Quintet seeks trio of open spots on council
Lake Oswego residents will have their pick of five candidates for three city council seats in elections Nov. 7 in a race that is bringing issues about pollution, development and public transportation to the forefront.
Those vying for the positions are Roger Hennagin, J.T. Tenneson, Donna Jordan, Kristin Johnson and Douglas Reiter.
Each cites infrastructure as a major concern for Lake Oswego and campaigns on local topics ranging from a proposed community center and redevelopment of Foothills and Lake Grove to affordable housing, a proposed streetcar and repair of city sewers.
Here's a look at some of their views:
Roger Hennagin sees a future of big local challenges as potential opportunities for Lake Oswego and wants to be part of the decision-making process.
'I perceive that the Lake Grove Village Center Plan is an opportunity, that the community center is an opportunity, that Foothills is an opportunity, that the sewer and runoff issues are an opportunity to improve on our streams and our wetlands, and so I want to keep the city moving in the direction that it has been moving,' Hennagin said.
He previously served on a committee to preserve the rail link between Lake Oswego and Portland, on a committee that recommended bringing the Portland Streetcar to Lake Oswego and currently serves on a committee probing transportation problems downtown. Hennagin believes the streetcar has potential for Lake Oswego and supports it but doesn't believe it is a cure-all for traffic problems on Highway 43.
'The streetcar can be a partial answer to congestion on Highway 43. I'm not convinced that the streetcar is the entire answer,' he said.
Hennagin also thinks buses are needed in the corridor and was alone in recommending a reversible center lane on Highway 43, one that switches direction at peak hours.
Where Foothills intersects with streetcar plans, Hennagin believes the area may have potential to offer more affordable housing for Lake Oswego, much like Portland's Pearl district has attracted young professionals.
'I am concerned about the decline of the population in our schools. I think that bodes ill for the future of Lake Oswego,' he said. 'Where do we look for affordable housing for families with young children?'
Lake Oswego schools currently lose $5,400 a year per student as enrollment declines. The Lake Oswego School District is currently forming committees to examine possible school closures and recruitment programs.
Hennagin believes planning for open space and civic services must accompany planning for added growth.
Looking at demands on civic services and the library, he said, 'If all of these are true then the purchase of the Safeco building appears to be taking advantage of an opportunity that presented itself and is an opportunity that isn't likely to occur again.'
He said he has no formal position on whether Lake Oswego should press forward with a community center. The costs associated with such a center, now unknown, would be a large part of Hennagin's decision.
As a former Lake Grove resident, Hennagin advocated for a plan for the area years ago and believes some level of planning for Lake Grove must be done. He is concerned about funding those plans, a course not yet charted.
Looking ahead at numerous projects and potential funding conflicts, he said it's possible that development can pay for itself, for example through a local improvement district in Foothills. He said he would fund sewer improvements through bonds.
Hennagin also wants more information as to whether cleaning Lake Oswego's sewers would help them last another 10 to 15 years, to allow more time for planning for replacement of the main sewer interceptor in Oswego Lake. He said costs would determine for him whether the pipe would stay in the lake or be pulled out of the water, a plan now being probed.
The future of the Stafford area also ties into issues about groundwater safety and riparian areas, Hennagin said.
'Do we allow at least a portion of it into the city in order to control what happens there or do we say 'hands off' and let it develop on its own?'
Hennagin is supported in his campaign by private contributions totaling $500.
Kristin Johnson said she is a natural to civic service, especially in Lake Oswego.
At 13, Johnson said, she was reading the voter's pamphlet and telling her parents whom to vote for. By 16, she was working on her first election campaign. She later became a member of the Lake Oswego Youth Council, which advises the city council on youth issues, and participated in Girls State, a citizenship program. From there, she was sent to Washington, D.C., as an Oregon delegate to Girls Nation, where she met President Bush.
'That really cemented my passion for politics,' Johnson said.
She currently works part time in the recruiting department at Schwabe, Williamson and Wyatt, a Portland law firm. She takes the bus to Portland from downtown Lake Oswego and, while she's excited about the prospect of bringing a streetcar here, Johnson said Lake Oswego needs to examine what kind of public transportation it can really support. Right now, she said, Lake Oswego riders only support buses every half an hour.
If Foothills redevelops, she said, 'that could be the thing that pushes it over and makes it practical.' She said she would like to see Foothills rezoned for mixed use.
'If it's done right, since it's an area near the downtown area or the east side, as we like to call it, it can be an opportunity' for how infill can work and provide affordable housing, Johnson said.
She has made affordable housing a key component of her campaign and wants people her age to be able to return to the community and raise children here.
