Will citizens of outer East Portland and East Multnomah County finally get something more than its current one-room leaky courthouse? Your comments will count: Read about an upcoming forum you should attend on February 8 …

Multnomah County Commissioner Lonnie Roberts has led a four-year effort to create a full-service Justice Center to serve the 200,000 citizens of East County.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
After years of wrangling ‚Äì and two “blue ribbon” committees’ recommendations ‚Äì building an East County facility to house courtrooms and other services is edging closer to becoming a reality.

“We’ve been at this for the past four years,” Multnomah County Commissioner Lonnie Roberts tells us, as we visit the proposed site on SE Stark Street in Gresham. “Actually, the real movement, including our funding plan ‚Äì selling excess county property to pay for it ‚Äì has been going for the past three and a half years.”

More than meeting the mandate
Roberts reminded us that Multnomah County, by Oregon State law, is mandated to maintain a courthouse in Gresham. But, the current facility is a one-room courthouse on Powell Blvd. “It’s old; it leaks when it rains. It is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It may meet the requirement of the state law, but it certainly doesn’t meet the needs of the people of East County,” Roberts said.

The commissioner added, “We’re looking to serve over the over 200,000 people from 122nd Avenue out to the eastern edge of the county.”

Will give Rockwood an economic boost
The land for the Justice Center that’s been recommended, Roberts explained, is in Rockwood, at the former site of the Fred Meyer Home & Garden Store on SE Stark Street. “In addition to the convenience of providing county services, there is a strong indication that building this facility here will lower crime in the area. This is the kind of project the spurs other kinds of economic development in this area.”

Roberts continued, “We have a unique way of paying for it. This project won’t put the county into debt. We’ll have a building already paid for, that will give the community what it needs, in many ways.”

Commissioners vote for “full service” facility
On February 1, the County Commissioners agreed, in a unanimous vote, on the “full service” concept for an East County facility.

As described, the new facilities will be more than a courthouse. The “full service” Justice Center will:

  • House a courthouse with four courtrooms, and the space to build two more if needed;
  • Allow the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office finally to vacate the mold-ridden, leaky Hansen Building in which it now operates;
  • House the District Attorney’s office, as well as satellite offices for county agencies.

“There’s also a good possibility that Gresham Police will have a station located in the building,” said Roberts.

Be heard on February 8
Although the Rockwood site has been proposed, and has considerable backing, whether it will be built there or somewhere else is still up in the air. While many support the proposed Rockwood site, others are pushing locate it in downtown Gresham.

To get more input from citizens, Roberts said that he — in partnership with the Centennial Neighborhood Association — will hold a public meeting to present information and receive comments on the East County Justice Center.

Sheriff Bernie Giusto will be on hand, as will be representatives from the County Chair’s office.

The meeting will take place February 8, 2007, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Parklane Christian Reformed Church, 16001 SE Main St., in Gresham.

“Please come, and let us know what you think,” Roberts urged.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Will citizens of outer East Portland and East Multnomah County finally get something more than its current one-room leaky courthouse? Your comments will count: Read about an upcoming forum you should attend on February 8 …

Multnomah County Commissioner Lonnie Roberts has led a four-year effort to create a full-service Justice Center to serve the 200,000 citizens of East County.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
After years of wrangling ‚Äì and two “blue ribbon” committees’ recommendations ‚Äì building an East County facility to house courtrooms and other services is edging closer to becoming a reality.

“We’ve been at this for the past four years,” Multnomah County Commissioner Lonnie Roberts tells us, as we visit the proposed site on SE Stark Street in Gresham. “Actually, the real movement, including our funding plan ‚Äì selling excess county property to pay for it ‚Äì has been going for the past three and a half years.”

More than meeting the mandate
Roberts reminded us that Multnomah County, by Oregon State law, is mandated to maintain a courthouse in Gresham. But, the current facility is a one-room courthouse on Powell Blvd. “It’s old; it leaks when it rains. It is in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It may meet the requirement of the state law, but it certainly doesn’t meet the needs of the people of East County,” Roberts said.

The commissioner added, “We’re looking to serve over the over 200,000 people from 122nd Avenue out to the eastern edge of the county.”

