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Concerns raised over endorsement process by Keep Lake Oswego Great

A political action committee has named its picks in Lake Oswego's mayor and city council elections but the process for choosing favorites has some people raising eyebrows.

The committee, known as Keep Lake Oswego Great, formed Aug. 7 to stump for civic goals they say further the town's best qualities.

With the city's political discourse awash in negativity - much of it brought about by rising costs and uncertainty over the future of the West End Building - organizers worried nay-saying had overshadowed Lake Oswego's strengths.

They pointed to good schools, top-notch cops and firefighters and a nationally acclaimed library as among the community's attributes.

Culling their membership from the town's most visible school supporters, library fans and business organizers, members of Keep Lake Oswego Great pledged to advocate for long-term civic goals.

They promised, among other things, objective endorsements in local elections Nov. 4.

On Monday they announced their support for Jack Hoffman for mayor and Sally Moncrieff, Bill Tierney and Jeff Gudman for city council.

The committee's process has raised questions about whether the deck was stacked against some candidates all along.

The Keep Lake Oswego Great committee set no rules on whether individual members could make personal endorsements for candidates.

As a result, six of the original 12 members of the group endorsed Jack Hoffman for mayor nearly a month before Keep Lake Oswego Great released its endorsement for Hoffman Oct. 13.

Group members Linda Brown, Colleen Bennett, Linda Kerl, Chuck O'Leary, Dale Rhoney and Chris Schetky all appeared in an endorsement ad published by Hoffman Sept. 18.

Three of committee's members also endorsed Sally Moncrieff for city council in September.

Wally Helm, a 76-year-old voter who supports John Surrett for mayor, wrote a letter to the Lake Oswego Review raising concerns about the political action committee's process last week.

Helm questioned why some committee members made personal endorsements in the election while Keep Lake Oswego Great pledged an unbiased look at the candidates.

He said the group should not have promoted itself as objective when many already knew who they supported in local races.

'It would be great if you could have an unbiased group. I wouldn't want to complain about something like that,' Helm said. 'It's just not an unbiased group.'

'To me it's just the same people that are always involved in these kinds of activities that are now in this new one,' he said.

Several members of Keep Lake Oswego Great are former members of Our City Our Future, a political action committee that supported public ownership of the city's West End Building in two elections last year.

The group has frequently sparred with Ask Lake Oswegans, a political action committee led by mayoral candidate John Surrett and city council candidate Mary Olson. That committee stood on the opposite side of the issue, promoting the sale of the West End Building in the same elections.

Keep Lake Oswego Great retains ties to the Our City Our Future committee. According to campaign finance reports, Keep Lake Oswego Great received 26 percent of its funding through Our City Our Future through a $971.69 donation made Sept. 2.

Both political action committees share the same treasurer.

Rob LeChevallier, spokesman for Keep Lake Oswego Great, said the money was the balance of Our City Our Future's bank account and was donated to Keep Lake Oswego Great when the former group disassembled.

He did not see problems in accepting the donation, he said, since part of Keep Lake Oswego Great's mission is to support community institutions.

LeChevallier stressed that the Sept. 18 endorsement ad for Hoffman was printed nine days after Keep Lake Oswego Great conducted its mayoral interviews.

Regardless, he said, the political action committee set no limits on political activities for its members and LeChevallier saw no reason why they should.

Those individual members, when interviewed by the Lake Oswego Review, called themselves just that: Individuals.

Schetky is involved in numerous neighborhood and business groups, including Keep Lake Oswego Great. She said being a civic volunteer should not exclude her from having a personal opinion.

When she and others endorsed Jack Hoffman for mayor in the Sept. 18 ad, she said, 'Those were personal endorsements, not the group endorsement.'

She said recent negativity toward Keep Lake Oswego Great is typical of the sour tone in Lake Oswego.

'It's the very thing I believe Keep Lake Oswego Great is fighting against,' she said.

Other committee members supported their right to make individual endorsements. They said the individual endorsements played no role in the endorsement decisions made by the Keep Lake Oswego Great committee.

Some candidates questioned the group's motives but said they were not upset over the endorsement decisions.

Olson said she was not counting on an endorsement from Keep Lake Oswego Great but wondered why its members were vocal about their personal beliefs.

During interviews with the group, she said, 'I think some of the people were very receptive and open minded and others probably had their minds made up already.'

'But that's politics,' Olson said.

PAC makes endorsements

Keep Lake Oswego Great is a locally founded political action committee geared toward supporting six long-term goals through fundraising, advocacy and endorsements in local elections.

Those goals include a healthy local lifestyle, citizen engagement in politics, sustainable businesses, a clean environment, smart public investments and improved community institutions.

On Monday, the group endorsed Jack Hoffman for mayor and Jeff Gudman, Bill Tierney and Sally Moncrieff for Lake Oswego City Council.