Why is this school district paying for the full day program? You’ll learn why they are enthusiastic about this stepped-up program for their 5-year-olds right here, along with photos of some very cute students …

Parkrose School District’s new Director of School Improvement, Jeff Rose, says the introduction of full-day kindergarten at all of their elementary schools will help students to better throughout their educational experience.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As school ended in Parkrose last June, we told you how – with the approval of incoming Parkrose School Superintendent Dr. Karen Fischer Gray – the district was being reorganized.

Jeff Rose, formerly the Principal at Russell Academy of Academic Achievement, was named to the newly-created post, Director of School Improvement.

Last week, we asked Rose to name the most significant change the district is undertaking this school year.

“The most important is offering full-day kindergarten at every one of our elementary schools,” Rose replied.

Rose said the district is fortunate in that they have the physical classroom space in all of their facilities for the full-day kindergarten program.

“We made the determination that one of the best investments we could make in our students’ education was full-day kindergarten. We put it our budget, making it available to every student in every school,” said Rose.

Touring the schools
We were delighted when several of the Parkrose schools invited us to see their kindergarteners participating in their first week of their educational careers….

Russell Academy of Academic Achievement

Margaret Goff’s kindergarteners enjoy story time during class at Russell Academy

At Russell Academy of Academic Achievement, we’re greeted by the school’s new Principal, Debbie Ebert, an educator with 17 years experience, five of them at Russell Academy.

“What we’ve talked about, as educators here at Russell, is the importance of having longer periods of time to get the job done,” Ebert says about their new kindergarten program. “While they did their best to teach foundation skills of reading, writing, and math, kindergarten teachers found their two-and-a-half hours a day to be too fragmented and short.”

“What is the ‘C’ sound?” asks Heather Bailey as she teaches phonics to her kindergarteners at Russell Academy.

Ebert continued, saying a full day of classes also allows teachers to incorporate more social skills learning, like “play etiquette”.

Basic literacy training, Ebert stated, is the foundation for everything. “If they have a good foundation, all of the subject areas become easier for them.”

Diane Larson with her class of new students at Russell Academy.

Diane Larson spoke with us before her tykes came back to class from morning recess. “With a whole day, we can teach these students in a way that is more developmentally appropriate for their age.”

This is not babysitting, Larson stressed. “By the end of the year, most kids are reading at some level. They can write a couple of sentences. They know the rules – but even more, they know how to be a learner. That’s our goal.”

Shaver Elementary School

Diane Carlsen helps her kindergarteners learn how to make crafts at Shaver Elementary School.

Cindy Bartman, principal of Shaver Elementary School, cheerfully greeted us at her school’s door. She’s a respected educator, having taught for 21 years, and being in administration for the past seven.

“Especially at our school,” Bartman began, “I think full-day kindergarten gives a tremendous advantage to our students. About fifty percent of our kids are Hispanic. They come to us with no English. Being allowed to have a full day of kindergarten, our students get much more English language development than they would during a short day.”

Shaver Elementary kindergarten teacher Michaelle Lenius works on a project that teaches shapes with her new learners.

By the time their students enter first grade, Bartman continued, “they’re already learning to read and write. We’re very academic; it is truly a bonus for students to go into first grade knowing phonics – how to put sounds together – and starting developing strong vocabulary skills, as well.”

The Shaver Principal went on to mention that, in addition to Spanish, their students come from homes in which eleven other non-English languages are spoken. “Here, everybody gets a fair chance at learning English. They all benefit.”

Sacramento Elementary School

Dianna Recinos teaches her class at Sacramento Elementary School.

Completing our tour was a visit to Sacramento Elementary School. Principal Stevie Blakely echoed the sentiments we heard from educators at the other schools.

“This year,” Blakely noted, “We have 72 kindergarteners at the school. We have had parents who have not sent their other kids to part-day kindergarten. Now that we’re offering a full-time academic kindergarten, we’re having more parents who want their kids to participate.”

Parkrose 5-year-olds can enroll in kindergarten late as September 30, under certain circumstances. Check with the district office for details.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Is the “VisionPDX” plan YOUR vision? Learn where and when to voice your opinion …

Outer East Portland’s top cop, Michael Crebs, says citizens living east of 82nd Avenue of Roses should attend the city’s VisionPDX meeting to make sure their views are appropriately represented in the report.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
On Wednesday, September 19, at 6 PM the Portland City Council will be shown the results of the “VisionPDX” research study commissioned by Portland Mayor Tom Potter.

One of the committee members who sifted through the thousands of survey reports was the Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander, Michael Crebs. “I accepted the offer, approximately two years ago, to be on the committee.”

Asked about this volunteer assignment, Crebs stated, “Our sole goal was to develop a ‘vision’ for how our city should be in [the year] 2030, based on input from the community. We did not want it to the vision of the mayor or city council. We wanted it to be the vision of our community. I feel that we reached our goal.”

Urges hearing the plan – and being heard
When we enquired why outer East Portland folks should go to the meeting, Crebs told us, “At this meeting, the Mayor will present the final product. It is important for citizens to be there – especially people in outer East Portland – so they can let Mayor know, after hearing the report, whether or not to accept it.”

