Lake Oswego City Council identifies list of goals for coming year
Lake Oswego city councilors took the first step Saturday toward crafting a set of goals for 2019 that is both strategic and ambitious.
The group gathered for nearly six hours at the Lake Oswego Public Golf Course, where they discussed, prioritized and ultimately voted on a number of issues that will come before the council in the coming year.
The list includes some familiar topics, such as road maintenance, park and pathway projects and sustainability, as well as some tasks that can't be avoided — like hiring a new city manager to replace Scott Lazenby, who has announced that he will retire on July 1.
But there are new goals too, including fostering better coordination and cooperation with the Lake Oswego School District and forming a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force.
"I thought we had a really good discussion about a number of issues," Mayor Kent Studebaker told The Review this week. "There wasn't any conflict, and we came to some pretty good understandings of how we are going to handle stuff."
According to Studebaker, the conversations that took place Saturday gave him confidence that this council — which includes two new members in Daniel Nguyen and John Wendland — has the gusto and acumen to get things done. In all, the council discussed and ranked 45 individual goals, many of which will be consolidated into broader topics. Others could be fodder for a series of work sessions with City staff throughout the year.
"The good news is we were able to categorize these goals according to how council rated them," Studebaker said, noting that several items drew near-unanimous support — finishing City Hall on time and under budget, for example, as well as completing the connection between Foothills and George Rogers parks and coordinating with the LOSD on a new intergovernmental agreement.
"I think it was a very positive meeting that allowed us to look at things carefully," Wendland said. "We were able to look at things from a broad perspective and come to an agreement on goals that will move the city forward."
Building consensus on some topics wasn't easy, Studebaker said. But the conversations that took place Saturday are the type of dialogue he wants to see take place in order to move the needle on some of the issues that require more thoughtfulness.
Among those, he said, are creating a new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion task force to address social issues at a city level, identifying a solution for working with the LOSD on a new pool and finding a permanent home for the Parks & Recreation Department.
But for the most part, Councilor John LaMotte said, the council was able to agree on how to attack most of the items they laid out as priorities in 2019, particularly in the areas of infrastructure, road and pathway improvements, planning and economic development.
"It seems that we're taking, overall, a more proactive approach to planning, development and infrastructure," LaMotte said. "I think that's one of our goals. Let's increase what we're doing improvement-wise with our paths and trails along our active walking and biking corridors. If there's an active corridor and we're not making those connections, we're going to get on that."
According to Councilor Skip O'Neill, the council also wants to complete the connection between Foothills Park and George Rogers Park — a project that will have wider implications for improving Lake Oswego's connection to regional trails and pathways.
"I think getting the three additional lots between Foothills and George Rogers Park is important," O'Neill said. "I was really excited everyone was in favor of that. I think we've been working on that for more than 10 years."
For LaMotte, one of the most exciting things on the council's new list of priorities is to get to work on implementing master plans for the Foothills and Southwest Employment areas, both of which he and fellow councilors agree are ripe for new development. Councilors also agreed that they'd like to see the city's score on the Pavement Condition Index (PCI) improve to 70 in the short term and to 84 in the long run by maintaining an emphasis on road maintenance.
Another goal that received a high rating on Saturday was working to acquire a project under Metro's new housing bond to address the issue of affordable housing in Lake Oswego.
Councilor Theresa Kohlhoff recently took the place of former Councilor Jeff Gudman as the City's liaison and representative on Metro's Policy Advisory Committee (MPAC). A champion for developing housing options, she says she will seek to bring some of the $122 million allocated to Clackamas County in the Metro housing bond passed by voters in November to Lake Oswego.
"When you're working with Metro, which is thinking in terms of the region, there are ways we can tap into their research and strengths and bring it home to truly be a liason or bridge," Kohlhoff said. "I'm very excited about working on the issues rising from being on those committees, specifically with Metro, where there's a lot of good activity. In the past, we've had nothing but antagonism toward Metro."
On social issues, the Council initially showed only lukewarm support for creating a City task force on diversity, equity and inclusion. But Councilors Jackie Manz and Daniel Nguyen were able to persuade their fellow council members to reconsider and, after a re-vote at Manz's request, the idea received almost unanimous support.
"I must give credit to my colleagues, who were willing to vote it onto our list of priorities," Manz said, "but particularly to Daniel who, as a person of color, explained what it's like to walk that walk in Lake Oswego. I'm delighted we're looking at this. Actionable is the only way this will work, hence the task force."
Now it's up to Lazenby to take the Council's prioritized list of items and categorize them into groups that will become the Council's official goals for 2019. He is scheduled to present a first draft of those goals at the council's regular meeting on Feb. 5.
"It was a very congenial discussion, and it's good to see the give-and-take as the councilors lobbied for their ideas, listening and compromising to reach support for each other's goals," Lazenby said. "This council works very well together. They're in agreement on those high-level goals and what needs continuing work."