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Citizen's View: 2012 promise was less government intrusion, but that hasn't come true

“It’s a good thing we don’t get all the government we pay for.”

— Will Rogers

Voters in 2012 elected a new administration with high hopes for change. The outcome of that election stunned many, as citizens across a broad political spectrum came together to vote for reform because they were deeply frustrated with an overly intrusive local government that was imposing an outside agenda on our wonderful community.

The 2012 candidates were elected on a platform of implementing smaller local government, one with much less intrusion into our daily lives. We all need to ask if this promise was kept by our City Council. My view is that there is more local government intrusion than ever before, and that the administration failed to resolve this core issue.

The candidates promised they would resolve complaints about the onerous Sensitive Lands program by placing restrictions on public properties while simultaneously removing them from private properties. That effort failed miserably, and the council responded to this failure by passing a revision that was even more restrictive to many property owners. One former city councilor was so frustrated by the process that she eventually moved from our city.

Despite this promise, our council continues by imposing new stormwater regulations on individual property owners that will become federally enforceable. These regulations will increase the cost of living in Lake Oswego and don’t resolve a defined environmental problem. Instead of the City bearing the full burden of stormwater regulations, this council chose to place greater restrictions on individual property owners.

At the same time, many residents have complained that our existing Tree Code is too restrictive and actually encourages residents not to maintain their trees. Yet our council is now considering a new code with more regulations, including what many residents tell me is a “don’t trust your neighbor” mentality. Is that the type of outcome we voted for in 2012?

These are a few examples, but there are others. Two years ago, the council considered passing the “unruly ordinance,” which would impose fines and expenses for excessive celebration in your home. Initially, a gathering was defined as only five people! While we all are concerned with excessive celebration in our neighborhoods, what was disturbing was the ordinance’s potential for abuse of power. Although citizens ultimately convinced the council to reconsider passing the ordinance, this effort was insightful in terms of evaluating our council’s future direction.

The larger, more intrusive government mentality still influences this council. All of the above and many more examples have promoted a larger, more intrusive local government into our daily lives during the past four years. It’s time to ask ourselves how that promise of “smaller, less-intrusive government” has been implemented by the “reform council” elected in 2012. It is a very important issue in terms of not only our long-term direction, but also the community we will become.

This is a wonderful community, but preserving it will require the focus and discipline to make the right decisions, including making good on the promises made by candidates. Doing that requires disciplined, engaged and consistent values-oriented leadership — leadership driven with the informed consent of our community, especially regarding the role of local government.

Dave Berg is a 25-year resident of Lake Oswego. He was recently elected to his third term as chairman of the Citizens Budget Committee and last month announced his candidacy for mayor.