Wednesday, February 27, 2013

LOCAL Group Calls Out Councilors On Their 4-3 Vote

To All COLA LO Members,

This week a local group has called out the councilors who voted to oppose spending $5k on a study of water rates under the LO Tigard Water Partnership.   

In an email to its members it stated the following:   

"However, a motion to move forward with this cost-benefit analysis failed in a 4 to 3 vote.  Councilors Gudman, Gustafson, Jordan and O'Neill voted AGAINST pursuing the cost-benefit analysis.  Mayor Studebaker, Councilors Bowerman and Kehoe voted FOR the analysis.
Why Did Councilors Gudman, Gustafson, Jordan and O'Neill Vote "No"?  Being unwilling to spend just $5,000 to analyze and confirm the financial impact to you via your water bill is not fiscally responsible, open and transparent, or respectful of citizens.  Some Councilors indicated they wanted more consultant bids or felt $5,000 was too little to spend on a review of a project of this size.  If that's the case, then the project should be put on hold until a more thorough analysis by an unbiased third party can occur.  But to continue to move forward, spending millions of dollars without fully understanding costs and the impact on ratepayers, would be negligent and not in keeping with LOCAL's values of fiscal responsibility and respect for citizens. We expect more of our City Council.

City government should be accountable first and foremost to citizens--not staff, construction companies, or other government entities."
However citizens have decided to fund the 25 hour study of water rates and their impacts and its anticipated that the results will be available at the next city council meeting on 3/5/13. 
It will be interesting to see what impact the details have on the councils vote for or against approving construction contracts for the project.   
Please notify all members, contacts, and friends.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

LO Tigard Water Partnership Issues Continue

To All COLA LO Members,

This past week the council voted 4-3 to not contract with a firm to conduct an audit of water rates stemming form the LOT project.     The vote surprised some citizens in the community who believed an audit of rates was a given with the concerns of utility bills within the community during the election last fall. 

It seems there may be different opinions on the eventual options with this project given the detailed agreement between the cities of Lake Oswego and Tigard.    The agreement for the project was approved by a prior city council circa 2007-2008 and has over 70 pages of conditions and requirements.
The next council meeting is set for 3/5/12 to review contracts for approval and discuss options in further detail.

It seems the project is becoming a political football as the new council delays a vote on approving contracts for construction in an attempt to review its options.  This is following the approval by West Linn of construction permits with many conditions and a $5.1 million payment requirement by the city to West Linn. 

Details can be found at Residents will pay?  and Council Votes No.  

Please notify all members, contacts, and friends.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Council Votes Down Audit of LO Tigard Water partnership 4-3

To All COLA LO Members, 

On Friday the city council voted down a proposed audit of the LOT partnership in a stunning 4-3 vote. 

Councilors Gudman, O'Neill, Jordan and Gustafson voted against the audit while Mayor Studebaker, and councilors Kehoe and Bowerman voted for the proposal.   

Its a stunning reversal of expectations.  Some of the details can be found here No LOT audit in 4-3 vote.  

Many are wondering what the next step will be in this ongoing issue given the project and its impact on citizens and their water rates.  

Please notify all members, contacts, and friends.   

Thursday, February 21, 2013

City Council to Increase Scrutiny on the LO-Tigard Water Partnership?

To All COLA LO Members,

The city council has scheduled an emergency meeting for Friday at 10am.    It appears the council will discuss contracting an outside auditor to review the LOT  Water Partnership.    

This is an interesting twist in the ongoing debate over the project and its costs.   The council delayed approval of $34 million in contracts this week in order to more thoroughly evaluate recent reports and conditions on the project.    

Some details can be found in the following:   Council considers audit  and Mounting Costs. 

Please notify all members, contacts, and friends.   

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Council Takes Unusual Step of Postponing Decision on Water Partnership

To All COLA LO Members,

Last night the City Council decided to postpone making a decision on moving ahead with the LO Tigard Water partnership until all of the additional information could be evaluated.     

