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New projects vs. old decisions?

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'If stupidity got us into this mess, then why can't it get us out?' - Will Rogers

Some quotes seem timeless, even for a small community like Lake Oswego. Our city council is now proposing options for new projects, including a library and a police-communications facility. Neither of these facilities will be inexpensive, but they certainly could be designed to be less expensive. Our residents are deeply concerned about city expenditures, increasing fees and dramatically increasing utility bills. This is why it's imperative that this city council use fiscal prudence in proposing new projects.

Let's face it, there have been very poor decisions regarding city projects in the past 10 years. The Safeco (aka WEB) project is the prime example of the white elephant that refuses to go away. The old library is just the opposite. It is a facility that has been used to capacity and a great example of a facility where residents received an excellent return over the past 30 years.

So what is the difference between the positive outcome of the old library and the negative outcome of the WEB? The answer is simply city governance today versus 30 years ago. The WEB represents grandiose egos and their absence of concern for spending/risking voter capital. It continues today as our council delays decisions (WEB, streetcar, etc.) to get what it wants, despite deep voter sentiment against these efforts, as illustrated in both recent surveys and elections.

Thirty years ago the old library represented the prudent use of voter capital, while today our council is tying a new library to downtown redevelopment projects (North Anchor) and a police facility to the WEB. Something just doesn't seem right in this logic. A police facility will not change the poor performance of the WEB and a library doesn't need downtown redevelopment. No matter what they tell us none of these projects are 'free.'

So what's the reason for tying new projects to old decisions? It's simply to mask poor performance and force voters to make a difficult decision. 'You want the library you need, then accept our redevelopment (and associated costs).' 'If you want a new police facility, then accept long-term ownership of the WEB.'

We are being manipulated again to achieve a political outcome. This approach represents the ongoing 'tax and spend' philosophy where we may end up with expensive facilities sited within poorly performing assets that waste taxpayer dollars (again).

We continue to increase our debt, while at the same time being asked to take on the Foothills development project and 'accept' the streetcar. As one councilor recently said,' If you like Foothills you must accept a little of the bad (streetcar) to get the good (Foothills).' That logic is simply unacceptable in this economic environment. It's why citizens are now saying, 'enough.'

That's the difference between fiscal responsibility and the dominant 'tax and spend' group. Live within your means and control your expenditures or do anything to bury poor decisions and force voters to pay for them through more debt. It's the core issue in the 2012 election and all citizens need to participate. Feel free to visit COLA LO at www.commonsenselo.blogspot.com or www.commonsenselo.org.

Dave Berg is a 20-year resident of Lake Oswego and a board member of COLA LO.