Some people wonder why the City of Portland is putting in ‘red-light cameras’. The photos in this Lents Neighborhood story tell the tale …

Three badly damaged cars and several shook up occupants sort out the details of this accident on SE Woodstock Blvd. at the I-205 northbound exit ramp.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
First the good news: no one was seriously injured, at least enough to be transported to the hospital for treatment or evaluation. Everyone walked or limped away from this three-car pileup in Lents neighborhood, just east of the I-205 overpass on SE Woodstock Blvd. Some people call it SE Foster Road – but here where the lanes are split, Foster Road heads westbound only.

About 8:20 p.m., on January 26, one car didn’t observe the traffic signal – and plowed into two others. Officials didn’t say whether or not a citation was issued; because it wasn’t a “trauma injury” accident, this smash-up wasn’t investigated.

Although everyone walked away from this one – no one drove away. The cars looked pretty much totaled.

Officials say the two intersections just east of the I-205 overpass at SE Woodstock Blvd. (eastbound) and SE Foster Rd. (westbound) have the highest number of red-light violation crashes recorded in Outer East Portland.

Another ‘red light camera’ to come
Outer East Portland’s #1 crash spot – SE Foster Road/Woodstock Blvd at 96th Avenue – racked up 53 red light crashes in four years. PDOT officials said the project was in the “beginning the design phase” last spring.

“It’s true,” said a police officer on scene at this crash. “This intersection is well marked and well lit. There are good site lines. I really don’t know why people run the red lights here so often.”

Although we don’t know “the why” a driver went through a red light – but “the what” is obvious when one looks at the debris from this accident’s wreckage strewn around the intersection.

“No matter how much of a hurry you’re in,” the officer advised, “obey the traffic signals and maybe you’ll save your life.”

No matter whose fault it was, the result is the same – bruised up, angry people and wrecked cars.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

One didn’t need to speak Vietnamese or Chinese to enjoy the Lunar New Year party at Midland Library. Take a look at this colorful event …

With a packet of “lucky money” in hand, Midland Library bilingual youth librarian Ann Tran welcomes everyone to the Lunar New Year celebration.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
“X?nnián kuàilè,” Chinese friends greeted one another – and Vietnamese folks said, “Chúc m?ng n?m m?i” – at the Lunar New Year party at Midland Library on January 27.

“Welcome to our festival,” was how Ann Tran, a bilingual youth librarian at Midland Library, greeted us. “The Vietnamese people call the celebration T?t Nguyên ?án.” We learned this is Sino-Vietnamese for “Feast of the First Morning” [of the New Year].

Ethan and Arianna Campero work with crafts, with the help of library assistant Ann Huynh.

Jessie Seah holds little Shaelyn, dressed in traditional garb, while enjoying the festivities.

It’s important to hold this event, Tran said, because it brings the community together. “At this library branch, we serve a very diverse community. One reason for this event is to attract Vietnamese and the Chinese patrons into the library. Another is to allow everyone to celebrate our diversity, and learn about other people’s cultures.”

Orchids and Bamboo Quartet play both Chinese and Vietnamese music at the event. The group is a favorite at the Classical Chinese Garden in downtown Portland.

David Dahl plays the danbau, a single string Vietnamese instrument.

A European gentleman we met, David Dahl, demonstrated his skill at playing a single-string Asian instrument – the Vietnamese danbau.

“It’s played by plucking the string, and moving a tensioning stick. I found a good teacher, and have been playing it since 2003,” Dahl said. “You can tune it to whatever key in which you want to play it. Right now it’s tuned to C. if I play it without stopping, it’s low C; if I stop it and pluck it, it sounds high C.”

Expressively reading a special “Story Time” picture book is Cherry Chan, a Chinese bilingual library assistant.

In addition to “Story Time”, kids played a matching game, made crafts, and participated in some of the performances. The feasting during the evening was upon American treats – chocolate chip, Snickerdoodle, and oatmeal cookies.

These young ladies from the group Auco enchanted the audience with their graceful movement.

These little Auco dancers were the hit of the celebration.

We wish all readers, “an khang th?nh v??ng” — security, good health, and prosperity in 2009!

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

As flames licked out the East Portland house’s windows, brave Officer Gedemynas Jakubauskas did something that makes neighbors say, “this man is an honest-to-goodness hero” …

This photo – taken by the Portland Fire & Rescue’s Dick Harris, just after firefighters knocked down the blaze – shows how serious this situation truly was.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It was bitter cold, at 6:20 a.m., when Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) was alerted to an East Portland house on fire on January 26.

Crews reported they could see the column of smoke from a half-mile away as they rushed to the blazing house at 11341 SE Division Street. Bright orange fire and thick, black smoke belched out of the white clapboard home’s front windows.