City Staff had proposed that the council approve millions of dollars in contracts so the project could begin construction while engineering is approximately 60% complete.  

The council carefully questioned staff about the history of the project and the potential for additional increases in total cost.    After reviewing the details as part of the public process the council decided to wait on approving contracts until its next meeting in two weeks. 

Costs for the project have escalated dramatically over the past five years and are now estimated to exceed $250 million.   As such this would be the largest capital project in LO history.     One of the major issues has been the fact that with increasing water bills LO residents have dramatically conserved water use and reduced consumption by 30%+  over the past two years.  

 Given this information the council questioned staff on the need for the increased size of the facility and what the city would do with the excess capacity.    Staff is recommending that Tigard consider a greater share of the total project and its costs. 

Some details can be found in the following link:  Council Postpones

Please notify all members, contacts, and friends.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Council to Decide on Moving Ahead with LO- Tigard Water Partnership

To All COLA LO Members,

As reported earlier the largest project in the city's history may move forward based on the new council.    Details have been reported in the Oregonian this week at LOT Moving Ahead?

Please notify all members, contacts, and friends.    

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Citizens Concerned Over Largest Project in City History

To ALL COLA LO Members,

Last week several citizens published articles regarding city debt and the LO Tigard Water Partnership.   This is the largest capital project in the city's history with estimates of approximately $250 million and LO having an approximately 50% share of the venture.    

Citizen concerns can be found at Audit of LOT Partnership  and Looming Debt. 

 Both of which illustrate the issues surrounding the LOT water partnership and its costs.   Expanding the LO water system and plant which is located in West Linn seems to have little support form West Linn residents who openly oppose it as stated in No Benefit.

The city was waiting for a decision by the west Linn City Council which came last night and surprised many West Linn Approves.    However this approval came at a $5 million price with many conditions which represents 2% of the current estimated cost of the LOT partnership.   

Only time will tell if this project is approved but the costs continue to escalate as the city continues to spend funds on the overall effort and design.   

Please notify all members, contacts, and friends.   

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

COLA Board Members Continue to Publish Articles on Local Government

To All COLA LO Members,

Board members continue to be active in evaluating the actions of our local government over the past few weeks.   This is particularly important given the transition to a new administration and the negative bias that seems to appear in the media lately.  

COLA has reported the media bias against this administration as have other blogs.    However board members are taking a longer term view to evaluate the direction of the new council.   Board member Gary Gipson wrote an article indicating the Council is off to a strong start.  

Board member Dave Berg  published an article regarding the issues the new council needs to address this year in Will LO have a better future?   

Reader letters have been both critical of the council and supportive at the same time over the past few weeks Reader Letters  and Latest Reader Letters  which may be  a positive sign of citizen engagement.  

Generally the COLA board believes that the new council is acting consistent with the mandate given to it by the voters in the November election.    The election results have been universally interpreted as a mandate for change and fiscal restraint.    However we all need to continue to evaluate the decisions of the council to ensure accountability.   

A local author wrote a piece about the changes in local and regional government and the shift toward greater fiscal responsibility.   COLA was quoted in the article:

In Lake Oswego, Citizens for Local Accountability in Lake Oswego has emerged as an important voice for fiscal responsibility in the affluent community. COLA board member David Berg explains the recent sea change in city government.“Mayor Studebaker, Ms. Bowerman, and Mr. O’Neill were elected based on concerns over our debt going from 50 million to 157 million on the previous board’s watch.” Berg says that debt is expected to rise to as much as 300 million over the next three years because of commitments made by prior administrations.
Of the new council he says, “They may try and reverse these decisions, but may have no choice due to contracts signed by the previous two mayors.”  “Council focus should be on preserving community character and respect for citizens, says Berg. “This view of public service was entirely absent in the two previous administrations. That’s why they were voted out.”

The article can be found at Duly Sworn  and Duly Sworn II.

Please notify all members, contacts, and friends.  

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