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We 'want fiscal responsibility, respecting citizen input'

This Lake Oswego City Council is on track to cost us taxpayers a lot of money, which is ironic in light of the campaign promise to be “fiscally responsible.”

One of the first actions taken by this council was to stop Foothills development. Development in Foothills was a citizens advisory group-supported opportunity to provide revenue. The payback on the roughly $6 million investment in basic improvements to convert the area from industrial to development-ready was agreed to be well over 10 to 1 for infrastructure that is needed anyway. Developers that understood the community desire for low-profile building and greenscape amenities, and with experience in building here in Lake Oswego with successful projects, testified to the desirability of the project but only on a partnership basis, which has worked well before. This was ignored.

Recently many residents were polled as to their position on budgeting and one “question” stated that a budget shortfall is anticipated in two to three years and gave a limited range of “answers,” none of which involved economic development planning for future revenue increases. The implication of the limited “answers” was that nothing can be done to prevent the shortfall other than to reduce staff and spending or raise taxes on current taxpayers. Starting from an exceptionally sound financial position four months ago, the council has financed a poll stating that a budget crisis is on the horizon.

Not only was the revenue-generating development in Foothills put on hold but complaints from some on the Citizens Budget Committee were heard about significant savings at the end of the budget cycle and a commitment is now being made to reduce taxes and provide a “rebate.” This posturing has to stop and the expectations of the citizens who pay these taxes considered. We want a sensible budgeting process followed, as in the past, with attrition largely used to offset PERS costs increases, not one that is based on short-term reactionary thinking.

This council has been moving to defund not only unnecessary projects and programs but ones that do reflect the community values and again without benefit of citizen input even though advisory citizens groups are ready, willing and able to provide sensible, reasonable approaches that save money and manifestly represent the community.

With the sensitive lands changes from Metro in 2002 and later, the community input process began unraveling with a hurried effort to write development code and maps around what were perceived to be Metro “mandates.” This council is now setting out to reverse that direction, but without due process. Ironically, this is being done to return to a land-use-based comprehensive plan, which starts with Goal 1, Citizen Involvement. This approach, if continued, will inevitably backfire to cost Lake Oswego taxpayers dearly.

Redirection proposals for the comprehensive plan update threaten to unnecessarily discount thousands of hours of citizen input rather than simply tailoring the work product via the citizen’s committee to better reflect Lake Oswego values.

Those that think that all the objections to this direction are based on partisan politics are misreading the tea leaves. All citizens, whether in agreement with the decisions made or not, object to any attempt to avoid consideration of citizen input, regardless of who is doing it. We want what was promised to residents of Lake Oswego: fiscal responsibility and respecting citizen input.

Craig Stephens, Lake Oswego, is on the steering committee of KLOG, co-chair of NRAB (also serving on the subcommittee for the Parks 2025 Master Plan and the Luscher Area Master Plan) and on the Old Town Neighborhood Board. He is simply writing this from the standpoint of an individual citizen.



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