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Citizen's View: Focus on infrastructure will help create a first-rate quality of life

GUDMANWe cannot have a first-rate quality of life if we have a third-rate infrastructure. If we try to do that, eventually we will end up with an infrastructure that will not support the quality of life that we all want and expect.

A strong foundation is needed to maintain our municipal (and our state and federal) house. But it is important to note that Lake Oswego’s highly regarded quality of life also requires that we be smart, efficient, focused and creative (within reason) in spending on that foundation.

Government-supported infrastructure, when other options are not available, is crucial to the economic development of the city and will prove beneficial to all residents, however poor or wealthy, by providing opportunity for upward mobility. By improving infrastructure, the city is playing a positive role in supporting economic opportunity for all residents. We must engage proactively to build, expand and provide opportunities for all people to improve their economic status. The government’s job is to clear the path for its residents to get ahead.

By “infrastructure,” I mean the physical assets of the city: roads, water, wastewater, buildings, physical improvements to our parks and open spaces, etc. Of course, programs are important, including our police, fire, library, parks, planning and engineering services. But without the physical infrastructure to support those services, we will become dissatisfied with the quality of those services.

Lake Oswego is fortunate to have collective leadership that understands the importance of maintaining a first-rate infrastructure. The City Council is focused on roads and the replacement of our operations/maintenance center without having to ask our residents for additional funds. Maintaining our roads means using an integrated approach so that work includes sidewalks, pathways, water lines, sewer lines and surface water run-off collection.

Many infrastructure projects are big-dollar items. There is no way around that fact. Hence the importance of examining carefully the need, the timing and the best way to deliver the service that goes with the infrastructure. Yes, the financial filter in making these decisions is very important, but it is not the only factor in the decision-making process.

There has been a lot of roadwork throughout our city over the past couple of years. Getting our roads up to standard and replacing our operations/maintenance center are two top priorities for the council. Rather than spread capital dollars widely and thinly, the council chose focus. Instead of wide and thin, capital dollars are being spent narrow and deep.

Beginning in 2013, the amount of funding for roadwork has increased significantly. More funding could have been provided if additional staff was added to the overall city total, a path the council has chosen not to follow. The mantra is to live within our means to maintain what we have.

Progress is occurring. After the road maintenance backlog has been reduced to zero, the focus will turn to the next area, be it surface water, pathways, bikeways, intersections or other infrastructure areas. The key is to FOCUS and not try to do everything for everyone. When we are in favor of everything, we are in favor of nothing. Governing is about choosing, and focus brings about measurable results for elected officials’ accountability.

The operations/maintenance center and our roads are the council’s top two infrastructure priorities. Until these two goals are met, we must not be diverted.

Jeff Gudman is a Lake Oswego resident and a member of the City Council. This Citizen’s View is a reflection of his own views and not necessarily those of the entire council.