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Council should follow will of the people

I appreciate a recent statement by Mayor Kent Studebaker regarding his commitment to confront the issue of city staff pursuing their own agenda rather than that of the City Council and to address it promptly whenever it surfaces. I support the mayor, and believe he and the current council have made good strides to reverse the direction of the previous council.

Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel that city staff bias has been evident with regard to the Wizer Block deliberations. In the U.S. Armed Forces, officers are taught to be apolitical. That is, their focus is on executing the mission, irrespective of whatever political party or administration is in power at the time. Many of them do not vote as a sign of their neutral posture. The Lake Oswego city bureaucracy, from the top down, should learn a lesson from this ethic, and stop being cheerleaders for developers who advocate urban-style density.

I believe that climate change is real, and that all of us will have to make some accommodations to mitigate the impact of fossil fuels. However, extremism at any end of the planning or political spectrum spells trouble with the electorate. It shouldn’t mean that our city-center Millennium Park has to become a poster child for urban density, that our small-town environment has to become an extension of Portland, or that we should celebrate putting 16 houses in a space formerly occupied by four homes.

I respect the high-density Pearl District, as well as the low-density estates in Dunthorpe and everything in between. So why not allow citizens, through their elected officials, to choose how they want their town to evolve? The electorate said in the last election that they didn’t want a Pearl District in the Foothills neighborhood. The urban, high-density apartment complex proposed for the Wizer Block is a slap in the face to the electorate. An admittedly non-scientific survey of Lake Oswego residents recently showed that 54 percent do not want this development, while only 24 percent thought it was a good idea.

Make no mistake, this proposal is a potential game-changer for the Lake Oswego community at large, and a gut check for the City Council. If the council is serious about following the will of the electorate, the desires of the neighborhood associations, the recommendation of The Lake Oswego Review and the decision of its own Development Review Commission, then it should uphold the DRC decision and reject this proposal. Otherwise, the council should be prepared for loss of any moral high ground and the confidence of the majority of the city’s citizens.

Roger Rollins is a Lake Oswego resident.

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