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Put resources into infrastructure

The long-awaited West End Building bond measure has suffered decisive defeat, (57.21 percent to 42.79 percent), only six months after voters agreed to keep the Safeco property in public ownership.

This was a foreseeable consequence of splitting the Safeco question into two parts. The city council risked the possibility of getting contrary results when it chose to present the ownership question six months ahead of its bond measure consequence.

The bond measure's failure occurred with no prompting from an opposition campaign, and reverses the November 'advisory' vote. If the citizens will not pay for Safeco, they surely don't expect to own it.

An explanation of the changing mood of the public comes in the form of the latest scientific citizen survey, 'Community Attitudes,' conducted last month. Just hours before last Tuesday's vote, Marthe DeLong of Campbell DeLong Resources, Inc. presented its findings to the city council. Generally, people are satisfied with life in Lake Oswego, but some clear areas of concern emerge. From the survey, we learn:

There has been a decline in satisfaction with city government since 2005 and 'a significant jump in disapproval of the course city council is setting.'

The number of respondents who 'strongly disapprove' of the current course the city council is setting has almost tripled since 2005 (Page 9).

Even those who only 'somewhat disapprove' have almost doubled in number.

'The West End Building is the major reason for disapproval of City Council.'

Though not a single one of the survey's 21 questions relates to the West End Building, one quarter of respondents nevertheless spontaneously mentioned the acquisition in the context of whether they approved of the course city council is taking. Even among those who 'somewhat approve' of the city council's course, 18 percent cite the West End Building as the cause of their reservation and 'nearly all of these responses express a negative view regarding the building acquisition.'

Campbell DeLong notes: 'In our experience, it is unusual for a single issue to generate this many comments in an open-ended question. When it does happen, it is a clear indication that there is concern about the issue in the community as a whole.'

People feel the council's priorities are misplaced. Citizens want resources put into infrastructure rather than non-essentials.

An 'Importance versus Performance' map (Page 23) illustrates where the city's performance sometimes collides with the public's expectations. Respondents gave the city a poor performance rating in several areas of high importance to citizens, namely water, sewer, storm drainage, street maintenance and traffic management.

Equally interesting is the finding that the city is over-performing in areas of low importance to the public, such as Special Events and Parks and Rec. adult activities.

Incidentally, the City's May 23 edition of the LODown Weekly News claims that residents rated Special Events as being 'of the highest importance.' This contradicts the survey, which describes Special Events as below average in importance to citizens (Page 23) and says the city is over-performing in this area.

Citizens have no unmet needs and do not want new services.

Question 9 asks: 'What services, if any, should the city of Lake Oswego be providing residents that it does not currently provide?'

The survey found: 'Most residents cannot think of any other services the city should be providing. Among suggestions provided, nothing emerges as a major unmet need.'

The 2005 scientific survey reported 36 percent strongly in favor of a community center. That number has plummeted and now only 4 percent of citizens are asking for a community center, though 8 percent would like a pool. This declining statistic is perhaps the most telling of all.

The 2008 survey lends insight to the bond measure vote and explains the public's refusal to pay for Safeco. The voters' message is clear: Instead of looking for ways to pour money into the WEB and other non-essentials, put our resources into infrastructure. Is anyone listening?

Jacqueline Heydenrych is a resident of Lake Oswego.