would be. One of the things that I realized that I can do is do that on a very small scale at home. I can experiment with charcuterie or some dish in my living room without risking healthcare, access to healthcare or income and that sort of thing. I basically decided that the things that I’m, these flights of interest and fantasy all execute in smaller scales on the side.


Jesse’s Baking

Do you have, when we go to a restaurant my wife whom you’ve meet has strong opinions about how a kitchen is run. She can’t face the kitchen in a restaurant or she’ll be constantly just like do you have that problem?
Distracted with it.
Do you recognize the symptoms of that? That it’s a really polarizing thing to …
For it draws my attention and I want to look at it like a TV or most. I get sucked into seeing what’s there and so I become bad dinner company I suppose in that case.
That happens to me if there is a TV but …
Right, exactly for me it’s the same thing.
Okay. A lot of people would say that they are and I could arguable even say this myself. I was vegan, I was a vegetarian. I have gone through all these ridiculous phases but although I eat meat I’ve never actually killed and eaten an animal. Do you have opinions about this?
Yeah. I think it’s an intensively set of dynamics. I boar hunted for seven years or eight years for elk and deer and rabbit. It’s a difficult process to kill an animal and to gut it. It also seemed like an act of responsibility since I choose to eat meat I was going to participate in that process. I’m not going to the point of saying that other people should do that because each person has to find their place in relating with the globe of dynamics that play there.
But for you?
Yeah. For me it seemed like if I’m going to, it was an act of responsibility to participate in that process if I choose to … I was also a vegetarian for close to 10 years and vegan for a portion of that.
Is this before the first time you bow hunted or were you a vegetarian for a period after that?
No, since being a vegetarian.
Okay. Thinking back to the first time you did that what was that experience like was it?
It was a really sad process because one of the most important thing to do as a hunter is to really slow your mind and you are in the woods, in this particular case we are in Coast Range sneaking around trying to slow the mind so that we can really pay attention to our senses. We are ultimately hunting in the crater and animal that can see, hear and smell better than we can and yet that’s pretty much the tools we have to find them. We can track them but ultimately when it comes to making a kill, to making a good shot you have to have the advantage in those regards because if they do sense you in one way or another then they’ll just run off and that’s it.

You have to slow your mind and really pay attention to your sense and the world opens up in a way when you do that. It’s a gorgeous place even where there are lots of clear cuts in the coast range. You just see beauty all around you and there is something majestic elk and deer even rabbits in a way in that setting or elsewhere in the park or whatever. It’s generally … Hunting is in my experience a prolonged process. It’s hours and days of methodical contemplative letting go of your thoughts and just intense focus. Then you encounter something majestic like this. I don’t see how a person can’t be reverend for that creature and so then to take its life.

It’s an intense process. Then there is just the physicality of gutting it and skinning it and then the physicality of putting it on your back and hauling it out of whatever ravine that you hiked into to follow this creature. It’s a very intense and deeply personal process.

