See the triumphant return of teenagers from Winterhaven School and da Vinci Middle School, after they bested all other teams at the international First Lego League competition, and won the gold‚ er, plastic‚ trophy‚

The triumphant “Pigmice” return to Winterhaven School: Co-coach Kasi Allen Fuller, Nathan Fuller, Morgan Pengelly, Olivia Bolles (a daVinci Middle School student), Keegan Livermore, Flannery Bethel, Hallie Frost and co-coach Greg Banks.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When the van transporting the team of three girls and three boys, all seventh-graders, pulled up on front of Winterhaven School in Southeast Portland on April 16, the cheers of hundreds of students rang through the neighborhood.

This team, known as “The Pigmice”, first became friends when they all attended third grade together at the now-closed Edwards Elementary.

The student body of Winterhaven School turns out with signs and banners to welcome the Team Pigmice, the First Lego League world champions.

Co-coached by Lewis & Clark College education professor Kasi Allen Fuller and builder Greg Banks, “Pigmice” team members are Winterhaven students Nathan Fuller, Morgan Pengelly, Keegan Livermore, Flannery Bethel, Hallie Frost and daVinci Middle School student Olivia Bolles.

“It’s clear that being long-time friends, instead of just teammates, gave them an advantage,” comments co-coach Greg Banks. “Part of their score is based on how well they work together as a team.”

We learn these young inventors prepared for this competition for four years, partly by learning three computer languages.

Members of the Pigmice seemed genuinely surprised by the grand welcome they received from fellow students and faculty members.

SE Portland’s Pigmice take on the world
Cathy Swider, Oregon Robotics Tournament & Outreach Program administrator, fills us in on the massive scope of the competition won by The Pigmice. 90,000 students from 49 countries participated in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) LEGO League (FLL) season.

Swider tells us, “In Oregon, the Pigmice competed and won the Intel Oregon FLL Qualifying and Championship Tournaments among a field of 359 teams. Then, they advanced to the World Festival where they competed against 94 teams from 22 countries in Atlanta, Georgia April 12 – 14.”

In Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, Swider says, the Pigmice team ran their robot on the “challenge field” to determine their robot’s performance. “The team also met with technical judges who assessed their scientific knowledge.”

Then, the close-knit team made a project presentation, focusing on a nanotechnology solution to the problem of plastics pollution in the Pacific Ocean. Finally the team completed a “teamwork exercise” in view of teamwork judges.

The result: the Pigmice were judged to be the team that scored the highest in all categories and demonstrated gracious professionalism.

“They were awarded the 2007 FIRST LEGO League 1st Place Champion’s Award,” says Swider. “In addition, they will be guests of IBM’s Don Eigler, known as the Father of Nanotechnology. Compliments of IBM, the team will visit the IBM Venture Research Park, to meet with nanotechnology scientists and engineers.”

Students, faculty and family of the Pigmice rush to welcome the returning students.

The winners speak
“Our project presentation went really well,” says Morgan Pengelly. “The judges liked our presentation, so we were one of ten or so teams who were called back. That was really cool. It put us closer to where we were aiming.”

Pengelly continues, “Then, we got the highest score we could get on the ‘table run’. I know other teams did well, but I think we were balanced in every category.”

Asked about the robots, Keegan Livermore volunteers, “We made a robot out of Lego parts and electronic parts. Every robot is allowed an NXT, a little computer that you can program. So you can use the NXT along with light, touch, and rotation sensors to drive motors. The touch sensor, for example, lets the robot ‘feel’ something.”

Importance of winning
We asked the group why they thought bringing home the championship to Oregon is important. Nathan Fuller replies for the group, “I think it has opened up a lot of new doors for Oregon First Lego League. We’re getting publicity.”

More than just basking in the public spotlight, Fuller thoughtfully continues, “We’ll be able to attract more students to this kind of activity. Hopefully, we’ll be having 475 teams competing next year. Hopefully, we’ll increase Oregon’s level of competition, so another team can go and take the World Championship next year.”

As the throng of students surges to meet their world championship team, Pigmice team member Hallie Frost gets a big hug from friends. “I’ve been attacked,” she says, “but in a good way. This is so sweet.”

Why “Pigmice”?

