See why many of your neighbors volunteer to plow through the foot-thick binders of Portland Zoning Codes, to help keep our neighborhoods livable …

John McDonald, the new land-use chair for the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association, gets his questions answered by BDS expert Dr. Mark Bello, during a class break.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Powellhurst-Gilbert resident John McDonald was one of a roomful of people who spent the better part of a Saturday delving into the intricacies of Portland’s land use policies on January 24.

The workshop, called the “ABCs of Land Use” and presented by three experts – Barry Manning of the Bureau of Planning, Dr. Mark Bello of the Bureau of Development Services, and James Chasse, former land-use chair of the Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association – presented an overview of the city’s land-use policies.

“John McDonald, our new land-use chair, is a very talented person,” said Chasse of his neighbor. “Because of his skills, and perhaps because of a different point of view than mine, he can get together and work out compromises in different situations, to the benefit of our neighborhood.”

More than 30 land-use watchdogs from all over the city come to learn how to respond to proposals for zoning changes in their neighborhoods.

Volunteers time to maintain quality of life
“One of the reasons I’m interested in this topic,” McDonald told us, “is I’m in an R10 area, but I’m surrounded by R5 zones. This means I live in a house, but I’m surrounded by medium-density development. I’m making sure that what gets built in my neighborhood conforms to code.”

McDonald said he’s taken on the challenge of being the land use watchdog for Powellhurst-Gilbert – the geographically largest of Portland’s 95 neighborhoods – because more and more higher-density development is encroaching on single-family residences there. “More than on my own block, I’m also trying to improve the situation in my neighborhood, by keeping a real good eye on what’s being proposed before it’s built.”

To him, “quality of life” means having good street connectivity, sidewalk improvements, and making sure that the adjustments that builders and applicants are requesting do not infringe on other people’s property rights.

“This class is helping me keep current with the code and with the land use process,” McDonald said. “It’s great to be able to get answers directly from city officials.”

Here holding two voluminous binders, detailing Portland’s Zoning Code, is Sellwood resident – and land-use committee chair for his neighborhood – Mat Millenbach.

Land use primer
Past SE Uplift Chair Paul Leistner, now working on projects with the Office of Neighborhood Involvement, said, “Portland’s land use system is so complex! If you don’t understand the system, it’s difficult to have an effective community voice.”

For example, Leistner said, staff members from City bureaus are explaining what neighborhood land-use volunteers should do when they get a letter proposing development.

Dr. Mark Bello listens, as Marguerite Feuersanger – also from Portland BDS – tells why neighbors must promptly act on zoning notifications if they are to obtain “legal standing” on impending changes.

Marguerite Feuersanger, from the City’s Bureau of Development Services, urged class attendees to make comments in a timely way. “Being timely helps give you ‘standing’; and ‘standing’ is required to challenge or appeal a decision.”

We learned that “standing” is the ability of a land-use representative to demonstrate to a court or bureau that the neighborhood has sufficient connection to, and can be harmed by, a change in code.

City of Portland’s Bureau of Development Services (BDS) representative, Dr. Mark Bello, Ph D, condenses centuries of land-use planning into a few, concise sentences.

History of zoning in 60 seconds
We were intrigued that Dr. Mark Bello, Ph D, city planner at the Bureau of Development Services, managed to condense the history of city codes and of zoning – spanning from the antiquity up till last week – in fewer than 200 words:

“Zoning actually began in the Middle Ages,” Bello began. “The purpose then was to keep the slaughterhouses out of the city. These rules, or ‘codes’, were put in place to regulate noxious industries and keep them out of the town centers.

“Portland’s first zoning code, introduced in 1924, was based on the 19th century regulations instituted by other cities.

“The first real revision here came in 1959, suggested by a consultant from Los Angeles. It was a very basic segregation of uses for land. Not recognizing that that we were moving from a postwar era into the future, it assumed that we would have a low density, suburban-style city of 3 million people indefinitely.

“In the 1960s and ’70s we saw new social issues – like the environment – and started to change our policies. In 1980, the Comprehensive Plan was institutionalized as the 1990 Zoning Code, with which we continue to tinker.

“The Portland Plan looks at 1990’s policies and zoning codes. In January (2009), the City of Portland announced the creation of the Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. They will revisit the issues, proposals, and public process which are involved in changing policy and zoning.”

Portland Planning Bureau’s Barry Manning explains how his bureau interacts with the Bureau of Development Services.

Popular class to be repeated
McDonald said he was glad he got a seat in this class – while free, it’s limited to 30 participants.

“We had almost twice as many people want to sign up as we had spaces,” Leistner confided. “Anyone can come; they need not be a neighborhood association land use chair. We hope to offer another class later this spring.”

Part of the City’s goal for the Office of Neighborhood Involvement is to increase the ability and capacity among members of the community at large, Leistner said. “This will give more people an effective voice in public decision-making.  If you don’t know the ins and outs and all the nuances of how things work, it’s difficult to do that. Knowledge is power.”

