But even the new “pedestrian refuge” near the Multnomah County Health Clinic on SE Division Street hardly slows drivers. Read about PDOT’s “Three Es”, and decide if they’re on the right path‚

Will Stevens, Project Manager with the Portland Office of Transportation.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Midway businesspeople and neighbors got to learn about highway safety efforts, learn about their sign project, and learn about a special grant‚ all during this one March meeting.

Midway Business Association (MBA) president Donna Dionne said the organization was the recipient of an East Portland Neighborhood Office grant of $2,500. “This grant will allow us create promotions and communications to Russian and Spanish speakers, helping them to better connect with businesses and social services here in our community.”

Also, several members of the group offered to volunteer with the “Spring Graffiti Clean-Up” projects to be held on April 14, May 19, and June 16.

Accepting prom gowns for disadvantaged gals
And, they heard from a charter MBA member Carol Stout, of Van Kirks Florist, about Abby’s Closet. “This group collects new and slightly used formal gowns, appropriate for high school proms. We’re collecting them at our shop on SE Division Street [at SE 125th Avenue].”

Stout said Abby’s Closet gives these collected gowns to young women who can’t afford expensive clothing. “We want to help these students be able to join with their peers for one of the most memorable of high school events.” The gowns will be given away on April 14 and 15, at the Oregon Convention Center. For more information, see www.abbyscloset.org, or call (503) 722-1534.

Promotes safety on the streets
The featured speaker at this MBA meeting was Will Stevens, Project Manager with the Portland Office of Transportation (PDOT).

“I manage the Traffic-calming Program,” began Stevens. “Mark Lear manages the Community and School Traffic Safety Project.”

Stevens said that PDOT’s “big three Es” are engineering, enforcement, and education. “I work to improve safety for all modes of travel — bikes, pedestrians, and vehicles.”

Stevens tells why the city builds pedestrian “islands” in the middle of busy streets.

Focus on “pedestrian refuges”
“Without these midstreet ‘islands’, on multi-lane, high speed streets,” Stevens explained, “pedestrians are forced to make a crossing movement [crossing the street] in one pass. Pedestrians have to ‘sight the traffic’ in both direction, and estimate how much time they have to make a crossing.”

A problem is, Stevens said, is if they estimate incorrectly, those on foot are left stranded in the center lane without protection. “These refuge islands bifurcate the street, so pedestrians can make the crossing in two movements.”

One island was installed, then removed
Asked why the island at SE 122nd Ave. at Woodward Place was constructed‚ only to be taken out, Stevens replied, “[That island] was located there to serve the clients of the building. But, advance notification wasn’t given. In this case, the construction got ahead of the process. That island caused conflicts with the David Douglas Schools bus yard. They couldn’t line up buses in the left hand turn lane; the island was in the way.”

How islands are located
Stevens explained the process for choosing street-crossing refuges. “These features must facilitate transit stops. The criteria for that is that the street must be high-speed and multi-lane.”

PDOT also looks at land uses, he said‚ specifically, for buildings that are “pedestrian generators”. The primary consideration is for public buildings, such as county clinics and libraries. “Then, we’ll look at high-density developments.”

Even if one uses the new a “pedestrian refuge” island, crossing SE Division Street east of SE 122nd Ave. in front of the Multnomah County Health Clinic can still be hazardous to your health — as vehicles go whizzing past.

Another recently-completed pedestrian refuge is near SE 127th Avenue at Division Street, adjacent to the Multnomah County Health Clinic. “We’re building another one further east on Division Street at 142nd Avenue.”

Safety issues hotline
If you have traffic safety concerns, “Call (503) 823-SAFE [823-7233],” said Stevens. “This is our one-stop source for every traffic safety issue, whether it be signals, crossings, or street safety in the neighborhood.”

Both the hotline and the pedestrian refuge programs are funded thorough the Community and School Safety Partnership program. “The League of Cities worked to enact legislation to increase fees from traffic violations,” explained Stevens. “A portion of the funds from traffic law violation tickets written in Portland flows into to a ‘traffic safety account’ ‚Äì it is not ‘general fund’ money.”

TriMet chips in for some of the improvements, said Stevens. “At the 127th site, they paid for the bus pad and curb improvements.”

Put in your two cents
The PDOT representative said their agency is developing a public involvement process to help them locate new traffic safety features.

“Yes, we are traffic safety professionals, but we’re not aware of all the potential improvements. Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams [who oversees PDOT] has made it a point that he’s very interested in traffic safety for everyone, including vehicles and trucks. We want to roads in Portland to be a nationwide model of safety.”

Come meet the MBA
You don’t need to be a scholar to meet with this MBA. Come learn all about this new business group dedicated to helping neighbors and businesses improve the southern end of outer East Portland.

Their next meeting is on Tuesday, April 10 from 11:45 am until 1:00 pm at Pizza Baron, 2604 S.E. 122nd Avenue. Neighbors and interested businesspeople are always welcome.

And put May 8 on your calendar ‚ it’s the date of the Midway “Annual Association Get-Together”. It’s a mix-and-mingle, drop-in event, featuring a free pizza buffet. You’ll get to meet businesspeople; officials, such as Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams; and neighborhood leaders.

For more information, go to www.midwayba.com.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Outer East Portland’s own Jeff Merkley says he was surprised his party came into power last fall. Hear how the Oregon House has changed under Democratic Party rule‚ in his words‚

Oregon’s top Democrat in the House, Jeff Merkley, tells people at a joint meeting of Powellhurst-Gilbert and Centennial neighborhoods why the legislature is no longer “business as usual”.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
Oregon State legislator Jeff Merkley hails from outer East Portland; he is a David Douglas High School graduate, and has served the people of his outer East Portland district since 1999 in Oregon’s House of Representatives.

After a brief introduction by Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association’s returning chair, Glenn Taylor, Merkley stepped up to speak to attendees of this meeting, held jointly with the Centennial Community Association on March 13.