Portland City Hall is located in downtown Portland, at 1221 SW 4th Avenue. Be sure the use the 4th Avenue entrance – all others are permanently closed.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

With the area between Portland and Gresham, along the MAX line, getting to be as lawless as an old Western stagecoach stop, see what law enforcement agencies plan to do about it …

Portland and Gresham police department leaders, flanked by officials from both cities, say their determined to cut crime along outer East Portland MAX stops at a Sept. 10 press conference.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Because of the current rash of shootings, stabbings, muggings, beatings, and drug-dealing at the 162 Avenue/E. Burnside Street MAX station area – where Portland ends and Gresham begins – the Portland Police Bureau is joining forces with Gresham cops to slow the escalating crime wave.

Incidents in the area have been too numerous; within the week, no less than 18 violent crimes have been reported. September 10, a shotgun assault occurred, as did an attack on a 30-year-old man by as many as 20 young thugs – one brandishing a pistol.

People living in the area – especially the elderly – say they’re afraid to leave their homes or apartments for fear of being mugged or murdered for $5 or a wristwatch.

Late afternoon, September 11, we arrive at a press conference set up at the westbound MAX platform, and find Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs, and Transit Police Commander Donna Henderson, joined by East Portland Crime Reduction Specialist Teri Poppino and Gang Taskforce coordinator Harry Jackson, all ready to speak out.

Gresham Police Chief Carla Piluso says “…our intention is to take back these streets …”

Not a one-city problem
“This isn’t a one-city problem,” Piluso begins, “This is all our concern. We’re standing on the boundary between Portland and Gresham. While we acknowledge that boundary, we know crime knows no jurisdictional boundaries.

“During June, July, and August, in this immediate area, there have been 25 reported assaults, 10 vandalisms, 17 drug offences, and 57 high priority crimes including robbery, serious assault, and auto theft.”

Piluso goes on, detailing numerous arrests made during joint police missions in late August and early September. “Enough is enough. We are more than doubling our resources in this area, for as long as it takes to make a difference. It is our intention to take back these streets from a criminal element that disrupting our citizens who work, live, and plan a visit to this area.”

The police of both cities intend to “send a message” to citizens and crooks, says Gresham Capt. Tim Gerkman

Next, Gresham Capt. Tim Gerkman steps up to the podium. He tells reporters that Portland and Gresham officers will saturate the area on foot, in cars, riding motorcycles, and on bicycles. “We hope to send a message to law-abiding citizens in this area that we’re not going to tolerate this criminal behavior any longer. We’re going to take back the streets and the area and make it safe.”

Portland police adds officers to area
Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs outlines why he’s assigning additional officers to the area. “Over the last few months, we’ve noted an increase of violence and intimidation happening here. A woman, living right here in this area, just told me that a rock was thrown through her window for no reason. Last night, a stray bullet went into a victim’s home. I’m committed to authorize the overtime needed to take this area back.”

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs says he’s authorized overtime to keep Portland cops at troubled intersections.

After confirming Gerkman’s strategy, Crebs adds, “This is a short term fix. We’re working with all city agencies to create a long-term solution to this problem.” For example, he states they’re going to press to have trouble-making apartment tenants evicted. “This is along-term project. It won’t be solved overnight.”

Just a quick fix?
When they call for questions, we ask, “There are incidents happening every night at this, and other MAX stops in outer East Portland and western Gresham. Why take this action now?

Piluso responds, “As I said earlier, we’ve seen this escalate and escalate. We’ve had enough.”

Saying that residents have said they’re skeptical that the police will be here long term, a TV reporter asks, “How dedicated are you to the long term?”

“By the sheer presence of everybody standing here today,” Piluso rejoins, “I can tell you that the Gresham Police Department is in this for the long haul. It isn’t going away overnight; it isn’t going away in a week. We will work with this community, as well as our law enforcement partners, to not just displace but to work hard to solve. We’re bringing the right people together to put the right plan together.”

Commander Crebs adds, “We can’t solve the problem ourselves. We need the citizens’ help. Some citizens are scared, but we need them to step up and help out by being our eyes and ears to report crime. If citizens see crime, they must call 911 immediately.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Folks came from miles around, drawn to the dark plume of smoke that arose from the fire said to have caused $400,000 in damages to the plant. Read how the fire started, and see exclusive photos, right here …

Between blasts of water from multiple hoses, firefighters peer through smoke and steam to check their progress fighting the fire in the plant’s Wax Room.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For a mile surrounding the intersection of SE Harney Dr. and SE Johnson Creek Blvd., traffic is at a standstill about 1:30 p.m. on September 8. A plume of thick, black smoke indicates a major fire is the reason the roads are closed.

Walking up Harney Dr. to the scene of the fire at Precision Castparts, we pass neighbor Chris Johnson as he works in his yard. “I looked up and saw plume of smoke coming up from the far side of the plant,” Johnson tells us. “Then there was a big explosion and the smoke turned thick and dark.”

Along the way, we walk with another area resident, Myra Kelsey. “I didn’t see it, but I sure did hear a big boom from blocks away,” she says. “I looked over and saw a big cloud of black smoke; I’m worried that the smoke might be toxic.”

Walking past the command truck, we overhear the Battalion Chief say on his two-way radio, “Even with fighting the fire from the inside, we may have to open the roof and put more water on it from the outside.”