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Learn how a specialized group of cops, and their
canines, locate and arrest dope-dealing
crooks in our community …

Portland Police Bureau Drug & Vice Division Officer Scott Groshrong, and K-9 Nikko, get ready to show how they sniff out the drug peddlers.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As cool and collected as drug runners and dope peddlers try to appear, in an effort to evade detection, specialized officers of Portland Police Bureau Drug & Vice Division (DVD) are trained to sniff them out – literally.

At a recent community meeting, DVD Officers Chris Devlin and Scott Groshong were on hand to talk about their work, and to demonstrate how effectively their drug-detecting dogs can locate illicit and illegal substances.

PPB drug-sniffing K-9 Nikko relaxes, before he’s put through his paces.

His nose, knows
First up, Officer Groshong introduces his partner, a Belgian Malinois named Nikko. “We were certified as a team in June, 2008 – so we’ve been working together for a while now.”

Although the dog will live to be 11 or 12 years old, Groshong said, Nikko’s active service life will be about six years. “The dog cost about $8,000, but so far, he’s helped us find about $250,000 worth of drugs.”

Unlike other police dogs, Nikko’s duty isn’t to find and apprehend people, explained Groshong. “He’s great at finding drugs – finding hidden compartments in cars. We sometimes work at the train and bus stations; we’ve also helped with package interdiction [finding drugs that are being shipped] with the U.S. Post Office and United Parcel Service.”

So sensitive is Nikko’s sense of smell, the dog’s handler noted, “In training, a drug sample was hidden in a vehicle several cars away. The wind shifted and he immediately picked up on it. He worked the scent back to the source.”

As East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs watches, Nikko sniffs and scratches at a closed door, indicating he’s found something that smells like narcotics is on the other side.

Moving the drug sample to the flagpole base on a table doesn’t fool Nikko; he’s immediately got the scent.

Groshong said that while he didn’t have actual sample narcotics, Nikko picked up the scent from an adhesive label used to mark an evidence bag that once DID contain drugs.

During two demonstrations, Nikko sniffed the air, walked over to the hiding place and scratched at it, indicating that he smelled dope. “He’s trained to smell marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and other drugs.”

Says drugs lead to other crimes
DVD Officer Chris Devlin read their the mission of their unit: “To investigate drug and vice crime, thereby reducing crime and the fear of crime, improving the quality of life in Portland’s neighborhoods, and improving the relationship between the community and police.”

He added that investigating illegal drug activity is important beyond the drugs and dealers they apprehend. “There is a strong correlation between drug abuse and other crime, including burglary, car prowls, and theft of all kinds, including identity theft,” Devlin said.

PPB DVD Officer Chris Devlin shows samples of drugs and associated paraphernalia.

Although they still train to deal with methamphetamine laboratories, “Meth lab activity is way down. We still do find old, inactive meth labs.”

About marijuana-growing operations, Devlin said that today’s lack of the zero-down home loans has reduced the number of outer East Portland homes being turned into indoor pot farms. “Executing a search warrant on a marijuana grow is still dangerous. Some growers set up deadly booby traps. If people live there, they usually keep guns on them or by their beds, because they get ripped off frequently. They live a dangerous life, and are dangerous to their neighbors.”

Fighting drugs, far and wide
Although TV shows and movies have glamorized undercover work, Devlin said it’s simply too dangerous for the benefit it provides. “Our best [drug] cases come from citizen information. We tend to use confidential informants who, for a variety of reasons, give us valuable information.”

Devlin noted that DVD team members also work with the Portland Interdiction Taskforce. “The goal of PIT is to disrupt and dismantle drug trafficking in the tri-county area, whether it be at the airport, bus or train stations, guest lodging at hotels and motel – even on and freeways.”

Officer Devlin answers questions about the drug trade in East Portland.

Cops “follow the money” up the distribution chain
A neighbor asked why, although a lot of money changes hands in the illicit drug trade, many “dealers” tend to live in squalor.

“There is a lot of money involved,” Devlin concurred. “The money travels ‘up the chain’ of dealers, to distributors and importers. People at the top of the chain tend to live the ‘high life’.”

As an example, Devlin told of the case of a Reed College student who sold drugs from a modest apartment near the school. “We followed the money back to his distributor – that guy lived in Portland’s West Hills in a very nice place.”

Illegal drugs in the community, far from constituting “victimless crime”, in fact spawn a multitude of other crimes, touching almost everyone.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

See why officials say these students gave other area high schools real competition this year, in our district’s “We the People” competition.

Parkrose High students Connor Leines, Caitlyn O’Mealy, Carmen Avram, Elizabeth Lee and Nathan Clement say they’re proud to have done well at the “We the People” completion. Richard English, their instructor and sponsor, stands behind them – and behind their sentiment.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A couple of weeks ago, Portland Commissioner Nick Fish stopped us on our way to a press conference at City Hall. “Did you hear how well the students from Parkrose High did at the ‘We the People’ competition in mid-January?” he asked.