Victims of the fire were lying in the front yard as crews pulled hoses and started attacking the fire. It took more than ten tense minutes for firefighters to bring the roaring blaze under control.

It was dark, and smoke was down to the two-foot level, when an officer crawled through this garage to find and rescue a woman who had passed out in the burning house.

Heroic cop doesn’t wait
Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Officer Gedemynas Jakubauskas, 43, was the first on-scene and called for help. One by one, Jakubauskas saw people who lived in the burning building crawl out of the house.

“Most of the occupants had escaped; one told the officer that a woman was still in the basement,” reported PF&R spokesman Lt. Allen Oswalt. “The officer crawled through the garage, through the smoke, entered the house, and located the woman at the top of the basement stairs.”

The woman didn’t respond when Jakubauskas called to her and took her arm, Oswalt told us. “He had to drag her from the burning building to a safe area in the front yard. Once in the front yard he was met by firefighters who took over medical care of the patient.”

Everyone involved in this fire says this man, East Precinct Police Officer Gedemynas Jakubauskas, is a genuine hero.

Shows courage and valor
East Precinct Night Sergeant David Galladay arrived on scene as Jakubauskas was pulling the 44-year-old woman to safety. “He was covered in soot, especially on his hands and face,” Galladay told us later. “He’d taken quite a bit of smoke, and the fire crew gave him oxygen.”

About Jakubauskas’ actions, Galladay said, “He put aside his personal safety to save another life. This action shows his courage and valor.”

In all, eight people were taken to Portland Adventist Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation, including two adult males, three adult females, two children, and one brave cop – Officer Jakubauskas.

PF&R Firefighter Specialist Jim Weitzel, working with the Station 7 Truck crew, helps overhaul the fire.

This pile of rubble was all that was left of the contents of this home, which fire inspectors said burned because someone had carelessly disposed of ashes.

Live ashes blamed for fire
Later, Oswalt told us that fire investigators from the Bureau determined that this house fire was caused by “ashes from a fireplace, disposed of improperly. It appears that one of the occupants put ashes from the fireplace in a cardboard box, and left the box in the living room.”

Firefighters recommend that ashes from any source, whether it be a fireplace, a grill, or anything else, be placed in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Then stir in water and put the container at least 10 feet from anything that will burn, Oswalt urged.

Workers from Multnomah County Animal Services say they cared for three dogs from the residence while the occupants were getting medical attention.

Don’t make these mistakes
Handling ashes and coals improperly results in several tragic fires every year, the Fire Bureau spokesman said. He advised residents not to make any of these three common mistakes:

  1. Assuming the ashes must now be cold. Coals can stay hot for a day or more!
  2. Putting the ashes in a plastic bucket or cardboard box – always use a metal container with a lid.
  3. Putting the ashes in the garage or on a deck – instead, put them outside, away from anything that will burn.

Firefighters recommend that ashes from any source, whether it be a fireplace or any other source, be placed in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid, and placed outside at least 10 feet from anything inflammable.

SE Division Street just east of SE 112th Avenue was closed during rush hour traffic on January 26, while firefighters fought the blaze and worked to save the occupants’ lives.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

See why all of these DDHS students were moving and grooving to that funky boogie beat before hundreds of cheering fans …

David Douglas High School dance teacher, Lynette Velasquez, welcomes the crowd to this semester’s dance recital. Behind Velasquez is her husband, Dan, serving as the evening’s deejay.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Hundreds of family members, friends and students lined the bleachers at David Douglas High School’s south gym, waiting for the latest end-of-the-semester dance recital – entitled “Takin’ It Back to the Old School“, as it was about to get underway on January 14.

“In addition to being a fun show,” Lynette Velasquez, the DDHS dance teacher, told us before the show, “this program is also theifinal exam for the dance class students. It is a good opportunity for the kids to perform, and show their parents, friends and family what they’ve learned.”

The “Tams Alumni Dancers” perform as the warm-up act at the program.

Performing “September” in front of the large audience are student dancers Katryna Dellsite, Cassie Hamann, and Morgan Williams (but perhaps not in this order).

188 students are involved in the program, Velasquez said – adding that she feels that studying dance enhances their educational experience.

“The arts are integral to a good liberal arts education,” the teacher opined. “It gives kids the self confidence that so many are often lacking. It gives them the ability to stand up in front of a group of people and present themselves.”

Whooping it up to “Space Jam” is this large group of dancers, led by teaching assistants Myriah Greenhalgh and Tarissa Maxwell.

