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Citizen's View: Why demographics and economics are critical to Lake Oswego's future

“Economics has made us partners, and necessity has made us allies.”

— John F. Kennedy

I recently wrote an article for The Review in which I discussed a presentation I made to the Leadership Lake Oswego class. During that presentation, I was asked what keeps me up at night as a community leader. My first concern, I said, was “demographics and economics,” which surprised everyone. Why? These are the drivers that enable our community character.

Demographics play a very important role in our community. Few know that Lake Oswego is the second-most-mature community in Oregon. Only 30 percent of households have children attending the Lake Oswego School District. Yes, we have one of the oldest communities in Oregon supporting an exceptional school system, even though most residents do not have children in our schools. As our community matures, it’s critical we continue to attract residents who value education enough to pay for the children of their neighbors. Its only one example of the unique importance of demographics to our Lake Oswego.

These demographics must also continue to support our infrastructure. We have substantial long-term demands on our water systems, sewer systems, public safety facilities and our streets. All involve costly fees, utility rates and tax burdens on an aging demographic base of citizens. This fact is so apparent that the bond analysts’ reports clearly state that maintaining our socioeconomic demographic is absolutely critical to our bond rating.

Why is economics a key issue? Because economic development drives property values, which produce our general fund revenues. The jobs produced also allow for higher incomes, which support increasing property values. That is why the key metric for economic development is “the number of jobs created in excess of the median income.”

Unfortunately, our median income per household is now fourth in Clackamas County. Damascus, Happy Valley and West Linn all have higher median incomes than Lake Oswego. Declining median incomes are not sufficient to maintain our long-term community character when the cost of core city services are expensive and increasing rapidly. So supporting existing service levels will require both increasing property values and encouraging additional economic development. Economics will play a greater role in preserving our community character as our population matures.

Lake Oswego is fortunate to currently have a strong base of residents with shared values who are willing to support our community. Yet at the same time, we cannot ignore the demographic and economic drivers that have built and will preserve our community. This includes attracting the unique socioeconomic factors necessary to support both our infrastructure and our schools.

Our leadership simply must make demographics and economics a priority. This includes being proactive in attracting both the new residents and the economic development that will support the cost of our long-term community requirements. Economics makes us all partners, but shared values make us all allies in preserving our Lake Oswego.

In future articles, I will discuss core services, their associated costs and the competition for funds as vital choices in preserving our community character. Thank you for your continued support, and feel free to contact me directly at david.b.berg@gmail.com.

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


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