Fish got to witness the Parkrose students’ success first-hand; he was a judge at this year’s competition, which is organized by congressional districts. “Historically, Grant and Lincoln High Schools have taken the honors. This year, Parkrose High School students gave them a real ‘run for their money’.”

Grilled about the U.S. Constitution
The full title of the event, we learned, is “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution”, and it’s sponsored by the Center for Civic Education. It’s a yearly competition for American high school students across the country; finals are held in Washington D.C.

Parkrose High Government class instructor and team coach Richard English told us that the competition is modeled after a congressional hearing. “Each team is divided up into six units, each composed of three or more students. Each unit focuses on a particular area of Constitutional interest.”

Each unit, English explained, prepares three four-minute statements, or delivers a speech, on sections of the Constitution of the United States. At the competition, each unit presents one of their speeches.

Then, a three-judge panel questions the students to see how well they know their topic. “You have to know your part of the Constitution intimately,” explained team member Nathan Clement. “They asked you both a prepared question and non-prepared questions about it.”

Caitlyn O’Mealy added that when displaying knowledge of the First, Fifth and Sixth Amendments, “in addition to knowing your information well, we needed to be able to make persuasive arguments about the ideas we expressed.”

Portland City Commissioner Nick Fish, one of the teams three judges, says the Parkrose High students represented their school well. EastPDXnews file photo

Value beyond the contest
Other than enjoying abundant quantities of “great organic milk” at the competition – as Clement noted with a grin – which was held at Lake Oswego High School on January 12, the students agreed that the preparation for the contest helped prepare them for situations later in life.

“Before studying for the competition,” Carmen Avram chimed in, “I knew only a little about the Constitution. But after learning about the Bill of Rights and the other parts of the Constitution, I was able to apply these ideas to real life. It shows me how our society evolved and promoted equality among citizens.”

In addition to the learning about our Constitution, Connor Leines volunteered, “It was a good experience to be interviewed by professionals. Commissioner Fish and the other judges asked good, hard questions; learning how to give good answer back in an intelligent way helps us prepare for our future.”

Wins two awards
“Our students won two Outstanding Unit Awards,” noted English. “I’m very proud of our team members.”

“They did a fantastic job,” Fish commended. “That’s a huge accomplishment. The kids on the winning teams are just remarkable.”

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Find out how Portland Fire & Rescue pre-fire
planning actions may save your life some day …

Firefighters, crewing their brand new engine from Portland Fire & Rescue’s Station 25, pull hundreds of feet of lines [hoses] off their rig on the way in to fight the apartment fire at the back of a SE Portland complex.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When an apartment at 7890 SE 72nd Avenue, just south of SE Flavel St., caught fire about 2:30 p.m. on February 13, it didn’t catch the attention of anyone in the area except for the neighbors in the complex who reported it to 9-1-1 dispatchers.

On our way to cover another story at that time, we drove within a block of the burning building, and didn’t notice the blaze – the apartment complex is set well off the street.

Nevertheless, the first PF&R rigs arrived on scene within two minutes being dispatched to the blaze.

A firefighter from PF&R Truck 25 carries a ladder to the unit on fire, located far corner of an apartment complex.

Minutes later, crews from Stations 11, 25 and 29 were fighting the fire. We walked west on the complex’s a long, winding driveway, following Engine 25 as slowly rolled along. Two parallel snakes of bright yellow lines [hoses] unfolded from the truck’s back bins as it moved into position, several hundred feet from the street.

“We have a single unit on fire,” Battalion Chief District 4 Todd Keathley told us at the scene. “There are three other units in this building, total of four. Two rooms of the one unit are involved in fire. We got it knocked down quickly; made a search. No one was in the structure.”

Although the fire was well involved when firefighters arrived, crews knocked it down in minutes, saving the other units in the building.

Keathley said the fire broke out on the first floor of these two-story townhouses. “The units are designed with an open area to the second level. The fire would’ve extended up through the building pretty quickly, but they got a fast knockdown on it.”

“No one was injured in this fire,” PF&R spokesman Lt. Damon Simmons confirmed. “This positive outcome resulted from quick action by neighbors; they called 9-1-1 right away and knocked on doors to ensure that occupants in nearby apartments were out.”

Firefighters drag a charred, smoldering mattress or large cushion from the burning apartment.

Inside and out, fire crews check to make sure the fire has been completely extinguished.

Pre fire plan prevents tragedy
The four-plex that caught fire was at the very back of a long, oddly-configured – but nicely maintained –complex of buildings just south of Whitman Elementary School and just west of Flavel Park.

We asked Battalion Chief Keathley why firefighters so easily located the out-of-the way unit.

“A firefighter from Station 11 (on SE 92nd Ave. near SE Foster Rd.) had recently ‘pre-fired’ the building. Engine 11 directed some crews to respond by coming in on SE Lambert St. that dead-ends just east of the complex.”

