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Two views of Lake Oswego

The Keep L.O. Great PAC appreciates all the candidates and citizens who turned out for its mayoral and city council Candidate Forum on Sept. 13. We note that after several forums, two distinct views of Lake Oswego and how it should be run are emerging.

Candidates holding the first view love Lake Oswego as it is, and attribute the city’s current award-winning quality to the use of careful planning, plenty of citizen involvement, judicious use of bonding capacity and responsible fiscal management, as evidenced by the Triple A rating that our bonds routinely receive. This means that the agencies which set the rates consider the city’s finances to be so sound that our bonds carry the lowest possible risk to an investor. Therefore, the bonds receive the highest rating and the lowest interest rates, which can be worth millions of dollars in savings to the city. These candidates want to protect the bond rating by adhering to the same fiscally conservative policies which the bonding agencies consider to be very low-risk.

Candidates holding the second view love Lake Oswego as it is, but have expressed discomfort with the methods used to get it that way. Although urban renewal bonds, which are designed to generate the revenue to pay for themselves, were used to jump-start the transformation of downtown, several candidates are adamantly opposed to their use. Some have criticized use of consultants, even though consultants are only hired to provide specific expertise (some highly technical), that the city can’t provide in-house. There appears to be an assumption that we can save a lot of money without any consultants, but since some technical consulting is typically required for any building project, this would seem to be a rather questionable choice. Some have also implied that we could start dipping into our savings for capital costs, thereby avoiding selling new General Obligation bonds for public facilities, and prevent property taxes from rising.

The differences seem to boil down to two opposing views of the role of government.

One side sees government as a way for citizens to come together and plan the future they desire for themselves and their children, and considers the taxes they pay for improvements and services to be worthwhile investments. They take a positive view of what city leaders have produced.

The other side thinks government should pay only for essential services and let private enterprise plan what new developments should happen. They consider taxes to be a burden rather than an investment. They have a basic distrust of government and the elected officials who disagree with them.

Keep L.O. Great subscribes to the view that citizen involvement in careful planning and responsible fiscal management has resulted in a financially stable, culturally rich, beautiful city which is a highly desirable place to live, and should be adapted to meet the challenges of a changing world. Keep L.O. Great supports candidates who want to continue to build on Lake Oswego’s success.

Chris Schetky, Lake Oswego, is a director of Keep L.O. Great. The group’s website is >keepLOgreat.com.