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If the hat fits, go ahead and wear it

Remember the old adage, 'if the shoe fits, wear it'? The Lake Oswego mayor and councilors wear many hats. If the hat fits, wear it.

The first hat they wear is a green eyeshade inscribed 'Real Estate Speculator.' Without a purpose or plan, their proposal to retain the Safeco property is merely real estate speculation. Would you buy the Safeco property if you had no idea what to use it for? Then why would you want to retain it if you owned it? The council has already tabled the idea of using it for a community center and library, the original stated reason for the purchase. And they fear making a formal proposal to use the property for a new city hall because they know how silly that would be. So they just propose sitting on it indefinitely, speculating, not knowing what to do with it, and asking us to pay for it.

Another hat that fits is a Texas 10-gallon hat that says 'Big Spender.' They bought some of the most expensive acreage in the state paying $1.5 million an acre. Remember, the first Steering Committee proposal for a $100 million community center included the total demolition of the existing Safeco building. After questions from citizens, they produced a 'refined' plan that simply modifies the existing building, but somehow without reduction in total cost -still $100 million, including the land and library.

So far, a year and a half from the purchase, the council has paid more than $2 million of taxpayer money for interest, consulting fees, remodeling costs for the parks and rec department, lost property taxes, free rent to the former owners, maintenance costs and direct city personnel costs associated with the Safeco property. Costs continue to mount at nearly $100,000 per month. Councilor (John) Turchi gleefully exclaims that 'so far the Safeco purchase has not raised taxes one penny.'

Have you ever gone to dinner with a big spender who enjoys the good life and when the bill comes, he starts looking at you?

A third hat that fits well is a construction hat that reads 'Speak Louder. I Wear Earplugs.' Even after citizen surveys showing little or no interest in a new community center. Even after a landslide of citizen input and formal testimony opposing the Safeco purchase and the proposed new community center. Even after countless commentaries and letters to the editors of local newspapers. Even after an initiative petition limiting real estate purchases without voter approval successfully gathered more than 5,000 signatures in a few weeks. The mayor and councilors do not hear. And to top it off, they blame citizens for their short-sightedness.

The last hat that fits them well is better described as a cone-shaped cap and they want us to wear it too. It says 'Dunce.' They think we don't know that the costs for retaining Safeco now and the costs for developing it later are additive. They think we don't know that the future development cost for Safeco, whatever for, will be multiples of the original purchase cost. They think we don't know about needed infrastructure costs we cannot avoid such as the sewer interceptor ($100 million plus) and the water utility improvements ($73 million). They think we don't know that all of these costs will result in tax increases for us now and in the future. They think we don't know how to multiply the annual tax increases by the 20, 30, or 40 years needed to pay for the bond issues.

They think we don't have better uses for our money such as education for our children and grandchildren, high medical costs, postponed vacations, later and later retirement, and plain old everyday things like house and car payments, food, clothing, and gas. Well, we have news for them. The cap doesn't fit us, at all.

Yes, our mayor and councilors wear many hats. Has anybody told them, they don't look good in them?

Gordon Umaki is a resident of Lake Oswego.