Firefighters say they were concerned that the blaze might touch off a wildfire on the steep terrain surrounding the Precision Castparts plant.

The industrial fire, said to have started accidentally during a cleaning operation in the “wax room” located on the plant’s east side, burned so hot, it touched off the tinder-dry brush on the steep hillside leading up to a parking lot.

“Firefighters recognized the potential for a fast spreading brush fire on this hot day,” says Portland Fire & Rescue spokesman Lt. Doug Jones. “Firefighters quickly attacked the fire from multiple directions while other firefighters began fire suppression efforts in the involved building fire.”

Equipment from eleven stations responded to the two-alarm industrial fire.

Approximately 60 firefighters, responding from eleven stations, stay on scene for hours. Eventually, they start disconnecting their lines, and rolling up thousands of feet of fire hose.

No injuries were reported by either company workers or firefighters in this blaze that reportedly caused $400,000 in damages to one building.

After the fire was brought under control, firefighters were faced with draining and repacking thousands of feet of fire hose on this hot, sunny afternoon.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Learn why police officers take their day off to help disadvantaged youth become well-equipped for school right here …

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs helps Douglas Murphy look sharp for the start of his 5th grade at Earl Boyles Elementary in the David Douglas School District.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Early in the morning, just before school started this year on August 29, we are present to see a large contingent of Portland Police Bureau officers gathering in front of the Johnson Creek Fred Meyer store on S.E. 82nd. The cops were coming by, on their day off, to help disadvantaged kids in Southeast get back-to-school clothing and supplies which their families could not otherwise afford.

Unlike many charitable programs, these kids have earned the right to participate in this officer-guided shopping spree, says Southeast Precinct Sgt. Larry Graham. He should know. Graham has helped direct the interagency “Shop with a Cop” program since its inception five years ago.

Event coordinators Portland Police Bureau SE Precinct Sgt. Larry Graham, Amy Jacobs, Asst Store Manager, Fred Meyer, and Nick Sauvie, ROSE Community Development, after they brief officers about the event.

“These kids have earned the right to participate,” Graham explains. “These kids, from the Boys & Girls Clubs and ROSE CDC, have participated in our GREAT program, and have provided community service. They’ve done a lot of good things for the community.”

From the police bureau’s standpoint, the event is a good opportunity for officers to connect with kids in a positive way. “These kids often have difficult home lives,” Graham comments, “today; they get to spend time with a police officer in a situation other than an emergency or catastrophe.”

Officer Jeff Pontius, SE Precinct NET team helps 7th grader Bryce Loudon get clothes he needs for school.

SE Precinct officer Rachael Strobel helps Maria and Gorethy Sandoval get new clothes for school.

Another great partner of the program is retailer Fred Meyer. “Through our partnerships, we have grown this program,” says store manager Amy Jacobs, also one of the event’s founders. “Fred Meyer adds to the program every year. This year, along with their new clothes, we’re giving each child a backpack, with school supplies and umbrellas.”

Asked why a mass merchandiser, owned by a national company, participates in this program, Jacobs tells us, “We’ve long been part of the community, and community service is how we show our appreciation for our neighbors’ support. And, these kids are our future shoppers and associates!”

A happy Capt. Chris Uehara, formerly of East Precinct, now at Family Services Division, helps Kevin Nguien choose school clothing.

Nick Sauvie, executive director of ROSE CDC tells us why their organization continues to be involved in the program – this year, serving 100 children. “It’s not easy for disadvantaged kids to start school wearing ragged clothes, and not having even the most basic school supplies. Providing them with the basics will probably help them do better in school.”

Sauvie adds that their organization plays two roles in the event. “We provide part of the funding and recruit residents from affording housing to participate.”

JJ Baker gets a trim from Shara Atterton, manager Johnson Creek Great Clips.

We ask one young “shopper” how he’s enjoying the event. Smiling ear to ear, he says, “This is really fun. I didn’t know cops could be so cool!”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

There’s no question whether or not this creek, which runs from Gresham to the Willamette River, floods. But find out why some outer SE Portland residents are concerned about the city’s plans …

Dale Guldenzopf shows the group, gathered at an empty lot owned by the City of Portland in Lents, a floodplain map from the 1940s. “I live next door. I have to pay for flood insurance, but I’m not even in the floodplain,” Guldenzopf says.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The group that gathers in an empty lot owned by the City of Portland in Lents on SE 108th Avenue keeps growing, as a meeting called by the Bureau of Environmental Services (BES) gets underway on August 23.

The meeting’s topic: The East Lents Floodplain Restoration Project.

BES Johnson Creek project manager Maggie Skenderian points out the location of the property on which this meeting is taking place in Lents.

“This project will reduce flood damage in Lents,” says the Johnson Creek project manager from BES, Maggie Skenderian, setting the stage for the meeting. “This project will add flood storage and habitat on BES property south of Foster Road, from 106th Avenue east to 110th Drive.”

Along these blocks, we learn, 75% of the property has been bought by the City of Portland. “We’ve received a $2.7 Million FEMA grant for this project; the City matching the grant with a $900,000 budget. The project is in the design phase, and construction is scheduled for summer of 2009.”