Will give Rockwood an economic boost
The land for the Justice Center that’s been recommended, Roberts explained, is in Rockwood, at the former site of the Fred Meyer Home & Garden Store on SE Stark Street. “In addition to the convenience of providing county services, there is a strong indication that building this facility here will lower crime in the area. This is the kind of project the spurs other kinds of economic development in this area.”

Roberts continued, “We have a unique way of paying for it. This project won’t put the county into debt. We’ll have a building already paid for, that will give the community what it needs, in many ways.”

Commissioners vote for “full service” facility
On February 1, the County Commissioners agreed, in a unanimous vote, on the “full service” concept for an East County facility.

As described, the new facilities will be more than a courthouse. The “full service” Justice Center will:

  • House a courthouse with four courtrooms, and the space to build two more if needed;
  • Allow the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office finally to vacate the mold-ridden, leaky Hansen Building in which it now operates;
  • House the District Attorney’s office, as well as satellite offices for county agencies.

“There’s also a good possibility that Gresham Police will have a station located in the building,” said Roberts.

Be heard on February 8
Although the Rockwood site has been proposed, and has considerable backing, whether it will be built there or somewhere else is still up in the air. While many support the proposed Rockwood site, others are pushing locate it in downtown Gresham.

To get more input from citizens, Roberts said that he — in partnership with the Centennial Neighborhood Association — will hold a public meeting to present information and receive comments on the East County Justice Center.

Sheriff Bernie Giusto will be on hand, as will be representatives from the County Chair’s office.

The meeting will take place February 8, 2007, beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Parklane Christian Reformed Church, 16001 SE Main St., in Gresham.

“Please come, and let us know what you think,” Roberts urged.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

The sound of shots ringing out did indeed come from guns during both events. But you’ll be surprised to learn WHY those shots were fired, in these two odd cases ‚Ķ

Not knowing what they’d face, members of the SERT unit gear up and ready their armored vehicle, as they go into action on SE 92nd Ave. south of Foster Road on January 28.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It seems too cold and windy on Sunday night, January 28, for crooks to be out shooting up the Lents neighborhood.

Nevertheless, 9-1-1 operators start getting “shots fired” calls from people in the area of SE 92nd Ave. south of Foster Road.

At the scene, we talk with Portland Police Bureau spokesperson Cathe Kent. “We’re here because we’ve gotten calls from neighbors that they thought they were being shot at, or that there were shots coming from a home here.”

The first officer arriving, Kent tells us, believed he heard gunfire.

Immediately, 100 members worshiping in a church, directly across from the home in question, are asked to stay inside, and away from the west wall of the building. SE 92nd Avenue is shut down; eastbound traffic on SE Foster Road is rerouted as the Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT) and The Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT) respond to the scene.

Residents of neighboring homes are evacuated and taken to a waiting TriMet bus, parked the New Copper Penny lot.

The Mobile Command Center rolls into place on SE 92nd Ave., about a block north of Foster Road.

Police officers make contact and three occupants of the house in question walked out on their own; three additional occupants were eventually talked out by the HNT team.

The area remained “locked down” while officers searched for a seventh subject, who was finally located and stopped in the 6100 block of SE 93rd Avenue. All seven are currently being detained, and are being interviewed by investigators.

The next day, it looks as if the “indoor rifle range” is getting some badly needed renovation.

Indoor target practice
Officers go through the home at 6131 Southeast 92nd Avenue. One cop confides to us, “It’s the worst I’ve ever seen or smelled.” He says he thinks it’s a “flophouse”, badly in need of disinfecting. During their search, they find a .22 caliber rifle.

Finally the “all clear” signal is given, and everyone packs up to go home.

Unofficially, an officer tells us, “It seems residents were doing some ‘target practice’ inside this house, starting about 5 p.m. From what I’ve heard, they seemed unaware that the bullets were penetrating the walls, and zinging through the neighborhood, scaring the heck out of everyone!”

The incident remains under investigation; charges have yet to be filed.

But read on! There’s more!

About 2:00 p.m. on January 31, police say, they took a call from a woman in the area of SE 118th and Ogden Court about her husband shooting a gun in their home.

The Mobile Command Center rolls into place in southern East Portland, responding to a “shots-fired” call.

