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Citizen's View: Are we as citizens respected by our elected leaders?

“To add value to others, one must first value others.” 

— John Maxwell

Over the past year, I have talked about leadership and the challenges we face in Lake Oswego. My articles discussed the primary challenges we face, including demographics and economics, core services and the competition for funds.

These critical challenges require focus and discipline to make the right decisions. However, preserving our community character also requires a well-defined process for governance, one that embraces an engaged citizenry, with an exceptional level of public feedback. This is particularly true for Lake Oswego, given the unique education levels within our community.

Some believe that if you place decisions on public notice and then have a public meeting, you’ve met the statutory requirements. I’m sorry, but I have never thought this is a credible public process for good governance, especially for Lake Oswego.

I learned this well during my service with the state. Just because you meet the minimum requirements doesn’t mean you achieved the consent of your citizens to govern. In future articles, I will talk about a governance process that has stuck with me for many years as both our state and our city have changed. I used it throughout Oregon, conducting controversial hearings on complex environmental issues.

That experience taught me a lot in terms of what it really takes to govern while honoring the principles of our founding fathers. It also renewed my deep faith in the responsibility of governance by valuing citizen comment within the public process.

I have often heard that, once elected, some public officials often believe they have the complete support of the community. In fact, the results of elections in 2010 and 2012 showed us that our elected officials did not have this complete support. One reason was that they did not value or respect the public process; they only valued citizen input before the election, and then abandoned it shortly thereafter. It will be interesting to see if voters feel the same way during the 2016 election.

The process of governance and adding value through the public process is critical to our community. It’s an issue on the minds of many community leaders. I have received calls, emails and personal questions from these leaders about our public process. I really appreciate that citizens are willing to ask me questions about our community and openly provide their views. They are a constant source of feedback for me to reflect upon.

We are now entering a new era in Lake Oswego — one that will involve substantial change through not only private sector investment, but also public sector funding. It’s time our citizens provide input on their priorities and compare them to the ones established by our elected officials. What is important to you? Is your voice being heard? Is it respected? Do your elected leaders send you a response to your public comment? Are we as citizens valued by our elected leaders?

We are very fortunate to live in an exceptional community with enormous potential, but preserving it requires the focus and discipline to make the right decisions, including ensuring we have a very credible public process that not only informs, but also embraces, the views of our citizens.

Dave Berg is a 25-year resident of Lake Oswego, former chairman and now vice chairman of the Citizens Budget Committee and a board member of COLA LO.