In addition to helping young people appreciate more dimensions of school than simply book learning, Velasquez added that dance is good physical and mental exercise. “Dance uses mathematical concepts; all dance numbers are built on mathematical principles. We also use geometry; talking about parallelograms angles and other geometric shapes.”

As we watched the performances, we agree with Velasquez’ final comment: “Dance brings together the head and the body, and helps make a complete student.”

In his solo performance of “Make it Work”, student dancer Joe Zhao gets the crowd going with his robotic, animated style of boogie.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Find out why about 20 police folks – including the commander – are sporting a very short hairstyle now, in the dead of winter …

His son Tanner, Deputy District Attorney J.R. Ujifusa, his daughter Grace, and freshly “cropped” Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs watch, as other officers participate in “Gracie’s Crop-A-Cop” fundraiser for Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Community Room took on the appearance of an Army recruit processing center barbershop on the afternoon of January 26. East Portland cops, and officers from other jurisdictions, walked in with a full head of hair – and walked out with a close-cropped buzz-cut.

“We’re calling it ‘Gracie’s Crop-A-Cop’,” explained the Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney stationed at East Precinct, J.R. Ujifusa. “My daughter, Gracie, was diagnosed with leukemia in August. The chemotherapy caused her to lose her hair.”

Fortunately, the treatment was successful, Ujifusa said, holding his daughter – who sported an almost-too-large for her cap. “Thanks to her treatment at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, now she’s doing great.”

This “Crop-a-Cop” event, put together by East Precinct Sergeant Deb Steigleder, gives friends, family members, and officers the opportunity to support Gracie’s recovery by shedding their locks, the organizer said. “And, it’s a fundraiser for Doernbecher.”

Becky Martin from Salon Ambience prepares SPI Detective Teresa Uttke for her new hairstyle.

Detective gets clipped, again
We missed Commander Michael Crebs’ and Lt. Anderson’s haircuts, but we were there to witness Special Property Investigations Detective Teresa Uttke – yes, a female – join the men in getting a new, low-maintenance hairstyle.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve done this,” Uttke told us as she moved to the shearing chair. “I did this back in 1997 and 1998. I think this is for a very good cause.”

The room suddenly feels a bit cooler to her, as Detective Uttke loses her locks.

In addition to her own $10 donation, we learned that Uttke was submitting to the tortuous tonsorial treatment to fulfill $846 in pledges.

“You look at that little girl, and your heart melts,” Uttke said softly, as Becky Martin from Salon Ambience got ready to buzz-cut her next customer.

In all, Sergeant Steigleder reported that the event raised $5,000 for the children’s hospital.

Detective Uttke proudly shows off her new ‘do – actually, the lack thereof – and joins the ranks of some 20 others who also wanted to support Gracie’s campaign for Doernbecher.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

If you haven’t been to a concert given by the East County Community Orchestra, here’s what you’ve been missing …

Filling the auditorium stage are musicians of all ages, who play for the East County Community Orchestra.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The auditorium at the Horner Performing Arts Center at David Douglas high School was nearly filled to capacity, as the lights went down and the curtain opened – revealing the members of the East County Community Orchestra, on January 16.

The Winter Concert began as director Jack Mahoney raised his baton and the orchestra played a rousing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. The some-60 players then entertained their audience with the snappy “Emblem of Unity March”, composed in 1941 by Joseph Jon Richards.

Next they presented a classical work: The overture to the “Prince Igor” opera. Music lovers were also treated to the music of George Gershwin, the lively “Clear Track Polka”, the well-known bossa nova song “The Girl from Ipanema”, and other orchestral tunes.

Yes, that’s Dr. Howard Horner, the retired David Douglas Schools Superintendent for whom the auditorium is named, tooting out his bass-line part on a Sousaphone, as the orchestra plays a march.

Alto saxophonist Juan Gregrio is the featured soloist for the great jazz standard “Time after Time”.

Stepping up to the front as the concert continued was alto saxophonist Juan Gregrio, playing the jazz standard written by Sammy Chan and Jule Styne “Time after Time”. Additionally, trumpet soloist Ray B. Johnson was featured in a song that he wrote and arranged, “I Remember Howard”.

During the intermission, we asked the orchestra’s conductor, Jack Mahoney, how he picked music the program.

Picks both challenging and popular tunes
“We try to play music that’s interesting for the musicians, and also has audience appeal,” Mahoney replied. “The ‘Prince Igor’ piece was perhaps a ‘little heavy’ on the classical side for some of our audience, but they were polite. I must tell you, we had a ball playing it; the performance was very enjoyable for us. The rest of the music we play is light. We want the audience to enjoy the concerts.”

Jack Mahoney conducts the East County Community Orchestra.