Other than light editing for brevity and clarity, we present Speaker Merkley’s own words‚

Powellhurst-Gilbert Neighborhood Association President introduces Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley.

Good evening, Mr. Speaker …
“My role [as Oregon House Speaker] was a big surprise,” Merkley began. “If we go back to the election in November, 2006, very rarely does an incumbent lose a seat; Republicans had more seats in the House than Democrats. But, the electorate was in the mood to change things. As a party, we developed a campaign ‘road map’ of issues we wanted to tackle.

“By the time election night was over, Democrats had 31 seats. The role of House Speaker goes to the party with the most seats. Thus, I am Speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.

“I wanted to change things since I first ran in 1999. At the time, we had term limits‚ and I was happy to serve my term and move on. But, term limits were overturned, and here I am in my ninth year.

“There is an advantage in being in being in the legislature since 1999. That advantage is the perspective of time. Although I grew up here in the community, after college I worked in Washington DC at the Pentagon and the US Congress on strategic issues during the ‘cold war’.

“The [political] pendulum has swung far toward partisanship. That idea of working for Congress in a ‘non-partisan policy mode’ was appealing to me; but this notion has been diminishing over the last 20 years.

“Since becoming House Speaker, I have received the support of leadership on both sides to change this, empowered the minority, and I work in a non-partisan way.”

Merkley details changes
At the meeting Merkley covered many of the changes made since January quite rapidly, including:

  • Introducing a Means Committee Reprehensive into the process.
  • Restoring independence of the House Parliamentarian.
  • Changing the conduct of legislators; treating all with respect: “When citizens take their time to testify, although committee members may disagree 100% with them‚ they deserve respect for coming to share ideas.”
  • Changing how committee meetings are conducted: “Now, chairs and vice chairs [from the two parties] sit next to one another.”
  • Create incentives for members from all parties to work together. “Oregon citizens need a team working for them. This creates more communication across the body.”

No more “gimmes”
It was very important, Merkley said, that they change the “gifting” structure at the state legislature level.

“For special interest groups to take legislators to Maui for a ‘meeting’ ‚Äì there’s something wrong there. You can’t give gifts to judges. You can’t give gifts to candidates. I’ve pushed for the structure of giving ‘minimal gifts’ to legislators.

“Some said they thought this change would ‘disturb the culture’ too much. But, a system being able to give unlimited gifts isn’t right. We are there working for citizens, not special interests who can wine and dine legislators.”

Under the current standard, Merkley explained, items like T-shirts and coffee mugs are OK ‚Äì the standard is that the item must be worth less than $10‚ including meals, and gifts of entertainment. Still allowed are “receptions”, as long as all legislators are invited to attend.

“We want to convert these standards, these rules, into a law; but that takes bicameral [both Oregon House and Senate] approval to do,” explained Merkley.

Speaker Merkley tells why there is a “different feeling” in the halls of the Oregon House of Representatives these days.

A different feeling in Salem
“In the House, there is now a completely different feeling in the building.

“On our opening day, I asked former Senator Hatfield to swear me in. Hatfield, a Republican, took some tough and principled stands. In Washington DC, I worked with Hatfield. I saw how he treated people coming in to see him with respect. No, Hatfield didn’t turn me into being a Republican; but I didn’t change him either.

“In short, we’re trying to create a problem-solving atmosphere in Salem.”

Covers four major issues
Top topics Merkley shared with the group were fiscal responsibility, education, health care, and payday loans.

1. Fiscal Responsibility
“As a state we need to level out revenue flow. This means we don’t spend as much when times are good, so we don’t have to cut programs when there is a downturn. It was a huge challenge to get the ‘Rainy Day Fund’ passed in the House. It shouldn’t have been that hard to create a savings account.”

Merkley explained that this fund would be built up by the State retaining the “Corporate Kicker”‚ the overpayment of company taxes to the State. The fund would also dedicate 1% of General Fund; and any unused funds from the state budget would go into the fund.

2. Education
“We are trying to strengthen Oregon’s educational system‚ from ‘Head Start’ through the university level. We need each student to get a full school year, and experience smaller class sizes.

“Long ago, communications were costly and difficult. Now, with electronic communication, and the advent of deep draft shipping, we need to‚ and can‚ compete in the world market. But, we need good education for our citizens to thrive in the global economy.

“The legislature is looking for efficiencies within the system,” Merkley stated. “One of those efficiencies could be a statewide pooling of health care insurance. Those who sell insurance say pooling policies will cost a lot of money; others say it this concept will save money.”

Merkley was asked why, when Parkrose and David Douglas school systems object to pooling their health care insurance plans, he sounded like he was in favor of the plan.

Merkley responded, “By consolidating the plans, you greatly cut the overhead. With competition, you improve that part of the market. The Oregon School Board Association attests that it will save money. Many people who are vested in the current system think it should stay the way it is. The logic is in the administration you will have savings. Essentially, pooling insurance programs eliminates the middleman. But, many of those who sell insurance argue otherwise.”

Taking on the issue of healthcare, Merkley says this issue is the #1 topic of concern he hears from citizens.

3. Healthcare
“We are the only industrialized country that doesn’t have a stable health care system. Health care is currently built around an individual having long-term employment. Times are changing. When I’ve gone door-to-door talking with people, concerns about healthcare ranks above those about our schools.”

Merkley called the situation an “insurance death spiral”. Today, fewer people have healthcare insurance; thus more uninsured are getting routine healthcare in hospital Emergency Rooms‚ where they can’t be turned away. This drain on the system, in turn, drives up the cost of insurance‚ and then even fewer people can afford coverage.

“People tell me they’re concerned that healthcare insurance plans are less generous with benefits. And, they’re concerned about the continual increase in the cost of pharmaceuticals.

“We’re working on this issue in two stages; one is regarding long term healthcare, and the other is healthcare for children.

“When I started in the legislature, talk about healthcare was an idealist conversation. Now it is an active conversation. Employers are worried about being able to provide healthcare for their employees.”

