How many Lake Oswegans can say they've dated a candidate for City Council?
After Monday night's candidate forum at the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, nearly 50 residents can now say they've had the honor.
While it wasn't exactly a "date" per say, residents of neighborhoods throughout the city did have the opportunity to "speed-date" the seven candidates who are actively vying for three open positions on the Lake Oswego City Council.
The forum, hosted by the First Addition Neighbors/Forest Hills Neighborhood Association, used a unique format that allowed small groups of residents seated at seven round tables to ask each candidate questions about their backgrounds, platforms and ideas for improving the community. Each candidate spent about eight minutes at each table, gaining valuable facetime with their prospective constituents.
"It was a really good format to get to know each candidate," said First Addition residents Candy and Ron Blash. "(Our neighbors) are concerned about development and infrastructure in our area, particularly regarding roadways and alleys."
At one table, the Blashes were joined by fellow First Addition resident Diane Hoobler for a discussion about topics that ranged from the North Anchor project to downtown development, parking, short-term rentals and road improvements. The neighbors agreed that the forum's format allowed them to really dig into the issues that matter to them specifically. They also noted that it gave them a better sense of the personality of each candidate, their background and why they'd be a good fit to represent their interests on the City Council.
"There is one candidate I would have never voted for, but now that I've talked to (them), I'd be willing to take home one of their yard signs," Ron Blash said.
Hoobler echoed Blash's comment, saying the forum changed her mind about a candidate she had previously written off because the intimate nature of the event allowed her to formulate a new opinion.
At another table, Gail Parrick, Corinne Strauser and Deborah Wilkinson picked the candidates' brains over issues like the construction of a new community pool, selling a portion of the municipal golf course and improving transportation. While many of the candidates have espoused similar views in their printed campaign literature and online, the trio agreed, hearing the small nuances of each candidate's stance proved helpful in clarifying where they stand heading toward the Nov. 6 election.
On the pool issue, candidate John Wendland told the group he firmly believes the community needs a new facility and that the City and the school district should work together to figure out exactly how to pay for and maintain it. Candidate Randy Arthur agreed, saying the current pool is not a good reflection of the community and that a capital contribution by the City to the pool's construction might be the way to go.
Candidate Massenne Mboup said he also supports the idea of the City chipping in to fund a pool, but he spoke against the idea of locating it at the municipal golf course or selling off a piece of the course to fund a Parks & Rec headquarters there.
Transportation was of particular interest to Joshua Nickerson, who recently moved to Lake Oswego with his wife, Angele Mott Nickerson, and their children. "I work near the South Waterfront and I ride my bike almost every day," he told the candidates. "Riding along Highway 43 is treacherous."
Nickerson received some consolation from candidates Daniel Nguyen and Donald Mattersdorff, who both agreed that improved transit to downtown Portland was an important issue. The idea of a bike path following the trolley line from Lake Oswego to the South Waterfront is intriguing, they said, but it brings with it a host of other complex issues around easements and land use.
Mattersdorff also talked about the proposed MAX line from Portland to Bridgeport Village, saying it could connect Lake Oswego to mass transit through the use of a local shuttle to both sides of town.
Jackie Manz, who is seeking her second term on the City Council, told Nickerson's table that one of her priorities is to whittle down a long list of capital improvement projects the City has committed to, especially ones that improve transportation and safe pathways for children to get to school.
Candidate Emma Burke discussed bringing a fresh take to City Hall by representing single and divorced parents in the community and encouraging parents of Lake Oswego schoolchildren to pay more attention to local government and its decisions.
Burke also told voters she's open to selling part of the municpal golf course and rearranging it into a 9-hole configuration while trying to find a permanent home for Parks & Recreation.
All seven candidates will have three more opportunities to share their vision with voters: The grassroots groups LO for LOve and Respond to Racism will co-host a candidate forum from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 8, at Lake Oswego United Church of Christ, 1111 Country Club Road; The Palisades Neighborhood Association will host a forum from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17, in the Rotunda Room at Lakeridge High, 1235 Overlook Drive; and The Lake Oswego Review will host its candidate forum from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, in the Community Room at the Lakewood Center for the Arts, 368 S State St.