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Lake Oswego council puts streetcar survey on hold

The Lake Oswego City Council has pushed back the launch of a survey to gauge public opinion of a possible streetcar line extending from Portland to Lake Oswego.

When the council endorsed the ongoing study of the streetcar line, it imposed conditions, including a requirement to hold a citywide advisory vote by May 2012 and to conduct a public survey sooner.

Two months later, Adam Davis of public opinion firm Davis, Hibbitts and Midghall Inc. says he's 'ready to rock and roll,' but he isn't sure now is the time to proceed.

'I've got a concern,' he recently told the council. 'I want to be able to deliver to you statistically valid information.'

The survey would provide 'a snapshot in time' based on the information now in the community, regardless of whether that information is accurate, he explained. But with additional work being done over the next six or seven months to analyze the project, information about Lake Oswego's share of project funding, possible financing strategies and the streetcar line's likely impact on the downtown area could change.

That might render public opinion data gathered now useless when the time comes for the city to use it.

'As much focus as you've put on this, as much time as you've spent on this, you have a lot of people who don't know that much about this project,' Davis said. 'You have a lot of misinformation out there as well. And you've got a lot of strong feelings cutting both ways.

'That's my recommendation to you: Pull back, and let's wait until you have more information.'

The council voted 4-3 in April to move to the next phase of studying the potential streetcar line, with Mayor Jack Hoffman, councilors Donna Jordan, Sally Moncrieff and Bill Tierney in favor of the plan and councilors Jeff Gudman, Mike Kehoe and Mary Olson opposed.

But with the proposal to set up a community survey to gauge attitudes toward the potential streetcar, the vote was 5-2. This time, Gudman and Kehoe were opposed but Olson supported the plan, which would lead to a survey by the end of October.

Near the end of the council's hour-long discussion, Olson said she would have preferred to conduct the survey sooner but appreciated the compromise proposed by Jordan to conduct the survey this fall.

'At that point, I think we will be able to ask good questions,' Olson said. 'I would really hesitate to delay it beyond that. The information is not going to get any better.'