The orchestra is an all-volunteer organization, Mahoney noted, made up mostly of retired professional musicians. “Our oldest player, our first-chair clarinet, is 93 years of age. The youngest one is 17 years of age – a violinist, Kenneth Hangartner; he’s home schooled – this is a good musical experience for him with a large group.”

The orchestra is good for the community in two ways, Mahoney concluded.

“It gives our mature musicians a way to remain active; music is a wonderful outlet. They all enjoy the congeniality. They all come every week to practice, and never miss a session,” the conductor said, with a coda, “and we bring the community together to enjoy good music.”

Take a bow! Look for the Spring Concert of the East County Community Orchestra, coming up in June, in our Community Calendar listings. The concerts are free; the organization is supported by donations.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

The bad weather didn’t keep this hearty group of businesspeople from having a good time. Catch up right here on what’s happening with this group…

Music provided by the Parkrose High School Debonaires is a tradition at the Parkrose Business Association’s year-end event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Members of the Parkrose Business Association (PBA) honored several of their own for their outstanding work and participation during 2008, celebrated at a holiday event, and were filled in on the state of their organization, at their December and January meetings.

This year, PBA members held their holiday event on December 13. As has been the tradition, the Parkrose High Debonairs serenaded members and guests during the no-host cocktail reception in the atrium of the Holiday Inn Airport.

No one went away hungry – diners agreed the food was delicious and plentiful.

Before they sat down for a gourmet buffet dinner in the Salon, members bid on a variety of services and items offered in a silent auction. The auction brought in a total of $1,314.

PBA Awards presented
Following the dinner, several members were presented with awards to recognize their service to the organization during the year.

LeeAnn Bruner of LA Signs accepts a special award from Marcia Lee, outgoing Parkrose Festival & Cruise-in chair.

Marsha Lee presents David Ableidinger of Parkrose hardware his own Festival trophy award.

After seven years of working with the Parkrose Cruise-in – and last year’s Festival – Marsha Lee announced that she was stepping down as the event’s chairperson.

Before she did so, Lee took time to honor two individuals who she said were “an integral part of the event for each of the seven years.”  First, LeeAnn Bruner of LA Signs was called forward, and then David Ableidinger of Parkrose Hardware.  Both were presented special awards.

President’s Awards
Next up was PBA’s outgoing president, Michael Taylor, who gave two special awards to members whom he said “stepped up and did even more than they were asked to” for the association and at their sponsored events.

2008 PBA President Michael Taylor of ACE Academy presents Terry Brier of Davey Organicare the President’s Award.

Michael Taylor presents Joe Dowd of Junk Away Hauling the President’s Award.

2008 Artie Johnson Award

Last year’s Artie Johnson Award winner, Marcia Lee, introduces the 2008 awardee, Wayne Stoll of Argay Square/Century Associates.

Marsha Lee stepped up and announced that Wayne Stoll, with Argay Square/Century Associates, would be named as the 2008 Artie Johnson Award winner. “The Artie Johnson Award symbolizes selfless dedication and a high level of dedication to the organization,” Lee said.

For the first time that many could recall, Stoll was speechless. Regaining his composure, he told the group that the lady for whom the award is named meant a great deal to him when he first joined the PBA, and until her passing.

“Wayne, this organization appreciates all that you do,” Lee said, “just as you appreciated those same qualities that you found in Artie.”

Karl Lind Award

Michael Taylor presents Rex Hollingsworth the 2008 Karl Lind Award.

As is the organization’s tradition, the 2008 Karl Lind Award was presented by the previous year’s recipient, Michael Taylor.

The Karl F. Lind Award is given to a member of the community who has given countless hours of volunteer time, is known for personal integrity, and has become an integral part of the Parkrose community.

Taylor called up Rex Hollingsworth, with Rex Heating and Air Conditioning, saying, “Rex has been a tremendous supporter in the Parkrose community. His contributions toward our foundation’s scholarships include sponsoring the Parkrose Festival, and the Cruise-in for many years – providing money, time, and energy, and helping out in so many ways.”

As Hollingsworth received his award, he announced that he would again be the Event Sponsor for the 2009 Parkrose Festival.  His wife, Debbie, won the 50/50 drawing, and proved to be as generous as her husband; she donated her winnings to the Parkrose Foundations Scholarship Program.

Outgoing PBA VP Michael Taylor gets the President’s Gavel award from past president, Mark Eves.

New PBA president named
PBA Past President Mark Eves, of Eves & Wade LLP, called up Michael Taylor. He reminded the group that 2008 started with Michael Taylor as the PBA’s Vice President, but he was asked to take on presidential duties soon after the year began.

