27 Oct

NO SHOWS DESERVE A VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE

The problem with politics today is that people are too quick to categorize and dismiss instead of engaging in open, honest dialogue. That’s why, as a member of LOCAL’s leadership, I was disappointed that two candidates were no-shows to our sponsored debate – mayoral candidate Jon Gustafson and city council candidate Theresa Kohlhoff. In the case of Gustafson, his Facebook post makes the reason for his absence clear:

“I’ve had a few people ask why I am not participating in the “debate” being hosted by the Political Action Committee called LOCAL. While they claim to be a non-partisan group, LOCAL has a history of almost exclusively supporting Republican candidates. They also have a history of misrepresenting my positions. (To be fair, they did get one point right. I supported Streetcar and Foothills) For that reason, I don’t consider them an impartial organization… I’m going to skip this debate and knock-on-doors instead. Just wish me luck, because LOCAL took the last mayoral candidate with a vision for the future and had his head severed and placed on the back of bicycle that was about to be hit by a streetcar. Yikes!”

As a member of LOCAL’s leadership I’ve been trolled and labeled a part of the Tea Party, the L.O. Taliban, and a right-winged whacko by people who hide behind anonymity on the Internet and don’t know me. In reality I’ve voted for both Democrats and Republicans and did so on the current ballot. Furthermore, Gustafson might be surprised to discover that the satirical postcard that alarmed him – which involved something called Photoshop vs. a guillotine – was the brainchild of a registered Democrat.

When the Review characterizes Gustafson as “a constant reminder of the need to make sure that every one of us is heard” they ought to consider the addendum “so long as you agree with him.” In Kholhoff’s campaign literature she asserts she will “lead with an open heart to the needs of all citizens.” What about the needs of the audience faced with an empty stage?

My position is simple: that the most important issues facing our community involve fiscal responsibility and basic infrastructure – issues which are party-neutral. I agree with Gustafson on the importance of schools – but with a $187 million school bond looming, I am bewildered by his support for a streetcar, Foothills, and a fiber optic network. These are expensive, risky projects that will layer additional, untold tax burden on our citizens, including those on fixed incomes. I’d rather see the focus on so-called “affordable housing” – which Kholhoff also identifies as an area of concern – be directed towards the citizens who already live here by controlling the cost of living.

Jon is right about another thing: intolerance has no place in our City Hall. That’s why I hope voters will send a clear message to politicians whose “vision” excludes those not in lockstep with their positions. You’ll be receiving a lot of literature in the coming weeks filled with platitudes and beaming smiles, but what you won’t see are the cast down faces of those some would like to shut out of the process. We’ve already been to that movie and it was nothing short of a tragedy. It’s up to the voters to decide whether we go backwards or forwards between now and November 8th.

Rick Petry

28 Sep

City Election Contributions as of September 26

Here is a summary of contributions to the candidates for Mayor and City Council.
Mayor
Kent Studebaker has raised about $17,900. His biggest contributors accounting for 45% of money raised are: Erika Miller ($4000), Darrell Brett ($2000), David Ellis and Bob Packwood ($1000 each)
Jon Gustafson has raised about $14,500. His biggest contributors accounting for 29% of money raised are: The Coalition for Lake Oswego ($1200), Local 1159 Fire PAC, Bill Dickey and Jon Gustafson ($1000 each).
Dave Berg has raised about $3500. His biggest contributor is Dave Luck ($500) at 14%.

Council
Theresa Kohlhoff has raised nearly $15,900. Her biggest contributors representing 38% are: Theresa Kohlhoff ($5000) and Local 1159 Fire PAC ($1000),.
John LaMotte has raised about $12,900. His biggest contributors accounting for 85% are: Jennifer LaMotte ($10,000) and Local 1159 Fire PAC ($1000).
Charles Collins has raised about $8250. His biggest contributors representing 18% are: Charles Collins ($1000) and Jim Fulwiler ($500).
Skip O’Neill has raised about $1650. His biggest contributors representing 91% are: Local 1159 Fire PAC ($1000) and Darrell Brett ($500).

