Safeco process was unprecendented
- Kristin Johnson
- Lake Oswego Review - Opinion
I have no particular attachment to the West End Building. I think we should retain it and I will vote yes on 3-273, but you won't make me cry if you vote to sell it. I put 3-273 on the ballot because I believe it is time for the city to vote on the retention of the building. And then move on.
The purchase of the Safeco property was unprecedented. Unprecedented things are usually both good and bad. The city used the process for acquiring property outlined in the city charter when it bought Safeco, a process that has worked well for the city. The $20 million purchase made people stop and question the system. For good reason. Can the city really purchase a $20 million property without a vote? The answer is yes and no. The city was able to make the initial purchase as an executive decision, but a voter-approved bond measure would later be required to pay for the building.
Believe me, I get that this seems a little backwards, especially for a $20 million property. The purchase of Safeco triggered a discussion about the process of property acquisition that heretofore has not happened. The reason that we have not had this discussion before, the reason that this is the first time we've seen something like 3-269, is because our process works. The Ask Me First PAC has stated that they chose $2 million as the threshold for pre-purchase voter-approval because the city so rarely purchases over $2 million. So here is my question: Is there another property (other than Safeco) that the city has overstepped its charge by purchasing which 3-269 would have protected us from?
Remember the old adage, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'? It's fitting. We are addressing Safeco through 3-273 and then it's over. The situation wasn't pretty, and I believe I mismanaged it, but it does not call for a charter amendment. If you think the Safeco property was a bad purchase, there are two powerful ways to address it within the current system: (1) vote no on 3-273, and (2) don't re-elect any of us on the city council. There is not a need to amend the charter, and over-fixing will create serious problems for this city.
I'm opposed to the amendment because property acquisition is an important tool for managing growth. Not only do you buy parks and open space, but you buy property for public services, like libraries and fire stations and (adult) community centers, because as the population grows, so too does the need for all of the above. That doesn't mean that you buy every property. It does mean that you have the flexibility to choose the right properties. This is flexibility that would be lost with the passage of 3-269.
Now, there is a reason to vote for 3-269: If you believe that the city, as a general rule, should not purchase property. There's a very interesting debate about the role of public entities to be had. Instead, this has become a call-to-arms against the rampant spending of an arrogant city council. But the spending that the city is doing, other than the Safeco building, is not on property, it's on infrastructure. Again, there is not a need for this kind of Amendment.
My last point is this: I have been listening (and reading). I have spoken with members of the Ask Me First PAC on multiple occasions and listened to their concerns, though this has not been acknowledged. Instead, my integrity and commitment to serving this city have been called into question. I take my job as a city councilor very seriously, though unfortunately my job apparently makes the things I really say and do easy to ignore.
My phone number and e-mail address are on the city Web site, and I encourage anyone with any questions or comments to contact me.
Kristin Johnson, Lake Oswego, is a Lake Oswego City Councilor.