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Mayors actions draw criticism

Some elaboration on the Sept. 13 Review article: 'Appears that the gauntlet's tossed,' which covered the shocking abuse of mayoral power at the Sept. 4 evening council meeting is in order.

I and others in the council chambers watched the mayor break with normal procedural rules to allow our opponents to campaign against our measure with city resources. The mayor personally invited Debbie Craig, who said that she represented an opposition group to the charter amendment, to speak on an agenda item that was not listed as open for public input.

The agenda item was the adoption of an explanatory statement for the council's advisory vote to sell Safeco and Ms. Craig, alone, was granted the opportunity to speak on it. But she didn't really speak on the content of that statement, rather used the opportunity to rail against the proposed charter amendment during a facile request to have the Safeco advisory vote pulled off the ballot. The mayor and several city councilors chimed in to agree with her with their own negative diatribes against the amendment. All of this was broadcast on public television and recorded for rebroadcast using city funds.

Since our charter amendment was not even a topic on the agenda, the mayor abused her discretion by inviting unscheduled testimony by the opponents and council members to make grandstanding political arguments which amounts to a diversion of public resources for partisan purposes. When I sought an opportunity to rebut the comments, I was ruled 'out of order' and the power to my microphone was cut off!

This example by the mayor and the council illustrates their disregard for openness, full disclosure of their proposals and actions and the common man's right to be able to express his opinion on them. Measure 3-269 asks precisely for that right. Simply put, the Ask Lake Oswegans Charter Amendment ballot measure, signed by more than 5,000 registered voters, does the following:

It requires the city to obtain voter approval before purchasing large, non-essential properties.

Upon passage, the amendment requires voter approval for the Safeco purchase and for any major purchases on non-essential property in the future.

Exceptions to the voter approval requirement are:

n purchases to address health and safety concerns

n purchases below $2 million (inflation-adjustable)

n purchases made using voter-approved urban renewal plans

The charter amendment will not 'hamstring' the city government nor impede economic development. Opponents of Ballot Measure 3-269 use these arguments (without saying) that voters are incapable of determining when a non-essential property purchase will benefit the city.

The need for the charter amendment will give the voters and taxpayers of Lake Oswego that right, a right that they do not now have. That is, whether or not they wish to approve purchases such as the Safeco property with important information beforehand to do so. The city's 'Explanatory Statement', however, to its Ballot Measure, 3-273, concerning the Safeco purchase says:

'A vote on this measure does not endorse any particular use of the property or any method of financing the property or the future development of the property.'

The council has decided to supply no information at all regarding its plans or its budget for the Safeco site.

The charter amendment, on the other hand, states that a ballot question must prominently include:

'A description of the property or properties, the projected cost of acquisition (the value of the consideration offered, administrative costs, legal expenses and closing costs), the total cost of anticipated debt service, the purpose of the purchase and the sources of funds intended to complete the transaction'.

So, like the council meeting of Sept. 4, where the mayor orchestrated only limited and biased comment to benefit her agenda, so is the mayor and council's measure which seeks to validate their unilateral October 2005 decision to purchase the Safeco property. It, too, is self-serving and inadequate.

John Surrett is spokesperson for the Ask Lake Oswegans group in Lake Oswego.

Editor's note: Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad responds: 'Mr. Surrett and Ms. Jones (see page A11) are incorrect about my not following regular procedures. The public is welcome to comment, but we do have set procedures, which include letting me know if they wish to comment on items that are not within a public hearing. Mr. Surrett simply got out of his chair at the end of the meeting and started making claims against the council. He was not speaking to an agenda item and had not requested to be recognized.

'The council, as elected officials, are within our rights to voice our opinions - which are that this anti-government charter amendment is bad for Lake Oswego.'