25 Jun

Citizen’s View: Tax increase may be needed if City doesn’t cut employees

As a member of the Citizen Budget Committee, I take the task seriously. I’m not sure all members of the Committee do. My Committee role I believe is to help provide the services citizens want at the lowest possible cost. That provides good stewardship of our tax dollars.
During a recent Committee meeting I made a motion to reduce our City employees by 2% a year for the next 3 years. My motion was defeated 5-8 with all the City Council and the Mayor voting against it. Let me explain my motion and why I believe it is very important to every taxpayer.
City headcount peaked at 363 in 2012/13. Since then it has dropped to 347, a reduction of 16 or 4%. But of concern is the plan for the coming fiscal year. The plan is to drop to 344.8 (from 347.3) a drop of 2.5. That seems good but it is not. There is already a drop of 3 in the Water Project as it winds down. But since the overall headcount is only going down 2.5 there is actually an increase – half an FTE. But half a person does not seem like much. But now let’s get to the rest of the story – cost per employee.
In 2011/12 an average City employee cost $108,000. For the 2016/17 budget the number has reached $131,800 an increase of $23,000 a year or 21%. Headcount is dropping slowly but our cost per employee is rising much faster!
Employee costs are over 80% of our City’s total budget. Benefits are approaching 75% of salary and are going to increase. PERS is expected to rise at 7% a year and healthcare is going up as well.
Our City is going to reach the point where taxes will have to go up to pay for employees. In fact, the City Manager hinted at this in one of his presentations to the Budget Committee.
We say we have needs – more street maintenance, park maintenance, etc. But we also say we do not have the money for these activities. Why don’t we have the money? Because our City leadership, the Mayor and the City Council, has not made cost management a priority.
Opportunities for cost reduction abound based on my experience in business. For example, the routine commodity work of cutting grass and trimming bushes could be outsourced (and partially are). Why does it make sense to spend over $130,000 a year for someone to cut grass (it may actually cost less depending on the salary of an individual employee)?
Talking to a member of a Board overseeing a City function, I learned that department managers will NOT take action to reduce costs unless told by the City Manager to do so. But why hasn’t the City Manager installed a cost reduction program?
Because our City Council and Mayor have not made it a priority. Look at their priorities for this year – is cost reduction there? Why not?
Some argue that any reduction in head count means a reduction in services. Such a statement demonstrates their incompetence. We could eliminate all doing job “x” and replace them with an outside firm; there would be no reduction in service.
By not initiating a cost reduction program, a tax increase will not be too far off.

Gerry Good
Published in The Review on June 23

24 Apr

Tax Clouds on the Horizon?

There is a tax storm coming. Can we get out of its way?
Our City costs are going to see a significant increase and we are not prepared. Several events outside City control are going to cause this increase. First, is PERS (the City pension plan) costs are going up and are going to continue to go up every year for the foreseeable future at a rate of about 7%. Second, healthcare costs are continuing to rise. Third, the State minimum wage increase is going to drive up wages for City employees. Employees are currently over 80% of our City costs so these changes are important.
The benefits we pay our City employees are going to exceed 70% of their salaries in the coming year. That means for every dollar in salary we pay we have to pay another 70 cents for PERS, healthcare, etc. That is far more than private industry. The average annual total cost of a City employee will be over $122,000!
But, we are doing very little to prepare ourselves for this coming storm. We are finding a dollar here and there to get by. We are deferring needed expenses for maintenance of infrastructure like roads and bridges. But these steps are not real fixes to the long term issue. They are akin to a “finger in the dike”.
We need a strong action program now to prepare the City for the future. It should include steps like these: (1) upgrade existing software systems to become more efficient (takes 1 person instead of 3); (2) outsource non critical services ( a person cutting grass costs us $80,000 a year ); and (3) cutback in non-core services (police, fire and water are core).
Our City Council says people expect a high level of service. But do citizens know: (1) what software systems are used and even if they do, does it matter; and (2) who is riding that lawn mower? If we gave citizens the choice of significantly higher taxes versus making the suggested changes, wouldn’t they say lower taxes?
Other cities in area have already made some of these changes – West Linn’s parks are maintained by an outside service, for example. Lake Oswego is one of only two cities in Clackamas County that has its’ own 911 service (we serve West Linn too); all other cities use Clackamas County’s service.
There are some cities in the U.S. that have very few city employees with almost all services outsourced. Why? Because they know that the costs are lower and that means lower taxes! No more PERS and other benefit increases.
We need leadership that has a horizon longer than one year. Leadership needs to think 3 – 5 years out and take action now to put us in a strong position for the future. We need leadership that is willing to address issues and layout the situation and choices clearly for our citizens.
Think about this for a few minutes. Doesn’t it make sense to be preparing ourselves now for the coming storm rather than hiding the problem?
There is an election coming in November. Who you vote for will have an impact on your tax bill. Ask every candidate how they will deal with the coming cost storm. It is your money that is at stake.

