Since the defeat of Measure 3-295 (which sought voter approval to issue $20 million in general obligation bonds to refinance the West End Building), I have read a number of comments from various members of the Lake Oswego City Council with their reactions to and interpretation of the election results. To summarize some of them, Councilor Donna Jordan said that members of the city council have reconciled to the fact that people didn't want to pay for the building right now for a lot of reasons. Councilor John Turchi said that the city could sell other assets to help pay for the building, and that the city could also issue revenue bonds, which do not require voter approval. Mayor Judie Hammerstad said she thinks voters turned down the bond in part because the city has not specified uses for the building.
There are various ways to interpret the results of the election, and there are various ways to spin them so that the city council could justify any actions they choose. One thing, though, is clear to me: It is time to include the citizens of Lake Oswego in talks about both the proposed uses of and the financing options for the building. From what I have read, this appears to be their intention. If it is, I applaud them; if it is not, then the community will continue to be divided and our two-year-old nightmare will continue.
Direct, face-to-face input from citizens will reveal why the measure was defeated and what the citizens want and are willing to pay for. Considering the sale of publicly owned assets is not yet a worthy solution, nor is suggesting the issuance of revenue bonds in order to circumvent the voters. Any talk about such options without developing a plan and a budget for the building is premature and only succeeds in clouding the situation and increasing the anxiety level.
Proposing these options at this time, with so much work yet to be done, makes it appear that the city council is more concerned with saving face and keeping the building than doing what is best for Lake Oswego. A more cynical citizen might consider this a not-so-subtle threat.
The council has miscalculated often enough that it is time to ask the citizens for their input and then truly heed the results, not just give them lip service. After all, it is our city and our money.
Greg Nelson is a resident of Lake Oswego.