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Debt has 'very real implications for taxpayers'

My guess is that as you read this, you are looking forward to Nov. 7. No more political mailers and emails — including my Studebaker for mayor missives. But let me say how honored I would be to serve you all.Kent Studebaker

I’ll start by saying how optimistic I am about the future potential for a great Lake Oswego. I’m optimistic because its citizens are some of the most involved I have come across. Because they are so engaged, differing opinions are expressed and disagreements occur. Over the next few years we will have some very important and challenging decisions to collectively make. Opinions will be very different and I welcome them all.

City governments all need to do a reality check at some point in their growth and development. Lake Oswego is no different and our time to do the reality check is now. If we are to move forward and mature responsibly, without leaving huge “credit card” debt with current citizens and the next generation of Oswegans, we will collectively have to deal with how much debt we can tolerate.

Our city debt in 2002 was $49 million. It is now $154 million. With current city projects being discussed it will balloon to $371 million. Sure, at the moment we have an AAA bond rating. But those same agencies who gave us that rating are the very same agencies who gave AAA rating to bond packages put out by big banks full of bad mortgages that caused the housing market to collapse. I would not bet my city’s future on their ratings! Also, what can be given can also be taken away. Remember August 2011, when S&P downgraded America’s AAA rating because of its inability to deal with ever increasing debt?

Debt is not just something amorphous — it has very real implications for taxpayers. If the city’s bond rating goes down because the rating agencies are uncomfortable with our ability to control our spending, Lake Oswego government will have to pay higher interest on its debt. There’s only one place for them to go to get payment — Lake Oswego taxpayers. Our schools’ marvelous scholastic reputation has attracted many to our area and we should not be chasing families with children out of Lake Oswego because of the skyrocketing cost of living here.

Many ask, “What will be different after four years of Studebaker for mayor?” My answer is — a lot! Your opinions will have been heard and respected. We will have a long-term strategic plan. We will have a clear idea of the costs of all projects and where they fit into that big picture plan without increasing our debt. We will have respected the rights of property owners while protecting and enhancing our parks and bike paths. We will have provided the fundamentals exceptionally well — fire, police, roads and pathways. We will be a willing to partner with business to attract young families to our schools and jobs to our area. We will be known as a city with a strong voice and one that Metro will respect, not overshadow.

To those of you who have not yet voted, I ask for your vote so that together we can have a great, dynamic city with a stable fiscal future and a sustainable population and environment.

Kent Studebaker, Lake Oswego, is a candidate for Lake Oswego mayor.