At the scene, police spokesman Sgt Brian Schmautz informs us, “She says her husband was shooting off rounds in the home. He had some suicidal issues. She was concerned for her personal safety, and for her husband’s well-being.”

Hears shots ring out
A nearby resident, Burdel Roberts, tells us, “I heard what sounded like one shot. I didn’t know what it was. The wife called and asked me to look out; the police were all around the house.

“I looked out my door, and a police officer came out of the bushes and said, ‘Get back in the house’. I was sitting in the den and about 30 minutes later, he knocked on the door, saying they were evacuating the area. So, we left.”

Portland Police Bureau East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs directs officers as they search for the suspect.

As the police cordon off the area, they get word the shooter has left his home, and has gone into the nearby woods on foot.

The shooting call triggers the SERT team’s arrival. “While there is a full call-out,” explains Sgt. Schmautz, “we don’t have an actual deployment.”

At the scene, Portland Police Bureau spokesperson Sgt. Brian Schmautz fills us in on the latest outer East Portland SERT call-out.

About two hours later, the suspect walks out of the woods. “He didn’t have the gun with him; he left it inside the home,” says Schmautz. He is taken into custody without incident. He isn’t found to be hurt in any way, and is taken in for a mental health evaluation. “It appears to be an issue of deteriorating mental health. He didn’t appear to be shooting at his wife.”

The sergeant did say at least two rounds were fired inside the home. “We don’t know his motivation. He didn’t hit any portion of his body. It appears he was despondent for some reason.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See how the eagle-eyed sleuths at East Portland’s Crime Reduction Unit nabbed two suspects who were holding thousands of “hits” of “crystal meth” ‚Ķ

Officer Anthony Passadore, one of the two original CRU members, shows us the POUNDS of methamphetamine, cocaine, and cash cops found being smuggled inside a car, at a SE Portland bust.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
One of the most common “complaints” about Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct Crime Reduction Unit (CRU), Commander Michael Crebs says, is these officers are so friendly, criminals find they can’t help but talk and reveal information about their nefarious activities.

Since the CRU crew was formed in 2005, they’ve only gotten better at taking down those trafficking in large quantities of dope.

I met up with Officer Anthony Passadore, one of the two original CRU members, for a “show-and-tell” about their latest arrest.

“On January 29, at 8:13 p.m.,” Passadore begins, “CRU officers conducted a traffic stop at SE Powell Blvd at 129th Ave. While talking to the occupants, officers received permission to conduct a search of the car.

“During the search, officers located a hidden compartment in the dashboard of the car.  The compartment contained two and a half pounds of methamphetamine, one pound of cocaine and just over $10,000 in cash.

These drugs and cash stash were concealed in a secret, dashboard compartment.

Because the drug is usually sold in gram quantities, this bust took thousands of doses of meth off the street, Passadore tells us. Because the drugs haven’t been tested, they didn’t know if it was pure or “cut” (diluted). “If it was pure meth, it would easily double the amount of meth that would to on the street.”

Caught in a flood of drugs
About every two months, Passadore continues, their unit seizes about this same quantity of illicit narcotics, but usually not in just one bust. This is the third largest seizure they’ve had since the unit started up in 2005, he says.

I reminisce with Passadore about how that the CRU unit started with the “Tired of Tweekers” campaign in the Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhood area ‚Äì partly at the instance of then-chair Glenn Taylor.

One of the original “meth-busters”, Passadore slipped off his jacket to show he is wearing his “colors” ‚Äì the original anti-crime campaign’s T-Shirt.

Passadore smiles, and confides to me, “I’ve still got my ‘Tired of Tweekers’ T-shirt from back when we started the unit. In fact, David, in honor of that campaign, I’m wearing it today.” He slipped off his jacket and showed the garment to the assembled press.

“But remember,” Passadore says, “This isn’t about any single officer. This is a perfect example of how the CRU team comes together to produce significant results.”

Crime-fighting by observation
Often, people wonder how CRU cops make big drug busts like this; some accuse the officers of “profiling” people by age, race or any number of other categories.

“On the street,” Passadore explains, “we’re observing behaviors. We’re looking for potential indicators of criminal activity. When we spot enough indicators to suggest criminal activity is taking place, we take a closer look. Often, it starts with a conversation, or a traffic stop.”