The firefighter about whom Keathley referred, Kirk Stubblefield, nodded as he held a clipboard of drawings in his hand.

Thanks to their pre fire planning visit, PF&R Engine 11’s Kirk Stubblefield was able to help crews reach the blazing unit quickly.

“A pre fire planning visit helps us make sure we have an accurate drawing of the buildings and the complexes we serve,” Stubblefield explained. “We note any unusual configurations. Part of what we do, when we’re not responding to fire or medical emergencies, is go out and we document primary and secondary entrances.”

Firefighters poked and pulled down walls, inspected the roof, and made sure the fire was out before they started draining and refolding their lines. We noticed crews pulling out what looked to be a burned mattress.

“Red Cross has been called to assist the adult occupant of the apartment with finding shelter,” Simmons later reported. “The other apartment units in the building are still habitable. The cause of this fire is currently under investigation.”

The crew of brand new PF&R Engine 25 repack their lines; making sure their rig is ready to respond quickly to the next fire.

© 2009 David F Ashton ~ East Portland News

Organizers and musicians booked a second performance did when their first show ‘sold out’ in minutes. Find out how to make sure you can enjoy the Tom Grant concert on February 13 …

CMC volunteer Judy Seubert sells David Malcolm one of last remaining tickets at their first Family Friendly Friday concert event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Minutes after the doors opened at S.E. Portland’s Community Music Center (CMC) at 3350 SE Francis Street, and people began to flood in to buy tickets for the center’s first Family Friendly Friday concert on January 9, the event sold out.

Working his way through the crowded lobby, the Executive Director of CMC, Gregory Dubay, smiled faintly. “Everybody wants to have this problem: Too many people come to enjoy a concert!”

Community Music Center executive director Gregory Dubay welcomes folks to their new series of family-oriented concerts.

The idea for holding a Family-Friendly Friday concert series came from the CMC’s Board members, Dubay said. “There are lots of concerts in the community, but because of their late starting times – it being on a school night, or in a far-away venue – they felt many programs didn’t serve families with children.”

Making it fun for families
The CMC series programs begin earlier than most concerts, Dubay continued, noting the 7:00 p.m. start time. The musicians are chosen to appeal to a wide range of age groups.

“One of our Board’s primary considerations was to offer something that families can afford, especially with our economy the way it is. At just $5 for adults, or $15 for the entire family, these programs are affordable.”

The CMC performance hall at 3350 SE Francis Street – filled to capacity with folks listening to music from the Portland Cello Project.

So many people came to the concert, Portland Cello Project agreed to play a second concert that evening.

Group adds a second show
A CMC board member interrupted Dubay to whisper in his ear. “The Portland Cello Project has just agreed to do an entire concert for everyone who wants to come back at 9 p.m.,” he said. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t help our families with early bedtimes; we hope they come early next month.”

As the auditorium doors closed, the music started, and the rich, mellow sounds of cello music filled the center.

Tom Grant to play February 13
The series features instrumentalist, singer, and entertainer, Tom Grant at their February 13th program. Grant has been a recording artist for 35 years, and has been featured on CNN and a guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

“This concert will sell out quickly,” Dubay said. “Because tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the door, come early to make sure you’re not disappointed.”

All proceeds from this volunteer-run concert series, sponsored by Larkins Vacura, LLP Trial Attorneys, benefit scholarships and other programs at the Community Music Center.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Discover why this grade-school teacher works nights and weekends showing kids and adults how – and why – to learn juggling …

SE Portland resident, educator – and juggler – Zach Vestal demonstrates the “cascade pattern” used in three-ball juggling.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Teaching his third-grade class at Buckman Arts Focus Elementary School doesn’t fatigue Woodstock neighborhood resident, Zach Vestal – it invigorates him. Vestal harnesses his energy by teaching the art and skill of juggling at Portland area libraries.

“I think all kids should be exposed to juggling,” Vestal explained, while getting ready for a Saturday workshop not long ago. “It uses both halves of the brain. Research shows that it’s excellent for hand-eye coordination. But more important is the boost of self-esteem that a person gets when he or she learns to juggle.”

That’s why juggling is part of his classroom curriculum. “Most people can learn it in about an hour. When you learn something that seems like a daunting or impossible skill, it opens your mind to the possibility of learning other new things. And, it’s really good exercise.”

Vestal demonstrates that chin-balancing, with a spinning plate on a stick, is an art related to juggling.

A life-long juggler
Vestal said he learned to juggle when he, himself, was in third grade. “I enjoyed it so much, I started teaching others how to juggle right away.”

This love of teaching led him to work with the “Circus of the Kids” organization, which still holds circus-arts training camps along the east coast.

Timmy Borcean tries his hand – actually, his nose – at balancing a feather.

Short class; lots of practice
“Juggling dates back to 2000 B.C.,” Vestal tells the class. “Juggling and balancing are two of the earliest forms of public entertainment in recorded history.