“Mike, you’ve fulfilled the duties of the office of President most admirably. We thank you,” Eves said as he gave Taylor the Outgoing President’s Gavel award.

Michael Taylor welcomes the organization’s president for 2009, Wayne Stoll.

With that, Michael Taylor announced that Wayne Stoll would return as the PBA president for 2009.

“It is an honor to represent – and, honestly, to brag about – the PBA to City officials, and folks from other business associations,” Stoll said. “It’s an honor to follow in the footsteps of people like four-time PBA president Bob Brown. The fact that members stay, and are willing to be president more than one time, shows that there are some good vibes going on here.”

Introducing the 2009 PBA officers: President Wayne Stoll, Century Associates; VP David Walmer, Quality Inns & Suites; Secretary Mary Brown, Bob Brown Tires; and, Treasurer Marsha Lee, Copy Express.

Guests are welcome at the PBA
Come meet the members at their next meeting. It’s is on February 19 at 11:30 a.m. at their new location, Holiday Inn Airport, 8439 NE Columbia Boulevard (in the hotel building, around the back at the Flirt’s entrance – not the Convention Center next door). For more information, see their web site:

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

With national restaurant chains coming and going, find out why families, sports clubs, and groups keep Pizza Baron going …

Read the rest of this entry »

Here’s an update on what they’re doing about the aging Sellwood Bridge …

At the January 5 meeting, Multnomah County Commission Chair Ted Wheeler tells the CTF members, “You’ve spent 2½ years on this project. I convey my, and the Board of County Commissioners’ gratitude for the initiative you’ve undertaken. This is a very complicated project; one of the largest transportation projects currently being contemplated on the West Coast.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
After over two years of sometimes contentious meetings, studies, public testimony hearings, and several surveys, the twenty-member all-volunteer Sellwood Bridge Community Task Force (CTF) decided on a recommendation of a locally-preferred alternative for a new bridge’s alignment to present to project’s Policy Advisory Group in its meeting on Friday, February 6th.

The Policy Advisory Group, a blue-ribbon committee of regional public figures, is the panel officially charged with making the actual recommendation; the CTF decision is simply advice, and is not binding.

Many thought the CTF would make a decision after their three-hour meeting in the OMSI auditorium in January 5th, a session that drew only about 55 citizen observers. Because the task force simply narrowed the choice to two options, Alignment D and E at that time, it reconvened on January 19th at the same location to try to make a final selection.

Photos being held aloft are of individuals who wanted to “be heard” – or at least, seen.

Public comments on two alternatives
Both meetings began with time offered for people attending the meeting to share their concerns with the task force, and comment on the bridge project’s draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). In the earlier meeting, a handful of citizens testified; two weeks later, more than 20 people asked to be heard.

There was little comment regarding technical bridge building issues. Instead, citizens explained why they favored one or the other of the two alternatives still on the table: “Alignment D” – rebuilding the bridge where it now stands – and “Alignment E”, which would build a new bridge to the north of the current structure.

No one on either side championed a bridge providing three or four lanes of vehicle traffic; instead all were asking for a “Skinny D” or Skinny E” alternative.

David Noble, the Executive Director of the River View Cemetery, says he’s concerned about the geological stability at the bridge’s current west side alignment.

‘D’ said to negatively impact condo owners
Many of those who testified on behalf of Alternative E were residents of Sellwood Harbor Condominiums – located just south of the east end of the bridge. They decried the fact that Alignment D would slice up to four units off two of their buildings to make way for the construction. Many residents commented that they now “couldn’t sell their unit if they wanted to”, due to uncertainty about the bridge project.

Condo resident John Holms noted “We all own an undivided interest in our development; removing units hurts us all. [Former Multnomah County Commissioner] Maria Rojo de Steffey told us she was not in favor of the current alignment.” Barbara Sloop added that she’s lived at Sellwood Harbor for 18 years and doesn’t want it to move. “People are important. I feel helpless.”

David Noble, the Executive Director of the River View Cemetery, said he was concerned about maintaining access to their grounds. “I’m concerned that the DEIS points out the instability of the west side, geologically. I don’t understand building a bridge in the same, unstable place it is now. Put the west end [further to the north] on stable ground.” The County proposes to stabilize the west end of a rebuilt bridge on the same spot with the use of a cofferdam.

More than 200 neighbors crowded into the OMSI auditorium to express their opinions about how – and where – to rebuild the Sellwood Bridge.

Neighborhood organizations rally to support Alternative D
Those who commented against Alignment E raised concerns that a northern alignment would negatively impact Oaks Pioneer Church and Sellwood Riverfront Park, and would impact more residential units and business properties than Alignment E.

