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Will the new Council return to 'tax and spend?'

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing ... and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

— Theodore Roosevelt

We will soon have a new City Council in 2015 and it’s time to be very thankful. I have to say, I couldn’t be happier that Jeff Gudman and Jackie Manz will be on that new Council. The three of us have worked tirelessly together on the budget committee (for five years) to ensure not only that Lake Oswego preserves its community character, but also that we make wise budget decisions to ensure our future.

Many residents now tell me that the progress made in our budget direction has been exceptional, but we have more to do. Part of that effort has been a redirection of funds to ensure that the city’s efforts fairly reflect the needs and concerns of our community. Under past administrations, the “tax and spend” ideologues wasted millions in taxpayer resources on “visionary projects” that went nowhere. Personally, I prefer those funds stay in Lake Oswego rather than in consultants pockets! Honestly, we have overcome some of those mistakes, but resolving all of them will likely take a decade or more.

That is the past, but let’s focus on our future. I believe the future of Lake Oswego is just exceptional, as long as we make the right decisions. Our new Council should make fiscal responsibility its primary objective in 2015. How? By making wise decisions on our budget, continuing the redirection of funding toward improving our infrastructure and responsibly addressing our cost of services and staff levels.

These are the key issues we face in the next two to four years. They are challenging, but they can be resolved through committed responsible leadership.

In the past two years, we have reduced positions, redirected funds to streets, established a debt policy limiting our total debt and added to our reserves. This year alone, we did more work on streets than many have seen in a decade, while simultaneously returning $1 million to reserves and setting aside nearly half the cost of a new maintenance facility (think winter weather). This was all done from existing funds in our current budget by implementing consensus decisions to improve the future of our community.

Let me say that both Jeff and Jackie were a large part of this effort.

Some of our legacy issues from the “tax and spend” philosophy — like Sensitive Lands, water rates and the WEB — have not been resolved, despite ongoing efforts to do so. I think it’s important the community remains informed on the costs of these mistakes, but not to let them overwhelm our potential. We are fortunate that despite these issues, we live in an incredible community with a wonderful character.

Will the new Council return to “tax and spend?” Let’s all take the time to celebrate and keep a careful eye out for any return. While reform never really comes swiftly enough, 2015 may have ensured we elected candidates who continue the redirection toward a local government that respects its citizens and resolves our core issues to preserve our exceptional community. Thank you to all of you who stopped me and expressed your views this past election.

Dave Berg is a 24-year resident of Lake Oswego, former chair and now vice chair of the Budget Committee, and a board member of COLA LO.

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