With that, he picks up three balls and starts juggling.

“The most common way to juggle balls is the ‘cascade pattern’,” Vestal said as he demonstrated. “Each ball passes underneath the ball that precedes it. Once you have the basic cascade pattern down, there all kinds of tricks and variations you can do.”

As he continues his demonstration, he misses a ball and it drops. “Oops! There was a sudden gust of gravity in the room!”

Vestal also demonstrates juggling large wispy scarves, commenting that this is the easiest way to learn the basic cascade pattern.

The demonstration ends with the instructor showing balancing – an art allied to juggling – using a spinning plate on a stick and a feather.

A group of students make their own juggling balls, using latex balloons and (clean) kitty litter.

Student-made juggling balls
On tables at the back of the room Vestal has several stations set up, permitting students to craft their own juggling balls.

“These latex balloons actually make good juggling balls,” said Vestal. “You’ll be able to make a set here today and take them home. We fill them with kitty litter – CLEAN kitty litter!”

Within the hour, students were practicing the basic skills shown them by Vestal. Some quietly complain after they’ve dropped their balls numerous times, but Vestal tells them, “Remember, there is no juggling without being willing to pick up fallen objects.”

Faith Cox and Brandi Van De Riet practice juggling using their newly-made, do-it-yourself balls.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Here’s a look at what’s happening along SE Foster Road, as the area gentrifies and the economy weakens …

Because their family has purchased and managed properties in the area for many years, attorney Joel Grayson says they’ve seen a lot of change along SE Foster Road.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
People who own and manage businesses along SE Foster Road got a realistic evaluation of the real estate market in the area on January 22.

Attorney Joel Grayson, with Maylie & Grayson Attorneys at Law, is in a good position to comment – he said he started buying real estate in the area when he was 24 years old. Currently, his firm specializes in real estate transaction law.

“We’ve purchased and built a number of commercial properties,” Grayson began, as he spoke at the Foster Area Business Association meeting at Bar Carlo. “We tend to buy and hold properties, and we manage all of our own properties.”

The “we” of whom he spoke was not the “editorial we” – Grayson then introduced his partners – his daughter, Janet Grayson, also an attorney with his firm, and his son Jay Grayson, an agent with John L. Scott Real Estate.

Janet Grayson, also an attorney, lays out the state of real estate along SE Foster Road.

The state of real estate
Janet Grayson began, “It’s no secret about what is going on in the real estate market around the country. We’re seeing declines in market values; many properties are not selling. Using even using data from ‘comparables’ [sales of similar properties in the same geographic location], sellers may be unrealistic about their asking price.”

And, the recent stringent financial qualifications for buyers have been creating problems, Janet added. “Many potential buyers can’t qualify for lending.”

Regarding commercial leasing, she said tenants along Foster Road are finding more reasonable rents. “It’s a good time to look for a favorable lease, as landlords struggle to find renters. Many commercial properties have been sitting vacant because owners are unrealistic about their lease rates.”

Distressed properties on the rise
“They’re seeing an increase in foreclosures and short sales,” Janet continued. A “short sale”, she explained, is when a lender reduces the amount due on a property in order to make a real estate sale go through.

“We’ve been consulted about ‘creative’ sales. We’re drafting a lot of contracts [of sale] right now. Sellers like the monthly stream of payments [from selling on a contract], because buyers don’t have the money to get into a loan. This is especially true on the residential side,” she commented.

Joel added, “We’re seeing a lot of lease-option deals; people who don’t have the down payment can get into a property. In the past, there was double-digit interest rate. Now, rates are low, but it takes a big down payment to qualify for a loan.”

Real estate agent Jay Grayson talks shares the metrics of real estate sales.

‘For Sale’ signs up for months
“We can paint a rosy picture about the real estate market,” said real estate agent Jay Grayson as he joined in the presentation. “It depends on which side [of the real estate transaction] you’re on.”

Jay distributed a report that showed higher-priced commercial and industrial properties – in the $2 Million range – have been on the market for well over 450 days. Average listings, those selling in the $500,000 range, have been taking about 100 days to sell.

“We’re seeing serious price decreases,” Jay said, “unless the seller is ‘up against the wall’, and owes too much on the property.”

His sister added, “It’s a good time for real estate brokers give sellers a dose of reality. There are not a lot of good comparables, because of the rapidly changing market.”

“We’re advising brokers that they should focus on taking listings from realistic sellers,” added Joel. “Otherwise, they will languish, unsold, for over a year. Pricing is a big deal.”

Joel Grayson says he looks for SE Foster Road to become more upscale in coming years.

Looks for Foster Road’s fortunes to ascend
“I think things along Foster Road will pick up,” opined the senior Grayson. “My grandfather built our [law office] building here; I grew up in southeast Portland, and been here [investing] for 30 years. When I purchased our building, the area was – well, horrible. It has slowly stabilized and moved up a few clicks. We haven’t seen a dramatic increase in values – but, in the last seven or eight years, we’ve seen some prices double or triple.”

