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Taxpayers are true buyers if city acquires property

As a property owner in this great city for the past 8 years I have grown to appreciate the struggle small businesses are facing due to the rising costs of public services which depend on the tax contribution of both commercial and residential property owners.

Like so many of the long time residents with whom I speak in my everyday dealings, I consider myself to be a stakeholder in the city's future. Many Lake Oswego residents feel the same way. We know we have a great town, top-notch schools and superior government services. Why? We have an active, educated, concerned citizenry and we are willing to pay higher-than-average property taxes to fund it all. Few communities exercise such commitment and involvement.

As a member of the Lake Grove Commercial Association Board of Directors, I have become intimately familiar with a number of choices currently under debate which seem likely to affect the future financial viability and possibly the livability of our city. These issues require the input of as many citizens as possible to insure we proceed wisely and upon a course which preserves those qualities which make Lake Oswego the great place it is to work and live.

When the 'Ask Lake Oswegans' initiative petition became known to our members, the LGCA sought information from both sides of the debate. Open forums were held where proponents of all points of view were invited to share perspectives. Subsequently ALO representatives requested the endorsement of the LGCA. Considerable deliberation culminated with a vote of our board in favor of supporting the initiative petition , which has now qualified to be a measure on the November 2007 ballot. The Ask Lake Oswegans' charter amendment measure ensures that residents/taxpayers of Lake Oswego will have the right to vote on major real estate property acquisitions over $2 million (adjusted annually to CPI index increases) with exemptions for property acquisitions necessary for public health and safety as well as Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency property purchases made under approved redevelopment plans.

LGCA is a democratic organization. The principle guiding our board of directors is to ensure that actions and statements made in the association's name accurately represent the membership's majority position. The independent local business and property owners, which make up the LGCA membership, representing hundreds of employees and their families, were polled regarding whether or not the LGCA should support the ALO initiative petition. The result was 70 percent/29 percent favoring endorsement.

We agree with the vast majority of city planning experts who have determined that informed voter/citizen input is a key success factor in achieving sustained growth while maintaining livability. With several major projects underway or in planning stages, public awareness and involvement in the approval and execution of these and future proposed plans will almost certainly improve the end result.

In particular, funding sources for new projects and projected return on investment should be carefully weighed before approval, just as they would be in our individual personal finances. The taxpayers of Lake Oswego are the true buyers when the city makes an acquisition. When these acquisitions are multi-million dollar transactions, taxpayers logically must have both the information and the authority necessary to functionally participate in the decision making process. With the rise of gas prices resulting in increased service costs for all goods, an uncertain economic outlook and no end in sight, it might be considered reasonable that fiscal prudence, favoring deliberation and the widest possible consensus should take precedence over expedience when making decisions which may obligate not only our generation, but the ones to follow with higher taxes and enormous debt.

It is in the spirit of increased community involvement and providing the residents, businesses and property owners a functional role in determining how their monies are invested that the LGCA supports the Ask Lake Oswegans' charter amendment measure.

Ray C. Debord is a resident of Lake Oswego.