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Citizen's View: Critics of LO mayor and council need to explain their numbers

As I once again read criticism of our City leaders, I looked back on the last piece I wrote for this paper one year ago. In it, I said the job of our mayor and City Council is tough and thankless, while critiquing their performance is easy.

Criticism is allowed in a democracy, but innuendos based on half-truths or bad facts should not go uncorrected. Critics should lay out their ideas and the impact those ideas will have on Lake Oswego. Platitudes, broad statements and just tearing down the council is not enough.

A theme is emerging from a few — one of whom has announced he is running to replace Mayor Kent Studebaker. The theme is that the current City Council has no appetite for cost reduction and that Mayor Studebaker’s opponent is the one to lower spending.

Cutting spending is a goal this current council has tirelessly worked on and still works daily to achieve. Spending on programs that our citizens have said are high priorities is always looked at from the perspective of how inexpensively and efficiently those priority programs can be run.

Nearly four years ago, our citizens told council that police, fire, roads, infrastructure (water and sewer) and parks were their priority. In the years since then, this mayor and council have funded and efficiently run our priorities, outsourcing where it is economical. The savings have resulted in our City debt being reduced by $17 million, we have had no increases in our tax rates, the City gave money in services to our schools and we have a Lake Oswego that is gaining a positive reputation as a great place to live.

Mayor Studebaker’s opponent and supporters who push the theme of cost cutting have an obligation to tell us where and by how much they will cut spending. Almost 70 percent of our City budget is spent on police, fire, roads, infrastructure and parks — all priorities that Lake Oswegans say they want the City to fund. Critics of this mayor and City Council must lay out where they would cut, how much they would cut and how those cuts would affect those programs.

It’s not enough to say you would cut staff. Tell us which staff from which programs and what the savings would be. It is not enough to object to PERS payments going up. Tell us what you would legally do to prevent increases in PERS payments. It is not enough to complain about the cost of running our priority programs. Tell us exactly where you would outsource and how much it would save. Give us details, facts and real numbers.

I’m not talking about irresponsibly eating into the General Fund emergency reserves to make budget cutting look good. I’m talking the same significant reductions in spending that this current council has made, while having the foresight to look ahead to a city that can build on its current vigor, both financially and emotionally.

I’m talking the future of Lake Oswego!

Darrell Brett is a resident of Lake Oswego.