Janet added, “The Foster Road area has changed over the last five years – for the better. New restaurants and coffee shops have come in to the area. This is a good sign. It helps [improve the image] of the area.”

“It isn’t just good new businesses that will make the area better,” Joel said, taking up the thought. “Having more owner-occupied homes is going to stabilize the area – and then, will help it improve. The new businesses here are catering to these younger people who have bought homes in the area.”

To learn more about the Foster Area Business Association, contact The Support Group through its website, www.tsgpdx.com — or call (503) 774-2832.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Organizers and musicians booked a second performance did when their first show ‘sold out’ in minutes. Find out how to make sure you can enjoy the Tom Grant concert on February 13 …

CMC volunteer Judy Seubert sells David Malcolm one of last remaining tickets at their first Family Friendly Friday concert event.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Minutes after the doors opened at S.E. Portland’s Community Music Center (CMC) at 3350 SE Francis Street, and people began to flood in to buy tickets for the center’s first Family Friendly Friday concert on January 9, the event sold out.

Working his way through the crowded lobby, the Executive Director of CMC, Gregory Dubay, smiled faintly. “Everybody wants to have this problem: Too many people come to enjoy a concert!”

Community Music Center executive director Gregory Dubay welcomes folks to their new series of family-oriented concerts.

The idea for holding a Family-Friendly Friday concert series came from the CMC’s Board members, Dubay said. “There are lots of concerts in the community, but because of their late starting times – it being on a school night, or in a far-away venue – they felt many programs didn’t serve families with children.”

Making it fun for families
The CMC series programs begin earlier than most concerts, Dubay continued, noting the 7:00 p.m. start time. The musicians are chosen to appeal to a wide range of age groups.

“One of our Board’s primary considerations was to offer something that families can afford, especially with our economy the way it is. At just $5 for adults, or $15 for the entire family, these programs are affordable.”

The CMC performance hall at 3350 SE Francis Street – filled to capacity with folks listening to music from the Portland Cello Project.

So many people came to the concert, Portland Cello Project agreed to play a second concert that evening.

Group adds a second show
A CMC board member interrupted Dubay to whisper in his ear. “The Portland Cello Project has just agreed to do an entire concert for everyone who wants to come back at 9 p.m.,” he said. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t help our families with early bedtimes; we hope they come early next month.”

As the auditorium doors closed, the music started, and the rich, mellow sounds of cello music filled the center.

Tom Grant to play February 13
The series features instrumentalist, singer, and entertainer, Tom Grant at their February 13th program. Grant has been a recording artist for 35 years, and has been featured on CNN and a guest on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.

“This concert will sell out quickly,” Dubay said. “Because tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis at the door, come early to make sure you’re not disappointed.”

All proceeds from this volunteer-run concert series, sponsored by Larkins Vacura, LLP Trial Attorneys, benefit scholarships and other programs at the Community Music Center.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

You’ll see what’s behind Mona Lisa’s smile – literally! You’ll touch and operate models built from his plans. Talk a look, and see why this world-class exhibit in S.E. Portland is drawing so much attention …

Although da Vinci was an avowed pacifist, Lily, Clifford and Dylan Jones look over one of his inventions for the military of his day, a model of his “multi-directional gun cannon”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
What’s new at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) is a fascinating new exhibit highlighting the genius of a man who lived five centuries ago (April 15, 1452 – May 2, 1519). The man was named Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, meaning “Leonardo, son of Messer Piero from Vinci Italy”.

Today, we call him Leonardo da Vinci.

OMSI president Nancy Stueber welcomes first-nighters to their new exhibit, “Da Vinci: The Genius”.

At the opening of “Da Vinci: The Genius”, OMSI’s President Nancy Stueber told us, “Leonardo da Vinci was an extraordinary person who inspired many of us. This exhibit documents da Vinci’s extraordinary contributions to science and society. Also, we hope it will inspire today’s innovators and inventors and our future geniuses to create solutions for some of problems we face today.”

The two-floor exhibit at Portland’s popular science museum shows off da Vinci’s genius – utilizing an array of full-scale re-creations of his machine inventions. Stueber noted, “These include a hang glider, helicopter, military tank, and many mechanical devices crafted from his personal notebooks.”

On the lower level, we watched as visitors pushed, pulled, cranked, and interacted with a dozen or so working models that illustrated math, engineering, and physics principles.

Lillian Brehmer operates one of the hands-on exhibits, a working model of a load bearing based on a da Vinci drawing.

Dana Bacharach looks at a faithful reproduction of Mona Lisa’s back side while OMSI Educator Kate O’Neil explains the subtleties revealed there to Stephanie Swanson.