“Pigmice is a game, explains Hallie Frost. When a TV reporter asked, specifically why they chose the name, she adds with a twinkle in her eye,  “Because there are more than one of us. Otherwise, it would be ‘Pigmouse’. In the game, Pigmice are a highly evolved form of sewer rat that lives in the garbage disposal.”

Plastic trophy, golden feelings
Frost proudly shows us their trophy. “This is the trophy that signifies we’re the best team in the world. Yes, it is made entirely of Legos. The feeling right now is ‘wow’.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

The garden created by students and staff at this school is both beautiful and instructional, they say. Read about it right here‚

As part of the dedication of their garden, class by class, students walked the serpentine path to admire their work.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A project‚ a school garden, started last summer‚ has come to fruition at Sacramento School in NE Portland. And it looks like the students enjoy it as much as do the adults.

“We wanted to create an environment that was welcoming to both the students and to members of the community,” explains Paul Crowley, a counselor at the school. “And, we wanted to bring in more science and nature into the educational process.”

Part of the idea, Crowley tells us‚ on the day of the garden’s dedication, April 18‚ is to give students hands-on activities. “We have a computer lab, but we wanted to also have more physical activities to help balance their education.”

Each grade at the school, we’re told, is responsible for one of the beds.

Teaching responsibility
We watch as the students walk among the raised garden beds. Crowley says that each grade level, kindergarten through fifth grade, has the responsibility of caring for one of the garden beds.

“Everybody had a hand in doing it. What makes it work is that everybody is involved in it,” says Crowley.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Neighbors are hopping mad that the Parkrose Glass Co. building is being actively pitched to porn peddlers. See the dramatic steps they’re taking to keep Parkrose from being turned into PORNrose‚

Folks in Parkrose aren’t upset that the closed-down Parkrose Glass Co. building‚ all 5,200 square feet of it‚ has a “For Sale” sign on it. But this advertisement, purported to be found in a local “porn guide”, has driven citizens to take action.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

“Adult entertainment” establishments continue to pop up in Parkrose.

Because they see this growth pattern as alarming, some residents and business owners took action on April 19 by organizing a meeting at the Quality Inn & Suites & Rodeway Inn on NE Sandy Blvd near I-205.

What galvanized them into action, they say, is that the former Portland Glass Co. building at the corner of NE 95th Ave. and Sandy Blvd. is being offered for sale, specifically, to porn merchants.

Eric Bahme gets to the point and expresses his concern that another new “adult emporium” is about to come to the neighborhood‚ this one directly across the street from their church’s newly-remodeled motel.

“There is no way they should be able to put an adult entertainment complex next to an apartment complex, in a neighborhood, and near a church,” protests Pastor Eric Bahme, of Eastside Portland Foursquare‚ the organization that owns the hotel. “But, the city’s zoning does allow this kind of business right across the street from us.”

Bahme hands off the microphone to Eileen Stocker, who owns Steamers Restaurant and Lounge at NE 83rd Ave. and Sandy Blvd.

“We’ve been at our location for 14 years,” Stocker says. “I’ve seen boys and girls, ruined by prostitution, working the street corner.”

Stocker told the group that she’s counted 12 strip clubs, “modeling” operations, or porn shops in the area.

Parkrose business owner Eileen Stocker says Parkrose citizens have the right to enjoy a livable neighborhood.

“Is a neighborhood filled with porn stores where we want to raise our children? I don’t think so. We have failed our kids.” Stocker calls for action: “We need to let City Hall know we have a right to a livable neighborhood.”

Vice cop talks
We recognize the Portland Police officer who steps up talk next; she says hello — and askes we don’t photograph her. “I’m working undercover with the Drugs & Vice Divison (DVD) now,” she explains.

On stage, she tells the assembly of 72 people, “Portland has the highest per capita rate of strip clubs and adult businesses anywhere in the West, perhaps in the entire country. And, our Yellow Pages and Portland’s ‘Craig’s List’ are filled with ‘escorts’‚ letting anyone order sex right off the Internet.”

The reality, she says, is that the DVD has been pared down to a sergeant and two officers. “We are adamant about doing the best we can. We focus on the pimps and those compelling prostitution.”

Sadly, the cop says, there aren’t many services to help prostitutes escape “the life” due to lack of funding. “And, we’re seeing a big increase in juvenile prostitution.”

Asked how the DVD measures whether or not it is successful, the officer thinks for a moment before answering.