'I'm kind of an idealist in that I'd like to see affordable housing. I'm practical enough to know though that not all types of affordable houses are going to work with this city,' she said.
With the right zoning, Johnson believes Lake Oswego can introduce some housing valued at less than $300,000 without using government subsidies. Doing so would ease drops in school enrollment and maintain property values for those who already live here.
Johnson also believes the city council has a responsibility to protect natural resources, particularly in Lake Oswego, which is a part of so many watersheds.
She wants to see improvements to the city's surface water utility and believes something has to be done about the city's sewers, whether the main sewer interceptor stays in the lake or is put on dry land. Some projects, such as a proposed community center, will add to an overall demand for funds.
'In the end, it's going to have to be a discussion about what the city can afford,' Johnson said.
In Lake Grove, she said some level of planning is needed to decrease traffic accidents and encourage pedestrian traffic.
'The area will grow and develop no matter what and there's going to have to be a long-range plan to keep it an area that you can still do business in,' she said. 'I like the vision of it being a village center because I think it incorporates the fact that Boones Ferry is a pretty significant commercial area surrounded closely by neighborhoods.'
In the Stafford area, Johnson believes similar planning must take place to determine how public services are going to be provided there and what responsibility will be Lake Oswego's.
As the election's youngest candidate, Johnson believes she's able to engage a youth population normally out of touch with government and is an attractive candidate for young voters, able to reach people younger than 35, for whom there is little other voice locally.
'I have a challenge in that I'm 22 years old. I found that once I'm able to talk to people they understand that I know what I'm talking about and I actually am a viable candidate,' she said.
She has not raised enough money in this campaign to require filings for contributions and expenditures.
Donna Jordan brings the most public service experience to this race, including six years on the Lake Oswego Transportation Advisory Board and the Lake Grove Village Center Plan Implementation Advisory Committee, which recommended the current plan to chart the course for redevelopment in Lake Grove.
'It's been a learning process for neighbors and business and how they can actually come together, where their needs can be shared, and where they'll probably never have the same opinions about things but how a compromise can be reached,' Jordan said.
She believes the Portland Streetcar currently offers a best option to improve traffic on Highway 43 and that West Linn should be involved in streetcar talks.
'You're looking at years down the road for having a streetcar and how are you going to make the people down the road use that streetcar and not impact Lake Oswego by driving through?' Jordan said.
She sees Foothills as a great opportunity to increase residential and commercial development in Lake Oswego but has concerns about the traffic impacts any development might have on State Street. She wants those impacts explored thoroughly before changes take place.
Looking at the price tags for current projects, Jordan said she wants to prioritize projects according to need and be frank with citizens about potential costs and help educate locals about what they're paying for where.
'What is the essence of what we want right now that we can afford?'
She said all the city's top projects should be laid out in the next budget cycle and examined, with necessities out front.
'I think we have to let the voters see all of that. I don't want to have a situation where we show them the fun stuff and let them think about the other stuff, oh, that will get taken care of,' she said.
Jordan considers it 'a miracle' Lake Oswego has not had a major sewer problem, given the location of the sewer interceptor in the lake, but said it appears likely keeping the ailing pipe in water is more affordable than taking it out.
In Stafford, Jordan said the city should be proactive in working with Tualatin and West Linn to examine the area's ultimate impact on infrastructure, schools and transportation.
While campaigning, she said she's finding lots of anger in the community and frustration with a city council locals perceive to be moving at its own pace.
'We have a lot of great things that have happened and we want to keep the city moving forward. I think we kind of need to take stock,' she said.
She believes Lake Oswego could take a creative approach to resolve some issues, including affordable housing. Jordan said she would like to see the city try unique senior housing that offers independent living options to aging residents.
Jordan has not raised enough money in this campaign to require filings for contributions and expenditures.
Doug Reiter is best known in this election as the anti-pollution candidate. Since public debates began on city issues, Reiter has talked openly about pollution in Oswego Lake from the city's surface water utility and his interest in stopping it.
Reiter, a lake resident and a member of the Concerned Shareholders - a shareholder group that made a pass at overturning the board of directors of the Lake Oswego Corporation in recent elections - is well known locally as a party to a lawsuit against the corporation filed in December 2005.
Reiter's claim, among other things, charged the Lake Corp with failing to protect shareholders from pollution from city sources, including sedimentation from the watershed and sewage overflows. The suit also charged the corporation with failing to force the city of Lake Oswego to improve creeks and other waters that drain pollutants to Oswego Lake.
He has no prior governmental experience but said his work as an executive search consultant has taken him around the world.
'It's given me the advantage of seeing a lot of places and seeing at the local and national level of government affects people,' said Reiter.
