I have just read the wording for Measure 3-295 to secure permanent financing for the West End Building. What troubles me most about this measure is the open-ended nature of the potential uses for the property, specifically the language: 'However, there has not been a final determination of the use of the property.'
Couple this with the comment I read in the Review in February by Councilor Donna Jordan that, 'We need to reaffirm that it was a good investment for the city, even though it may be 15 years before the city and taxpayers decide what they want to put on that property,' and I believe you have a recipe for disaster.
Anyone who has managed a project of any significant size will tell you that the basic components of a successful project are: Resources, time, money and scope. And you cannot effectively manage the first three until you have accurately defined the fourth. Further, he will tell you that you need performance measures for the project and that these measures must be time-specific, measurable, quantifiable and verifiable.
It appears to me that in the acquisition of the Safeco property none of these components were well defined, and that for the proposed financing of the West End Building they aren't either. Without these safeguards you can end up with scope creep, time delays and cost over-runs - in other words, a disaster. $20 million is just a start, and it buys nothing but the building and the land. Every improvement to the building and every additional facility, be it a community center, library, skate park, fitness center or relocated city services will require more spending. If the voters do not approve subsequent bond measures, spending will halt but then the property will be underutilized. This is why a comprehensive, well-thought-out, citizen-endorsed plan is needed before permanent financing is arranged.
Nothing in the city council's behavior over the last two years leads me to have faith in their judgment about this project. I believe that they owe the citizens of Lake Oswego a clearly defined plan as to how they are going to spend our money. So far they have stated that they are going to ask us to pay the initial $20 million up front. Then they are going to establish a timeline for developing a process for public input on uses for the West End Building (City Council Resolution 08-21, adopted on 3/18.) It seems to me that they have solicited public input in the past (through their community surveys) only to ignore their findings.
The City Council is putting the cart before the horse. Their spend-first, ask-questions-later approach could end up costing the taxpayers much more than they bargained for when they approved Measure 3-273 last November recommending keeping the Safeco property. That measure was non-binding and there were no dollars at stake; this measure is the real thing. The Council would have us pay $20 million to start, then nick us for an additional $5 - $10 million or more from time to time until it adds up to serious money - your money. Does a price tag of $100 million ring a bell? We could end up like the fabled boiled frog.
If possible, the City Council should pull Measure 3-295 from the ballot and re-think their approach. If they do not, the measure may well be defeated by the voters who do not intend to give them carte blanche with their property taxes.
Greg Nelson is a resident of Lake Oswego.