“If we can help one prostitute get away from her pimp, or shut down one business that promotes prostitution‚ this a success. If you want to help, call us; file a complaint if you see prostitution. This is how investigations get started. When the District Attorney’s office sees complaints, we’re sent out to investigate.”

Parkrose neighborhood chair Marcy Emerson-Peters urges neighbors to become involved‚ and let their civic leaders know of their concerns.

Residents speak out
“It’s up to us, to create and maintain healthy environments for all children here,” says Parkrose resident Mary Walker.

“While I understand that you’re with a church,” says a neighbor, looking at Bahme, “this isn’t moral issue with many of us. It’s just that we simply don’t need an adult club on every corner of Parkrose.”

Calls for action
“We’ve started a group called ‘Oregon Porn Law’, declares Bahme. “We’re not trying to get adult businesses closed. But we do want to keep them away from schools, churches, and daycare centers. We have a wider issue, an Oregon issue, which needs to be addressed.”

Bahme asked attendees to write to the current owner of the Parkrose Glass building, asking him to find a more community-oriented buyer.

“The building at 9500 NE Sandy Blvd. has not been sold at this time,” Bahme continues. “He [the owner] has very legal right to sell to whomever he pleases. But if a potential new adult business knows there will be a protest in the neighborhood, they may not take the fight on.”

Bahme asks the group at this organization meeting for continued support. The next meeting is scheduled for June 7.

The next step
Another “Stop the Sale of the 9500 NE Sandy Blvd. Building to an Adult Business” meeting is scheduled for June 7, from 6:30 to 7:30 pm, at Sacred Grounds Coffee Shop, 9727 NE Sandy Blvd. at the Quality Inn & Suites / Rodeway Inn.

“At this meeting,” Bahme says, “We’ll inform people of our process, and gather support for this undertaking. We will have face painting and balloons to occupy the kids while we meet. Light appetizers will be served. If you have already attended one of these meetings, please feel welcome to come to this meeting too. Our city officials listen to numbers.”

Resources:
For more information about the non-profit organization mentioned in this article, go to  www.oregonpornlaw.com.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

IN THEIR OWN WORDS – Read the opening statements made by Portland Mayor Tom Potter and Commissioner Randy Leonard at their April 16 debate regarding Ballot Measure 26-91 …

These opening statements were transcribed from the public discussion held on April 16 at Parkrose High School regarding Ballot Measure 26-91, which amends the City Charter to change the form of city government.

This meeting was sponsored and produced by East Portland neighborhood associations, Central Northeast neighborhood associations, Southeast Uplift, and Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods.

Mayor Tom Potter’s opening statement
“Before we begin, we had a tragedy today in America, at Virginia Tech, and 32 people lost their lives to a gunman and almost 30 people were injured.  What I would like to do, and I would appreciate it if you would join me, is I’m going to stand, and let’s just bow our heads for a moment, to remember those people and their families, and the suffering and tragedy they are going through today.

(Pause)

“Well David [Ashton, the program moderator], I remember when I was running for Mayor, that we spent a lot of time together. You moderated a lot of the debates that I had, and I’m very, very pleased to be here.  I too want to thank Parkrose School District and Parkrose High School in particular for allowing us to use this space, for this forum.

“I want to thank all of you that are here tonight, and that want to find out more information about these reform measures that have been put on the ballot.  They’re very important; and if you just listen to them, (and to David, as articulate and as nice a voice that he has), it can sound kind of boring.  A lot of folks recognize that, but I’ll tell you this much, is that it’s not boring if you live in the city of Portland.

“How many people live in the city of Portland? Well, most everybody in this room has an invested stake in the outcome of this election ‚Äì and it’s an important election.

“Three years ago when David and I were going around on these debates with my opponent, I talked about the need to make sure that city hall is assessable, that city hall is open, that we increase the communication and give citizens more control over their government.

“These four measures do that, and I believe that this is what Portland needs today. I believe that these four measures are going to help Portland. Not just to become the city it is today, but even a better city. We do a lot of things well in our city, and I want to acknowledge that: That we do many things well.

“But there are many things that we don’t do well, and one of them is how we manage the resources that the taxpayers give us.  Their hard-earned tax dollars, your hard earned tax dollars, and the resources that those tax dollars buy.  That’s an important issue, but that’s not the only issue, yes, this system of government does waste money and it is inefficient. But it is also ineffective, in a sense that it could be doing so much more.