Flooding every ten years
As she starts the meeting, Skenderian says that Johnson Creek has major floods every ten years, and minor floods every other year.

“When we have a big event, the creek flows over the banks,” explains Skenderian. “The water doesn’t have places to go. We’re in the process if trying to identify what our potential opportunities and concerns are here, from the people who live in the immediate area.”

Civil engineer Eirik Schultz talks about options available to alleviate flooding events.

Stepping up to the maps, Eirik Schultz and Vigil Agrimis, say they come from a firm of civil engineers, landscape architects specializing in rivers, streams and wetlands.

“The Johnson Creek channel has moved over time,” Schultz begins. “At one time, it was over here,” he says, pointing to a map. “But, it might have been over here. We study its hydrology [from the Greek, “water knowledge”]; it migrates and adjusts itself, as it moves water and sediment.”

“Other streams,” Schultz goes on, “may feature a three to four foot wide channel at ordinary high water. During a yearly ‘channel-forming event’, it might widen to 20 feet. Its floodplain would be between 80 to 100 feet wide.

“However, Johnson Creek is a 30-foot wide channel with 12-14 foot vertical sides.

“It doesn’t access its floodplain until a ten year event,” explains Schultz. “When it does overflow its banks, the flooding is going to be very broad.”

Proposes flooding cures and obstacles
“When we connect a stream to the floodplain, it has somewhere to go when it overflows,” says the hydrologist. “We’ll attempt to lower the water surface elevation. At a 10-year event, you’ll see less flooding onto Foster Road. It will not stop flooding on the system, but there is nothing we could do to alleviate flooding from a major event.”

One way to deal with flooding is “storage” – but a dam is impractical on Johnson Creek.

“Another way to deal with it is ‘conveyance’. That is, moving water though the system more quickly. What we’re trying to do is find a balance of the two. We model solutions by considering what happens if we put in a channel here, or widen a channel there.”

But the main constraint on the design, Schultz concludes, is having to design the project around existing bridges, sewer lines, and property owners.

Joyce Beedle, who says she’s lived near the creek since 1984, raises concerns brought forward by neighbors.

Property owners’ concerns voiced
“We have several concerns about the project,” pipes up Joyce Beedle, a 20-year resident, and spokesperson for the Lents-area neighbors affected by the project.

“The ‘we’ I’m referring to are the families who live on 106th 108th and 110th. We’ve gotten together three times now, in the past couple of weeks,” Beedle states, holding a sheaf of notes. “We came up with what we call crucial facts, concerns during construction, after completion, and ‘loose ends’ questions.”

Her list of “critical items” include:
1. “That, in this [BES/FEMA program], there be no means of forcing the current residents out. There is no provision for condemnation.”

Almost a third of the people in the affected area, Beedle estimates, are second or third-generation residents, who plan to pass their property to their next generation.

“There are a fair number of us who have lived here for 20 years or more. The shortest duration is a resident who has been here for eight years,” she adds.

2. “This plan should include maximizing the use of Brookside [a nearby site already completed] as a ‘preamble’ to the work done further west at this new site.”

The reason stated is that this nearby existing site, upstream on Johnson Creek, has been improved for a long enough time that experts should “know what it does, what does not do, and what it could do better.”

3. “This project makes the area a better place to live, instead of degrading this portion of the neighborhood.”

Describing the Brookside project as looking “delightful”, Beedle says that neighbors don’t want the city to construct an ill-planned, “accidental floodplain restoration project”.

4. “Keep in mind that properties on SE 106th Avenue are on septic systems; not city sewer.”

The concern is that, whatever water is traveling through or being stored on BES property in a high water event, will be contaminated by the septic systems. High water may back up septic systems into homes.

5.  “The gravel base on the [unpaved] roads will be destroyed by heavy truck traffic.”

To this, Skenderian states the City of Portland will not be paving the three gravel roads during or after construction.

6.  “We will be holding the City of Portland, represented by BES, as accountable for hiring and responsibly supervising the contractors.”

The concern, Beedle relates, is that contractors won’t be mindful of property owned by neighbors during the construction project.

When Skenderian asks if there are other concerns, longtime area resident Ernie Francisco states she’s concerned that trees will be removed from city property during the project.

“The BES and the City must obtain permits to remove trees, just like any landowner,” Skenderian responds.

This illustration shows areas affected by the City’s proposed project.

Resident questions floodplain maps
Clipping up a map of the Lents Johnson Creek Floodplain from the 1940s, homeowner Dale Guldenzopf proclaims, “The family has been living here since 1929. I’ve been coming to this house for 57 years. This house never flooded. The site flooded, but not the house.”

The site to which Guldenzopf refers is one lot north of the city-owned land at which the meeting is taking place. “I live next door. I have to pay for flood insurance, but I’m not even in the floodplain,” Guldenzopf says.

When he steps to the back of the meeting, we ask Guldenzopf what he thinks of the project, based on what he’s seen.

“If they administer it just right, it will be fine,” he replies. “But I’m a little concerned that they might buy up some of the property and develop it. This is valuable land.”

For more information, or to be put on a meeting notification list, neighbors are being asked to contact Marie Johnson at BES by calling (503) 823-6199, or e-mailing Marie.Johnson@bes.ci.portland.or.us.

