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Consider key points about 3-269

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If you have not already decided on how you are voting on Measure 3-269, I ask you to consider the following.

Don't be misled by oversimplification of what 3-269 will accomplish. I find it to be vague, and ambiguous and subject to various interpretations. Do we truly want to have to resort to the courts to tell us how it should be interpreted in the opinion of a specific judge? You may ask yourself why I consider myself qualified to make such comments. From 1967 until 1970, I worked in the Legislation Section of the Criminal Division of the United States Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. I have also served as an appointed part-time judge in Oregon courts and have drafted legislation that has been introduced at the last two sessions of the Oregon Legislative Assembly.

Concededly, it is difficult to draft legislation that is not void or ambiguous when subjected to close scrutiny. However, when I first read 3-269, I was struck immediately by the looseness of its wording and the variety of interpretations that might be applied to its provisions. One of the most important things that voters should do in my opinion is to insist that changes to our city charter (which serves the same function as a constitution) be drawn very narrowly with a high degree of specificity.

Some of the proponents of 3-269 infer that it will not apply to land purchased for urban renewal by our redevelopment agency. I urge the voters to read this section carefully. A vote does not have to be held on urban renewal acquisitions only if the urban renewal plan itself was previously approved by the voters and the plan called for purchases of land exceeding $2 million in cost. A vote would be required if the plan is amended or revised due to changes in circumstances. Do the voters of Lake Oswego really want to have to vote on urban renewal plans or is that a task that is better left to professional planners?

Another serious problem arises from the provision which requires voter approval for condemnation of land where the price exceeds $2 million. Please remember that it is up to a jury to decide what price a public agency should pay for land taken for public purposes where the parties are unable to agree. Imagine a scenario where land has been appraised at $1.5 million but the jury sets the fair market value at $2.25 million. We then have to have an election to approve the purchase (unless the land is taken to 'address a direct threat to the health and safety of the citizens of Lake Oswego'). It should be noted that the city would have already incurred substantial litigation costs, including attorney fees, by the time the trial ended and that an election would simply add to the costs to be absorbed by our citizens.

I submit to you that 3-269, as currently drafted, would not be good public policy.

Roger Hennagin, an attorney, is a Lake Oswego City Councilor.