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Bean-counting pragmatists or prudent visionaries: Which is LO's city council?

With the Lake Oswego City Council giving the citizens of Lake Oswego a short breather on the WEB property (thank you, city councilors) we will have the opportunity to see whether the council members are bean counters or prudent visionaries.

Will they simply be managers of money or creators of a better future for the city? Three-fourths of the speakers at the city council meeting wanted them to be prudent visionaries. It is unfortunate that real estate spiked, a $100 million sewer had to be built and the city planners asked the citizens to take a huge gulp instead of a good sip in developing the WEB all at the same time.

But that should not negate the purchase of a truly fine property, properly located for a city that is proud of its public persona. Great cities, large, medium or small, have great public properties.

Think of what New York City would be like if bean-counter pragmatists had developed Central Park with commercial buildings or Boston Commons, or Golden Gate Park in San Francisco or Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.

The vision of the city fathers, when those public spaces were set aside, was remarkable and their names are still held in high esteem. In a city populated by many people of significant wealth, there is no reason to be wringing our hands as to where the money will come from.

There are several approaches to this dilemma, which could solve the situation in favor of the present and future citizenry. Somehow the property could become a private/public enterprise with a capital campaign to pay off the mortgage.

People of means could then step forth and make charitable, tax-deductible donations to raise the funds. A gift of say $10 million could give the donor privilege of naming the building. Rooms, spaces, doors, stairways, elevators and open spaces and pathways could be named for contributors. What a sense of pride this would give the donors and what a historical legacy of generosity it would leave for decades to come.

An alternative is to promote a bond levy to pay off the $17.5 million still owed on the building. This is a small bond issue with much greater potential for passing. Then, make better use of the spaces: Rent out spaces for artist studios, kindergarten facilities, day care spaces and on and on. Then in the future raise the money for public swimming pools, tennis courts, playing fields, etc.

The vastly underused parking lot could be a bus terminal for downtown trips with daytime spaces rented to commuters to help defray ongoing costs. We don’t need more retail, office and commercial buildings in the Lake Grove area. We need this space for the public good, for our children and for generations to come.

Clifford D. Mansley Sr. is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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