He adds that CRU officers work together and share their knowledge and experience. This helps cops refine their techniques and become better observers.

“And, we also study current case law to make sure that the work we do in this office is solid, so the prosecutor has a solid case. We want to make sure people who bring this type of drugs into our community are stopped and punished in the criminal court system,” Passadore assures me.

Two in custody

(Left) Jose Juan Zavala Huitron and (Right) Pedro Cervantez Urbina are the ones said to have been caught with pounds of dope in this bust. (PPB booking photos)

33-year-old Jose Juan Zavala Huitron and his passenger, 26-year-old Pedro Cervantez Urbina were charged with charged with two counts of Distribution of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree, and two counts of Possession of a Controlled Substance in the Second Degree and booked into the Justice Center Jail.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Know a Bronco alumnus or supporter who deserves to be recognized? Now’s the time to recommend they be added to the school’s Hall of Fame. Here’s how ‚Ķ

Principal Roy Reynolds announces the 2nd Annual Hall of Fame program at Parkrose High School.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
We just got word that it’s time again to make your nomination of a Parkrose High School alumnus or community member to the school’s newly-established Hall of Fame.

At the school, principal Roy Reynolds told us, “The Hall of Fame is the Parkrose School Districts’ way of showing our Parkrose graduates and community members how much we appreciate all their effort while working with our school, and then later, in their lives.”

At Parkrose High School, Reynolds added, teachers and staff work hard to give Parkrose students the best education possible. “We know their dedication, which shows in the successes of our alums and the community members who support them.”

What’s the criterion?

Parkrose High School Hall of Fame Nominees should demonstrate leadership, success in their chosen field of work, and significant contributions to community improvement.

Contact the school for a nomination form at (503) 408- 2600; then make sure to return it before March 1, 2007.

The Hall of Fame awards will be presented at the 4th Annual Parkrose Educational Foundation Auction on April 28th at the Holiday Inn on Columbia Ave. You can join the celebration: Get your tickets now by going online at www.parkroseedfdn.org, or by calling (503) 408-2106.

We asked Reynolds if there’s anything else we should add to this article. “Go Broncos!” was his reply.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

We became fans of Captain Bogg & Salty when we reported their first East Portland library show years ago. See Bogg and his merry band of musical scallywags play a benefit to help local education …

Captain Bogg works the crowd, crying out, “Give me the first group-‘Yarrrr’ ever heard in the Moreland Theater!”

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Some walking in the door are dressed like pirates; others are wearing pirate bandanas, eye patches, or tri-cornered hats. Still others are carrying skull and crossbones flags, as they file into the Moreland Theater.

Surprisingly, most of these colorfully-dressed characters aren’t children going to see a high-seas adventure matinee. Instead, they’re the adult parents of Llewellyn School students coming to see Captain Bogg & Salty and their merry pirate band of musical scallywags on January 20.

Taking tickets at the door, Julie Wright and Robin Johnson, co-presidents of the Llewellyn Foundation, say the event was nearly a sell-out.

While taking tickets from a stream of patrons coming to see the early-afternoon show, Llewellyn Foundation co-president Robin Johnson tells us, “We love our 75-year old neighborhood school. The funds we raise from this benefit concert will help us hire an extra teacher. The result will be smaller class sizes.”

Amber Buford and her family were a few of the patrons without costumes, but they said they were excited to see Portland’s world-famous pirate band.

As the band is getting ready to appear, we ask Captain Bogg how the idea for this benefit concert got started. As usual, he grumbles, grunts, and pulls his First Mate up front, to answer our query.

“Julie Wright, the parent of a Llewellyn student first approached us,” says the effable First Mate McGraw. “She had this idea that Captain Bogg & Salty could play a benefit concert at Moreland Theatre. The band agreed, and here we are!”

Captain Bogg (far left) and his musical buccaneers strike a pose for ye scribe, just before rocking out the Moreland Theater.

Typically, a sunny Saturday afternoon is prime box-office time for the Moreland Theater. We ask Jim Hunt, who runs the theater with his wife, Lynn, why they donated the space for the event, instead of selling tickets to a Hollywood movie.