We’ll keep you up to date as this story – and project – continues to develop.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Don’t ignore the flashing yellow lights – or school speed zone signs – now that school is back in session. See what happens to scofflaws in too big a hurry, right here …

Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Officer Doug Gunderson here tracks the speed of vehicles passing by Menlo Park Elementary School using a LIDAR gun.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the next couple of weeks – now that school’s back in session – cops are out to catch and ticket drivers speeding through school zones.

It’s not that they’re mean spirited – instead, they’re trying to save kids’ lives.

“The flashing yellow lights mean ‘drop your speed to 20 mph and keep an eye out for the little ones going to school’,” says Sgt. Dan Liu, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct School Police Supervisor.

We’re talking with Liu in front of Menlo Park Elementary School on September 4. As we speak, most cars are slowing down for the school zone. “Going 20 mph gives drivers a lot more reaction time,” Liu explains. “And, the children may simply not be looking. They’re excited about going to school, and, not paying attention.”

However, other drivers seem oblivious to the flashing yellow “school zone” lights – and even seem to overlook the half-dozen police cruisers stopping speeders along NE Glisan Street.

We walk over and stand next to Traffic Division Officer Doug Gunderso, as he takes speed readings off his LIDAR gun. A medical transport van zips past at 38 mph; Gunderson radios ahead to a patrol car that stops the van. “I think this one will be cited, not warned,” Gunderson comments.

Officer Charles Lovell writes up a citation; and it isn’t for good driving. “We’ve got to slow drivers down around schools.” He says.

We go into the school to say hello to Brooke O’Neill, Menlo Park’s Principal. We ask her if she feels this special speed enforcement mission is important.

“All summer long, traffic goes 40 mph, or faster, along NE Glisan Street,” says O’Neill. “We need drivers to get back into the routine of going slowly when they pass the school, any time during the day. We want our kids to be safe, and we appreciate drivers slowing down – and watching out – for our children.”

Fines for speeding in a school zone could be as high as $206.00, for as little as eleven miles over the posted speed.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Learn why a “welfare check” on a family quickly turned into a crime scene investigation on NE Glisan Street, in this sad story …

Although police officers and paramedics tried to resuscitate the family members that the Multnomah County Coroner says was poisoned by carbon monoxide, the mother, father and child could not be saved.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The stillness of the night was shattered at 11:23 p.m. in the 10900 block of NE Glisan Street on September 6, as police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances converged on a modest house.

“All of a sudden, the street was filled with cops,” Gloria Yalsen tells us as we arrive on scene. “We came out and heard a bang – not like a gun going off. Just a loud ‘thud’ kind of sound. Next thing, I see a cop doing CPR on a guy. I don’t think it worked; the guy is there, under the yellow cover.”

We interview everyone in the area; everyone with whom we speak says they don’t know right then why there is such a high level of public safety provider response.

Tragic event called a Homicide/Suicide
At 5:38 a.m., police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz tells us he can now release information about the event.

“An occupant of the house sent an e-mail message to a friend in Southern California,” Schmautz begins. “The message informs them of the suicide/homicide.”

When police officers arrive, they find a hose hooked to the exhaust pipe of a hearse, still running, in the home’s driveway.

Officers see the hose is attached to the home’s furnace ductwork. They disconnect the hose and forced entry to the home. The sound heard by the neighbors was, in all likelihood, caused by the forced entry.

“In the home, officers located three incapacitated individuals: 39-year-old John Kuca, 39-year-old Luray Hodder-Kuca, and 5-year-old Ruby Kuca, in a bedroom,” reports Schmautz. “Officers carried all three outside and performed CPR.”

Risking their own safety, officers rush into the home, trying to rescue the occupants. None of the family members survived, police officials say.

We’ve learned, but police will not confirm, that the father and daughter were pronounced dead at the scene. The mother reportedly died on the way to the hospital in the ambulance.

“Detectives confirm that a suicide note was left at the scene,” states Schmautz. However, the spokesman would neither confirm nor deny whether or not their actions were prompted by an illness in their family not covered by health insurance, as some have speculated.

One officer was transported to the hospital after being overcome with carbon monoxide poisoning while trying to rescue the occupants of the house.  He was treated and released.

“The officer is doing OK,” Schmautz says.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Learn why Mayor Potter trekked to Parkrose, and Governor Kulongoski read a book to second-graders in Woodstock – both on the same morning this week. Check out this exclusive back-to-school story and photos …

Welcoming the mayor to Parkrose Middle School are Melissa Whitcomb, President of the Parkrose High and Middle School PTA; Ana Gonzalez, new Parkrose Middle principal; Student representative Jessica Luckenbaugh; the honoree, Portland Mayor Tom Potter; Marquese Hayes, student ambassador; and Molly Davies, Assistant Principal, Parkrose Middle School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Even though it isn’t an election year, and no funding measures are up for a vote, both the city’s and state’s chief executives paid visits to schools in East Portland – just as school started for the day on September 6.

Potter visits Parkrose

Bright and early, Mayor Tom Potter waves hello as we both pull into the parking lot at Parkrose Middle School at 9:00 a.m.

Whisked inside the office of Principal Ana Gonzalez, Potter meets with district board members and school representatives, including Superintendent Dr. Karen Gray.