“Specifically,” the Speaker said, “Oregon firms must compete against overseas competitors whose employee healthcare costs are much lower.”

Turning to health care for children, Merkley said, “As adults, we need to provide accessible healthcare to every child in the state. It isn’t a cheap or easy thing to do.

“The way we’re approaching this is [raising funding] through an increased tobacco tax ‚Äì about $0.84 per pack. The ‘public cost’ of smoking, with long-term health problems, is about $11 per pack. This fee is a reasonable way for smokers to contribute.

“We need to strengthen more than insurance. We need a statewide nursing ‘help line’. In rural areas, we should also strengthen front-line [healthcare] clinics. It wasn’t approved by the ‘other’ side of the aisle; I don’t know if we’ll reach an agreement.”

4. Payday Loans
“One of the things hurting people in Oregon is short-term loans that carry triple-digit interest rates. Families end up in bankruptcy and divorce. When people go bankruptcy, the State usually ends up ‘picking up the pieces’.

“Our current Governor says that in the past, the State of Oregon eliminated usury laws. Legislators thought the market would never allow the rates to increase over ten per cent. We’re proposing a 36% cap on consumer lending — pawns, payday, or layaways.

“The lending companies,” Merkley added, “are strongly objecting to this legislation, saying capping interest rates will drive them out of business, thus limiting the number of places where someone with poor credit could get a loan.”

Questions mental healthcare
Ron Clemenson, vice chair of Centennial, voiced his concern about mental healthcare issues. “We’ve lost our mental health clinics and hospitals. And, when the State got rid of Dammisch Hospital, it didn’t replace it with anything.”

Merkley responded that the State has provided mental healthcare funds to counties.

“We’ve now decided,” Merkley added, “that we need to replace the Salem Sate Hospital,and other facilities. A lot of patients get NO treatment, instead of better treatment. Two years we passed ‘Mental Health Parity’. We now know people aren’t possessed by spirits ‚Äì this is a disease process! Mental health problems should be treated and covered under health insurance programs.”

A fulltime Oregon Legislature?
Merkley concluded by saying “We’re flirting with the idea of breaking our one, long, every-other-year session into two shorter yearly sessions. We wouldn’t be lengthening the time we’re in session. This would allow for more flexibility to deal with changing situations.”

You can learn a lot by attending your neighborhood association’s meeting. Outer East Portland’s meetings are listed in our Community Calendar ‚Ķ

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See why Portland journalist Rich Riegel was honored by this prestigious organization‚

The banquet room at the Gateway Elks Lodge was packed with members dining at a club banquet before Riegel’s award ceremony.

Story and Photos by David F. Ashton
On March 16, Rich Riegel was presented its first “Citizen of the Year Award” by Gateway Elks Lodge No. 2411.

We learned that the Citizen of the Year Award – given for the first time this year by the Gateway Elks Lodge – is a national program in which the lodge selects an individual, not necessarily an Elk, who has contributed to improving the community.

Meet Mid-county Memo’s editor
At the gala event, Linda Repp, the Lodge’s outgoing Exalted Ruler (and Elks State Officer of the Year ’05-’06), detailed Riegel’s background:

Riegel has been the editor for the monthly Mid-county Memo neighborhood newspaper for the past 17 years. This newspaper, published since 1985, serves residents and business people in northeast Portland’s Gateway and Parkrose districts.

Gateway Elks Lodge’s Exalted Ruler 2005‚ 2006, Linda Repp, confers the “Elks Distinguished Citizenship Award” upon Rich Riegel.

The Oregon native is a U.S. Air Force veteran. Riegel worked at jobs ranging from being an armed forces news service reporter to a base television station producer, director, and on-air newsman.

After graduating from the University of Oregon, Riegel worked for newspapers throughout the Portland and Vancouver area, as a reporter, editor, and photographer.

Riegel’s volunteer work includes tutoring elementary school children in the art of writing.

“I’m very pleased to be honored in this way,” Riegel told us, “In my opinion, the Elks can do no wrong.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Not only does he create the finest pies, cakes and pastries, read this story about a baker who teaches his craft to at-risk young people‚

“Jack the Baker” creates delicious delights in small quantities, using the highest quality ingredients.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Folks in southeast Portland don’t have to travel far to find a good — no, great — “made-from-scratch” bakery.

After enjoying his breads and pastries for years, we decided to meet the man “in the dough” who runs His Bakery on SE 72nd Ave., just south of Woodstock.

“The best part about being a baker,” says Richard “Jack” Robeson III with a open smile, “is being able to eat the leftovers. Actually, I take pleasure in making things people enjoy. I really like seeing the smile on their faces when they eat something that I’ve baked.”

The small storefront belies the modern preparation facility‚ and commercial oven‚ hidden away, deep in the store.

Jack and his family keep busy. We talk as he pulls out trays of his “Original Good & Ugly” cookie. It’s made of roasted seeds, flax, sunflower, pumpkin and sesame, with no refined sugar. Some varieties also have chocolate chips or cranberries and apricots baked in them.

Recipe for troubled youth
Jack, a father of three, says he’s been in business for 12 years. He learned the baking trade at Clark College, and worked at Elephant’s Delicatessen and Broadway Bakery.

“We started the business to provide products of value,” Jack tells us as he mixes a batch of dough.

“But more importantly,” he says sincerely, “during the summer, we bring in junior high school kids‚ some of whom who are having trouble in school or at home. They spend the summer with us, and I each them the trade.”

He pauses while he washes batter off his hands, then adds, “I’m a baker to earn my living, but helping young people is a mission. I get to share my love of baking.”

Pies of renown
Long-time customers might say Jack is most famous for his “home made” pies. “There aren’t a lot of bakeries in Portland that make a good, ‘home made’ pie like we do,” Jack beams. “Our cakes are becoming very popular, as are our cinnamon rolls, Marionberry muffins, and oat bran cookies.”