Is that why you would use a bow rather than like a rifle or something like that, or a gun?
Yeah. That was for me a choice of as it were of being closer to the ground and I don’t know. I can’t say that it was evening the tables a little bit between hunter and prey but there’s that dimension to it for me I guess. I used a compound bow and not a traditional long bow. I’m not really extreme in the traditionalist side of things. I’ve got a coworker who makes his own arrows and arrow heads and uses a traditional bow and what not much less accurate than a compound bow. It’s even a more extreme example of that type of thought.
What is it as inside based bow? What is the difference between a compound bow and like a crossbow? Is that the same thing?
A crossbow is essentially two limbs and a string that are mounted to a gun stock.
Essentially you pull a trigger on it?
Exactly. There are provisions for hunting with crossbows in Oregon. Then a bow … The difference between a traditional bow and a compound bow is mechanical advantage. A compound bow has pulleys essentially that you pull a couple of inches and that’s the highest tension of the bow for hunting in Oregon. The minimum tension, the weight of that pull has to be 50 pounds or greater.
But then as you pull to full length, so you have the string by your ear and you’re … The other one at full extension, then the weight is considerably lighter.
In contrast, the traditional bow, the weight increases as you pull back. When you’re at full extension with the traditional bow, the weight is at its highest. When you’re trying to aim a bow, holding little tension is much easier than holding high tension of course.
If your arms aren’t shaking due the stress, yeah.
Exactly, so it’s a much easier form of hunting with the compound bow.
Yeah, I don’t know. I stopped hunting when my firstborn was born.
Do you see yourself doing it again?
Yeah, I’d like to go back to it.
Well, fishing.
I fished a fair amount as a kid, like fly fished. My dad got us into like tying flies and angling and stuff. I feel like I would enjoy doing it and I do like once or twice a year probably. Now that I’ve got two young boys, I could see that being a nice pursuit for us. At Mother’s Day, our eldest Jude wanted to give Lacy a fishing pole so we did. We’re going to follow that one and two or like summer activities. I don’t know that much about it.
Goes great with camping?
Totally. There’s lots of really good fishing rivers and lakes in Oregon.
You should be thankful for that. What do you do for a living now? Where is Jesse now?
Yeah I work for the City of Gresham, the Department of Environmental Services. I work in the Water Program. The broad umbrella of what I do is to work to demonstrate the city’s compliance with the State and Federal drinking water regulations. Every water provider … The city provides water to the community, most of Gresham. There are a handful of State and Federal requirements, more than a handful that each water provider must comply with.

A lot of my time is focused on ensuring that we do meet those expectations.

Some of that is doing outreach around water efficiency, water conservation. It’s a national requirement that basically all water providers must do … Conduct some conservation that reach to public.
Okay, and what form does it usually take. Like I know that … I get and everyone does get a water quality report annually or whatever. Is that part of that?
Yeah. I’m the Project Manager for that piece.
Yeah and then conservation could be information about efficient appliances that you can install in your house or other ways to approach managing your yard. What plants to plant? How to water and that sort of thing or it could be like working with businesses to help them to reduce water consumption. There are lots of opportunities for that.
I saw … Oh my gosh, I’m not going to … Hopefully I could find it. I saw a gentleman this morning speak at the Portland Creative Mornings, Portland chapter of Creative Mornings and he was … He’s advocating for changing the way that people relate to the grid that cities are built on. One of the things that he was trying to do was … Let’s see. Mark Lakeman, have you …
I have met Mark, I know him yeah.
Okay. One of the things that he was talking about was having neighborhoods where like things like grey water within a block pass between houses and was shared as a resource. He mentioned in passing that an aspect of that was not technically legal.
What the hell did he mean?
The State sets so. There’s a national layer of plumbing code that regulates how people use water; drinking water and waste water, grey water, black water. Then States can add a layer of more stringent standards where certain opportunities were justified by engineering, good engineering. Oregon has, I would say reasonably progressive stance towards the use of grey water and black water but management of it. It gets tricky when you’re crossing properties and involving multiple owners.

Today I was downstairs at the U of O extension office helping with a daylong seminar on water sustainability. One of our presenters, I was one of four presenters, is talking about Eco-districts and basically creating utility districts that are smaller scale than say whole municipality. It could be ten by twenty blocks or it could be five buildings or it could be three buildings. They’re definitely are ways to do exciting things on that scale but because stuff like that hasn’t been … Doesn’t have a long history in modern code interpretation.

You have to do a lot of work to demonstrate that it can work and it won’t make people sick and it won’t contaminate waterways. Tom Putmann was the co-presenter for the seminar today and he demonstrated or talked about some of the projects he’s been working on. One of them is actually quite near here, the Lloyd District. We’re talking about two or three buildings that are going to be using … He will install waste water treatment facilities of course not at a city scale but at several building scale or ten block scale where the output of a waste water treatment facility installed in a building or installed in a park or a side walk is a source of water for non-palatable use. Perhaps you can take that waste water and instead of sending it to the water treatment plant, you can use it to flush toilets or irrigate landscapes.