“We’re glad to be helping raise funds to help out at Llewellyn School,” says Jim as he popped another batch of fresh popcorn. “Our theater is supported by the community. We’re deeply thankful for the people here in inner East Portland who support our movie house.”

The Moreland Theater is nearly sold out. This crowd knows they’re about to enjoy a rollicking good show put on the Portland’s most famous pirates.

The show starts off with Captain Bogg and the boys doing their famous “Peg-leg Pirate Tango” and “Pieces of 8ight”. From the first number onward, everyone is clapping along; some are dancing in the aisles.

On the way out Johnson stops us to say the foundation sold more than 400 tickets to the event, raising more than $2,500. “Please let everyone know how much we appreciate their support of this event on behalf of the Llewellyn Foundation.”

Johnson continues, “For helping with advance ticket sales, we thank Wallace Books, New Seasons Market, Music Millennium, and the Llewellyn School office. Also, thanks to Molly Lee and Jennifer Maxwell-Muir for the posters and tickets, and Moreland Presbyterian Church for equipment. And finally, thank you so much to the many volunteers who helped in so many ways.”

Other photos from the show we enjoyed…

The Captain sings for the appreciative crowd.

This wacky band plays for an adoring – and wacky – crowd!

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See what business folks and neighbors learned when a tax expert came by to share information that can reduce your total tax bill …

Tax consultant Elaine Elsea tells people at the Midway Business Association how to legally pay lower taxes this year.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
Folks who come to the Midway Business Association do more than network – they get timely information that helps them run their business more efficiently.

Members at Midway are also involved with their community. President Donna Dionne told the group how a city grant is helping them fund boundary signs that define the group’s service area ‚Äì and the neighborhoods it serves.

Tax tips provided
January’s guest speaker was Elaine Elsea, of Portland Rose Accounting and Tax Service. “There are new things going on this year with taxes,” she began.

One can deposit up to $4,000 in an IRA savings account this year, she said. If one is over 50, they can deposit an additional $1,000. It applies to ROTH IRAs as well.

“Be sure to check for all eligible deductions,” Elsea continued. “Tuition, sales tax (if paid in another state), educator expenses (teachers) deduction ‚Äì these all add up.”

Be sure to ask your tax preparer about the way leasehold improvements are depreciated, she said. “They’ll stay 15 years. These were about to sunset; the President signed a bill to restore the deduction.”

Energy credits are back. If one insulates — puts in new storm windows or doors — they can take a 10% credit. The credit, she said, also applies to improvements such as a new energy-efficient furnace.

Work Opportunity and Welfare-to-Work credits have been restored.

Medical savings plans have also been extended. Also, one can make a one-time roll-over from IRA into a health savings account without paying income tax and a penalty.

In 2007, if you are required to have mortgage insurance, it will now be deductible as mortgage interest.

Thinking of buying a new car? “There are nice credits for hybrid vehicles available; but only for the original buyer of a new vehicle. These credits can be has high as $3,000 ‚Äì and it’s not a deduction but a credit,” Elsea explained.

These are just some of the wide variety of tips offered at the meeting.

Come by on February 13
If you have a business in the southern portion of outer East Portland, consider joining the Midway Business Association. You’ll get to know your business neighbors, join in a cooperative marketing effort, help our local community and schools, get more clout at City Hall, and promote and improve Outer Southeast Portland.

Join them for lunch on Tuesday, February 13 11:45 a.m. at Pizza Baron, 2604 SE 122nd Ave. (just south of Division St.).

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See why tots were tittering at this Midland Library event …

Young kids (and their parents) got a real treat as Penny’s Puppet Productions presented an original program at Midland Library.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Not all programs at Midland Library are strictly educational.

“As a former teacher,” says puppeteer Penny Walter, “I call my programs ‘edutainment’ ‚Äì a combination of education and entertainment. In this program we’ll have some fun, inspire the youngsters to use their imaginations, and develop early literacy.”

In the program, the main character, Tommy, wishes to become a pirate. His wish comes true when he happens upon a treasure map, Captain Long Johns, and Crackers the Bird.

During the adventure, Tommy discovers that being a pirate isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and discovers something even more important.

Puppeteer Penny presenting her original story, “My life as a Pirate”.

After the show, we learn that Walter’s one-woman puppet company specializes in presenting puppet shows, storytelling, and consulting.