Jack apologizes for not at that moment having his best-in-Portland, custard-filled chocolate-topped eclairs in stock. “I know they’re your favorite,” he says.

When you see this building‚ you’re at His Bakery!

His Bakery, 6011 SE 72nd Ave., is open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tues through Friday, from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. on Saturdays. They’re closed Sunday and Monday.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

The city’s purse strings are being drawn tightly, choking funding for this outer East Portland horticultural treasure — Portland’s only botanical garden. Learn what advice volunteer supporters were given,

Portland Parks & Recreation planning supervisor David Yamashita led the panel discussion held, ostensibly, to help Leach Botanical Garden volunteers get ideas of how to operate the facility with lower city support.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The faces of Leach Botanical Gardens’ volunteers looked gloomy on the Saturday morning on which they were meeting, a few weeks ago.

Portland Parks & Recreation planning supervisor for the Gardens, David Yamashita, planted his message as tactfully as possible: “You will get no additional money from the City of Portland. You need to look at additional revenue sources.”

Yamashita suggested the group consider charging an entry fee, or finding a major benefactor.

“No, we don’t charge an entry fee,” protested Barbara Hamilton, a longtime volunteer. “Volunteers do a great deal of work to keep this garden running. This garden is needed here in outer SE Portland‚ especially now that the city is loading our neighborhoods with low-income housing.”

Yamashita responded that the “Friends Group” needs to start making plans. “You’ll be more effective at fundraising than we can be in the [PP&R] bureau.”

To help the Friends of Leach Botanical Gardens gather ideas about fund raising and management, Yamashita and his staff arranged for representatives for four other area gardens to be present to share their experience.

Read on and learn what the panel told Leach Garden volunteers …

Scott Vergara, Berry Botanic Garden, and Gloria Lee, Portland Classical Chinese Garden, tell about their respective horticultural operations.

The Berry Botanic Garden
The executive director of this garden, Scott Vergara, told how Berry Botanic Garden was originally a private estate, located in the Dunthorpe neighborhood between Lake Oswego and Lewis & Clark College.

“Our 30-year-old garden is virtually hidden,” Vergara began. “A ‘friends group’ has preserved its 6 acres.”

Berry faces unique restrictions, being located in a residential neighborhood. “We have no sign, extremely limited parking, and we are open by appointment only.”

The garden, Vergara said, arises from a small endowment; it gets no public resources. “Because of our seed bank, we have contracts with federal and state agencies. We collect seeds and monitor reproduction programs.”

Additionally, gate receipts, small gift shop sales, donations, grant writing, and hosting the occasional event rounds out their $500,000. “We have seven fulltime workers, but we need nine. We have 180 to 200 volunteers a year.”

Turning to structure, Vergara commented that while “bounder boards” [of directors] are necessary; “fundraising boards” are critical. “Operations boil down to two questions — those dealing with money and mission. How do you get your funding? What is your mission?”

As time goes on, he added, the mission must evolve to meet the current needs of the organization. “A clear mission helps direct the garden; too tightly defined a mission becomes too restrictive,” Vergara elucidated. “A mission must be relevant.”

With aging volunteers and board members, Vergara said one of their most critical questions is how to attract younger people to help in the garden.

Portland Classical Chinese Garden
Next to offer insight was Portland Classical Chinese Garden’s executive director, Gloria Lee.

“It’s about leadership to survival,” Lee began. “We are a totally self-sustaining entity. 80% of our visitors are from outside the city and state.”

Lee explained that their unrestricted income is from ticket sales. “But, it wasn’t enough. We hired a development director; now we’re blessed with two grants — one for horticulture, and another for ‘East-West outreach education’. For us, we are a living museum; not a botanical garden.”

The Chinese Garden’s board of directors, Lee said, will consider a new project only if its funding source is also presented. With membership growth stalled, they look to grants to increase their funding. “Our garden employs 22 full-time people,” commented Lee.

“The board members now drive the fund raising and membership activity,” Lee explained. “They hold phone-a-thons, and undertake other fund raising efforts.”

After meeting payroll, Lee told the group, their second largest budget item is advertising and promotion. “My fear is that if you become a destination, and charge for entry, you may have to budget a considerable amount for advertising. This year’s Chinese New Year Celebration advertising promotion cost $22,000.”

Lee recommended hiring staff members with multiple talents. “The secret to success is to remember that it takes passion and stamina to keep going, year after year.”

Portland Japanese Garden’s Stephen Bloom, and the Jenkins Estate’s supervisor, Allen Wells, shared their expertise with Friends of Leach Gardens.

Portland Japanese Garden
Speaking for the Portland Japanese Garden was its executive director, Stephen Bloom.

Bloom left us, and the Leach volunteers, a bit hazy about the Japanese Garden’s financial relationship with the City of Portland.

“We have 12 acres leased from the city,” Bloom stated. “The original lease was for a dollar a year, but the rate has been adjusted. Work in partnership with the city. We don’t get cash from the city. Government funding is never guaranteed.”

A Leach volunteer interjected, “But the Leach family DONATED our land to the city. It isn’t leased, or an in-kind arrangement.”

Of the Japanese Garden’s $2.4 million budget, $1.2 million comes from gate ticket sales generated by a quarter-million visitors, continued Bloom. “We work in conjunction with the city, but don’t depend on the City of Portland for funding.”

This garden has 24 fulltime and 8 part-time employees.

Bloom said they operate under two boards of directors: a Society/Policy board and an Operations/Endowment board.

“Two years ago, we bumped admission from $6 to $8 per person. As a world-class attraction, the attendance has still increased, because we focus on quality. A quality garden drives people to your institution.”

Bloom’s advice: “Sooner, than later, make a strategic plan. You need a ‘road map’ to know where you’re going. Make it inclusive, so everybody buys in. Staff members change; board members change ‚Äì the plan must stay consistent.”

The Jenkins Estate
Finally, Allen Wells, the Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District coordinator for the Jenkins Estate in Tualatin, spoke.

