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Ballot measure plan gets a few tweaks

A grassroots citizen organization continues to tweak a ballot measure aimed at giving citizens more power over city spending.

The group, Ask Lake Oswegans, made a third pass at filing an initiative petition Friday, making minor changes and clarifications, some requested by city leaders.

Among the changes, the revised petition asks for voter approval of land purchases costing $2 million or more, up from an original $1 million.

The proposed initiative is retroactive, dating back to April 1, 2006, and would trigger an immediate vote on whether to keep the $20 million West End Building, formerly Safeco, if approved by voters. If voters were to reject the buy, the property would be listed for sale in 180 days.

As proposed, the initiative allows for necessary land purchases, lifting the need for voter approval for property necessary to address public health and safety.

New language added recently also allows room for urban renewal agencies to buy land without voter approval, waiving the requirement if voters have already approved the agency's plan.

Recent changes also allow city officials to pay up to 20 percent more for land approved by voters if the price is changed during condemnation proceedings in a court.

John Surrett, spokesman for Ask Lake Oswegans, said the goal of the effort is to give citizens more input into government spending.

'It's going to provide us with the assurance that we get to be involved in the city's big decisions, and we think we can accomplish this without an undue burden on the city's ability to conduct regular business,' Surrett said.

Ask Lake Oswegans filed its first petition Feb. 23. The group consists of a core collection of local activists, including some who want to make infrastructure a top spending priority for the city.

Surrett said local interest in the group's campaign has drawn comment and support, increasing the group's membership to at least 150.

The group will need just less than 3,500 signatures to place the initiative on the ballot, likely for November 2007.