Is that called grey water or what kind of water is that?
Yeah. Grey water, basically the difference you have three main classes of water as far as Oregon Plumbing Code is concerned. You have palatable drinking water. You have grey water and black water. Grey water as it’s defined locally is has a low nutrient load. That’s basically the difference between grey and black water. Grey water could be what goes down the drain after you wash your hands.
After you take a shower whereas what you use … The water going out of a toilet, that would be black water because it has a high nutrient load. Out of a dish washer because there’s food on the plates or bowls that has a higher nutrient load. The grey water can be used for a variety of uses. There’s a matrix that I presented today to the class that describes the regulatory framework for using grey water. There are three tiers and there are also three types, classifications that are based on the origin of the grey water is it single family or duplex.

Or is it multi-family and commercial, or is it something bigger than that. That loosely defines the three types and that also corresponds to the volume that you might be putting out. Then there is … There are also three tiers and largely corresponds with how you want to use the grey water. The most relaxed tier, the easiest tier thresholds to me would be like in ground infiltration. You’re not going to send grey water in this scenario; you’re not going send grey water to the water treatment plant.

You’re going to infiltrate it on site. You’re going to use natural in ground biological processes to clean the water and it will eventually become ground water or it will flow into surface water like lakes or rivers. The second tier might be that you could create a pond with it. It’s something that humans can interact with but it’s obviously not palatable and it’s not going to be air borne.

The third and the most stringent tier would be … You could pipe it through sprinklers and it could be air borne. Basically you have degrees of rigor in cleaning the water, okay? The X-axis of that matrix is degrees of rigor in cleaning the water. The Y-axis basically corresponds to how much you generate.
The lesson here is don’t use shit in your sprinkler?
That’s a good rule of thumb I would say.
When we were … Sorry. One of our clients at Needmore is Hammer and Hand and we visited them in Seattle and they were in a place called the Bullitt Center. Have you heard of this place? It surprises me actually because it’s interesting it’s … I can’t remember exactly how they described it but it might be the most ecologically resourceful buildings in the United States. I think it generates all of its own energy on the premises. Like the solar panels actually stick out from the roof a little bit because they needed that.

The what you’re describing as black water is actually recycled and within the building and the basement and all of this … We looked down on the building and it’s pretty crazy but is this thing that’s coming around in Portland and is there a motivation to do this? Is there like an economic incentive, is it just like a Good Samaritan kind of thing? Is it like to save the planet? What’s really is … What’s the motivator here?

That’s a highly local thing. Within the Portland Metro area, there are 22 separate water providers, okay? Each of those water providers has a different relationship with the infrastructure that they have installed over time and maintained or not.
They could have a different configuration of drinking water sources. To your question, Portland has a relatively abundant supply in the Bull Run Watershed.
Okay? Per capita consumption over the last five or eight years is actually declining. I’m not sure …
How do you think so Willamette Weeks worst defenders list if anything?
Yeah, that could have played a role definitely.
Interesting it’s declined.
Yeah, it’s declining. I think the best guesses are that most of that can be attributed to more efficient fixtures. In the early ‘90s, it was required nationally that the largest flushing toilet that would be available on a residential scale will be 1.6 gallons.
Okay? It takes some time for older toilets to be replaced, right?
There are still plenty of toilets that flush … That were installed 30, 50 years ago. They flush at 3.5 or 5 or 7 or 8 gallons per flush, right?
I see.
We’re seeing now that fixtures, and it’s not just toilets. It’s shower heads and facets and aerator. All of those more efficient fixtures are entering homes. There’s also … There has been a huge transition in terms of the personal sense of responsibility and ethic in the United States, obviously in urban centers like Portland. Even in more rural areas, the attitudes now versus 10, 15 years ago are far more friendly to conservative idea; water …
Conservation and should say not conservative.
Yeah, like conservative ideas are alive and kicking in certain places but yeah, to resource conservation is way less fringe now than it was ten years ago. You see water use reflecting that. You can look at Tigard or Lake Oswego or Tualatin Valley Water District and they are investing massively in developing water sources and the infrastructure to support that. In those districts, those water utilities have far more robust conservation outreach programs.

They have far better funding for like rebates to incentivize low flow toilets or irrigation controllers or pre-rinse spray nozzles for commercial kitchen like dish washers. Seattle, I don’t know what their water supply situation is like. My gut says that that is more an ideologically driven thing. Like that’s the company who says let’s be as efficient as possible, be as resourceful as possible.