“When I was running for Mayor, I had a question that I would also ask myself.  Are the things that go on here that are good ‚Äì our transportation system, recycling, an initiative on sustainability ‚Äì are those things because of the form of government, or in spite of it?  I came to a conclusion in the last two years that those things that make Portland great are in spite of this form of government, not because of it.

“I’ll tell you what the real secret of success in Portland is, and it’s nothing to do with the subject tonight.  The secret to Portland, I believe, is its people!  I believe the form of government should make sure that the people’s dollars are well spent.  I believe that the form of government should be accessible to everyone in all areas of Portland.

“I don’t know where all you folks live; I assume that you are from various parts of Portland.  But you have a stake in the outcome of this election. You can help determine where Portland goes from here.  You can say, “You know, this system has been around for 94 years, it’s tired, it’s outmoded, it’s inefficient and we need a new system”.  And you can do that by voting yes on all four of these measures.

“You can make our city a better city. You can make sure that your children and your grandchildren will have better access to city government because this [new] charter requires it.  The old charter ‚Äì I should say the current charter ‚Äì does not require that.

So, we have some choices to make tonight, and by the 15th of May it will have been decided.  The ballots go out next week and so you’ll have a chance to vote early, or wait right up until the last day, like a lot of folks do.

“But, I ask you to be an informed voter.  I ask you to know the facts.  The facts about this form of government we have, and the new one that’s being proposed. Look to see what’s different; look to see how it does provide for access for citizens, Look to see how it gives citizens control over their government and their community.

“We have a lot of issues to discuss tonight.  I’m really pleased to be here tonight with Commissioner Randy Leonard.  He is a great guy; I really like him; I have a lot of respect for him, and we’ve agreed that we can even disagree on things.  And you know that that’s healthy in a democracy.  Because you can learn things, you can grow from it. I think that a discussion around this charter is good for our community, because people will learn more about how Portland government works and doesn’t work. You can judge for yourself what you think is important for our community and the future of our community.

“I look forward to this discussion, I look forward to your questions, and after the meeting I’ll be glad to stay around and answer any other questions that you may have not wanted to ask at the public forum and I appreciate being here and thank you for letting me be here.”

Commissioner Randy Leonard’s opening statement

“Thank you Parkrose and Portland, and I appreciate Mayor Potter’s opening remarks this evening about the tragedy in Virginia.  I also appreciate very much his kind words to me, and I want to return them.

“Not only am I glad that Tom Potter is Mayor; I hope he runs again, and if he does, I will be out knocking on doors for Tom Potter to win re-election.  But we do differ on this issue; and as Mayor Potter said, the question really isn’t about who is on the city council, whether it’s the city council that he envisions, or the one that exists now.

“It is the people who are Portland.  And because of that, I really think Portland citizens really deserve better then to have one city council hearing ‚Äì one hearing to discuss the language that you are going to be voting on.

“The actual language that you will be voting on was drafted by Mayor Potter after he received the Charter Commission’s recommendations in a report to him, myself, and the rest of the council members.

“The language that you’ll be voting on is not what the Charter Commission drafted. They drafted a report; Mayor Potter and his legal aides drafted the language with absolutely no input from the city council, the public, or even the Charter Review Commission. The language crafted by the mayor is so sweeping and ill-conceived that it would place the city’s oversight auditors under the authority of the Mayor, rather than the city’s independently-elected auditor, Gary Blackmer.

“Is it really a good idea to have an auditor that is supposed to be independent actually working for the person that they are auditing? I don’t think so.

“Additionally, the changes the Mayor drafted will arguably result in those same auditors losing their current civil service protections, leaving them to serve at the pleasure of the mayor. Giving the Mayor the power to hire and fire those that audit city government’s books is too much power for one person to have.

“Mayor Potter will tell you that that was a mistake.  That the language that allows the auditors to work for the Mayor will be fixed after this election that he hopes you vote ‘yes’ on.  My point, I think, is this:  Had there actually been an adequate public process, had the public been at the table, had the commissioners been at the table, mistakes wouldn’t have been drafted into the charter language you will be voting on. That’s why you have pubic process. Notwithstanding my deep respect for Mayor Potter, he fell short on that mark.

