Prudent, thoughtful, responsible
Last Friday we all woke to the dramatic headline: 'Streetcar decision put off to next year.'
Anticipating yet another split vote on moving the streetcar forward, Mayor Jack Hoffman went hat in hand to the Clackamas County Commission(ers) last Thursday morning with a request that they postpone their decision on the Lake Oswego to Portland Transit Project. Not having discussed this with his own city council, the mayor made the request on behalf of himself and Portland Mayor Sam Adams.
Why this sudden backpedaling now, on the heels of their own city councils' votes? Facing the specter of a long summer of public testimony, with split or opposing decisions at Clackamas and Multnomah counties, JPACT and Metro -- as well as the resulting media coverage - Mayors Hoffman and Adams have chosen to retreat and regroup in hopes of quelling the overwhelming opposition to the streetcar project.
Rather than address the basic issue of whether their communities even want this project at all, the mayors are desperately trying to make it more palatable. In The Oregonian article about the delay, project manager Doug Obletz states '… we believe the project has been unfairly tagged with this $458 million tag. I think our job will be to debunk that figure and come up with a realistic figure.' Mr. Obletz, that is your price tag from your project proposal! No one made up that number. Now it's unrealistic?
Obletz' desire to 'debunk' rather than 'find the truth' is illuminating. How can we expect an honest re-assessment of this costly, flawed project? It challenges credibility that the same team that produced this project - and heaped ridicule on anyone who challenged them - is the best crew to now re-evaluate it. Given that Lake Oswego is paying for half of the consultant fees, city council will need to keep a sharp eye on the project team and the 'pre-preliminary engineering' work. The work plan should include regular monthly detailed reports to council.
In addition, the mayor should honor the requirement that was unanimously approved by our city council to immediately conduct a public survey about the streetcar. Instead, two months have already passed with nothing but resistance to moving forward with a survey. The citizens should demand that this obligation, passed unanimously, be fulfilled and that the 2012 vote on streetcar be a binding decision.
Somehow, our quiet, safe, beautiful suburban town is not good enough for Mayor Hoffman. He wants to remake it into his own vision of 'new urbanism' via streetcar and Foothills, as his 'legacy.' Later on the same day as his appearance at Clackamas County, in a meeting of the Foothills Oversight Committee, he was rapturous in describing yet another trip to Vancouver, B.C. Mayor Hoffman, we are not Vancouver B.C. and more importantly, we don't want to be!
Let's not allow the streetcar to rob our city of its ability to preserve our unique neighborhoods, build a new library and thoughtfully redevelop Lake Grove as we have done in our beautiful downtown. Together, we can keep Lake Oswego affordable and maintain our wonderful quality of life. Let's continue to improve and develop our city in a prudent, thoughtful, and responsible manner, for the benefit of all our citizens.
Mary Olson is a member of the Lake Oswego City Council. She notes her views are hers alone and not necessarily reflective of the council's.