In a letter to the CTF committee dated January 18, the Board of the Sellwood Moreland Improvement League (SMILE) unanimously endorsed Alignment D as the preferred option for the future Sellwood Bridge, citing protection of the Tacoma Main Street Plan. Further it stated, “… any replacement bridge [should] be a two-lane configuration.”

This letter also stated: “While the board sympathizes with the position of the owners of property potentially affected by option D, it should be noted that the need for a replacement for the bridge predates the construction of these properties and had been widely publicized, so that these impacts were a foreseeable event. ”

Eric Miller, with the Sellwood Playgroup Association, gives his public comment.

Absent citizens make their feelings known
At the January 19 CTF meeting, Eric Miller, with the Sellwood Playgroup Association, was the first to publicly testify.

“Many families who have small children who are unable to come to the task force meetings because of dinner and early bed times,” Miller began. “I’d like people to hold up their posters. These photos are of faces of people who could not make it here tonight.”

Around the sides and back of the room, photos of a hundred individuals – and one dog – went up. “They wanted to make their faces seen, their message heard. The message they are saying is ‘I support the current alignment, and, I do not support Alignment E’.” Individuals not holding photos held up yellow signs with the same message.

Many audience members testified silently by holding up signs supporting Alignment D.

After handing a document to CTF members, Miller continued, sympathizing with people who “live near the bridge” who he felt were suffering financially or from the stress of uncertainty. “And, there are also many, living in [the path of] the [proposed] northern alignment would also suffer. I think would be best for all of us not to delay; but to move at appropriate speed toward making necessary decisions.”

As applause and cheers broke out, CTF facilitator Elaine Cogan admonished the observers to be respectful of limited time allowed for the meeting.

Pat Hainley, the Treasurer of SMILE, the Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League neighborhood association, was up next, and echoed the sentiments expressed in their organization’s letter. “I’m a lifelong resident of Sellwood. Some of the people who serve on this [CTF] committee have expressed concern that the neighborhood hasn’t sufficiently expressed our desires to you,” he said as he looked at the sea of yellow signs still raised around the room.

Each for their own reasons, many more participants followed, expressing support for the “Skinny D” Alternative.

Although comments from proponents of both alignments were interspersed throughout the hour-long comment session, the overall tone of the comments was relatively cordial, except for an individual who testified, “People who want Alternative E are disingenuous. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” This remark was not kindly received by many people in the room.

As the public comment period ended, the crowd of as many as 200 people thinned out to about 70 and the committee began its deliberations. Committee members asked questions of staff experts and of one another.

Sellwood Bridge Community Task Force members vote by placing stickers on placards.

Voting by stickers
Cogan directed the attention of the group to four poster boards on easels and asked them to cast a “straw vote” for their preferences regarding the proposed bridge’s east and west side connections, cross section (width) and finally, alignment path.

After further discussion and a second vote:

  • Task force members unanimously chose a traffic-signal-controlled intersection for the bridge’s westside connection, instead of a “roundabout”.
  • At the eastside connection, the majority voted to recommend installing a bicycle/pedestrian traffic signal on S.E. Tacoma Street at S.E. 6th Ave. over a Grand Avenue extension, or else leaving it as it currently is.
  • The majority of members first voted for Alignment “D”; this choice gained picked up more votes in the second round, and became the CTF’s recommended alignment.

In the end, the CTF did not decide whether to recommend the Sellwood Bridge on Alignment D be 64′ or 75′ wide. Both widths would provide bike lanes and pedestrian walkways. The narrower structure would provide two vehicle traffic lanes, the wider version could potentially accommodate three lanes for cars and trucks.

CTF facilitator Elaine Cogan tallies up the first round of voting.

Again, the locally-preferred alternative recommended by the Community Task Force is advisory only, and is not binding on the blue-ribbon “Policy Advisory Group” which now must deliberate the alternatives and make a final recommendation — which must then be adopted by Multnomah County, the City of Portland and Metro, before the Federal Highway Administration can issue final approval.

The Policy Advisory Group will meet at the Multnomah County Building, 501 S.E. Hawthorne Boulevard, on Friday, Friday, February 6th, at 3 pm in the County Boardroom. The meeting is slated to last two hours, and to allow some time for public comment.

Sellwood Bridge March on January 31
In the meantime, in advance of the PAG meeting, an independent group of Sellwood neighbors were planning a march on Saturday, January 31st, according to organizer Andrew Cohen. “We’re hoping that the voices of concerned Sellwood residents regarding safety, and supporting the current alignment, are heard,” he said after the meeting. Cohen confirmed that their group obtained permits for the march and for a 15-minute bridge closure.

