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Key points about community center are addressed

Three issues raised by Councilor Ellie McPeak (in her Lake Oswego Review citizen's view 'Buying Safeco was right to do,' June 7th) need to be addressed:

1). The councilor charges that the charter amendment petition 'places serious obstacles in the way of the city ever buying property in the future.'

Other than Safeco, the city has not purchased a single property in the last nine years that exceeded the $2 million the proposed charter amendment would allow.

Other than Safeco, there have been only two instances in the last nine years of city property purchases exceeding $1 million. One is the present site of Stafford Commons Townhouses, which was bought by the city and 'flipped' at no profit. The other is the purchase of a $1.2 million property for the purpose of connecting George Rogers Park to Roehr Park. Neither of these sales would have been affected by the proposed $2 million charter amendment limitation had it been in place. The proposed measure has built-in safeguards to prevent obstacles to routine city business.

2). The councilor claims, 'the opposition doesn't want a vote when that proposal is ready.'

If the charter amendment measure passes in November, it will trigger a retroactive vote on the Safeco purchase in March '08. A 'no' vote on the property purchase would indicate a rejection of the community center, which was the sole intended purpose of the Safeco purchase. Such an outcome would require that the property be listed for sale within 180 days from enactment of the first ballot approval.

We do need a separate vote on the Safeco property before the November 2008 vote because we now know that a 'no' vote on the community center does not mean that the council would sell the property as we have been led to believe. We are now told that other 'options' for the property are contemplated such as a city hall, police and 911 Center Dispatch.

It is hardly the citizens' fault that the council is asking taxpayers to wait another 17 months until November 2008 to vote. And there is some question as to whether the council will even place the issue on the November '08 ballot.

Enough information is available now for citizens to make an informed decision. The Steering Committee's work is complete, its plan recommendations have been conveyed to the council and the costs of the proposed community center are already known. See the plan at: http://www.lakeoswegocommunitycenter.org/locc/download/CommitteeRecommendation_FinalReport_061107.pdf.

Delaying the vote until 2008 betrays the council's manifest lack of confidence that a bond measure would pass this year.

3). Councilor McPeak says she is 'not now as optimistic about the outcome' of a community center vote. But there was never any cause for optimism in the first place.

A scientific citizen survey conducted only months before the city's October 2005 letter of intent to purchase Safeco found public support for a community center 'lukewarm at best' and grimly warned the council it would 'have to work to build the kind of support that will be necessary for a bond measure to pass.' (P.3)

The survey reveals:

'More recreational activities' ranked second to last on a list of 17 priorities Lake Oswego citizens identified.

Among proposed Centennial projects, the highest level of public support was for pathways, a $2 million project. Campbell DeLong concluded, 'Residents appear to be more agreeable to smaller-scale projects.' (P.3)

When asked what the priorities of the city council should be, only 3 percent asked for more recreational activities. (P19).

Repeatedly, (Pages 2, 37 and 66) the survey made it crystal clear that only about a third of the community favored this project, then estimated at $27 million.

City council has known these facts all along and not taken them seriously.

The community center cost estimate has quadrupled since 2005 and public distaste for it has grown exponentially. It is surprising that the councilor has any optimism left at all.

Jacqueline Heydenrych is a resident of Lake Oswego.