It’d be different if it was in L.A.
Right, yeah Southern California at large is suffering major water shortage issues.
Yeah, it seems like … Okay. Enough about water, ironically we’re drinking whisky and some of your favorite things in this world are things that have had the water removed.
Oh yeah.
See what I did there?
I thought pursuant to this conversation; I should remind you that using heater mechanics to concentrate fermented liquids is not yet lawful in the United States.
Although I assume that it’s lawful for some people, but it might not be lawful for you or I. Curious to know your opinion on that.
Yeah, I think that sucks. Australia and New Zealand, Canada probably other countries, Western Countries or modern countries can …
A lot of differences but yes, among those.
Yeah, we can’t distill wine or beer. That seems to be a hold out from prohibition. 1933 that was lifted but the Federal government as I understand it allowed the home production of wine and beer at that time.
Prior to prohibition?
No, upon repealing the rule.
The Volstead Act made it illegal to actually own and buy it.
Kids ask your parents, Volstead Act.
Yeah, but 1933 the … I think that’s a legacy that we are living with now.
Among others. It might be hard to argue medicinally is there but …
Actually on my office wall I’ve got a prescription form that was produced during prohibition that would allow a physician or a pharmacist who probably operated a surge job to prescribe alcohol for medicinal purposes, curative purposes. I’ll send that to you.


Prohibition Prescription. Photo Credit Wikipedia.

We should bring that back.
It’s lovely.
While we’re on that topic. Do you have a favorite drink?
I’m pretty situational. I love Rye Whiskey; I love scotch, some scotches. I tend towards the Islay like Big Peat Scotches, Lagavulin is probably one of my favorites but it’s not that I drink for all occasions.
Right. No, is not. Scotch can throw me for a loop, scary. Rye, the thing is when we talk about Rye we are almost talking about its making a comeback. Rye is this dark horse. My understanding is that before prohibition Rye was the whiskey, the American whiskey.
Yeah. It was huge. I assume that it was easier to grow than other grains. I don’t know there has certainly always been well in the recent few 100 years like rye bread and other agricultural uses of rye. Rye whiskey was much more popular before prohibition. Almost disappeared through the process of prohibition but yeah the last three or four years it seems to have enjoyed a major resurgence.
There is this, I’ll put this in the show notes but there’s this fabulous book on Budweiser family that takes place over oh ‘Bitter Brew’ it’s called. Have you heard of this book?
I’ve heard of the book, I haven’t read it.
It’s well written. I’m only part way through it but the way that it starts although a lot of times an author will start with the most exciting part of the story. In this case it was the repeal of prohibition obviously, huge event. Then it goes back and catches you up with how we got here and the fact that like prior to prohibition every bar was sponsored by a beer i.e. the brewery would foot the bill for everything but you would only get Budweiser at this bar or this would be like a black’s bar. It was like that’s the only beer you could get.
Right. That’s interesting. I read something I don’t remember which book it was but apparently something similar has persisted in England up to recent times. Where you got there was one or two ales that was produced by one place and that it was can amount to warfare to bring in multiple producers for one bar. This is probably a fact worth verifying but
i.e. we don’t know what the fuck we are talking about.
It sometimes it reminds me of, I know the analogies aren’t there but typically when you go into a café that is not a coffee rooster there. It’s the equivalent of that by the roaster who supplies them because that roaster will also have an agreement to service the equipment and so forth. Stumptown certainly they make great coffee but they’ll also service your equipment, train your staff, etc. It reminds me of that how breweries relationships with bars was although it’s different because breweries do not have bars of their own whereas most roasteries do have their own cafes. It was interesting to me to see that some coffee shops have started selling more than one roaster.
Oh really, I haven’t seen that.
For instance Barista is in Portland and they will typically carry several, they’ll carry Stumptown but they’ll also carry Ristretto. They’ll carry essentially competing roasters of coffee and I’m dying to get Billy from there or something down here to have that conversation because I’m curious like now who services your equipment? How do you work that arrangement? Is it just directly with La Marzocco or the … Luckily coffee doesn’t seem to be going through any prohibition.
That would be a national revolt.
To go briefly back to the subject of water because I’m drunk and I’m running all over the place. I’m pissed because my neighborhood is being torn up so that they can fix the sewers.
Are there streets that don’t have sewer lines?
I have no idea. I just know there’s holes in my street.
Yeah. It could be that you are experiencing something similar to what my neighborhood is. Our house is right on the corner of Skidmore and Ninth. Ninth Street has sewer lines running all along it. Skidmore has no sewer line. We have a neighbor on Skidmore and their sewer line runs under their fence towards our house and in our yard it joins with … actually under our house it tees …
With your sewer line?
It joins with our sewer line.
Okay. I don’t think we have that scenario, that’s crazy.
It is crazy sounding now but I think it was surprisingly common.
I could see why.
You have to build half the infrastructure or 70% the infrastructure compared with putting it on every street.
Okay. We are in East Moreland and there is a massive project undergoing. The whole at least a 10 block area they are going through. They are actually finished with our street and they’ve paved it over now. This is apparently a massive year or two long project. Do you think this is common? Do you think that Americans are paying enough attention to their infrastructure? Honestly when I heard about this project which was unfortunately right after we bought the damn house. Where I might have stalled, when I heard about this project I thought that is incredibly massive and that must cost Portland a fortune or me the tax payer.