The rally was slated to start at the Sellwood Community Center, S.E. Spokane Street at SE 15th, at 9:30 am that morning, after which the group was to march to the crest of the bridge and then back east to Sellwood Middle School, at S.E. Umatilla and 15th, for an information session.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Discover why Portland’s Police Chief selected these two officers and eight citizens to receive the bureau’s Commendation Medal …

Standing in front: Portland Police Bureau Chief Rosie Sizer and Sgt. John Anderson; behind them are Jack Menashe, Officer Greg Baldwin, Joe and Nick Rossi (accepting on behalf of their mother, Irene), Rex Hollingsworth, Bryan Ackerman, LeeAnn Bruner, Jeff Brooke, and Bud Bartunek, as they receive the Portland Police Bureau’s Commendation Medal.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In a December, 200, article, we took you to the Spirit of Portland Awards, at which Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct Sgt. John Anderson and Officer Greg Baldwin were honored for helping to create a police substation in Parkrose. (CLICK HERE to read that article.)

These outer East Portland cops, along with nine citizens and the companies they represent, were given another accolade at the Police Bureau’s biannual award ceremony, held in the Horner Auditorium of the David Douglas Performing Arts Center on January 14.

Police Chief Rosie Sizer congratulated the recipients on stage, as retiring Public Information Officer Cathe Kent explained why the honorees were given this award.

“From August 2007 to January 2008, Portland Police Sergeant John Anderson and Officer Greg Baldwin spent countless hours after work and on their days off working to develop a community contact office in the Parkrose area of Portland.  In September 2007, a location directly off Sandy Boulevard was donated by Mrs. Irene Rossi of Rossi Family Farms for $1 per year,” Kent announced.

With awards in hand, proud Parkrose awardees return to their seats to enjoy the remainder of the ceremony.

Kent continued, “Due to the fact that there was no money to build the office, Sgt. Anderson and Officer Baldwin reached out to the Parkrose community who gladly rallied their resources, donated materials, and volunteered their time to assist with the completion of the project.”

Without the generosity of the following community businesses, Kent added, the project would not have become a reality:

  • Parkrose Hardware,
  • Rex Heating and Air Conditioning,
  • Western Pacific Building Materials,
  • Surface Flooring,
  • LA Signs, and
  • The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades Union Local #10.

For their dedication, generosity, commitment, and support to community policing, each of the honorees was awarded the Portland Police Bureau’s Commendation Medal.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Firefighters said the blaze started in the circuit breaker box. But what the fire investigator found on-site landed two of the home’s occupants in real hot water …

SE Woodstock Blvd. was blocked off for several hours, as firefighters put out a small house fire they say resulted from an electrical overload, and then police investigated a marijuana grow operation found in the basement.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
By all measures, the house fire at 6830 S.E. Woodstock Boulevard wasn’t much of a blaze.

Portland Fire & Rescue (PF&R) Station 25 Truck and Engine Company, based on S.E. 52nd, arrived with sirens wailing at 9:23 a.m. on January 16.

A half hour after the blaze was quenched, smoke is still coming from the house.

“We were originally were sent on the report of a power line down,” PF&R Battalion Chief 4 Scott Beyers said, while firefighters, their work quickly done, were wrapping up their hoses.

“A short time after our arrival, it was determined that we had a fire involving the house down in the basement area,” Beyers continued.

The battalion chief said firefighters reported that fire was in the area where the electrical service went into the house. “It appears that’s where it started, but investigators are in there now taking a look. Both of the home’s occupants are out, and there were no injuries.”

Firefighters pack up their gear after extinguishing the small fire.

While firefighters tote their gear out of the the house, a police officer talks this person, who appears to be the woman officials later identified as Tabitha French.

Electrical overload leads to investigation
As the firefighters were stowing their gear, we noticed a Portland Police Bureau officer talking with an individual said to be an occupant of the house. When we drove by later that afternoon, officers from the bureau’s Drug & Vice Division were also visiting the modest Woodstock neighborhood home.

The official PF&R report made law enforcement’s interest clear: “Found … a fire in the basement of the house. A grow operation was found in the basement.”

The report continued, “A Marijuana grow operation was being conducted in two rooms. A third room was in the process of having grow lights and ventilation system wired in. Fire patterns and damage seen indicated the fire originated at the main breaker branch panel. Overload and arcing noted.”

Police say these two women, Tabitha Rose French (left) and Rachael Marie Belknap (right) face charges stemming from the marijuana grow operation found in the house.

Two charged in pot growing operation
Although investigators estimate the building and content loss were only about $25,000, the impact of the fire on two of the home’s occupants may be more far-reaching.

Portland Police Bureau spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz checked the records, and told us that two 27-year-old women, Tabitha Rose French and Rachael Marie Belknap, were taken into custody. “They are both charged with Manufacturing, Possession and Distribution of Marijuana.”

