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Voters should turn down both bond measures

I am voting no on both the Lake Oswego library (3-405) and Boones Ferry general obligation (3-406) bond measures.

These two measures remind me of the 2008 general obligation bond measure to refinance line of credit loans for the highly controversial Safeco (West End Building) property purchase which, thankfully, thoughtful voters rejected.

Measures 3-405 and 3-406 should meet the same fate. Here’s why:

The Safeco measure specified no particular use for the property, proposed no budget and offered no estimates of immediate and long-term cost impacts to Lake Oswego property tax payers. Had the measure passed, it would have been only the first of many debt requests triggering property tax increases. It was a real pig-in-a-poke proposal.

Today, that almost empty, 80,000-square-foot albatross costs almost $1 million in annual budget revenue outlays for debt service and maintenance — not to mention the loss in annual property tax revenues Safeco was paying (more than $80,000) to schools and the city (almost $70,000). Just add up those cumulative losses over six years for this unaffordable luxury.

Like the Safeco property tax increase request, both the library and Boones Ferry bond tax measures do not tell us the whole story about how much either project will eventually cost. Those details have not been worked out yet, but both projects will involve eventual massive and speculative urban renewal district tax increment financing schemes, which remove funding for schools. And you can count on more general obligation bond requests later on. Like Safeco, these are pig-in-a-poke, open-ended, blank check requests for projects whose necessity, purpose, new debt burden and affordability have yet to be fully explained and justified to property taxpayers.

A new approximately 60,000-square-foot brick and mortar public library across from Rite Aid on busy B Avenue will, itself, generate no revenue to help finance the debt. Many communities across the country are cutting centrally located library building services due to lack of use and very few new libraries are being built. Quality, efficient, and timely 21st century library services are being provided by the Internet, twitter and other electronic media, which are fast replacing the need for large floor spaces required for rows and rows of mostly outdated books.

Are there alternatives? I think so. Our new comprehensive plan proposals emphasize decentralized neighborhood gathering places for services. Let’s use the vacated elementary schools for satellite libraries with computers. They could be staffed by volunteer seniors to keep costs down. People could walk rather than drive to these convenient locations. They could perhaps serve as daycare centers for adults and children, provide meeting rooms and have other uses, too.

Do the Boones Ferry Redevelopment Plan and projects need public financing? I don’t think so. The recent private investments in the Zupan’s-La Provence shopping center project have been quite successful and many Lake Grove people I know think that this type of financing is the preferred way to go. Once again, certain city council decision makers should not have the last word on this proposal either.

Both of these bond measures should be voted down.

John Surrett is a Lake Oswego resident.