Written by Gerry Good and published in the Lake Oswego Review April 21, 2016. Gerry is a LOCAL director and a member of the Lake Oswego Budget Committee

21 Feb

Taking Issue with the City Q & A on Broadband

City says: Under the proposed agreement, network and ISP operation would be contracted out, and no staff would be added.
We respond: We sure hope there are no new staff required; but, how is billing to be handled, who will interface with the provider, who will handle citizen concerns?

City says: Fiber networks are the state of the art for high capacity bandwidth. Cell companies place limits on data usage.
We respond: Fiber may be state of the art today but will it be for the next 30 years? Just remember that 30 years ago cell phones were not an everyday thing and only voice was available. 5G cell phones are coming, probably by 2020. And DOCSIS 3.1 which Comcast is bringing to its entire network increases speed to gigabyte levels and expands bandwidth. It will be in L.O. by 2018. T-Mobile has no data charges.

City says: Phone and cable TV systems have physical limitations that limit their capacity compared to a fiber-to-the-premises system.
We respond: Phone lines are limited but the hybrid fiber/cable lines that Comcast uses in L.O. can be upgraded to DOCSIS 3.1 which will provide gigabyte speed capability and increased bandwidth that some say is comparable to fiber optic.

City says: The utility would be self-supporting and not subsidized by taxes. Only those using the service would pay for it.
We respond: Does this mean that if less than 35% sign up the charge will be raised to cover the cost? If it does mean that then the user cost may well be more than $60 a month and go up anytime more people drop the service. If the rates do not go up, then the City’s General fund has to make up the difference. Which is it City?

City Says: This service would not compete for resources with other city utilities.
We respond: This is ONLY true if the City makes users pay the full cost of the service! So, if it is true expect that as people drop the service your cost will go up, just like Comcast!

City says: Bandwidth used by all households has grown steadily at an exponential rate. This trend has held consistently since the first days of the Internet.
We respond: Certainly bandwidth usage has grown; however, fiber optic cable is not the only method of expanding bandwidth. DOCSIS 3.1 expands bandwidth for hybrid cable/fiber systems like L.O. Comcast lines.

City says: …current estimates are that the total cost for gigabit Internet service plus phone and video service would range between $80 and $146 per month
We respond: Video services like Yondoo cost about the same as Comcast because they use the same source for content. ESPN does not give a cheaper price to Yondoo. Yondoo pricing in Sherwood is similar to Comcast ($20 for 20 channels; $90 for 100). If the Internet costs $60 we do not understand how cable and phone could be only $20 per month. There are other alternatives such as Apple TV but these do not have live TV.

City says: Fiber is not like a water line that you can tap into. To provide fiber optic service to all Lake Oswego homes and businesses would take over 18,000 individual strands of fiber, as part of a network designed for a fiber broadband system. Except for Frontier’s FIOS system on the far western edge of Lake Oswego, no such network exists in the city.
We respond: Comcast already has L.O. serviced by a hybrid fiber/cable network (they need that to provide on demand services); Comcast has cable to any house that wants it. With the new DOCSIS 3.1 any house will be able to have gigabyte service if it wishes.

City says: Even if the City decides to proceed with the public-private partnership, the project would not go forward until signups (secured with a deposit) reached a threshold target to ensure the project would be financially viable.
We respond: A deposit is not a “guarantee” people will pay for 30 years or even one year. The City is going to sign a contract worth $71 million over 30 years. Shouldn’t the people who use the service sign a contract? Should the City absorb the cost if usage falls below 35% over the 30-year period? We think not. If only 20% are using the service, then it will cost the City $1,000,000 per year; yes, one million a year. The risk of technological change over the next 30 years is so great that this proposal makes it a significant financial risk for the City.

