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Candidates strive to show separation at forum

Analysis

In the campaign for mayor and city council, the fare has become as predictable as the country club breakfast.

So at a morning forum hosted by the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce Oct. 7, the candidates responded quickly when questioned about hot topics at the Oswego Lake Country Club.

Speaking to a crowd of mostly business voters, they whizzed through initially charged topics like the West End Building, the Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer and funding for downtown redevelopment.

Instead, the candidates put more emphasis on unique issues, spending more of their talking time on those qualities that distinguish them from competition.

Excepting no-show Devin Holz, each struck a distinct pose.

In the mayor's race, Jack Hoffman pressed his leadership experience plus previous success on infill policies and sustainability goals.

His six-point platform also included priorities for better infrastructure, neighborhood planning, continued improvements to downtown and Lake Grove, a forward-thinking transit strategy and a solution to the West End Building debacle.

The pose painted Hoffman as the more rounded candidate, likely a more natural player in the regional power circles that keep public money and policy trending favorably to Lake Oswego.

John Surrett, by comparison, used a need for government transparency and a conservative spending approach to reach the business crowd. He promised an open-door policy at city hall and meaningful taxpayer involvement in decision-making.

Surrett also pledged an accounting of the city's assets and a shift in civic priorities to reflect economic realities. He put police and fire out first, followed by neighborhood protections and continued efforts to spruce up downtown and Lake Grove.

Surrett emphasized his retirement to gain ground against the still-employed Hoffman.

His stance likely played well to his traditional base, most of whom are still stinging over the hasty acquisition of the $20 million West End Building.

Among the six city council candidates present, Jeff Gudman and Justin Luber made the biggest grab for the business vote.

Both have natural appeal with business voters. Gudman has been a private investor since 1994, investing in publicly traded companies and supplying venture capital in start-ups. Luber works in marketing for General Electric, has a background in sales and a business school education.

In the forum, each showed knowledge of business workings and named specific plans for keeping local businesses on track.

Luber promoted measured but continued investment in public projects and promised an environment where Lake Oswego businesses can thrive.

He detailed plans for a business incubation program and an economic development commission run out of city hall.

Gudman emphasized his financial background and previous service on the Lake Oswego Budget Committee to pull the business vote.

Pointing to economic circumstances, he said voters should not wait for new city programs. Instead, he said they should elect a city councilor that understands business, calling it a step that will get quicker results.

Much of the crowd-catching remarks came from Gudman and Russell Jones, both quick with humor.

The biggest surprise of the debate was the unexpected beating most candidates dealt Lake Oswego's Community Development Department.

All said the department needs better customer service and hoped a rewrite of the city code would help. While some candidates put tough talk aside, others placed greater blame on staff, with Jones accusing some planners of holding down 'fiefdoms.'

Jones made his biggest plays for the conservative vote, calling fiscal responsibility 'the main ingredient of trust in the government by the governed.'

He showed support for items outside the typical conservative fare, such as streetcar, but said he personally supported selling the city's West End Building. He also said he would examine how tax increment financing affects taxes in neighborhoods before implementing another redevelopment district in Foothills or in Lake Grove.

Mary Olson also played to financial concerns but shifted talk from spending controls to promoting balance of city programs with funding resources.

For Olson, balance was a key theme. Development should be weighed against neighborhood character, she said. And infrastructure and public safety needs should be weighed against new civic goals.

She said she would support a streetcar extension from Portland to Lake Oswego only if its terminus landed on State Street or in Foothills, not in downtown. A former employee for the city of Portland, Olson stressed experience managing budgets and capital projects.

Bill Tierney and Sally Moncrieff took a different tack.

Both pointed to experience with consensus building and promised careful, balanced decision-making.

Tierney used his background as a business leader at Comcast and on the Development Review Commission as evidence of his skill.

He said the city faces a string of tough decisions ahead.

'I think all the issues we face are really complex and there are not simple solutions to the things the city council is going to face, just like there are not simple solutions to the things you and I face as individuals,' he said.

Moncrieff stressed her record on consensus building as chair of the Palisades Neighborhood Association.

She let her ability to lead the neighborhood through difficult issues speak to her grassroots organization skills and ability to reach out to dissenting voices.

Moncrieff has young children and worked in a smart pitch for the family vote.

'Lake Oswegans don't move here on accident,' she said. 'We move here on purpose and all of these amenities we enjoy every day are the result of the vision of past civic leaders.'

Endorsement interviews on TV

The Lake Oswego Review interviewed candidates for Lake Oswego City Council and mayor Friday.

The newspaper bases its endorsements on those interviews, previous reporting and staff research on the candidates.

This year the interviews were recorded by Tualatin Valley Community Television. They will air on the station and also on the Lake Oswego Review Web site at www.lakeoswegoreview.com . The videos are intended to increase transparency about the newspaper's endorsement process.

For a complete listing of TVCTV show times, please see our Web site. Show times vary according to location and cable network.