“Much of Washington County is made up of special service districts,” Wells began. “The district purchased the Jenkins Estate, a 68-acre parcel scheduled to become condos and offices. The district floated a bond and secured the estate.”

Jenkins has been “run on a shoestring”, Wells said. “We have substantial reliance on volunteers and an advisory committee.”

The district focused attention on restoring the buildings,” said Wells. “Each structure has a small garden. We spent the early years discovering what was planted in those gardens.”

Because the estate didn’t come with an endowment, Wells described their facility as a “wedding chapel” on the weekends, and during the week, a corporate retreat. “Our restoration and gardening had to almost be done on a ‘swing shift’, due to the rentals.”

Leach volunteers frustrated
After all the presentations, Ernie Francisco protested, “You are all west side intuitions. The city was started on the West side. There is business and industry there to support your work. We don’t have businesses here. We feel the city needs to look at institutions, like Leach Gardens, as resources that serve the city as a whole.”

Francisco continued, “The other thing is this: As a volunteer member here, education of individuals and classes has been the overriding emphasis of our work here. You have different purposes.”

Representatives of the other gardens talked about their educational efforts, and said they saw little difference in that portion of their missions.

Finally, longtime Leach Garden volunteer Barbara Hamilton piped up: “We volunteer about 13,000 hours a year. This labor must be worth a couple hundred thousand dollars.

“The City keeps promising things, like a furnace and a new roof on the Annex ‚Äì but it never comes. We’re still fighting to get another power pole, so we can get more electricity brought into the buildings, and generate income from winter rentals.”

The Chinese Garden’s Lee responded, “You must find one individual who will champion your cause. Portland has had millions of challenges. And, there are many champions.”

We couldn’t see who made the comment, but someone sitting close to the front of the room suggested, “There are many wealthy people in nearby neighborhoods like Eastmoreland — why don’t you get them involved?”

Realizing that Eastmoreland is more than 100 blocks distant from Leach Botanical Gardens, Leach volunteers just rolled their eyes and shook their heads.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

This is the first in a weekly series introducing you to outer East Portland business organizations. You’ll be amazed to see all the good these folks do for our community‚

Whether or not a new business belongs to the East Portland Chamber of Commerce, the group’s Ambassadors will provide a welcoming and ribbon-cutting ceremony. Here, the ribbon is being cut, marking the opening of Riverview Bank–a new chamber member in the Gateway area.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although it came into being only in 2003, the East Portland Chamber of Commerce (EPCC) has grown to a membership of 175. For many years, this organization was a committee of the Gresham Chamber of Commerce.

The EPCC serves businesspeople from the Willamette River east to Gresham. It serves to enhance commerce throughout the area, rather than to compete with other business districts that fall within its borders.

East Portland Chamber of Commerce President Greg Zuffrea.

Why the chamber was formed
We asked current president, Greg Zuffrea, why this organization was established, when greater Portland already has a chamber of commerce.

“An important role of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce,” Zuffrea told us, “is to be a voice for business throughout our East Portland community. The downtown chamber focuses on downtown Portland issues. The Gresham Chamber focuses on outer East Multnomah County issues.”

Traditionally, Zuffrea said, Portland city government is most responsive to issues affecting downtown Portland. “While the core area of the city is important to our region, it is also imperative that the specific needs and concerns of East Portland be addressed by city government.”

The East Portland Chamber has succeeded in bringing Portland’s elected officials and other government leaders out to East Portland, added Zuffera. “We’ve helped to focus their attention on eastside issues, ranging from crime, to better streets and public services. Obviously, everyone — residents and business people — benefit from this increased attention.”

The annual EPCC Golf Tournament is always a big hit. Here, the Chamber’s membership chair, Richard Sorem, gets ready to make his swing.

Helping East Portland prosper
The East Portland Chamber is important to the community, because its programs and activities enable small businesses to grow and prosper.

Small businesses are the economic backbone of east Portland. We learned that 95% of the 13,920 businesses in east Portland are small businesses. About one-third of them average 15 employees each , and, fully two-thirds of our small businesses are micro-enterprises, each averaging two employees.

“The health of the small business is directly related to the economic health of the community, through jobs, taxes, and volunteer time from business owners and their employees,” commented the Chamber’s Governmental Affairs Chair, Ken Turner. “That base of volunteers supplements and sustains the educational, social, cultural, religious, and recreational organizations and activities that sustain and enhance the quality of life in our community.”

The East Portland Chamber Cabaret and Minstrels groups put on fun shows to raise money for charitable causes.

Programs benefiting the community
The Chamber supports ongoing community charitable activities such as soliciting food donations from chamber members for Sno-CAP.

Additionally, a group of chamber members who call themselves the East Portland Minstrels provide entertainment to community organizations. They use their entertainment talents to raise money for charitable causes, such as the Mt. Hood Kiwanis Camp for Disabled Children and Adults.

The Chamber’s annual golf tournament provides a social setting in which local business people can mingle with political leaders and celebrities. The annual Chamber Golf Tournament for 2007 will be held at the Colwood Golf Course on June 15.

A goal of the chamber is to create a special event within the next year, to raise money for a local educational or charitable organization.

Featured businesses people
Classique Floors‚ Judith Huck, the owner of this well-respected outer East Portland business, has built her company by providing top quality counter and flooring solutions for decades. Anyone who has visited the beautiful new store at 14240 SE Stark has seen the wide variety of top-quality materials Classique Floors can supply.

Thus, Huck has created a firm that provides stable family-wage jobs for its employees. And, Huck and her staff give back to the community, helping with projects at Snow-CAP and Habitat for Humanity.

Chamber member Holly Moss kids around with Richard Kiely who donated this brand-new electric guitar to help raise funds for a community event.

Home Run Graphics‚ Richard Kiely provides quality lithography for businesses and other organizations all over the Portland area. But, beyond his business, Kiely is a tireless community volunteer, working with his neighborhood association, SE Works, and charitable organizations.

