Accountability needed in the city
- Dave Luck
- Lake Oswego Review - Opinion
It is sad but true - Measure 3-269 is necessary - because the city council and mayor have established a long record of failure of fiduciary responsibility, total lack of responsiveness (to the citizens), and an appalling lack of integrity. Measure 3-269 will re-establish the accountability our city government has lost. The reasons that Measure 3-269 is necessary include:
Fiduciary Responsibility: Citizens elect people into public office with the reasonable expectation that the tax money entrusted to those elected, to pay for essential community services, will be wisely spent. In Lake Oswego, the mayor and city council have lost all perspective on reasonable spending. There is a long list of 'projects' few wanted (and nobody needed) where our tax money was frittered away. The purchase of Safeco was the proverbial 'last straw.' When the city council spent $20 million of taxpayer money on real estate speculation (in a period of declining property values), and burdened taxpayers with an additional $1 million per year interest, action was necessary. Measure 3-269 was put on the ballot to restore sanity to spending in Lake Oswego.
Responsiveness: Rather than being responsive to the needs and the priorities of the taxpayers, the city council has established a pattern of grandiose schemes, 'studied' by an inbred 'committee' (true believers only) and trying to force the idea by the citizens. When citizens get wind of these plans, citizen's requests to move more thoughtfully are typically ignored. Requests for details (including costs) are met with 'smoke and mirrors'. Public meetings are held just so the Council can claim they held them, but are carefully crafted to control the agenda to limit or eliminate meaningful input from citizens. Recall that the public meetings on Safeco were clearly after the decision had been made to make the purchase, and discussions were limited to how the building would be used - not if the purchase should be made. Least you think the debacle on Safeco is a one-time event of the Mayor and City being oblivious (rather than responsive) to the citizens, recall the subsidized housing scheme.
Integrity: High on my list of concerns about the integrity is the way in which the purchase of Safeco proceeded. City council threatened Safeco with condemnation, eliminating any chance Safeco had to market the property (with the specter of condemnation present). The right to own property (be it an individual or a corporation) is one of the foundations of the United States, and the process of condemnation (because it trumps those rights) is to be used only where the property is required to fulfill a clear public need (a road, etc.). The city council evoked condemnation where there was only a vague idea of any public use - and no public need. Is anybody else troubled by the totally unnecessary relocation of Parks and Recreation into the otherwise vacant building? This was nothing more than an attempt to establish something akin to 'squatters' rights' so they could point to the use as a reason to retain the property. Note that the city says it spent $300,000 for the relocation of those few people across town. Think back to what it cost the last time you moved your entire household across country - and refer to 'fiduciary responsibility' above. A modicum of integrity would have the city council laying out the total cost of this whole thing to the citizens - not talking about '$9 per month' (a tiny percentage of the total cost of this ill-advised project).
It is critical to remember that Measure 3-269 does not, in spite of what the city council and its few supporters want you to believe, limit the ability of the city to make prudent future property purchases. It would require that such purchases be determined to be in accordance with the wishes of the folks paying the bills - you and me.
Dave Luck is a resident of Lake Oswego.