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Appears that the gauntlets tossed

Campaign season begins over two ballot measures

At last week's Lake Oswego City Council meeting, John Surrett warned the council 'You've not seen anything yet.'

The comment came after a ruckus in the final few minutes of the regular council meeting, in which Surrett was called out of order by Mayor Judie Hammerstad.

Surrett's parting shot gave notice that campaign season has officially arrived.

For Surrett and his group, Ask Lake Oswegans, the goal will be to convince voters to pass their initiative limiting city spending on properties.

A newly formed group, Our City, Our Future, wants to defeat the spending initiative.

Debbie Craig, a co-chair of the group, said this week that her group intends to 'provide education, because we think people are confused.'

The possible confusion stems from the fact that the November ballot will have two measures: One, ballot measure 3-273, asks voters whether the city should keep the West End Building. The other, ballot measure 3-269, asks voters if they want to prevent the city from buying property worth more than $2 million, without first receiving voter approval.

The latter measure, if approved, would mean that residents would then have a chance to vote on whether the city should keep or sell the West End Building. That second vote would be held in March 2008.

Ask Lake Oswegans' charter amendment 'unduly restricts our city from moving in a forward direction and is poor government,' said Craig.

Her group wants the West End Building, which the city bought last year from Safeco for $20 million, to be kept in the inventory of city buildings.

'The committee is sponsoring a campaign to encourage the city to keep the West End Building,' said Craig. 'It's a good investment and we want an opportunity to do something with that property. We believe it's a very wise investment.'

The city originally bought the building so it could be converted into a community center. Councilors have since talked about moving the library, or even city hall, to the site.

Opponents of the Safeco building purchase say the city has more important capital projects, such as the $100 million sewer interceptor line, and cannot afford a community center. The cost to renovate the West End Building into a community center could be $60 million.

At last week's council meeting, Craig explained her opposition to the measure limiting city property purchases to $2 million, without a public vote.

'It limits the future of our city,'

she said. 'We couldn't accomplish beautiful things if this charter amendment is successful.'

'It's a very bad way to run government,' replied Councilor Donna Jordan.

Once Craig was finished, Surrett requested a rebuttal to the criticism of his ballot measure by the council and Craig.

Hammerstad denied Surrett's request and promptly adjourned the meeting.

Surrett told Hammerstad and the council he did not approve of their 'incredibly disparaging diatribe' and called the sudden adjournment 'totally irregular and impolite.'

'I'm still furious about it,' Surrett said this week. 'That was not in accordance with standard operating practice.'

Craig had arranged to speak on a resolution relating to 3-273 before the meeting began. Surrett, however, had not requested to speak about the measure or filled out a comment card to speak before the council.

Surrett said the mayor and some council members, such as Ellie McPeak and Frank Groznik, regularly use council meeting time to 'campaign against our charter amendment, which they're not to do.'

The Ask Lake Oswegans campaign kickoff will be from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Oswego Pointe Apartments Rec Center/Meeting Hall, 5033 Foothills Road. The group's phone number is 503-636-1480.

For information about the Our City, Our Future group, call Craig at 503-636-2451.