Betsy Wosko’s Public Comments – RE: Agenda Item- Resolution 21-29

Below are Betsy Wosko’s public comments asking City Council to reject referring a City referendum to the November 2021 ballot – Agenda item, Resolution 21-29:

“Please do not pass the referendum in competition with the Love LO Parks citizens’ initiative.

Proponents of the City’s proposed referendum claim argue that while they support the general concept of the Love LO Parks initiative, that it needs fine-tuning, and specifically, it needs to be clear that it doesn’t run afoul of the Americans with Disabilities Act, that it should allow for more parks to be added, that it should allows for stewardship, and that it should allow for a robust public process for citizen involvement.  For the below reasons, these arguments are all without merit.

First, the Love LO Parks initiative would allow for handicapped access. Either the initiative or the referendum must, of course, comply with Americans with Disabilities Act. That doesn’t need to be spelled out, as it is assumed. Further, a crushed gravel path would accomplish the same purpose as a paved path. Many places have crushed gravel paths that wheelchairs navigate just fine.

Second, the City would be free to treat parks not enumerated in the Love LO parks initiative just like it does the parks subject to Ch 10 of the City charter. 

Third, the Love LO Parks initiative allows for maintenance and stewardship. The “Friends” groups have done wonderful work over the years and the initiative would not interfere with what they do. 

Fourth, proponents of the referendum claims it creates a robust public process.  Public process is already required under goal 1 of the comprehensive plan, “citizen involvement.” Further, with respect to environmental issues, it seems the city has tilted the balance heavily in favor of development, as in the case of type II tree apps. Neighbor associations and dozens of individuals have provided comments opposing removal of trees, and that has largely been ignored. If the public process relating to type II tree apps has been largely ignored, why would it be different with public input relating to natural areas? 

The City’s referendum is flawed because it gives Parks too much latitude.  Look what happened to Woodmont Park. All those trees which were required to be protected under the terms of donation of the land were ignored. The owner specifically wanted certain trees to remain because he liked them. They were bulldozed. This is only a recent example of why we need the Love LO Parks initiative.  Other problems with the City’s referendum are that its language about managing ecosystems is vague; it allows development of parking lots, paved trails and non-public roads within park boundaries which will destroy natural habitat and allow for removal of trees; it could allow for a public telecommunications facility; and it allows for “other uses and facilities,” all of which could open the door for development. 

The Love LO Parks initiative is not a rebuke against Friends of Parks groups. They have done wonderful work and continue to do so. The purpose of the Love LO Parks initiative is to provide stronger legal protection against development. We need these natural areas, to serve as wildlife corridors and because so many trees have been and are being cut down for development.  

Lastly, the City’s response to the initiative has been awful. The city attorney’s draft of the summary of the measure was heavily biased in favor of the City’s anticipated referendum.  It’s almost as if the city is taking it very personally that 4700 people don’t think they’re doing a good job managing natural areas. They want to nip this in the bud. That’s not the approach the city should take. The city should be listening to the 4700 or so people who signed this position and not the handful of well-meaning, capable, wonderful, longtime activists who have been Friends of Parks and whom we all respect.  The Friends of Parks aren’t the problem. The problem is the city has been tilted heavily in favor of development and favors development projects.

“Business as usual” means paving, removing trees, adding facilities, and dispensing of lucrative construction and landscaping contracts.  We cannot afford business as usual. We need to make stronger decisions. Love LO Parks is a good start.     

Betsy Wosko
Lake Oswego Resident”