To earn her Masters degree in Early Childhood Education, Walter’s Thesis was entitled “Teaching with Puppets”. She taught primary grades in Portland-area schools for three years, before following her dream of becoming a full time puppeteer and storyteller.

Want to learn more? Check her website: www.pennypuppets.com.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Read why SamTrak owner Dick Samuels persistently pursues building the transportation museum – a facility promised to citizens by the city fathers more than fifty years ago …

Jim Abney, engineer of the 440-ton Portland & Seattle #700 steam locomotive, walks near the drive wheels which spread the tracks apart, causing the “Holiday Express” excursions, after many successful trips, to be derailed for the season.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For neighbors along the ridge above Oaks Bottom, the holiday season had an old-time touch ‚Äì the sound of a giant steam engine chugging along, as it pulled the “Holiday Express” excursion train from Oaks Park to OMSI.

Brett Engel holds Madeleine as they travel through Oaks Bottom ‚Äì and “back in time” ‚Äì aboard the steam excursion train. “We wanted to ride on this train from Oregon’s history,” Brett said, “so we came here from Portland’s west side to enjoy the journey.”

All Aboard Portland’s Holiday Express
When we boarded the “Holiday Express” at Oaks Amusement Park on December 23, the journey was sold out, with only standing room available.

The conductor’s call, “All aboard!” cut through the stillness of the morning, enshrouded in soft, “Oregon rain” mist.

Steam hissed from the valves of the mighty 17-foot tall, nearly 1 million pound locomotive, which was festooned with a holiday wreath and decorative electrical lighting.

Releasing the brakes, pulling the “Johnson Bar”, and advancing the throttle, Jim Abney, engineer of Portland & Seattle’s #700 steam locomotive, caused its pistons to turn the massive steel drive wheels ‚Äì first slowly, then more rapidly. Soon, a platoon of passengers were whizzing northward through Oaks Bottom.

Dick Samuels, owner of the “SamTrak” railroad on which the Holiday Express runs, shares with riders his vision of creating a rail museum ‚Äì fulfilling a promise made to Portland citizens more than five decades ago.

Weighty engine spreads tracks
The holiday revelers, plied with sparkling cider, home-made chocolates, and apricot delights, didn’t know that this particular ride was about to come to an abrupt end.

A little more than two miles from the departure point; the train lurched and came to a sudden stop. The railroad ties, softened by heavy rains, had allowed the steel tracks to spread just enough to allow the mighty locomotive to drop between them.

Crew members check the track under the #700. They discover that the 440-ton weight of the locomotive, over the course of some fifty excursion trips, had weakened the rain-softened railroad ties, and the rails to spread. The behemoth engine simply sank down between the tracks.

“We made about fifty trips this year,” engineer Abney told us. “It looks like we’re done for the season.”

The man behind the track
Richard “Dick” Samuels owns the railroad along which the Holiday Express runs. His Oregon Pacific Railroad Company ‚Äì often referred to as “SamTrak” ‚Äì transports freight between Inner Southeast Portland and Milwaukie.

A few days after our abbreviated journey, Samuels told us about his business – and his passion: A Portland railroad museum.

“We allow Oregon Rail Heritage Association (ORHA) to use our tracks as a fundraiser,” began Samuels. “Once we brought in our heavy equipment, it took about a half-hour to re-rail the train.”

He said the rail line was originally built to handle lightweight trolley cars, not freight. “We put in 400 new hardwood ties last year. We maintain the lines for our freight business.”

Rail Transportation Museum derailed
Samuels told us he’s a native (Milwaukie High School, class of ’62), and has always loved trains.

“Did you know that, in the 1950’s, railroads serving our area donated steam locomotives to the City of Portland, to be placed in a transportation museum to be built in Oaks Park?” He asked.

“We have two of only six large, operating steam locomotives in the world today ‚Äì and, fifty years later, they still don’t have a home.”

Samuels explained that ORHA volunteers have lovingly restored and maintained these engines, but they have been left subject to the elements, vandals, and thieves. “The tweekers [methamphetamine addicts] break in and steal whatever brass and aluminum they can sell for scrap.”

Importance of rail history to Portland
Railroads, powered by steam locomotives, provided the transportation necessary to help the Pacific Northwest, and the greater Portland area, grow and mature.

