At the city's Oct. 4 forum about the proposed Community Center (for the old Safeco site), the large majority of opinions ranged from hostility to ambivalence. Is the city council listening?
The community center Web site says 1,200 survey respondents confirmed interest in the Community Center. The facts don't bear this out. 95 percent of the 22,000 households who received survey forms were so enthused about the project they didn't bother completing the survey. As to the 1,200 who did, since the survey didn't ask for citizen's opinion about the Community Center, but instead asked questions about people's library and exercise habits, how did the city decide these 1,200 respondents supported the project? How does the city take citizen propensity to drink coffee and walk (the two most common survey interests) as indicating support for this project? Evidently the PR firm the city's hired to ramrod this campaign thinks it does.
Many reasons this ill-conceived project shouldn't proceed were discussed in the forum - whether the committee and the city are tuned in is another matter. Here are a few:
1. The city has failed to provide citizens any information about what this project will cost taxpayers. No one (except, apparently, the city council) makes huge financial decisions without first considering costs. How can the city pretend to gauge meaningful citizen interest without providing any information about the associated taxpayer costs?
2. For a city that says it doesn't have money to do basic street maintenance (but send bimonthly bills to do what many of us think regular property taxes should cover) does it make sense to spend, say, $80 million on a recreation facility that competes with private gyms, and a library far removed from the downtown (where nearly every forum attendee said they preferred their library to be)? Of course not.
3. The city drones on endlessly on the importance of walkable communities. One would be hard-pressed to find a more unwalkable destination than the Safeco property. When one factors in traffic safety issues for kids on foot or bicycle, this site gets a D-.
4. Since the city hasn't provided any information about what this endeavor will cost taxpayers, let's assume it increases a person's property taxes by $30/month, or $360/year. For many of us that's more than we currently pay for our gym memberships. Unlike our gym fees (which we only pay if we want a gym membership) the $30/month is not voluntary. In any case that $30/month in extra taxes doesn't even get one access to the facility's fitness facilities. To use the fitness facilities would cost, say, another $35/month.
5. Does it make sense to convert a large commercial property in the best suburban commercial district anywhere in the Metro area into a non-tax-paying city-owned venture? Absolutely not.
Some elements proposed for the Community Center are good ideas. The Safeco site just isn't the right place for the them. For the moment Lake Oswego citizens have been reasonably polite in their encouragement to the city to abandon this foolish project. Anyone present at the forum must have recognized the simmering resentment about the way the city has handled this project. The longer it goes on, the less polite people are going to be.
Jack Carter is a resident of Lake Oswego.