Lake Oswego leaders encouraged by local election results
Leaders in various industries throughout Lake Oswego spoke highly of the local election results and appeared to have confidence in the next slate of elected officials.
After a tight race for the third seat on Lake Oswego City Council, Aaron Rapf took a lead over Melissa Fireside, with 19% of the vote (11,254 votes). Fireside lost by a slim margin of 632 votes, based on the latest numbers released by the Oregon Secretary of State's office.
The other two seats will be filled with Masenne Mboup and Rachel Verdick, who received 28% and 21% of the vote respectively.
Joe Buck won the mayoral race by a landslide over councilors John LaMotte and Theresa Kohlhoff, garnering half of the vote. LaMotte and Kohlhoff received 31% and 19% of the vote respectively.
"I think they'll put forth good effort and do what's best for Lake Oswego. I'm pleased with the results," said Kent Studebaker, whose eight-year stint as mayor expires at the end of the year, along with councilor Skip O'Neill (Lake Oswego limits mayors and councilors to eight consecutive years of service before they must step aside). "Joe has lived in Lake Oswego a long time so he certainly knows the culture. So I think he has the potential to be a very good mayor."
O'Neill, who's also been on the City Council since 2013, said he thinks the elected candidates are a great group of individuals who all bring unique skillsets to the table.
"I think it's a group that will work great together. Not one of them has a personality that will be overbearing or aggressive," O' Neill said. "My experiences have been nothing but awesome. When you become a councilor, you do learn how big the city is and how many people you don't know, and then you realize how fortunate we are to have such an exceptional staff."
O'Neill said he has high hopes the next council can successfully tackle the North Anchor project, the aquatic recreation center, diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) issues and work relating to House Bill 2001.
"I think Rachel (Verdick) has good experience in code and knowledge of code … I think that was an aspect I brought and John LaMotte brought to the council so I think it's good that Rachel will be there," said O'Neill, adding that he believes Rapf will bring strong financial skills to the council. "I think Massene will cover a lot of areas ... certainly he'll have great impact on DEI issues and Joe's been here in Lake Oswego for a long time and he understands Lake Oswego. I think he will be an easy guy to work with. Joe's a good listener, he's good at bringing people to consensus."
Major issues that came up during campaign forums — one was held by the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce and the other was held in conjunction with Respond to Racism and the Lake Oswego Sustainability Network — involved businesses and the economy, sustainability and DEI-related issues.
Liz Hartman, executive director of the chamber, said while some businesses are doing well, others are experiencing massive challenges amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Struggling businesses will continue to see hurdles after Gov. Kate Brown announced Clackamas County — along with eight other Oregon counties — would enter a two-week pause on gatherings starting Nov. 11.
"I think they are all very well aware of the impact of COVID on our community. I think they understand what the challenges are going to be," Hartman said. "I think we have an outstanding City Council coming forward and really expect very good policies from them and expect them to do great things for this community, the business community and the entire community."
Lake Oswego resident Terri Kraemer, who is also on the Respond to Racism Board, raised concerns she hopes the new elected officials will address.
Kraemer said there needs to be a way to have "real community dialogue" and "an actual exchange of ideas, thoughts and concerns with our leaders."
She said as it stands now, public comment during City Council meetings and one-off conversations are not enough.
Kraemer also said she'd like to see more transparency during board meetings.
"There's no transparency of the conversations that the city is having internally about equity and the bias incidents, and racism in general," Kraemer said. "We really would like to see transparency in the minutes of the meetings that the city and the boards have with respect to whether they're applying an equity lens to their decisions, and how."
She also hopes the incoming council will support adding new cultural events to the city's calendar, which was discussed at a recent council meeting next year.
"We're hoping that wasn't just information gathering but that they'll actually start to engage and partner with different groups in the city to share and host those events," Kraemer said.
She added that what she thinks is currently lacking on the council is a sense of urgency in addressing the community's history of racism, the increase in bias incidents and the current environment in Lake Oswego. She believes the incoming group will make that a top priority.
"There were some folks who were not elected that have been doing DEI work and have been on the journey to learn about and address racism and equity a lot longer than some who were elected," Kraemer said. "But I am hopeful because in our forum we asked the question 'Would you support establishing a permanent DEI Advisory Board?' The four new elected officials all said 'Yes.' So that's a good start."
Duke Castle with the sustainability network said issues relating to the pandemic, equity and climate change are all linked.
"You don't solve one without solving the others," Castle said.
Castle said he's thankful the current council passed the Climate Action Plan, but that the incoming council would need to accelerate the execution of the actions in the plan.
"Every candidate is on board with sustainability, not just as lip service," Castle said. "The feeling I got was some passion about it and that's very encouraging."
Castle added that Buck has been a big supporter of addressing climate change and equity issues and that it will be good to pass the mayoral torch down to a younger generation under Buck's leadership.
"I think it was a great slate of candidates across the board," he said.
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