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

If your idea of “art-in-the-open” differs from what’s thrown up by taggers, read this, and find out what you can do before – and after – your property is marked …

The City of Portland’s anti-graffiti guru, Marcia Dennis, tells why it’s important to remove markings as soon as possible – after you snap a photo.

Story by Watford Reed and David F. Ashton; David F. Ashton photos
If you wake up some morning and find your fence, wall, business establishment, or car is covered with grotesque caricatures or writing or just plain vandalism, you are not alone.

So said Marcia Dennis, coordinator of Portland’s struggle against graffiti, when she spoke to members of the Gateway Area Business Association at Midway Library on January 8.

“Two steps are needed to fight graffiti and its perpetrators,” she said, “take a picture of the mess, and then get rid of it.”

Dennis said that graffiti, by legal definition, is a crime of vandalism, pointing to ORS 164.383 and Portland City Code 14B.80. “It is the unauthorized application of markings on someone else’s property, that is, without the owner’s permission.”

Not child’s play
“Tagger” graffiti is the most prevalent type in Portland. “80-85% of all graffiti in Portland fits this description,” Dennis told the group. “It may be simple line-letters, or elaborate colorful designs, ‘pieces’ or ‘throw-ups’.”

Surprisingly, Dennis said most of the taggers arrested in Portland are not juveniles, as one might suspect. “Their median age is 20.” She added that taggers often travel or associate with a “crew”, whose members may all use the same signature, or “tag”,  plus their own “moniker”, and who hang out together.

A small percentage of graffiti is done by gangs who mark out their territory, Dennis says.

Gangs mark turf
Gang graffiti is growing in Portland, Dennis went on. “Citywide, it accounts for 13-15% of all graffiti-vandalism. In some neighborhoods, it is a much higher percentage of the graffiti.”

Gang graffiti is the way gang members communicate with each other. Most of the gang graffiti currently seen in Portland is done by Hispanic or Latino/Latina gang members, or “wanna-be’s”. Dennis added that a growing number of gang-vandals are young females. And a growing number of individuals arrested for marking gang graffiti, she added, have been juveniles.

Report – Document – Remove
“Leaving graffiti up invites more such activity in the area,” Dennis explained. But, before it is painted or scrubbed off, she asked that citizens follow the three-step plan of reporting, documenting, and then removing.

Report graffiti by contacting:

  • Portland Police Graffiti Hotline – 503-823-4824
  • Police Non-Emergency – 503-823-3333 (weekends or Holidays)
  • If you witness it occurring, call 9-1-1
  • Online – – and select “Report a graffiti problem”

Take Photos and send to Graffiti Abatement:

  • Digital photos (no larger than 1 MB, please) to:
  • Hard copies, or Photo CDs, by mail to: 1221 SW 4th Avenue, Room 110, Portland, OR 97204

Remove it:

  • If it’s on your own property, paint it out, or check out a removal kit with solvent from one of nine Portland Fire & Rescue, namely – 3, 8, 13, 14, 18, 23, 25, 40 and 31. The kits contain solvent to be used to ‘wipe-off’ most kinds of graffiti.
  • If you need free assistance, call 503-823-5860 to put in a request, if yours is owner-occupied residential property, non-profit, or small business location.
  • Volunteer to remove from properties in the right-of-way: Go to the “Report a graffiti problem” webpage at ‘report a graffiti, and see sign-up sheets, and other information about volunteering to remove graffiti.
  • Chronic locations – for your own property, contact your neighborhood Crime Prevention Coordinator for free assistance in ‘target-hardening’ techniques, i.e., tips to make your property more secure and less vulnerable to graffiti and other vandalism.

“When it comes to street signs, ‘stop’ signs, and other highway signage, please don’t clean them, report them,” urged Dennis. “That’s because most heavy-duty cleaning agents will strip the paint off these signs, damaging them further.”

Preventing graffiti
The best way to prevent graffiti is “don’t provide an inviting ‘canvas’ for taggers,” Dennis said. Covering walls with ivy, putting bushes with thorns at the base of walls, preventing taggers from climbing on buildings and keeping areas well-lit are all ways of making graffiti artists move on to a more inviting property.

Outgoing GABA president Alan Sanchez gets the coveted Rubber Chicken Award from board member, and the meeting’s host, Lee Powell of Farmer’s Insurance.

Meet the members
If you have a business, do business, or live in the Gateway area, come check out this organization. They meet the second Thursday of the month (February 12); networking starts at 11:30 AM. The meetings convene at Midland Library, 805 S.E. 122nd Ave. For more information, go to

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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