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Proposed amendment bad for business

(Written on behalf of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors)

A petition has begun to circulate here in our community that proposes a charter amendment limiting the power of the Lake Oswego City Council to purchase land or property that exceeds a cost of $2 million without first going to a vote of the people. This appears to be an effort to control how city government spends our tax dollars by those who feel the city has abused its authority. By making the amendment retroactive to April of 2006, it is clearly designed to force the city to sell the building it purchased from Safeco Insurance in April of 2006.

If passed, the impact of the amendment goes far beyond the purchase of one building. It could significantly impede future economic development in Lake Oswego, and interferes with the smooth workings of city government on behalf of its constituents. While some may be against economic development, the chamber believes that continued positive growth in a community is essential to maintaining and improving its quality of life. We cannot and should not stop growth in our economy, but should be concerned about management of that growth for the betterment of all our citizens.

Had this amendment been in effect, Millennium Plaza Park and many other projects presently enjoyed by citizens and visitors might never have been built. The proposed charter amendment also applies to properties that are aggregated (such as lots that were purchased by the city for what is now Lake View Village). The charter amendment could affect future redevelopment plans in the city. With the city's hands tied to a community vote for any purchase over $2 million, what seller or developer would be interested in pursuing a deal that would depend on a decision possibly months in the future with no guarantee of a positive result? All costs associated with a land purchase are included in this amendment. In Lake Oswego, it doesn't take much land and associated costs to reach $2 million.

Such a vote is not the way to make a point. We have a democratic process in place and have elected six city councilors and a mayor whose job it is to research the facts, look at all the options and then act in the best interests of the entire community. We need to let them do their job. All three new councilors ran on a platform in support of exploring the potential of a new community center at the Safeco site. That process continues, and no decision has been made. If the council decides to go ahead with plans to transform the Safeco property into a community center, it will put the financing package to a vote of the people, and the people will decide at that time. The study phase is not yet over, a citizen vote on the project, even in the guise of this charter amendment, is premature.

If we as citizens don't like the job being done by our elected officials, we can vote them out of office in the next election. We should not tie the hands of city councilors as they attempt to do the jobs they were elected to do last November. For all these reasons and more, the chamber board of directors has voted to oppose this charter amendment, should it receive enough signatures and be placed on a future ballot.

Jerry L. Wheeler, Sr., is the CEO of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce. His comments are on behalf of the chamber's board of directors.