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Words can cost taxpayers

Forty words in the Lake Oswego Transportation System Plan (LOTSP) draft of June 23, 2014, could have cost Lake Oswego taxpayers over $3 million in fiscal year 2014-2015 and then increase significantly in the future. Recovery of this sum could have been applied to your City of Lake Oswego utility bill as a “privilege fee” by the Lake Oswego City Council without your approval at the ballot box.

Extracted text from the LOTSP, Section 6, page 95, stated the following: “Tri-Met’s LIFT program serves persons with disabilities who are unable to use the fixed-route bus system. The LIFT service area boundary includes all of Lake Oswego. Door-to-door service is provided seven days a week between 4:30 a.m. and 2:30 a.m.”

The above extracted words are false.

Significant dispatch changes to the Tri-Met LIFT service were published and distributed in June 2012 to existing LIFT patrons. Changes took effect with the Tri-Met annual schedule change on Sept. 2, 2012 (Labor Day weekend). LIFT service in the environs of Lake Oswego was significantly changed - especially in the Lake Grove and south Lake Oswego sectors. LIFT service is now explicitly linked to existing bus lines and service hours. Source documents may be examined at the Tri-Met LIFT homepage: trimaet.org/lift/index.htm.

Lake Oswego City Council, executives, planning staff and advisory boards were informed of this change by Birdshill CPO/NA in an email/complaint dated Nov. 1, 2012. This information was again conveyed to the Planning Commission by written testimony for LU 14-0015 (LOTSP) and attachments delivered by email on March 21, 2014. Documents may be examined on the City’s website at ci.oswego.or.us/boc_pc/lu-14-0015-comprehensive-plan-amendments-include-transportation-system-plan. See Exhibit G-6 for details.

All information conveyed by the Birdshill CPO/NA in writing was ignored by the Lake Oswego City Council, executives, staff, consultants and advisory boards throughout development and compilation of the LOTSP and supporting documents.

A last effort on July 11, 2014, to correct false statements in the LOTSP was made by contacting Councilor Jeff Gudman. I summarized the exposure of Lake Oswego to cost implications of false LOTSP statements. My guess, without analysis, of the cost to increase Tri-Met bus service to levels of 22 hours per day as stated in the false text of the LOTSP was on the order of $5 million. With analysis, I later refined the number down to $3 million. Councilor Gudman took action and later reported the false LOTSP statements had been corrected by staff and were to be reviewed by Lake Oswego City Council on July 15, 2014.

Significant public discussion, debate and deliberation need to immediately take place with respect to leadership, development of plans for the City of Lake Oswego and environs, along with all potential cost implications. Complaints along with public testimony delivered on projects and issues, as well as the subsequent processing by advisory boards, staff, consultants, executives and City Council, needs to be reviewed, revamped, instituted and validated.

Unless public involvement processes are significantly and immediately changed, I predict an exasperated citizen or adroit special interest group will take advantage of false statements in planning documents. Results could cost Lake Oswego taxpayers dearly in their wallets by required payment of stated “privilege fee” items on utility bills.

Charles “Skip” Ormsby is co-chairman of the Birdshill Community Planning Organization/Neighborhood Association.

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