Reference your newspaper's articles of March 3, 2011 ('Going ahead,' and 'So far, Foothills planning shows no 'fatal flaws.'')
The Portland-Lake Oswego streetcar project is being literally rammed down Lake Oswego taxpayers throats by Metro, the city of Portland, ODOT and the state of Oregon, Clackamas County, former Lake Oswego politicians and the remaining old guard on the city council, as well as city staff and consultants, along with Foothills developer Homer Williams and his associates at Williams, Dame and White.
The total amount of money the proponents of this project are talking about is absolutely astounding - in excess of $458 million, for a small municipality of less than 36,100 residents. The worst of it is that the advocates really have no idea what the final costs will be or where that money will even come from.
Multnomah County Commissioner Deborah Kafoury, in a meeting at Metro, on Feb. 28, was the only person present to vote against the project. She did so, rightfully, because she didn't see the capital investment and operating costs in black and white, or where that money would be coming from. I agree.
What I see behind this boondoggle is public and private greed, all motivated by existing national and local transportation policies, urban redevelopment policies, Metro's desire to see 'in-fill' in urban areas, and the creation of urban renewal districts, all spurred on by federal 'stimulus' money. Government entities, at every level, are attempting to grab all of that federal money they can.
In the President's FY 2012 budget, he is seeking a 62 percent increase in funding for the Department of Transportation. This would be for trains, highways, and mass transit, which he calls 'infrastructure' development. The result would be a $556 billion DOT budget, without established funding, which would probably require the creation of an entirely new taxing vehicle (VAT?). Absolutely absurd! Read http://www.thenewamerican.com/index.php/usnews/politics/6560-obamas-transportation-budget-drives-up-the-deficit (New American magazine.)
This is all about a political agenda of changing America from a private investment economy to a public investment economy.
The Portland-Lake Oswego streetcar project is part of this national public investment feeding frenzy. Its fatal flaw: Planners assume that there will always be hundreds of millions of federal dollars flowing to continue to fund it.
The Foothills developers, Williams, Dame and White, don't plan to finance their project in the conventional manner. Dike Dame, per your article, admitted as much to Councilor Kehoe. He was not excited about the Foothills development at all, if there is not a streetcar there. Why? Ordering up a streetcar gets taxpayers to finance the development through the formation of an urban renewal district! It worked for Mr. Williams in the Pearl District and on the South Waterfront, so why not in the city of Lake Oswego? Well, not if Lake Oswego voters say 'no.'
Lake Oswego citizens need to vote on whether or not to provide the local match funding for this project before the city council proceeds further with this initiative. Currently, project advocates cannot supply us with that number. When that dollar value is available, a special election should be immediately scheduled. If the vote is not in the affirmative, then the project deceases, regardless of what its advocates desire.
Alan L. Baker is a resident of Lake Oswego.