The LOCAL Board

04 Feb

Questions about City Fiber Optic Idea

We have watched the City Council study session on fiber optic to the home and have done some research and thought additional information might be useful for public consideration. Again, we will follow the question and answer format.
The market research indicated that 34.7% of those polled definitely would or probably would sign up for the fiber optic service. Does that mean it would be success? It depends. It is unclear, particularly looking at the open-ended responses, as to why people would sign up. Some of them may think that the $60 cost would replace their entire cable bill. Of course, that would not be the case.
Exactly what is the financial risk to the City? The answer, once again, is “it depends” because it depends on just how many households sign up. A 35% sign up rate would be about 5,950 subscribers. If only, 30% sign up, then the City must cover the shortfall in payments. At a sign-up rate of 30%, that translates to over $300,000 per year from the City to “subsidize” the fiber optic network.
Couldn’t the City just charge more to cover the cost? Yes, it could. The cost would go to about $65 per month for the City to break even if 30% signed up. If only 20% signed up the cost would go to about $85 per month for Internet service only; no TV, phone or security would be included.
How would the network be built? The City would sign a lease with an outside firm that would build and operate the system. It is estimated there would be about 150 miles of fiber optic installed with about 60% underground.
How does it get to my house? Attached to the fiber optic network would be “pedestals” each serving up to 8 houses. The pedestal would be in the “right of way” not on your property. A trench would then be dug from the pedestal to your property and through your property to the point where it enters your house. The fiber optic cable would be installed in the trench. Once inside the house a wireless (and wired modem/router) would be attached to the cable to transmit throughout your house.
What will come over the fiber optic network to my house? Nothing! You will have access to the Internet so you can get email and browse the web. That is it. If you want anything else, you will need to sign up for it and pay for whatever you sign up for.
What about television? Various television options have been discussed. There is Apple TV for example. But Apple TV gives you access to television that has already been broadcast and is available on the web. There has been talk about Yandoo. Yandoo is a substitute for your cable company and charges the same amount in general. Depending on what programming options you purchase, charges could be $150 per month or more. However, you do get live TV from Yandoo.
What about telephone? There are VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) providers that allow you to keep your current number and receive and make calls over the Internet. Cost depends on which service you choose.
What cities have done this? There was a lot of talk about Sandy where there is about a 60% sign up. When Sandy started, there was NO cable service in Sandy. Beaverton and Hillsboro have both looked at a fiber optic network and decided against it because of expense. Sherwood built a fiber optic network and it has cost the city a great deal of money (totaling in the millions), as the sign up goal for residences was not achieved.
But how can we get fast Internet if we do not do this? Cable companies like Comcast/Xfinity that have a network that allows on-demand service are adopting a new type of transmission called DOCSIS 3.1 that brings high speed (perhaps up to 2 gigabytes) over existing cable. Comcast has already installed DOCSIS 3.1 in two cities and says it will roll out to all their customers by 2018. DOCSIS 3.1 provides speed and bandwidth greater than current cable service. The City Council has not asked Comcast to meet with the Council and discuss their plans.
We need fast Internet don’t we? Again, it depends. Very few things we do today on the Internet need gigabyte service. Only very large files or games need that speed. Most homes will be just fine with speed of 500 mbps and more bandwidth.
What is LOCAL’s position on this? Each of you has to make up your own mind whether you want the City to provide fiber optic service and if it becomes available whether you will subscribe. However, here are some things you might consider:
• Is it right for other taxpayers to “subsidize” Internet for users if less than 35% sign up? We think that is an issue of fiscal responsibility. Internet is not like water (which the City does provide as a necessity). There are alternatives to current cable providers (such as satellite); should people make their own decision on what alternative is best for them and then pay for it themselves?
• Our City’s budget does not have a surplus and there are increases coming in PERS. Where will the City get the money to pay for any sign up shortfall for the next 30 years?
• The company that will do this for the City has never done this before; however, the contractor they will use has. Is that too risky?
• Do you want the right of way and your yard trenched to get this service?
• Are you really going to save any money in total?
• Do you really hate your current provider’s offerings (such as the channels they offer) enough to change providers? The market research said customer service was a problem but is your actual cable a problem?
• Do you really think that the price of any service will stay the same for 30 years?
• Do you think it will be a hassle to switch from your current provider and get the new one set up?
• What guarantee is there that fiber optic will not be an obsolete technology in the future?
• Should the City be competing with private, tax-paying enterprise to provide such services that are otherwise already available or will be in the foreseeable future?