Mayor Tom Potter is interviewed by a Parkrose High School student reporter – freshman Evan Huynh.

The first reporter to interview Potter is Evan Huynh, a freshman from Parkrose High School.

“I want to make sure our young people get the best education we can give them,” Potter tells Huynh. “This is my third school visit this week. I come out to let the schools know we’re supporting them. And, we’re also seeing how the school is doing, and looking for ways we can help.”

The Mayor added that his visits also bring the media out. “It’s good to have the public’s attention directed to the good things at your school.”

In his personable style, Potter then turns the tables and interviews the young reporter, asking, “You just graduated from this school – what could be improved?”

Huynh thinks for a moment, and says, “Adding a few more programs would be better. Many [school] programs are dedicated to drama and art, which are great. But a program for architecture or construction trades would be a good addition.”

For some reason, news reporters asked the mayor only about his new beard – not about his reasons for visiting schools during their first week in session.

Mayor quizzed about … his beard
Next in line was a reporter from radio KPAM/860. Surprisingly, he only questioned Potter about his newly-grown, but neatly-trimmed, facial hair.

Asked about the feedback he’s received about his beard, Potter says, “So far, the vote has been four people in favor, zero against. Because it is so new, it surprises me to see it when I look in the mirror. My wife likes it. In the polling [on my website at www.portlandonline.com] people can say if I should keep it or shave it off.”

Then the reporter asks if his new whiskers mean he’ll run for office again; Potter replies good naturedly, “The facial hair isn’t like a reading of tea leaves indicating whether or not I’ll be running again [for Mayor]. The only thing the facial hair says is that I was on vacation for two weeks, and it was easier not to shave.”

Says visit supports Parkrose Education
When we take our turn, we choose to ask Potter why he is visiting schools.

“Thank you, David, I appreciate the question,” Potter says with a grin.

“Young people are my first priority. As Mayor, I want to make sure they have the opportunity to get the best education possible.

“In Parkrose, the district has worked hard to overcome financial and facility shortages. They’re doing a good job. I want to make sure the voters understand what is at stake. That is, the children are the future of our community.”

The school’s principal and student representatives share their concerns about the upcoming school year with Mayor Potter.

The Mayor and school entourage set off for a tour of the school. He’s guided by student ambassadors Marquese Hayes and Jessica Luckenbaugh.

“I’m really excited to start school,” says Luckenbaugh, entering as an eighth-grade student. “I like to learn here. I thought it is pretty cool the Mayor came to visit. I was really excited when I learned I would get to take him around to show the Mayor our school today.”

Eighth-grader Jessica Luckenbaugh and student ambassador Marquese Hayes give Portland Mayor Tom Potter a tour of the school. Neither student indicated any interest in the Mayor’s new growth of facial hair.

After the mayor completed his tour, Ana Gonzalez — starting her third day as principal of Parkrose Middle School, comments, “We really enjoyed his visit today. We appreciate the interest he shows in our school, its students, and his desire to see that our students do well as they go on into high school.”

Governor Ted Kulongoski visits Woodstock elementary school

Meriwether Lewis Elementary School principal Tim Lauer talks with Governor Ted Kulongoski on their way to visit a classroom.

Learning that Governor Ted Kulongoski was scheduled to visit Meriwether Lewis Elementary School at 10 a.m., we travel to the Woodstock neighborhood.

As the first to greet him, we ask Kulongoski why he is visiting this grade school.

Says school visits make job worthwhile
“It is the beginning of school. It’s always important, I think, that kids see this as a great time,” the governor tells us as we stride toward the school’s entrance.

“I’m always out here trying to promote education. This is where it all starts; these kids at this age. I saw them standing there [in the schoolyard] as I went by, waving. I thought it was great. I like it. It makes the job all worthwhile.”

Inside the school, Kulongoski is greeted by principal Tim Lauer, interim Portland Public Schools Superintendent Ed Schmidt, and Oregon State Representative Carolyn Tomei.

Walking in the hallway, Kulongoski asks Lauer to describe the demographics of the school’s neighborhood, and whether or not special education is available.

They turn into the Debra Swan’s second-grade classroom. The children are active and talkative until their teacher utters the “magic word” – Rumpelstiltskin. They fall silent.

Press conference with second-graders

Governor Ted Kulongoski holds a press conference with students of Debra Swan’s second grade class at Lewis Elementary.

After he takes off his jacket, and sits down with the youngsters, Governor Kulongoski talks with the class.

“Working for kids, I think it is one of the most important things I do,” the Governor begins. “I’m trying to help you in school here, so you can learn to do anything you want to do. Oregon needs you guys. That’s why I come here to talk to you: To tell you how important it is to be in school.”

“Are you happy you are the Governor of Oregon?” asks a second-grade girl sitting in the front row.

“I am more than happy,” Oregon’s governor replies. “This is the best job I’ve ever had. I love being the Governor of Oregon. There are days when it isn’t the best job. But I always like it. It is always fun.”

“Do you have any pets at your house?” asks a boy.

“Yes I do,” Kulongoski replies. “I have the ‘first dog’, named Hershey. She thinks she’s top dog – but I’m the top dog.”