When he sees an un-met need in the community, Kiely steps up and leads the charge to fill that need. Right now, he’s sponsoring a “Hole-In-One Contest” at the Chamber’s June golfing tournament, at which a skillful (and lucky) duffer will drive home a brand new car from Gresham Ford–if they make the shot!

Come meet the Chamber
The East Portland Chamber of Commerce holds a free networking meeting it calls “Good Morning East Portland” every Wednesday morning from 7:30 a.m. until 9:00 a.m.  Neighbors are always welcome to attend.

At least once a month, a City of Portland official comes from downtown to listen to outer East Portland concerns. Because the meetings are hosted by different members, the location changes from week to week. Where’s it this week? Check their web site: www.eastportlandchamber.com!

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

You don’t need to fight for a parking place, as you might in the Pearl, when you take in the SE Area Artwalk. Take a look and see who we met on our stroll‚

Annie Meyer, of Studio 2507 on SE Clinton St., shows us her unique, artistic tiles.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Southeast Portland artists flung open their studio doors the first weekend in March as they participated in their fourth annual ArtWalk. From SE 9th Ave. to 41st Ave., 75 artists amazed visitors with their works of art.

Because we couldn’t visit all 45 locations, we took in the talent of five artisans showing their works in the Inner SE Portland portion of the show.

Our first stop was at Studio 2507 on SE Clinton St. where we met Annie Meyer.

“I’m a painter working in three mediums,” Meyer explained. “I do paintings, ceramic tile and monotype prints. My subject matter is the human figure, and landscapes of France.”

Admiring her miniature works of art, ceramic tiles, Meyer told us she’d been creating tiles since 1984.

“I love the SE ArtWalk,” said Meyer. “It’s a free, friendly event, exposing people to local artists and their work.”

Charley Wheelock of KaPow Designs sits on one of his benches, with his kids, Madeleine and Leo.

Wooden works of wonder
In a woodworking shop, we meet Charley Wheelock of KaPow Designs. He showed us custom cabinets he was making. But, he looked lovingly at newly-finished benches he had on display

“These benches are made out of pallet stickers,” enlighten Wheelock. “They were in a pile, being sold as firewood. I started milling them, and found a crazy variety of hardwoods. So, I designed a line of furniture that would minimize the amount of milling. I’ve succeeded, there is very little waste‚ and these benches showcase a huge variety of wood.”

Scott Stewart, furniture artist, sits at a unique table of his design and construction.

Wheelock suggested I meet the owner of the wood shop located on SE Division St. at 25th Avenue, Scott Stewart.

There, we asked the name, or nature, of his business, and Stewart answered simply, “I’m a furniture artist. I mostly create custom, commissioned furniture and wood artwork. But, I also do my own line of designs, unique to my style.”

Sitting on one of his designs — a hand-made chair — Stewart glances over at the “Iris Table” next to him. “The way they open up, it reminds me of the flower.”

House of art
Our final stop was on SE Brooklyn St, just east of SE 23rd Ave. to see Kristin Yount’s “house of art”.

Customer Marge Weigert visits Kristin Yount at her neighborhood home-turned-art-studio.

“I make terracotta pottery,” Yount told us. “I like the color of terracotta.”

In addition to her unique designs and decoration, Yount told us she makes her own lead-free colors, which she uses to paint the pottery. “My pottery is all ‘food-grade safe’. You could put it in the dishwasher, but you shouldn’t. After all, it is a work of art.”

Amy Stoner shows her acrylic paintings

At the same location, we also met Amy Stoner. “This is my third year exhibiting in the ArtWalk,” relates Stoner. “I like the sense of community this event brings about. I also like meeting other artists in the area. That is how I met Kristin, who is hosting me here.”

The best part, Stoner said, is seeing people who are interested in your work. “Having them stop by to talk for a while is much better than, for example, meeting them at a store or gallery,” she added.

Want to learn more? Check the website  www.seportlandartwalk.com, or call (503) 232-0745 for more information.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Discover what volunteers are doing to improve this hidden natural spot‚ located on the land apex between our two outer East Portland watersheds‚

Neighbor Mike Harrison and Cole Miller, a student volunteer from Parkrose Middle School, and his dad, Bob Miller, all spend the morning cleaning out invasive plants, and planting native greenery.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Although the weather was what one would expect from a typical winter morning on March 10, 14 volunteers converged on the naturally-wooded area west of the Glendoveer Golf Course in Hazelwood.

One of the volunteers was project coordinator Linda Robinson. “We’ve been clearing ivy for a couple of years. Now, we have enough open spaces to plant in among the shrubs and cedar trees. These are all native plants: Roses, thimbleberry and snowberry, and red-twig dogwood.”

Maintaining this area is important, Robinson said, because “this is one of the few wooded natural areas that remain in this part of the city. There is a lot of potential for natural habitat among these two acres of established fir trees. We’re trying to add some plant diversity. In doing so, we’re providing more shelter and food sources for the birds, and native rabbits and squirrels.”

Cynthia Palormo says she’s visiting from Los Angeles, and decided to help out. “I traveled all the way to Glendoveer to do some gardening work!” She’s giving a hand to new Hazelwood resident, Jim Caudell, who happens to be a Metro Park Ranger.

Top ‘o’ outer East Portland
We learned from Robinson that the woods in which we were standing is the “summit” of outer East Portland.

“We’re at the top of the watershed,” Robinson pointed out. “These trees soak up the rain so it doesn’t all run into the Columbia Slough to the north, or Johnson Creek to the south. By keeping the trees healthy and the ground covered, we’re keeping and using rainwater right here.”

Just then, the threatening skies opened and‚ it started to rain. “Look,” Robinson pointed out, “there are trilliums blooming.”

You can help
Come join in the “No Ivy Day” at Glendoveer Woods on May 5 from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. Go to 1260 NE 132 Ave., and park in the parking lot of St Therese Church. You’ll find them in the southeast corner of the parking lot between the buildings.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See Madam Chaos in action! This off-kilter instructor grabs kids’ attention, from the first moment of her lecture.

