City Council Will Forward Competing Referendum


LAKE OSWEGO, Oregon – August 4, 2021 – Love Lake Oswego Parks Committee is disappointed to announce that on August 3, 2021, Lake Oswego City Council decided to forward a competing referendum to the November 2021 ballot.

“We’re disappointed City Council is forwarding this unnecessary referendum to the ballot and failing to listen to more than 4,700 citizens who qualified our citizens initiative,” stated Chief Petitioner Scott Handley. “It’s disappointing our elected officials continue to make false and inaccurate statements and mislead their constituents. The truth…our proposed Charter amendment was written precisely, deliberately, and intentionally based on many conversations where citizens’ expressed legitimate concerns and the need to limit development inconsistent with maintaining our natural parks as natural habitats. Why is that so hard for our City to accept?”

The City’s draft referendum was written by a few community members in early June and presented to City Council by City Manager, Martha Bennett, on June 15, 2021. At the July 6th City Council meeting, City Council recognized citizen initiative petition 2020IN-1 achieved enough qualifying signatures to go to ballot. Then, City staff was directed to expend taxpayer resources to conduct a “public process” to prepare a competing referendum.

The City hired Praxis Political to conduct outreach to the public and key stakeholders. Praxis claims 812 interactions through two 1-hour guided presentation/listening sessions (26), an online survey (355), phone polling (405), and outreach conversations with key stakeholders (26) — the LoveLOParks coalition was not invited as a key stakeholder. These interactions are not 812 unique Lake Oswego citizens, since an individual could participate in multiple mediums. Additionally, there was no attempt to verify that participants are valid registered Lake Oswego voters; the citizen initiative petition 2020IN-1 was certified with 4,433 confirmed Lake Oswego voters by the Clackamas County Elections Office.

Praxis Political also conducted a language test between the citizens initiative Ballot Title and the City’s proposed referendum Ballot Title — both of which are authored, by statute, by the local City Attorney. The citizen initiative Ballot Title was determined in December 2019 with bias and excluded important aspects of the full legal text of the citizens initiative. The City’s referendum Ballot Title exploits these deficiencies and is written favorably to garner a “yes” vote for the referendum.

On July 31, 2021, the Agenda Packet for the August 3rd City Council special meeting included Resolution 21-29, Natural Area Preservation Charter Referendum. Attachment 1A (pages 6-8) is the referendum’s proposed Charter Chapter X text. This text is nearly identical to the draft text presented on June 15, 2021 (Attachment 1, pages 5-7) before the City engaged in their rushed public process with Praxis Political. The only changes to the text: (a) revise the definition of Natural Areas to allow City Council to adopt a map of the “natural areas” of City parks within 60-days of ratification, and (b) remove the definition for the full legal boundary of Springbrook Park.

“It should raise some eyebrows that the City engaged a political firm at the expense of taxpayers to perform a rushed and biased public process that resulted in virtually no changes to the City’s referendum text,” stated Handley. “In fact, the only two changes made should cause concern that our natural parks could be segmented into developable and natural spaces, allowing for some development to occur within a natural park’s current boundaries. This validates the concerns of so many citizens and that our elected City Councilors are out of touch with their constituents. It’s why the citizens measure is necessary to limit development in our natural parks and why the citizens measure will win.”

Since both the citizen-initiated measure and the City’s referendum will both be on the November ballot, citizens are advised to vote YES for the citizen-initiated measure and NO for the City’s referendum. The measure with the most majority votes will be ratified.

Lake Oswego citizens who want to learn more and stay informed heading into the November election can visit the LoveLOParks website and subscribe to our newsletter.

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Love LO Parks is a Lake Oswego grassroots citizen coalition seeking to influence Lake Oswego’s city policy and regulations to legally and permanently protect our natural parks from future development while advocating for maintenance to preserve them as vibrant and healthy natural habitats for residents, visitors, and future generations to enjoy.