Behind the Mona Lisa
On the upper level, guests learned the “Secrets of Mona Lisa” – an exhibit displaying giant, highly-detailed enlargements of da Vinci’s most famous work, some as large as 13 ft x 10 ft. This exhibit is said to be the most accurate reproduction of the masterpiece, revealing 25 previously unknown facts about this famous portrait.

Kate O’Neil, a museum educator at the featured exhibit hall, pointed out details of a unique display called of “Mona Lisa, Front and Back”. It is a faithful reproduction of the famous painting, frame removed, allowing guests to closely inspect both the front and back of the artwork.

Studying the giant enlargements of da Vinci’s paintings are Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack, Corie Wiren and Diane McKeel.

“It’s interesting to me that da Vinci was also a musician, and created inventions for the theater,” O’Neal added. “His ideas for human flight came about originally as a theatrical prop.”

The exhibit, we learned, originated in Italy, was a decade in the making, and is the most complete and comprehensive traveling exhibition on da Vinci ever. It has been seen in Rome, Moscow, Melbourne, San Paulo, San Francisco, and other major cities around the world.

Eliyas Begleries and Sally Baker study da Vinci’s “battle tank” and say it is fascinating.

Katie, Ron and Sandy, Klump say their fascinated by this three-dimensional model of da Vinci’s plans for a bicycle.

Edward McLean and Harpel Keller examine a model of da Vinci’s transportable suspension bridge.

This premium exhibition at the Oregon science museum on the east bank of the Willamette River runs through May 3; in addition to the regular non-member entrance fee, there is an additional charge of $5 for adults ($16 total), $3 for children ($12 total). OMSI members will be admitted free, however, by presenting a current membership card.

OMSI is located at 1945 SE Water Avenue, just north of the Ross Island Bridge. For more information, visit their website — www.omsi.edu — or call (503) 797-4000.

Although they probably wouldn’t get off the ground, OMSI visitors are enthralled with life-size models of da Vinci’s flying and gliding machines.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Find out why local business owners were honored – and why this oft-flooded neighborhood sent a letter to Mayor Adams praising his actions and making requests of the Bureau of Environmental Services …

Tom, Ryan, Scott and Reiko Rogers stood with Brent Crooks – all of whom are with R-Boes Automotive – as they were recognized by Lents Neighborhood Association President Damien Chakwin for their “Dedication and service to the Community”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
On January 16, a man dashed out of the AM/PM Mini-Market at SE Holgate Boulevard and SE 92nd Avenue, and started shooting at a perceived assailant – only to blow out an innocent driver’s back window and scare Lents area neighbors. (Read the details by CLICKING HERE.)

The gunman ran toward R-BOE’s Automotive across the street, and headed east – but the mechanics at the auto repair shop, being fed up with crime in the area, took after the shooter, and reported where he had gone to the cops.

At the January 27 meeting of the Lents Neighborhood Association, these men were honored by their neighbors – receiving certificates and Portland Police Bureau medallions from East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs.

“Their actions show that Lents is moving away from the ‘Felony Flats’ image,” said the association’s Chair, Damien Chakwin. “We have people here who actually do heroic things. They risked life and limb, and injury to themselves, to help keep this neighborhood safe for all of us. This is the highest example of community spirit.”

We asked Commander Crebs why the men also received the Police Medallion. “Here’s a guy shooting off a gun in broad daylight. They risked their lives; their actions helped us catch a very dangerous person. I’m not sure we would have been able to capture the alleged gunman that night without their help.”

Crebs added he doesn’t recommend that citizens go after armed, shooting gunman. “Having people act as our ‘eyes and ears’ – from a distance – is invaluable. But these fellows followed their inner instinct and helped us capture a dangerous person. Anyone who puts their life on the line like that deserves our appreciation.”

During the Lents Neighborhood “buffet of information” session, Portland Police Bureau’s Lt. Baird and Crime Prevention Specialist Roseanne Lee shared at information the community safety table.

‘Buffet of information’ provided
We noted a refreshing change of meeting format. After introductions and official business was conducted, the group went into a breakout session.

We found that refreshing, because instead of subjecting attendees to sometimes long and boring committee chair reports, the neighbors in attendance were instead invited to circulate around tables around the back of the room. Committee chairs provided information, brochures, pamphlets, and other information regarding all of the main neighborhood functions.

Lents Neighbor Wendy Foster learned what the Portland Development Commission is doing as she spoke with Ray Hites at the Lents Urban Renewal table.

At one end of the room, the Bureau of Environmental Services was talking about the Johnson Creek project. Elsewhere, there was a table for the foods group, another for urban renewal, another for public safety, and so forth. “It’s like having a buffet of information,” said Wendy Foster. “You can find out more about the issues you’re actually interested in.”

Marie Johnson with the Bureau of Environmental Services talked about the Johnson Creek Floodplain Plan with neighbor Brett Kelver.

