Vote for checks and balances
The Safeco-related record shows why we need a city charter amendment:
February, 2005: A scientific survey finds: '…support is only lukewarm for building a community center in Lake Oswego (36 percent).'
October, 2005: City council sends a letter of intent to purchase and in December passes Resolution 05-85, declaring the acquisition of Safeco a 'public necessity.' The first public meeting is held at Lakeridge and we're told that a community center project is being developed in response to public demand. Opposition is immediate but dissenting opinion is unwelcome. No new scientific survey is ever conducted.
January, 2006: We're promised a November 2006 community center bond measure and told that Safeco will be sold if it fails.
March, 2006: The bond measure is postponed to 2008, because time is needed to develop design, cost and funding specifics so that voters may make an informed choice. $509,000 is spent on consultants. A volunteer committee spends a year developing a proposal. Ultimately the only vote we get is a November 2007 advisory question for the building only, containing no design or funding information whatsoever.
Feb. 11, 2006: The council excludes the possibility of moving city hall, Police headquarters or the 911 call center to Safeco.
This spring: City officials spend $300,000 to move Parks and Recreation to Safeco and suggest moving city hall, police headquarters and 911 Call Center there.
Feb. 22, 2006: One week into negotiations, the mayor volunteers to the press that she is willing to pay as much as $20 million for Safeco. A $17.5 million offer is on the table. City hall says we paid fair market value, nonetheless.
May 24, 2007: Reacting to the charter amendment measure that will require voter approval for non-essential property purchases, the mayor suggests in a letter to the Review that having to disclose its bid price as part of the voter approval process will prevent the city from negotiating a fair price for real estate purchases.
More than 5,000 citizens place the charter amendment measure on the November ballot.
Councilor (Ellie) McPeak observes: 'The opposition group doesn't want a vote when that proposal is ready.' (Review, June 7)
June 11, 2007: The steering committee proposal is released.
June 19, 2007: The council votes unanimously to postpone the bond measure vote to 2010 or beyond.
A fund balance policy safeguards the reserves, allowing no more than 25 percent of reserve funds to be held in land at any given time.
April, 2006: By resolution, the council overturns the policy, spends 98 percent of the reserves on Safeco, replacing the funds within days with an interest-only line of credit costing more than $1 million a year.
August, 2007: Having postponed the bond measure until 2010 or later, the council votes 4 to 3 in favor of placing a measure on the November ballot asking voters if Safeco should be retained. The mayor is vehemently opposed.
Sept. 4, 2007: The mayor makes a last-minute maneuver to kill the measure by inviting a consultant to argue before council for its withdrawal from the ballot. No other public comment is allowed. The consultant is part of a PAC comprising some former steering committee members who oppose the citizen group's charter amendment measure. She is allowed to speak at length. When Ask Lake Oswegans' spokesperson requests equal consideration, he is ruled 'out of order' and his mike is cut. The council refuses to withdraw Measure No. 3-273.
After spending more than half a million dollars to develop a community center proposal, and $22 million to date on Safeco, including interest, maintenance and operational costs, the city says that a use for Safeco is 'yet to be determined.'
Sept. 17, 2007: The mayor tells Lake Grove Homeowners that, once Safeco is secured for $20 million, they will not be asked for a bond measure 'in the foreseeable future.'
Nothing will change unless we make it happen! Vote for checks and balances. Vote for Measure No. 3-269.
Dave Park is a resident of Lake Oswego.