The LOCAL Board

24 Jan

Is A City Fiber Optic Network a good idea?

On Tuesday, January 26th at 5:30 PM the City Council will hold a study session on establishing a City Fiber Optic Network. We thought you might need some information to understand the topic better.

What is a fiber optic network? It is a “cable” of sorts to connect to the internet. Because fiber optic uses light it is super-fast compared to “wires”. Once connected the entire internet is yours. The fiber optic lines operate at gigabyte speeds, very fast compared to most current cable wire lines. In addition, fiber optic also has more “bandwidth” which allows multiple users to operate at fast speeds concurrently.

What is involved in “building” a fiber optic network? Building the network requires “laying” a special fiber optic line throughout the City and straight to your house or business. This is a new and separate connection from your current “cable” line. The City will need to contract with a firm to build this new network. Currently, the thinking is that some of the lines will be below ground and some above. City code requires all new utility lines to be underground; this approach is not consistent with code.

What will be provided through the fiber optic network?
Basically, NOTHING. Yes, that is correct, nothing. Users will get what is referred to as a “dark” line. Users will have to make arrangements to get “content”. Content is all the things a user gets from a cable provider today – cable TV channels, phone service, and home security, for example.

Can I get rid of my cable company? Yes, you can but then you will need to set up your own arrangements for “content” because you will not have any content just a “dark” line to the internet. There are many ways to get content. For example, if you use Netflix that can be provided over the internet as it is now. But if you want HBO, you will have to sign up and pay for that to receive it. There are services such as Apple TV and Slingbox that will provide content but that device must be purchased, hooked up and paid for monthly. The current practice is for content “pieces” to be priced separately as they are now such as when you pay for HBO.

What will fiber optic cost? Currently, a price of $59.99 per month is being discussed. That price is for the “dark” cable only. What you would pay in total per month depends on what you choose to do to obtain “content” and how you do it. But you will certainly pay more than $59.99 per month if you want content or other services such as phone.

Can I get our local free TV stations? The local stations generally do not broadcast over the internet. To receive NBC, CBS, etc. you probably would need an antenna (remember those things on the roof?) to receive the signals over the air.

Can I keep my cable company? Certainly, you are not required to connect to the new fiber optic network. You could connect to the fiber optic network for internet access and keep the cable company for everything else. You would then have two “lines” coming to your house – one for internet and one for everything else. How this would work in your house depends on your home. You may need additional wiring, etc. Each situation will be different.

What are the benefits to the City? The City’s cost for network services will decline about $40,000 per year. The installation will be “free” to the City; currently the City pays for these services.

What are the risks to the City? The biggest risk is financial. While the contract has not been negotiated yet, it will very likely include a minimum payment to the provider if enough people do not sign up. Depending on what the contract says and how many people sign up the risk could be millions of dollars.

Is the city going to build and operate the fiber network? No, current plan is for the City to contract with a firm to build and operate the network. A new firm has been selected to do this for the City; it is an LLC based in Lake Oswego. The participants in the LLC have not been identified. This firm has never done this before but indicates they will contract with an experienced firm to build the network and operate it. We find it a bit unusual to have a middleman between the City and the contractor.

Who is going to “profit” from this? If enough people sign up there will certainly be profits made. City staff has indicated the profit will not be “excessive”. How do citizens know that? And who will the profits go to? We do not know but we should. Shouldn’t the City share in any profits?

Will the City have to hire more people to do this? The current approach calls for no new City employees.

Should the City be doing this? The answer is a matter of opinion. There are several levels of consideration.
• The technology is constantly changing. Fiber optic cable sounds good today but what is coming in the future that might supplant it? Who knows as there is discussion of all manner of things such as Wi Max (using a sort of Wi-Fi instead of cables).
• This is a competitive business. There are all types and forms of competition. Current cable companies are upgrading (Comcast will rollout gigabyte service to all customers by 2018). Satellite companies are innovating. Who knows what new competitors will emerge. Google is a potential competitor.
• The service provider chosen has never done this before. The provider has aligned with an experienced installation company but multimillion dollar financing is also needed and it is not clear how that will be obtained. The service provider is an LLC and the participants are unknown. All members of the LLC should be identified.
• The City has some challenges ahead and this could become a distraction. PERS is an upcoming financial issue, for example. Our streets need attention. There is no shortage of current issues.

