If you werent there, you will find this scenario hard to understand
The Palisades Neighborhood Association is one of the neighborhood associations recognized by the city of Lake Oswego. These neighborhood associations interface with the city on critical issues from neighborhood zoning, to sewer constructions, to evening use of play fields. If you want a voice at city hall, your neighborhood association is supposed to provide that strong voice for you. It doesn't always.
The citizens within the PNA have lost their voice. While the city established a 17-member board to represent the neighbors, the current board had let vacancies go unfilled, and governed with the seven remaining board members. The existing board declined and postponed any election to the June meeting even though all seven existing terms expired in April.
To prepare for the June meeting, a handful of neighbors began a grassroots drive to find board candidates for a new slate of seventeen. The Palisades neighborhood is huge, over 1,500 homes, so they sought volunteers that were geographically diverse with a varied background including age and life experience. The volunteer candidates were urged to go door to door and earn the support of their neighbors by talking with them face to face. The candidates collected 230 proxies along with promises from neighbors to attend the June meeting in person.
Now here is where the story gets outrageous.
When about 130 families did show up at the June meeting, they were shocked to hear that the current president Paul Ostroff had made an arbitrary ruling that the scheduled election was being called off. The volunteer board candidates and attending families were stunned. Mr. Ostroff did not notify the city or any of the 17 candidates of his ruling. Rather than hold the planned election, where 17 new board volunteers would have surely replaced the seven current board members, President Ostroff called off the election.
Why is this such a big deal? It turns out that neighborhood associations have a lot of power in our city. Narrow representation by a few individuals is a sure way to limit input and change in the neighborhood. The few then drive policy and perhaps personal agendas. The city has built a framework to insure this doesn't happen by requiring large boards and regular elections. Sort of… 'follow the framework and you get a seat at the table.' It is a good system, and it works. When it's working, that is.
Well, it's broken and we are asking the city to intervene. We played by the rules, now it is your turn to do your part. Demand that the election be upheld, count the ballots and proxies and have all abide by the results.
The best part of having volunteer candidates go door to door to ask neighbors to attend a neighborhood meeting, or sign a proxy, is that you get to hear firsthand what the real issues are. Our neighbors in Area One are concerned that current zoning will not let them rebuild the same home they have today were their house to be destroyed by fire or earthquake. They are concerned that some homes in our neighborhood are still on septic tanks that leach into the lake. They want the beautiful land dedicated to the lake easement brought to life. They want to protect the crown jewels of our neighborhood, Palisades Elementary and Lakeridge High Schools.
Lake Oswego is a great community because of the active participation of citizen volunteers. It is outrageous that a small group can deny an entire neighborhood participation in our local government.
Barman is a resident of Lake Oswego and a member of the Palisades Neighborhood Association.