Bad government destroys the fabric of societies, he said. Overall he believes some projects in Lake Oswego should rest with the private sector, such as proposed redevelopment in Foothills, and government should step aside.
'I think the Foothills area ought to be developed primarily by a private developer who believes they can do it and make money, which gives them the incentive to do it,' he said.
Reiter said the private sector knows what buyers want, and over time economics and demographics will drive change in Foothills, whether the city of Lake Oswego interferes or not.
Reiter said he does support an extension of the Portland Streetcar into that area and said he is an advocate of public transportation and rail projects overall.
He believes the most important function government provides is public safety and for that reason puts safety first in Lake Grove.
'Everybody is right about the safety of Boones Ferry, it's a big problem,' he said, and would support a plan for change.
Other proposed changes in Lake Oswego, he said, are not so pressing. A proposed community center, for example, Reiter said should only be constructed if it's made cost effective through partnerships with the private sector.
'It's a luxury, it's a choice, it's not a necessity,' Reiter said.
Necessities, he said, float to the top of his agenda and he includes sewage and surface water problems in that category.
'The city of Lake Oswego operates the sewage system, the pipes and the surface water system and they're dumping sewage and surface water in the lake and the lake is private property. I think the city needs to clean up its act,' Reiter said.
But in other areas, Reiter said government should simply lay the framework for the private sector to do what it does best, including development, like the local improvement district that has revitalized Lake Oswego's downtown.
Reiter pointed to infrastructure problems and public safety as first priorities for public dollars and said he would work for creative ways to fund all civic programs.
'I think the city needs to decide what it needs as opposed to what it wants … It's nice to have all these accoutrements but somebody has go to pay for it. I don't think there is a strategy to pay for it other than debt and I don't think debt is a strategy,' Reiter said.
He said he would support additional programs to make housing more affordable but is undecided what role government should take in managing growth, particularly in the Stafford Triangle.
'I don't think you can stop it,' he said. 'Everybody wins with sound economic development' for which government should pave the way, he said.
He is supported in his campaign by several of the Concerned Shareholders through private contributions totaling $1,100.
J.T. Tenneson believes his degree in construction engineering makes him the man for the job. He started work in the construction business in 1983 and in 1995 launched the construction business Excel Excavation with three partners. Since then, Excel has billed out $90 million in construction projects and has a future in public projects.
Tenneson said he isn't sure whether the community center proposal for Lake Oswego will move forward but that he has the needed experience to oversee the project if it does. He said he does not have business conflicts with any local projects because he never takes work in Lake Oswego to avoid any question of impropriety.
'To be effective, how can I serve my community and have anybody thinking that I'm doing what I'm doing for personal gain?' said Tenneson, who is the a past president of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.
Asked whether he would support the community center, Tenneson, who was raised in Lake Oswego, said, 'It's one missing thing that when I was growing up we didn't have.'
That project needs voter support to go forward and is one of several potential projects outlined by the current city council. When he looks at that current group of civic leaders and their aims, Tenneson said, 'I think they've done a great job but now we need to kind of switch gears and implement their vision.'
Fixing the sewer interceptor, a main pipe in Oswego Lake that serves 48 percent of the city's sewer clients, tops the to-do list for Tenneson. He believes if the pipe is pulled out of the lake and taken over land, storm water improvements could be incorporated into the design.
'Storm water is a big deal and to properly manage it would cost billions. It's going to have to work with the sewer interceptor,' Tenneson said.
He also said development in Foothills is possible but that property owners and the community overall need to agree on what density of housing is suitable for the area.
Tenneson believes Foothills could play a part in lowering costs for new families in town.
Tenneson served on the committee that recommended bringing the Portland streetcar to Lake Oswego, which would reach into the Foothills area and could spawn development there.
'I'm a big advocate of it but I don't know how we're going to pay for it though,' he said, suggesting the city could leverage federal funds to ease the burden on local taxpayers and ease transportation concerns.
Those steps would make Foothills development possible and other developments as well. Tenneson said he hasn't made up his mind whether Lake Oswego needs affordable housing but believes the community needs a plan to attract young families.
'We need to turn affordable housing, or whatever we call it, into how are we going to keep our school enrollment up,' he said.
Asked for his thoughts on the Lake Grove Village Center Plan, Tenneson said he supports some level of planning on Boones Ferry Road and believes safety is a first priority.
'I'm interested in the talk that's been going on lately but I think we need to go back to the basic premise: We need a safe street on Boones Ferry. Is a child going to have to be killed on that street?'
Tenneson believes similar planning efforts should take place in the Stafford area and that Lake Oswego should consider annexing a portion of the land there in order to provide services and have input into future development.
Tenneson's campaign is funded by a $500 loan from his company.
Northwest Oregon Conference