Have other cities done this? Yes, other cities have done this with varying degrees of success and costs. Some states have passed laws to prevent cities from doing this. No clear listing of cities that have done this has been shared as of now. It has not been identified how cities that have done this recently approached it and with what results. The biggest example cited is Sandy, Oregon which did it 10 years ago. More current information is needed.

What is LOCAL’s position on this? Our role at LOCAL is mainly to provide you with information so you can make your own decision on matters like this. But, we are concerned that the financial risk to the City has not been clearly identified. One element sure to change if this is successful is franchise fees earned by the City (about $700,000 in 2015-16 for cable companies); they will likely decrease but how much is not clear at this time. We are concerned that the members of the LLC are unknown. Who will benefit from this? And we are concerned about the City entering into competitive arenas where it may not have the skills to compete. We believe it is in everyone’s best interest to take a careful approach and gather much more information before proceeding. The City Council should make a fully informed and wise decision, not a fast, ill-advised one.

City staff report available here: http://lakeoswego.granicus.com/MetaViewer.php?view_id=2&event_id=405&meta_id=18810

30 Oct

Storm (and not the kind that involves water) at Planning Commission

Monday, October 26 the Planning and Development Review Commissions held a joint work session to discuss the new Stormwater Code and Manual. It was, in a nutshell, a storm but not the kind that involves water. Once Staff provided its review the Commissioners went to work. In general their comments were in three areas.
TRIGGERS
There was general agreement that the “triggers” (those points that invoke complying with the rules) were too low. At a project of 200 square feet or more the starting point means almost every property making an impervious surface change will be included.Note it is a change, not an addition. So, if you replace your driveway you must comply.
Staff’s response was that the TDML requires this. Not true, in fact, the TDML sets no requirements with respect to square footage or triggers. Staffs own presentation stated that even MS4 (municipal stormwater permit) only requires projects over 3000 square feet be dealt with.
COST TO CITIZENS
The Commissioners are rightly concerned with the costs to citizens. If a project of over 200 square feet (such as a 10 foot by 20 foot new patio) takes place ALL the new stormwater requirements come into play. This could require hiring an engineer and/or a landscape architect to design the stormwater retention that is needed under the new code.
REQUIREMENTS
The proposal requires that “deed restrictions” (later corrected by counsel as Covenants) must be filed with the County and carried with the deed to ensure that the system is maintained. The details of the proposal were labeled as “onerous” by some Commissioners. One asked if there is no added impervious surface just replacement, why do we need requirements?”
CONCLUSION
Unfortunately, it appears most of the Commissioners comments fell on deaf ears. Staff replied to many comments with some form of the regulations require this. We sincerely doubt this. But the Commissioners asked for information which Staff did not have – what are neighboring communities doing? When this information is presented or sent to Commissioners, it will likely show that Lake Oswego has once again gone way beyond what others are doing. And that isn’t right is it?
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
We urge you to understand the issues and either write to the Planning Commission (PlanningCommission@LakeOswego.city) or go the meeting on November 23rd at 6:30 PM and make your comments in person (fill out a slip and hand it to the clerk). It is very important to make your opinion known.
What do you think? Leave us a comment here. Write a letter to the editor of the Review here:
http://www.emailmeform.com/builder/form/P6F64czlK9qVsdN0r2

26 Oct

New City Stormwater Regulations – A Storm Is Coming

Have you heard about the new City Stormwater proposals? Pay attention, it affects you!
This proposed new code and accompanying manual establishes a new City regulatory regime far tougher than the Tree Code or Sensitive Lands. You say how can that be?

Well, if you add a 200 square foot patio to your backyard, you would trigger the entire regulatory requirement of the new code. You could have to add rain gardens and other “mitigation” measures for stormwater to your property. And that could cost you thousands of dollars; all because of a new patio. But wait it gets better.

