The operative word in property taxes is affordability. It is imperative elected officials understand that affordable housing begins with affordable property taxes. Residents of Lake Oswego are faced with the prospect of funding, in one form or another, several multimillion dollar projects.
Of these projects some are necessary and others are unnecessary. We have no choice but to accept the increase in property taxes and/or fees associated with those necessary projects as they directly relate to the health and welfare of citizens of Lake Oswego. Of the unnecessary projects they must be relegated to the future if considered at all (at least those not already approved). Some of the currently unnecessary may in time become necessary and accordingly must be taken into account and planned for. The remainder would best be left to wither on the vine of unfulfilled legacies.
The methods by which the city council has been undertaking these projects, both necessary and unnecessary, have created a disconnect between city government and its citizenry. The handling of the West End Building is symptomatic of that disconnect. This issue has brought to the surface palpable division and contention between Lake Oswego residents and their city government. Contentious issues have arisen before in this city and been resolved. Block 138 and Millennium Plaza Park are two examples with a resolution providing positive benefits for Lake Oswego.
But at the time there were no looming infrastructure needs that the residents of this city were made aware of. That those in elected office, both present and past, should have been more cognizant and forthright regarding the issues facing Lake Oswego speaks volumes. Lake Oswego residents need to ensure they are represented by people who have their best interests and welfare at heart. It is inconceivable to expect the taxpayers of Lake Oswego to fund any ill-defined enterprise.
This November the voters in Lake Oswego need the opportunity to elect city councilors who are fiscally responsible, understand their constituency, and have the ability to honestly and responsibly prioritize city needs. Fiscal responsibility is more than a concept, it is and has always been the main ingredient in respect and trust of government by the governed. Without fiscal responsibility we are left with the grandiose taking precedence over the necessary, the few benefitting at the expense of the many. It is of little use to dwell on the past if it can't be used to improve the future.
A new city council must be proactive and reach out to its constituency and so avoid the current council's conundrum. Only a new Lake Oswego City Council can bring this community together again with an agenda that reflects the economic reality the taxpayer is going to face in the very near future. Integrity, honesty, responsibility, and respect must be the watchwords for this new city council.
This city deserves capable leadership that does not rely on consultants for everything. When consultants are hired to provide vision for what should be inherent in elected officials, it is time for change.
Lake Oswego deserves to have elected officials who listen to their constituents. Lake Oswego deserves to have elected officials who are able to reach out to their constituents. Lake Oswego deserves to have elected officials who use as their consultants the citizens of this community. The taxpayers of Lake Oswego need elected officials they can afford.
Russell Jones is a resident of Lake Oswego.