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A mess of their own making

As I read the letters and articles about Measures 3-269 and 3-273 in the Lake Oswego Review this week, I was struck by the irony of the whole situation.

It is very clear to me that the mayor and city council are directly and personally responsible for this entire state of affairs. Like the neighborhood bully who has abused one too many people and then found himself surrounded by an angry and frustrated group of neighbors, our council members now find themselves confronted by an angry and frustrated populace who thought they had elected the officials to represent them and then realized that they, the voters and taxpayers, no longer mattered.

And, like the spendthrift whose careless spending causes his credit card to be revoked, the council members now find themselves facing the possibility of having to ask the voters every time they want to purchase property costing over $2 million for non-essential purposes. Actions have consequences, and irresponsible actions often have serious consequences, like accountability and financial oversight.

How easily this whole matter could have been avoided if city officials had realized that they don't know it all, that the citizens of Lake Oswego are intelligent, informed, and caring. They care about their city and they care how their tax dollars are spent. As has been pointed out many times, there was no lack of evidence that the majority of citizens were not supportive of a community center, even when it was to cost $27 million, a quarter of today's cost estimate. Yet, ignoring public opinion, the city council went ahead and purchased the Safeco property for the express purpose of building a community center. They probably figured it would be easier to obtain forgiveness after the fact than permission beforehand.

What if the city council had listened to its citizens? They could have gathered support for the purchase of the property for an as-yet undetermined use but with the stipulation that there would be community involvement and input. After all, they would have had to get the voters' approval for funding at some point, so why not get their support up front? Instead, they ignored the citizens, bought the property, proposed a grandiose community palace, and then faced the wrath of the very people they purport to represent.

Some have called the city council 'visionary' for buying the property. Having a vision is good, but having tunnel vision is not. One definition of visionary in the Merriam Webster OnLine Dictionary is: 'incapable of being realized or achieved.' Well, at least they got that right. Theirs was a clouded vision, one not tempered by reality. And ultimately, the Safeco purchase has turned into more of a nightmare than a vision.

Measure 3-269 will empower the citizens of Lake Oswego to have a greater say in how their city is developed and how their tax dollars are spent. The current mess emphasizes the need for such a change to the city charter and justifies citizen oversight. Let's not miss this opportunity to reclaim our city. Vote yes on Measure 3-269.

Greg Nelson is a resident of Lake Oswego.