Madam Chaos mixes a color-changing potion to the delight of her young students at Midland Library.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The tall woman in a white lab coat prepares her apparatus as we approach her. Because she’s in character, she states, “My name is Madam Chaos. You may call me  either.”

Ms. Chaos explains why she’s at Midland Library, saying, “It gets kids very excited about science. After our session, kids run to find and check out all the science books they can find.”

Asked about today’s class, Chaos, who confides she has been with Mad Science¬Æ for three years, tells us, “We are focusing primarily on chemical reactions today. Oh yes, and fun!”

Madam Chaos helps a budding scientist learn about centripetal force, during her interactive course.

Mad Science¬ (yes, we’re told it is a registered trademark) is the world’s leading science enrichment provider. They deliver unique, hands-on science experiences for children that are as entertaining as they are educational. Mad Science encourages scientific literacy in children, in an age when science has become as important as reading, writing and arithmetic.

For more information regarding Mad Science, see www.madscience.com.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Get ready for lane closures where SE Stark and Washington streets intersect with the freeway starting April 2. It’ll be torn up through May. No, this isn’t an “April fools” joke‚

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
No one said constructing the light rail line along I-205 from Gateway to Clackamas Town Center would be without disruption.

Starting April 2, look for one (or two) traffic lanes to be sliced off on SE Stark and Washington streets for about four months.

TriMet’s Peggy La Point tells us, “On April 2, crews will begin pile driving and excavation to create a crossing underneath Stark and Washington for the light rail tracks. Crews will need to remove and replace three roadways in each direction and reinforce them so light rail can run underneath Stark and Washington. Work will take place between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m.”

Want to keep up with project? Check online at www.trimet.org/i205/project.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Read how Canadian marijuana growers team up with
lawless locals to farm “BC Bud” in quiet, upscale neighborhood homes‚
maybe, in a house next door to you! Finally, we can tell this shocking
story‚

 When they raided a massive indoor pot farm
in this Argay home in January, officials from three anti-drug agencies
asked us to “hold” the story. Now, this shocking tale can be told.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
On
January 22, a tip from a reader leds us to investigate odd activity at
a nice looking home, still festooned with holiday lights, at 13510 NE
Freemont Court, in the Argay Neighborhood. As we rolled up on scene, we
saw what appeared to be many law enforcement vehicles, both marked and
unmarked.

We were approached by members of the Multnomah
County Sheriff’s Office. They asked why we were there; we told them we
were following up on a tip. They drove off.

Then, a Portland Police Drugs and Vice squad
officer spied us with our camera, and came over enquiring about our
activities. We pointed to our press credential; he shrugged and went
back into the home.

Finally, a Regional Organized Crime Narcotics
Agency (ROCN) investigator, Scott C. Groshong, gave us a hard look, and
questioned our activities. We explained we got a tip that there was a
“massive” law enforcement action on this otherwise quiet Argay side
street.

 

 Members of several law enforcement
agencies swarmed around this nice-looking Argay home. Officials asked
that we didn’t show their many undercover officers and vehicles.

“I can’t ask you to leave,” Groshong told us. “But,
we’d appreciate your cooperation. This is part of a larger drug
operation. If you could hold the story, it would help our
investigation.”

Groshong promised he’d share full details with both
the press and the neighborhood association as the investigation wound
down. We agreed.

 

 Regional Organized Crime Narcotics Agency
(ROCN) investigator Scott Groshong gives an eye-opening show-and-tell
presentation to Argay neighbors. We agreed not to photograph him; he
often works undercover.

Urban farming: Indoor pot grows
Fast forward to March 20‚ the meeting of the Argay Neighborhood Association, at Portland Fire & Rescue Station 2.

After a brief business meeting, neighborhood chair
Valerie Curry introduces the program: the ROCN Task Force report on
marijuana growing operations.

True to his word, ROCN Investigator Groshong steps up, and begins by telling how indoor pot farming came about.

9/11 tightens borders
“Canada
has a soft policy on drug use,” Groshong begins. “They’ve nearly
legalized marijuana. The majority of the better-quality marijuana crop
is grown in Canada, and sold here for a lot of money. We’re talking
about a crop that sells for thousands of dollars per pound.”

Turning to indoor marijuana growing operations,
Groshong continues, “This is a situation that’s evolved since the 9/11
attack on the World Trade Center. Rather than crossing the border, some
groups found it easier to ‘set up shop’ here in the Pacific Northwest,
and grow here. Crop grown ‘in country’ eliminated the risk of being
apprehended at the border crossing and, at the same time, dramatically
reduced their transport costs.”

Seeded in Seattle
The
indoor growing trend, Groshong reports, started in Seattle. “They’ve
uncovered at least 80 grow houses there. The houses, dedicated to
growing marijuana, produce between 400 and 600 plants per house. Each
plant will produce a couple of pounds of high quality marijuana.”

This pot isn’t grown by laid-back, happy old
hippies, suggests Groshong. Instead, these operations are run by
organized-crime groups. “We estimate $16 Billion in U.S. currency has
flowed back to Canada. The grow operations in the U.S. help support
their importation of cocaine into Canada.”

While pot has been grown indoors, he added, it is
hard to fit more than fifty to 100 plants in a home that is occupied.
But, with the entire house, garage, and basement dedicated to indoor
farming, one building can produce a lot of marijuana.

 

Argay neighbors are stunned by the detailed
revelations‚ although several of them said they suspected this activity
was going on in their community, and were glad to see law enforcement
was taking action.

Famed pot farmed in Argay
The
investigator says pot “grow houses” have been set up across the
Portland metropolitan area. Over the last 18 months, law enforcement
officials have found the grow operations sprouting up houses in outer
Northeast Portland‚ particularly Argay.

