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Citizen's View: Candidates should be evaluated on values that cross ideologies

In last week’s editorial entitled “Council was right not to gamble with city’s future,” editor Gary M. Stein conveyed his desire for the City Council to select the “best overall candidate available” to replace Councilor Karen Bowerman. He further voiced concern about Lake Oswego Citizens Action League (LOCAL) using its voice to encourage the council to select someone that shared Bowerman’s “conservative political philosophy.”

We’re disappointed to see The Review fostering such a narrow and divisive view of the candidates and council in general. LOCAL is a non-partisan organization that was formed in 2012 because of community-wide concern over the direction of our city government. Stein was not here at the time, so he missed seeing how dysfunctional and polarizing our City Council had become because of a stifling partisan focus and imbalance that involved out-of-control spending; bloated staff; lack of maintenance of our streets, public buildings and parks; abuse of citizens’ property rights; and hostility (including use of police) towards citizens.

We don’t evaluate candidates based on whether they are “conservative” or “liberal,” “Republican” or “Democrat” or other characterizations used to put people in a box. We think this sort of political profiling is exactly what is wrong with politics today. We think people can be “conservative” on one issue, “liberal” on another and “moderate” on another. We evaluate city leadership based upon their alignment with these five stated values, which cross all party lines and ideologies:

-- Prioritize local needs

-- Ensure fiscal responsibility

-- Focus on essential city services

-- Preserve local community character

-- Respect all citizens and their rights

Interestingly, Stein observes he wants councilors who “campaign not only on their principles but also stick to them when political winds shift.” Then he goes on to portray Councilor Bowerman as engaging in “a lot of posturing, a lot of talking points, but not a lot of the kind of governing that sways opinions.” In other words, someone who stuck to her principles, even when she was outmanned on positions she believed in.

We recognize that in the world of partisan politics, some may consider Bowerman “conservative.” But in the context of Lake Oswego governance, she shared and held fast to our five values. That is what we wanted honored. We believe Charles Collins is an excellent choice, but based on the interviews, we feel that Randy Arthur and David Beckett were also very closely aligned with LOCAL’s values. Is Charles Collins the best selection, as The Review suggests? Were other candidates a “gamble?” The answer is entirely subjective and, like many things in life, nuanced.

That is why we welcome a sit down with Stein any time. Since he has never met some of us, he might be surprised to find we have many things in common, not the least being a desire for our wonderful community to remain a place where families and senior citizens alike can thrive.

As a small community, we should not let narrow partisan labels divide us. Our goal at LOCAL is to support and help elect those who will uphold our values and preserve our city’s greatness. We believe the majority of citizens align with us. In fact, we’ll bet two bits on it.

Rich Akerman, Gerry Good, Lauren Hughes, Rick Petry and Cheryl Salamie are directors of the Lake Oswego Citizens Action League.