“You also may have heard the Portland business Alliance and the city developers have given thousands of dollars to support the ballot measure that would institute the proposed ‘strong mayor’ form of government. This proposal would have the affect of reducing the number of people the business community would have to influence to advance their interest.

“You will hear that the proposed changes will streamline government and provide efficiencies. But really, all it will streamline is the business communities’ efforts to drive the city’s agenda. After all, it is much more difficult to convince three people that it’s a good idea than it is to convince one person.

“To illustrate, here is an example of an alarming impact of the proposed charter change:  If passed, the new charter will allow the Mayor to sell parkland to anyone, for any price that the Mayor chooses.

“When I asked David Wang, the Chair of the Charter Review Commission, at the one city council hearing we had on this subject, why in the world they would put language in the city charter to give that much authority to the Mayor, he said, ‘Commissioner Leonard, I haven’t seen that provision, I can’t respond.’   Mayor Potter will tell you that three of the council members must declare the property surplus before the land can be sold.  However, the current charter requires that four members of the city council must agree to sell public property, including having to agree to the price and to whom it is sold.  That will change if this charter amendment passes.  So why does Mayor Potter want to change that section at all? How does it serve Portlanders to change the charter to allow one person to decide whom to sell our public lands to — and for how much?  What is the problem that the Mayor is trying to fix?

“At a time when a narrow majority of the Portland city council is the only thing preventing the parks bureau from selling off part of Mt. Tabor Park to private interests, consolidating power into the hands of one person is a dangerous thing for our neighborhoods.

“Another proposed change allows the Mayor to hire a chief administrative officer commonly known as a city manager.  The new council would vote to confirm the chief administrative officer.  Interestingly, however, the Mayor not only appoints the city manager, under his proposed change in government he also gets to vote to confirm his own appointment.

“While he characterizes the proposed changes as a separation of executive and legislative powers, he has seen fit to keep himself as a legislative, quasi-judicial voting member of the city council, with his proposed charter change.  That is, he wants all the executive authority, plus 1/5 of the legislative quasi-judicial authority exercised by the current city council.

“My analogy:  Imagine if you will what the world might be like if President Bush had the executive powers of the president. plus 1/5 of the votes of the House, plus 1/5 votes of the Senate, plus judicial authority.  To quote the City Club, in a report that just came out last week, ‘By spreading authority broadly among commissioners the current form not only offers citizens greater access to city leaders, it insures that this diffuse leadership can serve as a bulwark against an ineffectual or reckless Mayor.’  The City Club concluded by recommending that you vote ‘no’ on this ballet measure.

“Ladies and Gentlemen that is just too much power for any one person to have. We cannot afford to put Portland’s future in the hands of just one person.”

Resources:

  • For arguments in favor of changing Portland’s city government system and structure, see www.reformcityhall.com.
  • For arguments against changing Portland’s city government system and structure, see www.toomuchpower.org.

© 2007 East Portland News Service – All Rights Reserved

See why this group of otherwise “normal” folks is plotting to invade Portland area parades this year. Show up April 28, Saturday morning, and see them “at work” — having fun — along SE 82nd Avenue ‚Ķ

One of the “PEParazzi” instigators, and pep-squad workshop leader, entertainer Marlene Azar, shows how a simple hand puppet can effectively communicate and engage strangers along a parade route.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
This spring and summer, more Portland area neighborhoods and business districts are hosting parades than ever.

With the aim of engaging bystanders in these parades, a Brentwood-Darlington resident, and president of the Foster Area Business Association, Nancy Chapin, says the idea struck her not long ago: Create a neighborhood parade cheer-leading squad.

“Parades build a sense of community because they bring people together,” Chapin tells us.

Chapin enlisted the aid of an individual involved in entertainment for 18 years, Marlene Azar (a/k/a “Eartha the Ecological Clown”).

“Our idea is to create a group of ‘parade cheerleaders’,” Azar tells us. “Our goal is to help make our business district and neighborhood parades more fun.”

Creates a new category: Parade liaison
Azar says individuals and groups march or ride in parades for the fun of it. Spectators line the streets, because they enjoy seeing the parade.

“But, we’re creating a third group of folks ‚Äì I think it’s an entirely new concept ‚Äì people who help connect the viewers with the participants. We’re working with individuals who have joined our group to help them bring out their creative ideas. Each member of our squad has their own special way of connecting with people.”

