Volume on the rhetoric has been turned

There are no quick and easy answers for the proposed Lake Oswego Community Center.

Nor should there be at this time.

What's becoming painfully obvious is that the city is divided into at least two camps on the issue - those who believe the center is the right direction for the city to head and those who feel residents can't afford to bring the structure into the city's litany of holdings.

What's not clear is how big each of these groups might be. The anti-center group has proven to be the more vocal one, hitting the opinion pages of the Lake Oswego Review and its Web site with a seemingly never-ending barrage of reasons why members feel the city is wrong to purchase and pursue the transformation of the former Safeco site.

Additionally, a grassroots committee, made up of several of the same letter writers, has filed an initiative petition to essentially ask Lake Oswego voters whether the city ought to sell its newly acquired West End Building, formerly owned by Safeco Insurance. It is this building that is envisioned as the new community center.

The group, which calls itself Ask Lake Oswegans, first filed an initiative petition with the city election office about three weeks ago. If a pending signature campaign puts the initiative effort on the ballot for November 2007, voters will decide whether to approve city land purchases of $1 million or more.

The initiative would be retroactive, dating back to April 1, 2006, just prior to the city's $20 million purchase of the Safeco building.

If you pay attention only to the nay-sayers on this project - and their comments have been deafening thus far - you might be inclined to think that they would rule the day on this issue.

However, when you look at the turnout at last week's community center open house, you get the feeling that many Lake Oswego residents remain openminded about the project and want to get answers to their questions.

The pro side points out that this may be the last opportunity to acquire such a large chunk of property in Lake Oswego.

That may be true.

The con side observes that the cost - whatever it may be - is too high.

That may be true as well.

Which side is right?

We wish we could answer that now. But we can't. There are too many unknowns.

We are not big fans of the process that brought us to this point in the community center campaign. The city could have prevented a lot of the acrimony among residents by offering a platform for dissent and taking honest stock of how much support exists in the community for a community center.

The timing of the city's own planned ballot measure on the community center in November 2008 also creates concerns as it forces us to wait for a general election for all of this to be resolved.

Opponents raise some legitimate points about how much the building is costing, what's going in it and how it was purchased. They also point out how the city is facing numerous other big-ticket items, including the interceptor project and water system.

All of this isn't rocket science. It is emotions, wallet issues and calculations, all wrapped around a veneer of packaging and product placement. We wish residents could turn down the volume about the center and instead work to see if any common ground exists.

There's a war of words going on right now in Lake Oswego and rightly or wrongly, city hall has become ground zero. That's unfortunate given what an interesting proposal is on the line now.

Last week in this editorial the Lake Oswego Review incorrectly stated that an initiative petition proposed by Ask Lake Oswegans would place local taxpayers at risk for financial loss by requiring unwanted property be sold within 180 days. A closer look shows the property must be placed for sale in 180 days, not sold. The Review regrets the error.

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