Letter thanks Adams for flood help
Finally, as the meeting reconvened, neighbors approved sending Portland city officials a letter lauding – not lambasting – the Bureau of Environmental Services:

January 26, 2009

Dear Mayor Sam Adams,

For twelve months the Lents Neighborhood Association has been requesting that BES representatives meet with our Special Subcommittee, which includes the residents residing within the boundaries of the proposed East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project (ELFRP).

Because of your insistence and superb facilitation, those meetings have begun. The residents whose homes still stand within the boundaries have expressed a deep appreciation for their questions being answered face to face and being given a written copy of the answers. This is the direct dialogue we have wanted.

We encourage you to continue working with BES and the families living within the proposed boundaries of the ELFRP. As you continue, please keep the following facts in mind:

  • According to BES, the “Willing Seller” program was created in 1997 “to purchase frequently-flooded properties.
  • The remaining homes within the ELFRP do not flood. These homes didn’t flood in 1996, nor recently in 2009. (And most didn’t flood in 1965.)
  • The current families were living in these homes prior to the inception of the “Willing Seller” program, and were fully informed of the program.
  • The current Federal matching funds for the ELFRP specifies that condemnation will not be used in order to complete this project.
  • The proposed project cannot hold the amount of water that caused the most recent flood in January 2009.

We look forward to your ongoing participation in the development of creative solutions to this complex proposed project.

Thank you very much for your successful efforts thus far, which have brought BES representatives to the table for candid, substantiated dialog about this very significant project.

Damien Chakwin
Lents Neighborhood Association President

The Lents Neighborhood Association meets the last Tuesday of the month – next on February 24 at 7:00 PM at Lents Adventist Church Auditorium, 8835 SE Woodstock St. For more information, go to their website by CLICKING HERE.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

Be sure of this – someone knows who murdered this fused-glass artist on December 15. Your tip could help bring a killer to justice – and put $1,000 in your pocket …

In the cold grip of a winter storm, police detectives sifted through the home of Curtiss Olson, looking for clues to who killed him.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The funeral for 67-year-old Howard Curtiss Olson on January 3 was especially sad for those who marked his premature passing. Police say Olson died of “homicidal violence”, and was discovered on December 15.

Judy Taylor, Olson’s sister-in-law, said the victim – commonly called Curtiss – was a special, unique person.

Curtiss Olson’s life was cut too short, friends and family members say; he had many friends who will miss his bantering and good-natured companionship.

“Many people didn’t know he had chronic pain from injuries he suffered in a 1978 car accident, from which he never fully recovered,” Taylor told us. “I didn’t know him well, but since his death, I’ve met more and more people whose lives were touched by Curtiss. They told me they cared about him – and how he committed ‘random acts of kindness’, just to see people smile.”

Curtiss was a man who enjoyed lively conversation, and would sometimes make outlandish statements, because he’d “love to get a reaction. He enjoyed it even more when someone would come back with a witty comment.”

Olson became well known for the fused-glass artwork he made in his home studio. Photo used with permission of InSite Dynamics.

An unusual artist of note
Olson created fused glass art pieces at his Hazelwood neighborhood home studio, and sold them through dealers, and on the Internet through his firm – the Bad Attitude Art Glass Company. Especially popular were the kitty and star pins he sold through his website, www.kittypins.com. Note: While the website is still running, no one has stepped up to run Olson’s business; please do not order from it.

Tim Justice, a website developer, and partner at InSite Dynamics, told us, “The day he first called me, he said gruffly, ‘I want a website; and I want it now.’ We weren’t too sure about this wacky-sounding guy.” Other web developers didn’t take Olson seriously, he added, but after visiting Olson’s studio, Justice said they could see the potential for a great Internet business.

These are some of the Kitty Cat pins created and sold by Olson. Photo used with permission of InSite Dynamics.

“He’s one of the most caring persons I’ve ever met,” Justice continued. “The initial image he presents is wacky or out-of-his-mind, but he truly knew what he was doing. Life was always good for him. He’d call me just to make sure I was smiling that morning. He was very connected to politics, but would try to pretend he didn’t care.”

Police seek leads
Detectives are saying little about the ongoing investigation. Off the record, those who knew Olson admitted that he lived a somewhat bohemian lifestyle.

Speaking about murder investigations in general, Portland Police Bureau Homicide Division’s Sergeant Rich Austria told East Portland neighbors at a December meeting, that unless there is an eyewitness to a murder, detectives start by determining with whom victim was associated.

“In about 85% of homicides, victims know their suspects in some fashion,” Austria said. “It could be by association – people they know who are prone to violence. Or, it is lifestyle-related – hanging out with people who are involved in crime, drugs, and prostitution, or are involved in domestic violence.”

You can help
If you have information on this case, contact Detective Steve Ober at (503) 823-4033, or Detective Jim McCausland at (503) 823-0449.

Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to an arrest in this case, or any unsolved felony, and you remain anonymous.  Call Crime Stoppers at (503) 823-HELP (4357) or leave a tip online at www.crimestoppersoforegon.com.

© 2009 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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