On June 15, 2021, Lake Oswego City Council discussed agenda item “7.3 Proposed Natural Areas Preservation Charter Referendum.” Martha Bennett, the City Manager, presented options before the City regarding our citizen initiative petition, 2020IN-1:
- Do nothing. Our initiative goes to the ballot
- Endorse. Our initiative goes to the ballot w/ their endorsement
- Compete. Present an alternative referendum that would compete with our initiative.
It was evident our City Councilors, after 18-months, have not fully read the citizen initiative’s proposed charter amendment limiting development in 15 of our designated natural area parks. Our initiative’s text is precise, deliberate and intentional to protect these natural habitats from future development. Instead, City Council is choosing to reserve the option to place a competing measure on the ballot based on a faulty understanding of our initiative’s legal intent on limiting development.
Listen to City Council’s discussion below:
Read our letter sent to City Council on June 16, 2021, regarding false and misleading statements in their discussion about our citizen initiative:
Dear City Councilors,
Yesterday, the Love LO Parks core team and I listened while City Council discussed agenda item “7.3 Proposed Natural Areas Preservation Charter Referendum.” Your discussion was missing some important context you should consider.
Our citizen initiative petition’s text is the culmination of research, consultation, and outreach. The language is precise, deliberate, and intentional regarding development limitations for our natural parks. It has been legally vetted and broadly socialized with nearly every Lake Oswego household and voter. Consistent and positive feedback reinforces that citizens seek protections that guarantee these parks in their backyards remain natural habitats free from development.
Mayor Buck’s assertion that our citizen initiative is “rooted in mistrust” is inaccurate. The truth is we have spoken with and listened to citizens from every neighborhood. They all share a common theme — frustrations with decades of actions and inactions by your predecessors that have failed to protect these natural areas from City ambitions to develop them. We’ve been open to dialog with every member of our community — before and after filing our initiative petition. And, we invited City Council to an open dialog with us on December 17, 2019 — only one City councilor took us up on that offer nearly 18-months ago.
Councilor Nguyen inquired about communication between the City and our coalition. In November 2019, prior to filing our citizen initiative petition, we met with Ivan Anderholm, Director of Parks and Recreation, and incorporated his feedback on additional parks, trail surface compatibility with ADA requirements (such as decomposed granite used broadly in national and state parks), and the inclusion to implement existing master plans (eg. Iron Mountain, Woodmont Park, Canal Area, and Steves Meadows Trail Head Master Plan). And, before the pandemic and just recently, we had several meetings with a group of citizens who have working relationships with the city – Stephanie Wagner, Mike Buck, Nancy Gronowski, and Robert Irving. Our objective: to seek common ground and discuss any potential substantive additions that strengthen the initiative’s proposed charter amendment. Unfortunately, this group was insistent on a wholesale rewrite with very few substantive additions; this was the text you were provided at yesterday’s council meeting. This hasty rewrite not only weakens the intent and legal protections our citizens initiative aims to achieve, it also weakens the protections already afforded Springbrook Park — it is disingenuous.
Councilor Manz’s concerns about future-proofing and climate change are also misleading. The facts are clear. Springbrook Park has enjoyed protections for over 40 years with no disastrous side effects. Our citizen initiative is intentional in prohibiting those development limitations that are inconsistent with maintaining these designated natural parks as natural habits. Our text is also deliberate in articulating the expectation that the City directs its focus towards maintaining these parks so they continue to be healthy, vibrant natural habitats for wildlife to flourish and reduces fire hazards now and in the future. Our initiative encourages the continuation and expansion of the environmental stewardship work many of these parks enjoy today. But, let’s be clear, stewardship does not equate to legal protections from development.
Councilor Rapf’s remarks that collecting 10% of voter signatures is not substantial is an inaccurate statement. By state statute, a local citizen initiative petition requires the signatures of 15% of all eligible voters (~27,000) to qualify for the ballot — a rather high bar. Putting that into perspective, only 23,545 Lake Oswego citizens (or ~87%) cast their vote for mayor; 15% would be 3,531, while we have persevered at collecting over 4,600 signatures during an unprecedented pandemic and through wildfires and ice storms. We also have broad community support from every neighborhood, especially those neighborhoods with nearby natural parks. It’s clear citizens desire these natural parks remain protected from future development, much as the citizens agreed 3:1 in 1978 to protect Springbrook Park.
And, Martha Bennett was incorrect on the minimum number of signatures our citizen initiative petition needs to qualify — it’s 4,365 not 4,380. By state statute, citizen initiative petitions signature determination is 15% of registered voters at the time of filing. We filled on November 14, 2019. Ann-Marie Simpson, City Elections Officer (at the time), corrected the calculation and informed our coalition of the mistake by certified mail on December 12, 2019. While a negligible difference, it’s an important distinction. We’ve submitted over 5% above this minimum and continue collecting signatures.
If you’ve not done so, I encourage you to read our citizen initiative’s proposed charter amendment for yourself. You might be surprised by the sensible development limitations your constituents seek.
Scott Handley | Chief Petitioner 2020IN-1
Love Lake Oswego Parks Committee