by Dave Berg
People’s minds are changed through observation and not through argument – Will Rogers
Seven years ago Lake Oswego was presented with a stunning example of how far a political philosophy had gone in our community. A city council wrote a check for $20 million, on a building we couldn’t afford, using a line of credit. It had to be the most outlandish display of local government greed in our city’s history.
Perhaps it was hubris, but the reality was the local administration knew exactly what is was doing, and further tried to get another $40-130 million in taxpayers’ funds to develop it into a community center!
Many of us wondered what had happened to our town. Why does one of the wealthiest communities in Oregon need a community center when our citizens can afford to pay for most of the multitude of athletic facilities in the area? The answer was simple; the building was a vehicle for growing government, not a community center. It was a means to an end, a façade for a philosophy, representing enlargement of political power.
I often had a hard time driving by the nearly empty building and not remembering the time I spent in totalitarian countries, where unused grandiose buildings, projected the image of a regime upon its people. That image was that the government regime was omnipotent and every individual was subservient to the political elite. It’s something I will never forget as an American that values individual freedom.
For years citizens have complained about the purchase and the fact that it was unused and wasting taxpayer funds. Recently a new administration announced that after seven years of interest payments, the building was for sale. Albeit at a loss of $1+ million over what is currently owed to the bank and $3.5 million versus the original price our city paid. Sound good? Well not exactly. We are not only paying for the loss in value, but also the operating costs, the capital investment, and all associated costs.
It’s likely that each household in Lake Oswego will have paid well over $550 for this single mistake made by our “tax and spend” worshiping local officials. What was worse is that even today, they have no defined use for the facility. It’s just an incredible example of fiscal incompetence.
There is a valuable lesson here in how far ideologue officials will go, if elected, and not carefully held accountable. It’s ending up to be a very costly lesson locally representing millions not invested in our community. How? It means less for our fire department, our police, our streets, our parks and other core services. Residents have learned we can no longer afford to make these mistakes and retain either our “quality of life” or our “community character”.
This session our state legislature increased general fund spending by 13.5%. They then came back for more in the special session. I wonder how many “tax & spend” projects, like our local building debacle, are included in this budget. Until the dominant philosophy of “tax and spend” is controlled, we are going to pay a high price for projects like we have seen in Lake Oswego.
Dave Berg is a 22-year resident of Lake Oswego a board member of COLA LO, Chair of the Lake Oswego Budget Committee, and Co-Chair of the Legislative Committee of the Clackamas County Republican Party.