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Citizen's View: Council has worked to minimize government intrusion in our lives

STUDEBAKERDave Berg recently accused me and the present City Council of failing to reduce government intrusion and of actually increasing it (“2012 promise was less government intrusion, but that hasn’t come true,” June 16). He specifically cites our work on Sensitive Lands, stormwater regulations and the Tree Code. His accusations are not only offensive to the work of the council, but they are also incredibly inaccurate.

Mr. Berg either does not know, or fails to acknowledge, that Lake Oswego is not a world unto itself, insulated from other regulatory agencies. There are layers of regulations from the federal government, the state government and Metro with which we have to comply.

With regard to Sensitive Lands, we developed a less-intrusive proposal than our final result, but Metro found it too lax. Two environmental attorneys advised us how to be as unobtrusive as possible while still being compliant; the result was some lifting of minor regulations in late 2014, and then the larger reductions in regulations in late 2015. We could not get rid of Sensitive Lands designations, but we did reduce the number of acres covered, and the number of residential properties affected was reduced by more than 100.

Stormwater regulation comes to us courtesy of the Clean Water Act enforced by the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environmental Quality. DEQ issues permits to the City to regulate the transfer of pollutants to rivers and streams. The issue is at what point during construction or redevelopment of land do you have to institute measures to handle stormwater runoff. After reviewing the standards set by our Planning Commission, the City Council relaxed the rules to make them less intrusive.

The Tree Code revisions have not even been finalized. The council told the advisory committee it wanted the Tree Code to be simplified and to be less restrictive. I have seen the draft proposal and it is not more restrictive than present code. After council’s study session, if it makes sense, the code could be even less restrictive. And contrary to some rumors, there is no proposal in the draft to increase fees.

Mr. Berg erroneously cites our consideration of an ordinance brought by our police department against unruly gatherings as another example of the council’s intrusive leanings. A number of late-night parties involving underage drinking and loud music resulted in complaints to police. Mr. Berg suggests the council needed to be convinced by citizens not to adopt the ordinance. Not so! While citizen input is always helpful, the council should be given at least a modicum of credit for making this good decision.

Local government is smaller and less intrusive since I was elected in 2012. There are 20 fewer City personnel, and the number continues to decline. We work mightily to live within our budget while still completing increased road maintenance and completing necessary capital projects.

Lake Oswego is not an island. The overlay of federal and state regulations can certainly be frustrating, but the accusation of a more intrusive council than four years ago is just plain wrong.

Kent Studebaker is the mayor of Lake Oswego. He has announced that he will seek re-election in November.