Students supply governing suggestions

Hanna and Makalia show Kulongoski sentiments starting with “If I was Governor of Oregon …” shared by other Lewis Elementary School posted outside their classroom.

After reading a brief story to the class, Kulongoski is escorted to a wall outside the classroom, adorned with printed sentiments starting with “If I were Governor of Oregon …”

Kulongoski reads aloud, “If I were Governor of Oregon, no one would drink alcohol.” He pauses, smiles and remarks, “Oh, that’s an interesting one. Ah, I don’t know – actually, ah, that is a wonderful statement. Is there a temperance movement here at the school?”

The Governor says he agrees with a posted note stating, “If I were Governor of Oregon, I would make sure no child played with guns.”

“If I were Governor of Oregon, I would make sure no sharks would ever eat anybody.” Kulongoski remarks, “That shows quite an imagination.”

Kulongoski reads a several more, including “If I were Governor of Oregon, I’d keep people safe by not letting them speed through [red] lights”, and “If I were Governor of Oregon, I would make sure that all the schools were really good.”

Principal Tim Lauer, Governor Ted Kulongoski, interim superintendent of Portland Public Schools, Ed Schmidt and Oregon State Representative Carolyn Tomei strike a pose in front of the student-made welcome banner.

Says he’s pleased with recent legislation
Asked how state-level politics influence local education, Kulongoski responds, “For teachers, I think there is an attitudinal difference in their belief that the state legislature and governor actually understands the importance of education in children’s lives.”

“I think as much as it is tangible, there is the intangible aspect of this saying ‘this is important to us’, and we have to provide the resources for it. I think it was a good session in the legislature for education. I think you’ll see it play out in the attitudes of the school’s professional staff,” explained Kulongoski.

After the Governor left the school, Lewis principal Tim Lauer says he thinks it is an honor to be visited by the state’s highest ranking executive. “Kulongoski demonstrated a real interest in our school and students. We’re all happy he chose to come visit our school here in Woodstock.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

When you learn how a homeowner got stung with a bogus $20 bill, you’ll see why you’re better off to insist they take a cheap item for free – or leave your property immediately …

This bill looks OK until you take a much closer look at it!

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The garage sale for the new Sellwood residents was a pleasant affair, although not a big money-maker, for the Smith* family on September 1.

“Overall, we had a nice day,” says Mary Smith*. “Friendly neighbors came to look, and a few people stopped look at the stuff we’re trying to get rid of.”

But, about 1 pm, as they were winding down their sale, a man who they thought would be their final customer of the day walked up.

“This scruffy looking guy doesn’t browse around,” Smith says. “He immediately picks up a door knob, priced at 25-cents.”

When the man asks if she can break a $20 bill, Smith tells the shopper to just take it.

“He was brisk and gruff,” Smith tells us, “and insisted on paying for the door knob with this $20 bill.” And, of course, he got change.

Here’s the back side of the fake $20 bill.

The man walked away quickly, down the sidewalk and hopped into an older “funky blue” Suzuki Samurai being driven a female. They sped away.

Because the man looked and acted so differently from everyone else who stopped at the garage sale, Smith says, she took closer look at the bill she was handed. “It doesn’t feel like money, and looking closely, you can see it is fake.”

Although her husband hopped in his car and tried to find the vehicle, scam artists apparently sped away from the neighborhood, $19.75 in change and a used door knob richer.

Tell-tale signs
Looking back on the brief transaction, Smith says it’s now clear how this scam works.

A car and get-away driver park up the street a couple of houses from a garage sale. The other person gets out, selects an inexpensive item, insists on paying for it, and passes a bogus bill.

“I don’t want other people to be taken in by these people – or others like them,” Smith says.

Look closely and you can see the “crop marks” to help the counterfeiters cut the bills to size after they’ve been printed.

Portrait of a crook
Smith describes the man as being a 5’8″ tall Caucasian with a dark tan, like he spent a lot of time outdoors. He has blue eyes and dark brown hair – short cut, but under a deep blue ballcap. At that time he was unshaven, with a day or two growth of beard. He was wearing jeans, a colored T-shirt and boots, perhaps work boots. His complexion was fairly clear, and appeared to have teeth (unlike meth addicts).

They made their escape in old, smaller open-topped jeep-like vehicle; possible a blue Suzuki Samurai. Because it was parked down the block, they didn’t get the license plate.

Don’t get burned by a bogus bill
“It wasn’t that great of a loss,” relates Smith. “When you look at the bill, it’s passable. But we still feel a bit taken and foolish. We don’t want others to be taken in like we were by these criminals – or any others – who are doing this.”

Making and passing counterfeit money is a federal crime. If you are victimized, call the Portland Police immediately.

*We’ve changed the name of the family affected to protect their privacy.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Read why the owner of this SE Portland railroad sees bright days ahead for rail transport – but a gloomy future for a transportation museum the City of Portland had promised to build 50 years ago …

Railroad historian and rail line owner, Dick Samuels, talks with his friend, retired engineer Jim Abney, before our “ride into history”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A few weeks ago, many people took note of the historic locomotives and rail cars running along the Oaks Bottom tracks.

According to railroad history buff Dick Samuels, these excursions were run for Lionel model train convention held in Portland, and a visiting group of “speeder” [a small, railroad four-person work car] enthusiasts.

