'The sky is not falling' in Lake Oswego

Jon Gustafson
Thursday, October 11, 2012

If you’ve been following the campaign races for Lake Oswego Mayor and city council, you may be worried that our city is in dire straits.


Lake Oswego is facing a massive infrastructure project. Our schools are struggling to avoid closure. Our city hall, police and maintenance facilities are in desperate need of replacement. Our planning department is buried in a multi-year update to our comprehensive plan. We are faced with $19 million in bond issues on the November ballot. And our citizens are discontent with the level of divisiveness in the city. What is it going to take to deal with this slate of challenges?

For starters, it’s going to take a can-do attitude. No offense to Chicken Little, but the sky is not falling. There is no question that we face challenges as a community, but I’m confident we’re more than capable of meeting those challenges and, in the process, making Lake Oswego an even better place to live.

Infrastructure that provides a safe and adequate water supply is a core city service we require. Past leaders were smart to find another city, our neighbor, Tigard, willing to split the cost of our new water treatment system. Alone, the project would have cost us much more and putting off the project now would only increase our risk and burden our children. What we can do now is provide the kind of oversight and project management that allowed our sewer project to come in on time and under budget.

Despite the recent closures, Lake Oswego still has an outstanding school system, involved parents and a wonderful Foundation. But we can do even more. In addition to finding innovative ways to financially support the school district, city leaders can support policies that will indirectly support our schools by making Lake Oswego more attractive and attainable to the young families we need to fill our classrooms and build our tax base.

The facilities that house our first responders (police, fire and maintenance) require structures able to withstand natural and man-made disasters so that they are able to protect us during our time of greatest need. We can do a master plan that begins to set aside money in the budget to fund future projects, while delivering to the voters a bond measure that would address the most pressing needs. Other facilities can be addressed over time, when old bonds are retired, or when funds are saved.

Our city is on sound financial ground. In fact, Lake Oswego is one of only two cities in the entire state that has an AAA bond rating: an independent verification that the city’s financials are strong and that, if necessary, our ability to take on and repay debt is top notch.

Tough issues of the past have burdened the existing city council and have diminished trust and confidence in city government. But we can do for city council what I did for the planning commission: improve group dynamics, restore trust and civility, improve its ability to discuss and deliberate issues and set a positive example for the community.

Yes, certainly we have challenges ahead, but we shouldn’t tackle them looking back. We shouldn’t stop the progress we’ve made toward improving our livability. We can plan for the future and be fiscally responsible. We can do it.

Jon Gustafson, Lake Oswego, is a candidate for the Lake Oswego City Council and is vice chairman of the Lake Oswego Planning Commission.