“A rail transportation museum,” Samuels continued, “will allow future generations to see how people traveled. They’ll be able to touch the actual equipment that built our great country. It would be a terrible loss for Portland if we don’t fulfill our promise to build this museum.”

A Milwaukie native, Samuels says he’s doing everything he can to make sure the citizens of Portland get the railroad museum promised to them at Oaks Bottom over 50 years ago.

Samuels takes action
“We’ve offered METRO to swap some of our Sellwood right of way ‚Äì in exchange for land owned by the City of Portland. The Oaks Pioneer Transportation Museum will be built, through private donations, on this land.”

Samuels said he thought METRO was receptive to the idea, by which he would exchange land he owns at the south end of Sellwood, wanted by METRO to complete the “Sellwood Gap” of the Springwater Trail, for a lease on the unused, former dump site south of Oaks Bottom and across from Oaks Amusement Park.

“It is a ‘win-win’ kind of deal.”

Liberty weighs in
Although he said he couldn’t comment directly on the land-swap negotiations underway, District 6 Metro Counselor Robert Liberty told us, “This will make the Springwater Corridor trail a lot more usable and important.”

Liberty emphasized that every added transportation option takes some pressure off the crowded highways. “And, as we complete segments of the trails, we find trail use increases throughout all of the trail’s segments. The easier we make it for people to bike or walk, whether for transportation or pleasure, the better it is for our entire community.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See how the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office busts another meth trafficker and surprises his customers, when they come around his Centennial neighborhood apartment to buy some dope¶

Tucked away in a back unit of this apartment complex was a dope dealer, ready to peddle 4,500 “hits” of methamphetamine.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
Around the clock, deputies of Multnomah County Sheriff Office Special Investigations Unit (SIU) are sniffing out drug importers and retailers. And, they’re not looking for guys selling ibuprofen!

When the SIU gets a tip that a meth peddler had set up shop in a low-slung apartment complex in the Centennial Community Association in the 16100 block of SE Main Street a few days ago, they dropped by to pay a visit.

“It’s called a ‘knock-and-talk’,” Lt. Jason Gates, Public Information Officer for the Sheriff’s office, tells us. “Deputies just show up, and talk with whomever is at the suspected location.”

This suspect, Jorge Hijar-Taizan, alleged to be a meth distributor, has a new home address: the Multnomah County Detention Center. (MCSO photo)

About 8:00 p.m. on January 18, a “knock-and-talk” at 16115 SE Main St, Apt #5, puts them face-to-face with 29-year-old Jorge Hijar-Taizan, who is allegedly babysitting over a pound ‚Äì not ounce! ‚Äì of “ice”, another name for methamphetamine.

“During the course of investigation, our personnel discovered and seized 1.25 lbs of meth. Additionally, they discovered a digital gram scale, typically used to measure out quantities of methamphetamine for sale,” says Gates.

Drug buddies surprised
While at the residence, other potential suspects came to the location, not knowing the police were there, Gates adds. “They were detained during the investigation, but ultimately weren’t charged.”

To put the bust into prospective, Gates says 1.25 pounds of meth has an “uncut” street value of $35,840, which equates to approximately 4,500 “hits” or dosage units. “The dollar amount and number of dosage units can double or triple when the product is cut [diluted].”

The interesting aspect of this case, Gates informs us, is that with the decline of meth manufacturing labs in Oregon “we have seen a marked increase in the amount of meth coming from large drug cartels in Mexico. With the reduction in labs, over the past two years, SIU investigators are now seizing meth, originating from Mexico, by the pound.”

Hijar-Taizan is being held on charges of Felony Possession of a Controlled Substance (methamphetamine), and Felony delivery of a Controlled Substance (Methamphetamine), at the Multnomah County Detention Center.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See why eyewitnesses said they couldn’t believe their eyes, seeing the trailer’s singed resident still standing outside, after the explosion that rocked this Powellhurst-Gilbert trailer park ‚Ķ

Although officials still say this fire is officially under investigation, witnesses claim the lone occupant smelled natural gas just before he lit up a cigarette – apparently sparking a fireball that destroyed his mobile home.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Folks who live in and near Ranchette Manor say this mobile home park is typically quiet and peaceful. But on January 24, an explosion, followed by a fireball, in this Powellhurst-Gilbert park on SE Powell Blvd. at SE 109th Avenue, stunned residents.