Obviously no one would embark on this project for fun.

Right. No, that’s a perfect point. Yes, to the answer your questions, I think this is common and I think that people don’t pay enough, I don’t think the public understands public infrastructure very well at all. The people working in various utilities have plenty to do, plenty of capability in that issue. Particularly in cities like Portland or major cities most of the infrastructure if it hasn’t been replaced needs to be replaced. Many of Portland’s pipes, there are plenty of pipes in Portland that date back 80 years or 100 years. There is a sensible a rational design life to all infrastructure.

You install something now and it’s good for 60 years or 80 years if you are lucky.
It’s just signs.
That has to be replaced and it’s both expensive and it’s disruptive. I don’t think, elected officials generally make the call on whether or not they are going to raise rates or not. Okay. If you are going to replace infrastructure you have to raise rates because most of what is covered for in rates provides for emergency repairs you know which is dealing with deferred maintenance. Emergency repairs are never as affordable as keeping up with maintenance because they involve overtime, they involve disruptions to businesses and to home life. It’s an impossible situation and so most communities of any age are dealing with a huge list of deferred maintenance projects.

They are dealing with a public that is tired of raising rates and Portland is a perfect example of that. We have a measure on the ballot about whether or not to pull control of waste water and drinking out of city hands and put it into a public utility district. The main campaign slogan for that effort is the city has squandered, the rates are too high and they’ve wasted the resources that they have. Virtually all municipalities in the country of any size or of any age are dealing with deferred maintenance and the public perception problem. My gut says that municipalities are only now starting to wake up to the need to tell these stories and get the public to understand.

I mean it’s truly difficult, there’s all kinds of conversations that are happening right now around this PED question, but they’re not the relevant questions in my opinion. We’re totally distracted from what are real issues around the water provision.

Which are?
There’s a long … Portland developed the Bull Run watershed over 100 years ago. It was the late 1800s when they created a pipeline and established one dam and the later established a second dam. Since that time they’ve … Well since close to that time they’ve been selling water to neighboring jurisdictions around Portland.
In a way this is almost too big a topic to get into in this format, but basically the ownership and the stewardship and the decisions around all of that long term infrastructure. Previous elected officials and managers have held those decisions tightly, have in my personal opinion not distributed the responsibility and the decision making power amongst wholesale providers as well as they should have. Then there are kind of silly incidents like with the Fluoride, you had councilors making this decision for the public, the public learning about that and reacting to it and then putting a ballet on them … a measure on the ballet.

When Portland voters were deciding about fluoride 40% of the people who consume Bull Run water had no say in whether or not it should be fluoridated. Regardless of whether you think it should be or not, that’s a problem for those people who use Bull Run water. Its disenfranchisement is a problem with the democracy.

