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Some claims have been exaggerated

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Your Lake Oswego City Council is well aware that there is controversy over the purchase of the Safeco property. While we think it is a chance in a lifetime to be able to purchase that property - regardless of future use - we understand the concern over future expenditures.

The' Ask Me First ' group has seized on this concern and is making exaggerated claims that you, the voters, need to examine.

For example, spokespeople for the 'Ask Me First' PAC came to the Sept. 18 council meeting. A spokesperson, during citizens' comments, gave erroneous or misleading information, which is in their flyers.

They claim, by including projects that are not adopted and not scheduled, that the amount of debt for a property owner would increase by over $2,120. That is a grossly exaggerated number.

1. The actual amount, which the city finance director has verified, would be approximately $516 annually after 10 years when increased fees for the sewer and water have been phased in. This would include the $100 million sewer interceptor, water plant enhancements, surface water treatment and the $20 million Safeco building, if approved at a future time. The annual cost of the Safeco building is $105 - or $9 a month. This is on the average $300,000 assessed value house. Interestingly, there are two-thirds of the homes in Lake Oswego that are tax-assessed at less than that amount. Nothing is planned to increase the cost of the Safeco building at this time, and, in fact, there may be opportunities for private partnerships.

2. This charter amendment has nothing to do with the Safeco property. If it did, the spending limit would be at $20 million - or something close. It has everything to do with tying the hands of the city - for now and forever.

3. 'Ask Me First' claims that the city has not purchased any property over $2 million. True, if you disregard the city's purchase through the Redevelopment Agency of Millennium Plaza Park - 10 years ago for $2.2 million and the purchase of the US Bank Building property to provide a connection to the lake for over $2 million in 2002. In addition, five of the properties we own in Stafford, approved by voters, are now worth more than $2 million.

4. Additionally, 'Ask Me First' claims that other cities, namely Beaverton, Oregon City and Tigard have spending limits. They are referring to language that has nothing to do with mandatory expenditure restrictions like theirs. Lake Oswego would be the first city in Oregon to be saddled with restraints like this.

5. Remarkably, the 'Ask Me First' presenter at the council meeting did not know the provisions of the charter amendment. When I pointed out that even if we had passed a prior bond measure for the purchase of property - for example, open space as we have done in the past, it would require a second vote on any piece of property over $2 million. And it would require a vote on each piece of property acquired over a two-year period if the sum of those properties is more than $2 million. The speaker insisted that the charter amendment did not do that. The charter amendment is very clear. Please read the charter amendment language.

6. In addition, the charter amendment ties the inflation of properties to the CPI which is always less than the actual inflation of property values, thereby making it more and more difficult as time goes by to purchase any meaningful piece of property without a lengthy and uncertain process.

Please vote no on the charter amendment. It will tie the hands of the city for now and forever.

Judie Hammerstad is mayor of Lake Oswego.

REBROADCAST

That Sept. 18 Lake Oswego City Council meeting is rebroadcast on channel 28 and 30 and is on disc at the Lake Oswego Public Library. Rebroadcast times are: Wednesday at 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7 a.m., Saturday at noon, Sunday at 4 p.m. and Monday at 11 p.m.

Editor's note: John Surrett, director, and Mary Olson, treasurer, of Ask Me First PAC respond: 'For some reason, the mayor remains unwilling to fully disclose the expenses confronting Lake Oswegans. In coming years, we face $200-plus million in mandatory expenses for water and sewer infrastructure. If financed with GO bonds (the least expensive option) the result is easy to figure. If borrowing $20 million would cost average homeowners $105 annually for 20 years (the mayor's figure), then financing $200 million would cost $1,050 annually for 20 years. The mayor's $516 estimate requires hiding half the financing obligations within water and sewer fees. Raising utility bills $500 per year won't reduce the pain for homeowners, rather, it cuts deeper as we repay higher-cost revenue bonds and remain unable to deduct them from our taxes.

'Those were the mandatory expenses, but after adding in discretionary proposals (community center, urban renewal, streetcar, library relocation, etc) the figure could easily top $500 million. Those proposals have strong support from city council, but if you expect them to lay out all their cards before this election, think again. They know that complete disclosure will sink the advisory vote to retain Safeco while encouraging passage of the charter amendment.

'The remainder of the mayor's (column) can be summed up neatly: She dislikes the prospect of asking for voter approval. So she suggests that many previous property purchases might have triggered separate elections without admitting that urban renewal plans and park levies could be drafted to achieve one-time voter approval (without separate votes). The mayor also frets that other cities haven't passed this exact measure without also acknowledging that voter approval requirements are commonplace in city charters. Does anyone really believe that a little more public input will 'hamstring' anything?

'Unfortunately, the degree to which the mayor resists public scrutiny is directly proportionate to the degree to which she requires it.'