“I was emptying my recyclables,” Dave LaFollette, owner of the Back to the Grind coffee shop at the park’s entrance, tells us. “I hear a ‘pop’ and look over my shoulder. Then, there is an explosion. I see the top of Jerry’s single-wide trailer blow about three feet off the walls before it falls back into the trailer.”

LaFollette says he and others raced to the mobile home, now completely engulfed in flames. Many had cell phones in hand, calling 9-1-1 Emergency.

“Jerry, the guy who lives there, was standing outside. He looked dazed; and like he was badly burned,” LaFollette continues. “It seemed like the fire department was there immediately.”

The lone occupant of the mobile home is rushed to Emanuel Hospital, with 2nd and 3rd degree burns over 30% of his body, in this ambulance.

Another neighbor, who asked not to be identified, shook her head looking at the twisted, burning metal shell that once was a home. “I’m surprised he’s alive and was standing outside. He said he went to light up a smoke, and the next thing he knew, he was on fire.”

Three-minute response
According to Portland Fire & Rescue’s official records, trucks started rolling at 1:07 p.m. and arrived on-scene 1:10 p.m. In all, four engines and two ladder companies from Portland Fire & Rescue stations 7, 11, 45 and 29 responded to the fiery explosion.

Firefighters keep the flames from spreading to nearby mobile homes in the park. The trailer where the fire started, however, is declared a total loss.

Fire medics treated and stabilized the patient while other firefighters began fighting the fire.

On scene, we speak with Battalion 3 Chief Chris Babcock. He confirms our witnesses’ stories: “We had a lone occupant in the trailer. He reported a smell of natural gas. Shortly thereafter, there was an explosion. He was transported to Emanuel Hospital with burn injuries.”

“Our firefighters face challenges fighting this fire,” says Lt. Allen Oswalt, the bureau’s spokesperson, as we stand together, viewing the smoldering debris at the scene. “There is limited, cramped access to the site; and, we are concerned that electric power lines might fall on personnel and equipment.”

The older mobile home park has narrow streets, making access more difficult, firefighters say.

Fire Investigators from Portland Fire & Rescue are treating the area as a crime scene, to keep any evidence in the debris field intact for recovery.

Although there are indications of a gas leak contributing to the explosion, fire investigators will only say the fire is still under investigation. The official word: “It is not known at this time what caused the explosion.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

The police aren’t sure whether or not to charge the poor driver with “hit & run” since he walked away from the scene ‚Äì after giving his cell phone to the driver of the SUV he hit ‚Ķ

Cops try to sort out what happed in this violent smash-up on SE Woodstock Blvd.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
During the mid-January snowstorm, we saw a number of accidents caused by drivers traveling faster than was safe for the slick conditions. Other wrecks were caused by speeding, running traffic signals or inattention.

The cause of this wreck left the police – and victim – scratching their heads. And, what happened afterward puzzled them even more.

On January 23, the driver of a Ford Bronco told us, “I was driving east on Woodstock, going the speed limit. Near the corner of SE 62nd Ave., I noticed a white car was going west. He turned south [on SE 62nd Ave.], right in front of me. Just like that ‚Äì just like I wasn’t even there.”

We’d noticed that the collision air bags had deployed in the small white car, which was now missing most of its front end, parked on the tree lawn across the street.

The headlight is still shining, on the vehicle whose driver was said to have caused the accident – and then walked away from the scene.

“What happened to him?” we asked the victim as she examined her vehicle’s flattened tire and crumpled fender.

“It was the strangest thing,” she replied. “A guy got out of the car. It looked like he had some kind of [colostomy] bag that had ruptured or was leaking.” The man told her he’d be right back, and needed to find a gas station. He headed west on Woodstock Blvd. “But, he left his cell phone with me,” she added.

Both vehicles were too damaged to drive and were towed from the scene.  The victim said she wasn’t injured, but did wonder about the condition of the man, last seen dribbling westward on foot.

Police on scene said they couldn’t comment on whether or not charges would be filed until they’d made contact with the absent driver.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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