Streetcar wont rob us of beauty, safety


Lake Oswego City Council watchers know that Councilor Mary Olson and Mayor Jack Hoffman have had differing points of view since they were elected in November 2008. And since the November 2010 election, the disharmony on city council has reached a new decibel level. But last week's streetcar opinion piece from Councilor Olson takes this in-fighting to the street.

As members of the council, we are elected not by district, zone or political party, but by the total votes we get at election time. For more than 15 years, surveyed citizens of Lake Oswego have voiced their support for a streetcar between our city and Portland. Yet Councilor Olson has chosen to only represent a contingent of people, privately funded and professionally organized, who do not want a streetcar. That is what makes her closing paragraph, asking us to work together to improve and develop our city for all our citizens, so disingenuous.

I was recently taken to task by a council member for not 'listening' to the citizens of Lake Oswego with regard to the streetcar and development in Foothills. But I have been listening to all the voices, not just the loudest. So it seems logical that the mayors of Portland and Lake Oswego asked that no further action be taken by the other government partners in the streetcar project until the conditions listed by both cities have been satisfied. Both cities approved the streetcar as the locally preferred alternative (LPA). However, the councils listened to citizen concerns about cost, environmental impacts, neighborhood impacts and the operational aspects of the project. Each city developed a detailed list of conditions to be explored before moving to the much more expensive and involved preliminary engineering stage. I think that is a positive response to the public voice.

It is not unusual to scale back or 'value engineer' a transportation project - the light rail bridge to Milwaukie and the Sellwood Bridge are recent examples - as funding and other constraints are recognized. The citizens of Lake Oswego deserve answers to their concerns before they make a judgment about the value of the streetcar project for the future of our city.

Some of those answers will be found in the conclusion of the Foothills redevelopment study. A local advisory group has been studying what it will take to create a new walkable neighborhood adjacent to downtown Lake Oswego. They expect to present the results of their efforts sometime this fall. One component of that new neighborhood, boosting its potential for attracting businesses and residents, will be access to reliable public transportation. Our citizens need to know how development in Foothills could take shape, preserving our neighborhoods and expanding the potential of a vital and active downtown beyond two recently redeveloped city blocks.

Councilor Olson, the streetcar will not 'rob' our city of its beauty or safety. Only the fear-mongering opponents of the streetcar and Foothills redevelopment have peppered the public meetings with flyers showing steel and glass high rise architecture. Any development in the Foothills area would reflect the character and quality that attracts people to our city today. And that additional development will help the city financially support the services that all citizens of Lake Oswego enjoy.

Donna Jordan is a Lake Oswego City Councilor.