Because it was built in 1952, rail buffs consider the Oregon Pacific Railroad Company’s 1202 “diesel electric” locomotive to be a relic. Bu, this fully-restored and rebuilt machine is its main engine to pull freight cars in and out of SE Portland every day.

“We also offered rides to the public to benefit the Pacific Railroad Preservation Assn., to publicize Portland’s trains, and remind people that we are here,” Samuels tells us at the association’s annual picnic held at Oaks Park. “To thank the volunteers, get to run the trains for themselves, today.”

Rail resurgence benefits inner SE Portland
The rails used in the demonstration rides between Oaks Park and East Portland Junction belongs to the Oregon Pacific Railroad Company – a real, working railroad company owned by Samuels. The “1202”, a diesel electric locomotive built in 1952, which powered some of the excursion rides, is the railroad’s “workday” engine.

“Inbound, we haul frozen food,” explains Samuels. “We handle about 90% of the frozen poultry that comes into Portland. We also carry coiled steel to a factory here. We ship out three to five carloads of frozen soup for institutions in the Midwest.”

Railroads are seeing a real resurgence, Samuels comments. “With fuel costs going up, and people more concerned about the environment, it makes sense. It isn’t the fastest form of freight transportation, but it is the most efficient.”

Samuels says his rail line, run with the help of his family members, keeps hundreds semi-trucks off SE Portland streets every month.

“As long as people keep eating, and needing goods, we’ll keep moving it by rail,” says Samuels with a smile.

Portland Transportation Museum 50 years overdue
While the future of his Milwaukie-based railroad looks bright, Samuels says he’s glum about the prospects for preserving the history of rail transportation in the Pacific Northwest.

“We’ve been looking at a home for Portland’s historic trolleys, railroad cars, and rail memorabilia south of Oaks Bottom. 50 years ago, Portland’s city leaders promised to build a transportation museum there. They haven’t kept their promise,”

Samuels points to the three cabooses and other older rail units on the tracks. “They need a place to live. We’ve been giving [Portland] the chance to fulfill this promise, at no cost to the public. We’re willing to do a straight trade – the right-of-way they need to complete the Springwater Trail, in exchange for access to site of the one-time Sellwood dump. We don’t even need to own the property; just the right to use it for its intended purpose.”

Changing the subject, Samuels asks if we’d like to ride in the 1202’s cab, while volunteer engineer Jim Abney (retired after 40 years of being full-time engineer) takes guests for a ride.

Jim Abney, a retired engineer, says he loves his volunteer engineer duties. “Go fishing? I’d rather drive a train any day.”

We readily agree, climb into the cab and step into living history. “You’re in good hands,” says Samuels with a smile, and hops off the train. The locomotive roars to life, and off, riding through history along Oaks Bottom, toward Portland.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Discover why this group was at a key site during the latest Johnson Creek Watershed-wide clean-up event …

Lisa Gunion-Rinker and Laurie Kendall volunteer to help clean up trash and clean out invasive plant species along Johnson Creek in inner SE Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the Friends of Tideman-Johnson Park, the Johnson Creek Watershed-wide clean-up project on August 18 isn’t a one-time event.

“We will be doing projects like this every month,” says co-chair Lisa Gunion-Rinker, as she takes a break from pulling ivy off a tree. “We’ll also be doing native plantings in the park.”

Considerable work has been done to improve Tideman-Johnson Park, including covering a once-exposed major sewer line, adding a boardwalk, and restoring natural habitat. “But, I’m surprised how many people haven’t visited it.”

Gunion-Rinker tells us their group was awarded a stewardship grant from the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services as a part of the Greater Johnson Creek Watershed improvement program

Many volunteers pitch in
“For the area-wide event today,” says Gunion-Rinker, “We’ve partnered up with Portland Parks & Recreation, the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, and Precision Castparts. About 60 people came to our site, and we’re getting a whole bunch of work done.”

Sixty volunteers from several organizations, including PCC Structural, pitched in to preen the land near the creek.

We see workers pulling ivy off trees, chopping down blackberry bushes, and removing other non-native species. Other volunteers gather and haul out trash.

“Our monthly projects will keep our park a better one for people to enjoy, and to see the natural area as it should be,” says Gunion-Rinker. “We hope others will join us – usually on the last Saturday of the month.”

Serving themselves some great barbecue, prepared by Clay’s Smokehouse, are volunteers Wes and Wiley Wolfe, at the JCWS’s “Jammin’ for Salmon” event that followed the watershed-wide cleanup.

Where to access the park
This park runs along the Springwater Corridor. From Eastmoreland, you’ll find the entrance just south of SE Crystal Springs Blvd. at the end of SE 38th Ave. On the south side of the creek, enter from Springwater Corridor access parking lot on SE 45th Ave just off Johnson Creek Blvd.

“This park is in the Ardenwald-Johnson Creek Neighborhood Association area, but we also have volunteers from Woodstock, Eastmoreland, and Sellwood today,” adds Gunion-Rinker.

Check www.ardenwald.com to find the group’s activity dates. And, learn more about the Johnson Creek Watershed Council by visiting www.jcwc.org.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

© 2005-2019 David F. Ashton East PDX News™. All Rights Reserved.