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And the surveys said ...

Lelia Deykin Seropian is expressing a minority opinion when she writes:

' A community center would be a wonderful and much needed addition to Lake Oswego.' (Community center would be a plus,' letters, Feb. 8).

In scientific citizen surveys dating back to 1996, Lake Oswego citizens have consistently reported that recreation should not be a top priority for city council. They have repeatedly indicated greater interest in schools, street maintenance, traffic, neighborhood pathways and growth management than in recreation.

In December of '05, when the first meeting took place at Lakeridge regarding the proposed community center, city officials claimed to have hatched this plan in response to citizen demand. It was a spurious claim, and one the current (2005) scientific citizen survey found no evidence to support. Campbell de Long Research, which conducted the study, found that 'Only about one-third display strong support for building a community center.' They told city council, 'At this point in time, support is only lukewarm for building a community center in Lake Oswego (36 percent). Clearly if city council believes that building a community center would be of great value to the community, it will have to work to build the kind of support that will be necessary for a bond measure to pass.'

When I pointed this out at a subsequent public meeting, I was told that surveys dating back a decade showed a pattern of strong public support for a community center.

That old surveys should be more germane than a current poll made no sense to me, but city officials insisted that they were. I then embarked upon an exhaustive comparative study of a decade of scientific citizen surveys and found that no pattern of strong public support for this venture exists. Quite the contrary.

In 2003, Campbell de Long concluded, '… it seems unlikely that funding for a major new recreation/aquatic center would generate the required support within the community at this time.'

In 2000, when four in 10 respondents said that a new recreation facility should not be a priority, Campbell de Long reported, 'Based on these findings, it appears that gaining voter approval of a bond measure to fund a new recreation facility will likely take a great deal of effort on behalf of the city and council members.'

As far back as 1998, the survey says: ' An aquatic complex had the lowest level of support, with only 2 in 10 rating it a high priority.'

And in 1996, an overwhelming majority desired no increase in levels of service for recreation, library, teen and adult community center programs.

Citizens have indicated time and again that recreation should not be a priority for city council. They gave recreation a 3 percent priority rating in the last three consecutive scientific survey years, and according to last year's informal 'Hello L.O.' questionnaire, roughly 75 percent of Lake Oswego citizens already belong to fitness clubs or other recreational facilities. In view of the costly public health and safety hazard presented by our failing sewer system, there is now more reason than ever to give a new recreation facility a low priority. Can anything be more important than public health and safety? Let's get our priorities straight.

Jacqueline Heydenrych is a resident of Lake Oswego.