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LO Charter amendment would still give citizens a voice in road projects

A decision to request that citizens change the Lake Oswego City Charter is not undertaken without considerable deliberation. Your City Council believes that a change in Section 40 of the Charter is in the best interests of the community.

About 35 years ago, the citizens of Lake Oswego fought to keep Hwy. 217 from running all the way to Boones Ferry Road. They were successful, but decided to prevent any future “surprise” road-widening projects by submitting a charter amendment to the voters. The amendment was passed. It currently requires a citywide vote on any road project that widens the pavement greater than 20 feet, provided 25 city residents sign and submit a petition to hold such a vote.

When this charter amendment was adopted, there was legitimate concern that major road projects within the city could take place without citizen input. Now the city is mostly built out, citizen involvement is substantially more ingrained in our planning processes, and there are far more requirements for road projects of any size to proceed.

The City Council has decided it is time to amend Section 40 to better define a major road expansion project and to require a greater level of citizen concern to petition for a citywide vote on road widening and major new road projects.

n Will citizens still have the ability to vote on major road expansion projects? Yes, if a road-widening project or new road is significant enough and enough citizens are interested in requiring the vote before the project proceeds.

n What will be the definition of a major road-expansion project? A major road project must be at least 500 feet in length and create a new travel lane.

n What will the new signature requirement be to bring about a citywide vote? The new requirement will be based on the number of registered Lake Oswego voters as of the date of submission of the petition. The threshold will be 3 percent of that number. In 2014, that would make it necessary to collect about 760 signatures.

n How does 3 percent compare to requirements for other citizen initiatives? Applicable state law requires 10 percent of registered voters for a referendum or 15 percent of registered voters for an initiative.

A citywide special election that is not held in conjunction with an already-scheduled May primary or November general election costs Lake Oswego taxpayers about $18,000. If enough citizens believe a vote is necessary, this price is worth paying. However, the current language of Section 40 is not reflective of today’s circumstances.

We urge the citizens of Lake Oswego to vote yes on this charter amendment, which will bring our charter up to date while still retaining the ability of citizens to require a citywide vote on major road expansion projects.

This article was submitted by Mayor Kent Studebaker and council members Karen Bowerman, Jon Gustafson, Jeff Gudman, Lauren Hughes, Donna Jordan and Skip O’Neill.

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