Absolutely, has … You’re a … Has your position influenced you politically? Do you feel like you have stronger political views as a result of dealing with water policy?
No I think I’m inclined to wait into shark infested waters.
Really you are drunk.
To my own …
But tell me this, when Portland was recently the subject of a sequel fiasco when some punks peed on our water.
My reaction and the reaction of sensible people was what hell, the quantity of urine here is probably still less than the pigeon in the water among other things.
I mean and I don’t think you would disagree, but you had a very measured response of all places on Facebook, not a place to post measured responses to literally anything. I did read it and appreciate and silently nod my head, because shit if I jumped into that fucking all of my conservative relatives would be all over it. I don’t want any part of that, but your point was basically about the optics of the scenario in the words of a political campaignist, that you would say the city cannot dump the water.
Explain your position.
Yeah and so …
I’m sorry to put you on the spot but …
No that’s fine that was …
By the way we can swear here.
Yeah okay and great.
You don’t have to …
I mean I think that was basically an option of two bad solutions right, I mean it wasn’t the way to win.
Absolutely it’s really good yeah.
I think that public outcry; it became a national spectacle I was really surprised the time spent to that …
For a second time, I think it was the first time too.
Yeah Wire pictured of the Washington Post.
Yes there was almost certainly not a problem with water quality, there was so little pee, so little urine and so much water that people were not going to get sick most likely the numbers were there, right? Portland knew that, Portland had the water tested.
Portland …
Portland has Science.
Portland has Science all over the place, like it’s scary how well qualified many if the people are who work at Portland.
Yet, all of the public outcry was those idiots don’t know anything about water. What would have happened if they had said don’t worry folks it’s going to be fine. Okay I mean I think my gut says that a handful of people would come out with real or imagined problems, ailments and say this is due to water. I am almost certain that there would have been lawsuits about it. At the very list and perhaps subconsciously would be this notion that a little is okay, a little problem is okay.

When you’re charged with drinking water for a community of approximately 900,000 people you have a different set of factors than a reasonable individual. A reasonable individual understand that delusion creates a non-issue essentially, okay. But there’s a PR dimension to this that … PR gets this well in my world gets this rap as being superficial or non-scientific or what have you. But it’s a very real and serious issue and I think that Portland was right to dump the water. The problem is, understand that requires a whole bunch of background information that you can’t get in a newspaper article.

Do you think that … I’m I correct in thinking that Portland is a typical in having non-covered reservoirs for water?
Okay, so imagine that there was an uncovered reservoir of this quantity of water, like for those at home he’s pouring more whisky. Now imagine for a moment that there’s an uncovered reservoir in a Southern California City.
They can hear it now it doesn’t matter. Santa Barbara, Santa Jose …
Yeah if you’re in a drought situation of course they are.
Then …
Do you think they would really give a shit about the piss?
I do. Yeah I mean if you’re in a third year of a drought and if your drinking water reservoirs are at 20% to 40% of what they should be for this time of the season, yes it’s a totally different scenario. For Portland reservoirs were full and are overflowing essentially.
Should Portland cover reservoirs?
Portland is required by court order to cover the reservoirs, and so it’s a forgone conclusion.
Where Portland is doubling the capacity of reservoir, the low grounder reservoir at Powell Butte, 50 million gallon reservoir is being built right now. The open or finished water reservoirs in Washington Park and Mount Harvey are probably going to be turned into aesthetic ponds like reflecting ponds or something like that. But they will not be … You will no longer be able to pee in the water supply.


Construction of the Powell Butte Reservoir on the left, and Washington Park on the right. Photo credit DJC Oregon

What if someone threw something into the water that was unidentified? Like took a ball of paper and threw it in there? What it is about peeing, and why is it peeing, why is it always peeing? What if someone like threw something that could possibly have been a bunch of aside in there?
Right, you could make it dangerous and that would be a problem. I mean if it was a ball of paper, I don’t know how Portland would respond. It would be interesting to see how.
Wait for the movie.
Wait for the movie, good advice.
Yeah well Jesse thanks for talking to me today.
Hey well nice talking with you.
All right cheers. We should stop there because I’m probably …