“Some of the houses in Argay been relatively large
grows,” Groshong comments. “The house on NE Freemont Court had about
400 plants; this was a relatively small grow. You can see, this is
being done on a commercial scale.”

When asked, “Why Argay?” Groshong says he
suspects the location was almost picked at random. “These are nice,
older homes. If the house is kept up, most neighbors won’t suspect a
house has been turned into a growing operation. And, the older homes
aren’t as airtight. New homes don’t breathe well. Grow operations need
buildings that ‘breathe’.”

 

 The volume of plants grown in these operations defies the imagination.

Houses ruined by indoor farming
Growing so many plants in an enclosed space produces an abundance of heat and moisture.

“In some of the operations we’ve seen,” Groshong
explains, “the water vapor condenses and runs down the walls and
windows. Because of the warmth, mold and mildew grow everywhere.
Typically, a house used for indoor crop production will require as much
as $30,000 to $50,000 worth of renovation before it can be occupied
again.”

The plants take between 90 and 120 days to grow;
thus, growers get three “crop cycles” a year out of a house.  “We are
seeing the groups move after four to eight growing/harvesting cycles,”
he adds. “With all of the damage inside, I’m surprised the NE Freemont
Court house is now up for sale.”

Years ago, Groshong comments, growers rented
buildings. Nowadays, the group of growers buys houses, usually with
sub-prime loans; they plan to own them for only a short period of time.

Stolen juice and odd smells
It
takes a lot of “juice”, electricity, to run a growing operation. To
avoid detection, and lower their power bills, the growers have
developed methods of tapping electricity before it reaches the electric
meter.

“In addition to growing marijuana, some of these
growers have stolen as much as $60,000 in electricity; it’s a class C
Felony to steal power.”

And, we’re told, a pot farm gives off a strong
odor. Sophisticated operations have knocked holes in walls, ceilings
and floors to install ductwork connected to activated charcoal
filtering systems to reduce the heat and moisture‚ and smell‚ generated
by the operation.

The filter, alone, costs about $600. “Growers spend about $20,000 to set up a grow house,” Groshong tells the group.

 

 The electrical wiring powering lighting and watering equipment is haphazard; often setting the houses on fire.

Dangerous neighbors
Although
the grow operations are typically more benign, at least compared to
meth labs, they still present a danger to the neighborhood, he said.

“The substandard wiring, both used to steal power,
and done within the home, often causes fires,” explains Groshong. But
now a new issue is home invasions. When competitors or other criminals
learn where a grow operation is set up, they’ll break in and try to
steal the crop. These people are often armed and dangerous.”

 

 Don’t let your neighborhood become a haven
for pot growers. Read how to spot these commercial “grow houses”‚ and
what to do about it!

Protecting your neighborhood
Groshong
credits alert citizens for helping them bust several grow-house
operations across the greater Portland area‚ including in outer East
Portland. “One neighbor called to tell us a house ‘didn’t look right’.”

The operators of some houses hire landscapers and
put out holiday decorations. Some clever crooks put some furniture in
the living room area and set lights to operate on timers.

Regardless of the trimmings, look for ‘closed up’
houses that looks like no one is ever there, instructs Groshong. Also,
be on the lookout for “visitors” who stay an hour or so and leave‚
they’re tending the plants. And, there will often be a buzz of activity
in and around this otherwise quiet house, during their plant harvest.

“If you see suspicious activity, call the DVD
Hotline at (503) 823-0246 for the DVE hotline,” Groshong concludes.
“They take complaints and track them. Officers will get the tips and
look at the house. The more calls on a house, the more likely we’ll
look more closely at it.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Two men weren’t fighting about money, drugs, booze‚ nor woman‚ word is, they were beefing over an apartment complex parking space. See exclusive photos here‚

Distraught friends and family members gather outside the complex shortly after the incident.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Even though it’s bitter cold, relatives and friends of 39-year-old Robert Duerksen gather in the darkness on the north side of SE Division St., just south of SE 130th Avenue.

Some were crying, others shrieking, still others comforting and calming those distraught by Duerksen’s sudden death. “It’s not right,” a young lady loudly cried out, “you can’t just kill someone like that.”

Authorities are uncertain what, exactly, was caused 39-year-old Robert Duerksen to die.

Called on a fight
On March 27, at 7:45 pm, Portland Police Bureau East Precinct officers roll to the 12900 block of SE Division St. They expect to be breaking up a fight in the parking lot of an apartment complex.

But, when officers arrive, they discover the body of a 39-year-old white male who had apparently collapsed during the fight. Medical personnel race to the scene and attempt to revive him. However, Duerksen is pronounced dead at the scene.

Parking spot fisticuffs
“Parking here is really tight,” says a man who claims to be familiar with the apartment complex. “I’ve seen other fights break out over a parking spot.”

It doesn’t take long for police to finger Duerksen’s neighbor, 33-year-old Christopher Michael Jordan, as the other party involved in the fight.

“While the subjects were fighting,” Portland Police’s spokesman, Sgt. Brian Schmautz tells us, “Duerksen reportedly collapsed and began to complain of a breathing problem. Duerkson was helped into an apartment where he lost consciousness and died.”

Police say this man, Christopher Michael Jordan, was the individual with whom Duerksen was fighting‚ over a parking space‚ when he died.

Unregistered sex offender with drug warrant
During the subsequent investigation, Schmautz reports, detectives contact and arrest Jordon on an outstanding drug warrant and a new charge‚ “Failing to Register as a Sex Offender”.  Jordon was booked into the Justice Center Jail.

Homicide classification pending tox report
The following day, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner conducts an autopsy. The report comes back inconclusive; the investigation is unable to determine a cause of death.

See the cones? Police say the brief-yet-deadly fight started and ended at that spot.

Duerksen’s death has been classified as a Homicide pending the results of the toxicology examination.

Detectives do not believe there are any additional suspects in this continuing investigation.  Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Lynn Courtney at (503) 823-0451 or Detective Steve Ober at (502) 823-4033.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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