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Lake Oswego asked to involve citizens with plan

Recent petition efforts for an initiative requiring voter approval of city real estate purchases is just one example of a citizens' swell against plans by city leaders.

The spate of recent Citizen's View articles and letters to the editor against the community center is part of this swell. Another example is the Oct. 4, 2006, protest march against the proposed shutdown of the current library for inclusion in the proposed Safeco site. A repeated theme is frustration over the city's continued course despite lack of support. After the city (leaders) purchased Safeco in early 2006 they sent out a questionnaire to 22,000 tax-paying households, asking for inputs on potential uses of the property. They received but 1,200 responses, only 5.5 percent - clear evidence that a community center is not generally supported. Although the community center proposal was changed in response to some specific protests and concerns, many residents are still questioning overall Safeco benefits, projected usage, location, and costs.

Now is the time for the mayor and city council to introduce a 2007 ballot measure for funding approval on Safeco community center plans. This will ensure that city leaders are taking the lead in addressing needs of residents, and will provide a much needed, clear 'yes' or 'no' on Safeco. This timely ballot measure will show citizens that they don't need petitions to have a say in the city's planning. If city leaders continue to hold out for 2008 ballot approval, grass-roots citizens' resistance will only mushroom.

If the proposed Safeco community center is not voter-approved in 2007, the city should immediately proceed on a plan for city services and facilities that addresses identified citizen needs. Lake Oswego is geographically diverse, and there is a strong trend for distributed services. Examples include a new library branch, tennis courts and swimming pool (see Tom Brooks' Citizen's View of March 8 referring to Mountain Park). The key is for city government to provide forums, polls and a series of evolving proposals for a citywide services plan. Voter approval of such plans would be straightforward, since voters would be involved integrally in their development. A good aid would be an interactive city planning Web site. It could be used to document an ever-refined series of services and facilities alternatives, including cost options, input forums, on-line polls, etc. The creativity applied and the buy-in obtained with a new city planning approach would be an unprecedented success for city leaders.

In a nut-shell, here's the plea: 'City leaders, take the bull by the horns and make citizens integral in developing a 21st-century city plan. Provide a 2007 ballot measure for Safeco approval. If the vote is 'yes,' your current vision will be validated. If the vote is 'no,' you will be moving forward with a new plan much more quickly. No matter the Safeco outcome, update the city planning process, now, to incorporate the highest degree of citizen involvement. Top-down planning, i.e. asking for approval on ideas developed by a few 'visionaries' and planners, does not work for today's Lake Oswegans.'

Les Furnanz is a resident of Lake Oswego.