Scott Handley’s Public Comments – RE: Agenda Item- Resolution 21-29

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

“Dear Mayor Buck and City Councilors,

(I’m submitting written testimony in lieu of in-person due to the recent increasing risks of the pandemic. I would have preferred a safer Zoom option to speak face-to-face with you.)

Good afternoon. My name is Scott Handley. I’m a resident in the Palisades Neighborhood and the organizer of the LoveLOParks grassroots citizen coalition striving to protect our natural parks. My family moved to Lake Oswego in 2018 for the many amenities our city offers- excellent schools, local shopping and dining, a safe and friendly community, and most importantly, the natural surroundings of abundant trees and natural parks amongst our neighborhoods. It’s truly a magical place!

It’s been no secret that Lake Oswego citizens, your constituents, have formed the LoveLOParks coalition and have been working diligently since September 2019 to protect our small neighborhood natural parks from major developments:

– we prevented a major telecommunications facility for the THIRD time at Cooks Butte

– we helped prevent a privately-owned, heavily wooded 2-acre parcel adjacent to Hallinan Woods from becoming a housing development by influencing the City to purchase the property

– we seek to prevent development that is inconsistent with maintaining our natural parks as natural habitats with our  Citizens Initiative Petition 2020IN-1 that recently qualified for the November 2021 ballot 

LoveLOPark’s nearly 2-year grassroots effort was born out of actively listening to hundreds of citizens’ concerns, frustrations, and their distrust in the City’s ability to protect our natural parks. Ordinary citizens are frustrated with the City’s unrelenting appetite for development, especially at the expense of our natural parks. Citizens who’ve lived in Lake Oswego their entire lives and those who’ve moved here recently cherish the natural environment that envelops our community. 

Our Citizens Initiative, signed and qualified by over 4,700 voting constituents, should be celebrated and supported by our elected officials! Yet, here we are today with our elected officials deciding to neutralize those efforts with a rushed  alternative referendum that offers fewer protections and exposes our natural parks to continued development.

Not once during the last 18 months has City Council requested a study session to learn about the protections citizens seek from those of us running the Citizens Initiative. At the June 15, 2021 City Council meeting, Martha Bennett implied that the LoveLOParks coalition would be consulted during any “public” process considering a referendum. However, no effort was made to include or contact us, missing out on an opportunity to hear from the voices of thousands of citizens!

Not once has the group of citizens who authored the referendum text genuinely shown interest in reaching common ground, even after many conversations. While these citizens perform invaluable stewardship services, they are closely affiliated with the City through City-supported groups and do not represent the views of the majority of Lake Oswego residents. They appear to have a heavy influence with the City regarding this referendum which diminishes the citizen initiative process — an 18 month process that required significant volunteer effort and financial resources to inform, educate and collect signatures from 15% of Lake Oswego voters.

It’s curious that the referendum text being considering today is a word-for-word replica of the draft text presented at the June 15, 2021 City Council meeting. Yet, the City expended taxpayer resources throughout July and hired a political firm, Praxis Political, to conduct a “public” process to garner input for drafting a City referendum which resulted in NO changes?

I firmly believe we all want what is best to protect these natural habitats. These places make Lake Oswego the special city that it is. The bottom line is our Citizens Initiative offers the best development protections while continuing to allow the City and our stewardship groups to perform their important work of preserving, restoring, and maintaining these natural areas and any existing infrastructure. And, make no mistake, the federal ADA laws ensure accessibility for everyone and is supported by the Citizens Initiative. It is important to protect every square inch and every tree in these natural habitats to care for the wildlife they house, the enjoyment they provide citizens, and to mitigate climate change.

Here is a comprehensive comparison chart that enumerates the similarities and stark differences in the development limitations within the Citizens Initiative and the City Referendum:

I encourage you to let the Citizens Initiative stand alone on the November ballot and reject the competing City Referendum. 

Best regards,

Scott Handley
Palisades Neighborhood
Love Lake Oswego Parks Committee
Resident since 2018″