I attended the LONAC/League of Women voter debate this past week and heard a lot of supposition and conjecture from Our City Our Future speakers who had very limited facts to support their emotionally laden arguments. By comparison, Ask Lake Oswegans' facts dominated the debate. Facts are of paramount importance when examining the issues and claims in this discussion.
The opposition to 3-269 is creating doom and gloom by speculating that many acquisitions, such as the Millennium Plaza Park property, known in the city's LORA (Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency) publication as the 'Bluffs,' would not have been possible had the charter amendment's voter approval requirement been in place at the time. It is sad that even the Review, which supports the cty's position, is propagating these misrepresentations.
The first erroneous assumption is that a vote would have failed had it been required.
Unless they are all clairvoyant, how can Our City Our Future, the mayor and the paper possibly claim to know the outcome of a vote that never took place? This is patently absurd. For one thing, Lake Oswego voters have a long history of supporting measures that benefit our community. Citizen surveys have indicated a high level of public support for pathways and parks, and the voters have consistently approved these sorts of things. The notion that public oversight will cause the voters to suddenly behave differently is paranoid. In Lake Oswego, there is always citizen support for those things we deem important.
The same prophets of doom are also claiming to know the outcome of future votes by predicting that, with Measure 3-269 in place, we will never again be able to acquire such properties or spaces if their price exceeds $2 million. Not true. The city always has the power of eminent domain as a tool to acquire any property it needs provided there is sufficient justification and support for such an approach.
While condemnation may not be the preferred approach, it is nevertheless one our council has not shied away from in the past. Let's look at some past and present examples:
It is no secret that seven years ago LORA threatened Gene Wizer with condemnation if he would not sell his downtown property to the city. Only after an outpouring of citizen support resulting in a petition with more than 7,500 signatures presented to the city did LORA and the city back down from this land grab.
Similarly, the owners of the 'Bluffs,' a major part of what is now Millennium Plaza Park, received a letter of intent to condemn from the city.
The pattern is evident again in the Safeco matter. Prior to negotiations with Safeco, the city poised itself to condemn the property if Safeco wouldn't come to the table. The council passed resolution 05-86 declaring the acquisition of the property 'a public necessity.'
Measure 3-269 does not interfere with the city's ability to negotiate for and acquire properties. The past has shown that the council is not afraid to use its powers of condemnation to discourage other potential buyers while negotiations are occurring. After all, who wants to purchase a property just to lose it through condemnation?
The red brochure recently sent to houses by Our City Our Future uses pictures of Farmer's Market activities at Millennium Plaza Park to give the false impression that we wouldn't have that activity if the charter amendment had been in place at the time the Bluffs property was bought. These false statements have been corrected in the press and in debates, yet the opposition continues to try and hoodwink the public into believing these fabrications. Don't be fooled. Look at the facts. When the city council's actions show flagrant disregard of public opinion, it is time to put better controls in place. Vote yes on Measure 3-269. We need it more than ever.
Steve Bittner is a Lake Oswego resident.