Let’s say you want to replace that stone driveway with asphalt or just repave your asphalt driveway which has been there for years. You have hit “Stormwater Bingo” and you won all the new regulations on you! Yes, that is what is proposed.

Want to remodel your house or add a room on – “Stormwater Bingo” winner again. You may have to retrofit your entire downspout system and put in a rain garden.

This proposal goes far beyond what the EPA and State regulations require, way beyond. For example, the EPA and State want stormwater requirements only if you create 3000 square feet or more of impervious surface. That definition does not even include most new houses. But In Lake Oswego we want to go further, much further and bring the requirement down to 200 square feet.

One of the things covered is “ground disturbing activities” whether or not a permit is required. The definition of ground disturbing activities is nowhere to be found. Guess that means City staff will be nosing around if you decide to change plantings or put a vegetable garden in your backyard.

Oh, and if you have stormwater things you must do according to the new code then you must have an Operations and Maintenance Plan and DEED restrictions filed with the county. Yes, a deed restriction must be filed about your “Stormwater Plan”.

Have the City staff and management gone crazy? Do they really believe all this is necessary? Apparently they do and they are bringing it forward for implementation as early as February of next year! Yes, that is correct – you could be subject to all this by next February.

You can read the new Stormwater Manual here:
http://www.ci.oswego.or.us/sites/default/files/fileattachments/publicworks/webpage/13614/lakeostormwatermanualdraft_august272015.pdf?t=1441995931841

The first work session with the Planning Commission is Monday October 26 at 6:30 PM.

The next meeting after that about the Stormwater Plan is a Planning Commission hearing on November 23rd at 6:30 PM

You can let the Planning Commission know what you think by writing them here:

22 Oct

Water Bills

There have been numerous complaints about “water bills”. These bills are called “utility bills” by the City. We’d call them City Fees. There are 5 components to the City bill:

  • Fixed water charges – all single residences pay the same amount
  • Water Usage charges – varies by amount of water in hundred cubic feet used
  • Sewer – a charge that is both fixed tied to how much water is used
  • Surface Water- a fixed charge for the storm water system
  • Street Maintenance – a fixed charge that goes to repair streets

But why have these bills gone up so much?

Source: Lake Oswego Master Fees and Charges 2015 Effective January 1, 2015

As you can see in the above chart and table in the past 10 years almost all charges have gone up and 3 of the 4 have more than doubled. Why?

Our past City Councils with their big spending programs have caused many of these increases by the decisions they made years ago. For example, look at the following chart and see how Wastewater charges jump (blue line). That is caused by the famous LOIS (Lake Oswego Interceptor Sewer). Bonds were used to fund this project – over $90 million of bonds! Did we need to spend that much?

Source: Lake Oswego Master Fees and Charges Effective January 1, 2015

The LOIS Project was very expensive and few alternatives were evaluated.

Then we have the brain child of former Mayor Julie Hammerstead – the Lake Oswego Tigard Water Project (LOTWP). It is building a Cadillac, a water plant with capacity of 36 million gallons per day. Lake Oswego’s average usage is less than 6 million gallons per day but Tigard is getting 18 million gallons per day. And Lake Oswego is paying 46% of the building cost!

At the same time, the City is increasing the cost per hundred cubic feet of water used. The first 800 cubic feet cost $2.62 per hundred cubic feet. Over 1700 cubic feet costs $7.06 per hundred cubic feet. If you used 5800 cubic feet of water in August as one of our Board members did your water alone would be $347.64.

Why has the cost per cubic foot of water gone up so much? The charts below show the water bills fixed and variable parts. Note that the fixed part began rising in 2011-12. This is when the LOTWP started! And the variable rates have been going up as well – even though we are using the same water and water plant in prior years. The reason – LOTWP costs.

 

This project was conceived under prior City Councils. Since taking office in 2012 members of the current Council have taken steps to reduce the ownership costs for the new water plant. But costs continue to be added to this project and the Council. At the October 6th meeting, the Council approved on the consent agenda another $500,000 in costs for the project!

How do we change this?

Unfortunately, not much can be done about these projects and your City Fee bills. BUT, we can change things moving forward. We can work to elect City Council members and a Mayor who will take charge of the City and stop all the spending.

Elections are coming in 2016!

Pay attention to who will pledge to stop the spending!