Chapin interjects, “This is a new concept. It could grow nationwide! But, first, we’re starting with East Portland events.”

Although a professional clown, instructor Marlene Azar says she’s trying to help people become parade liaisons ‚Äì not clowns.

Although Azar communicates her message of “being good to the planet Earth” through clowning, she says, “This isn’t a clown school. We are helping our people create unique ways for them to become liaisons, connecting observers with parade participants.”

Taa Daa! Introducing the PEParazzi, at the 82nd Ave. Parade
Chapin says the group has chosen a new name ‚Äì they’re now officially called the PEParazzi. The novel idea behind this group has even garnered two official sponsors, Pacific Power and ShedRain.

Their first outing will be along the route of the first annual 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade” on Saturday, April 28th that starts at 9:00 a.m.

The Avenue of Roses Parade starts at Eastport Plaza, 4000 SE 82nd Avenue.  The parade will travel north along 82nd Avenue, then west on SE Yamhill, disbanding at SE 78th Avenue.

Got PEP? Join them!
“The parade season is just starting,” says Chapin. “If you love parades, but don’t necessarily want to march in them, come join us!”

Interested in joining the PEParazzi team? Come to the next workshop on Sunday, May 6 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Once again, Azar will be on hand to help participants better develop techniques for creating humorous connections between spectators and participants, as well as teaching costuming and light make-up ideas.

To participate, or for more information, contact Nancy Chapin at (503) 313-1665.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Read this one-on-one interview and learn why you’ll probably see fewer big drug busts in East Portland from the sheriff’s skilled dope-busting deputies. And, see why this news is grim for our friends in Gresham, Fairview, and East County‚

Take a look at the POUNDS of heavy-duty narcotics‚ like crystal meth‚ the deputies in Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigation Unit bring in when they bust big-time dope dealers.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
East Portland News Service has covered many stories in which the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigation Unit (SIU) has taken down top-level drug dealers, and curbed the influx of methamphetamine and cocaine.

So, we wondered why we were being summoned to the Hanson Building ‚Äì the leaky old structure that houses the Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO)‚ for a “show & tell” on April 17.

At the event, the SIU sergeant tells reporters how Multnomah County’s impending budget reductions will impact the unit.

After the meeting, Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto invites us into his office where, one-on-one, he frankly speaks of his concerns regarding public safety, as county commissioners decide how much to cut from the sheriff’s budget.

Sheriff Bernie Giusto doesn’t mince words as he outlines the funding situation for his organization.

In his words
We ask Sheriff Giusto, “What’s the real story here?”

“The story is that the county has built a government they can’t pay for,” Giusto begins. “It didn’t happen in the last couple of years‚ this started many years ago.

“With I-Tax revenue, expectations were high. It did provide a financial bridge for two years. But it also did two things: It built expectations we would be able to maintain those levels of service; and, secondly, while this was going on, our costs were increasing. Labor costs were going up.

“With the I-Tax gone, coupled with the increase of labor costs, we’re back in an ‘every-year, budget-cutting mode’.

“To start, it looks like we’ll have to cut 114 jail beds,” says the Sheriff.

SIU deputies put on display some of the confiscated drugs, bagged and ready for sale. From July 2006 through March 2007, deputies have cleaned $8,800,000 worth of dope off the street, including 5.34 lbs of cocaine, 1.32 lbs of heroin and a whopping 7.2 POUNDS of methamphetamine. MCSO photo

Why Special Investigation Unit cuts will hurt
Giusto continues, “And, our Special Investigations Unit will also take some cuts.”

We enquire, “Is the SIU the unit that catches the drug runners, bringing multi-pound loads of crystal meth into the county?”

“More importantly,” Giusto elaborates, “the SIU is the only group, the only law enforcement unit that does these drug missions in East Multnomah County on a daily basis, east of 162nd Ave.”

Drug investigations don’t stay within boundaries, he adds. “When it comes to initiating [county jurisdiction drug] investigations, or cleaning up meth labs, we were the only ones. We’re still the only one doing clean-ups. No one else is equipped to do those meth lab cleanups. If we don’t do them, they don’t get done.”

Deputies say this gear was taken from meth labs they’ve cleaned up. Without funding, future lab clean-ups are in doubt. MCSO photo

Says Wheeler is responsive to concerns
“[Multnomah County] Chair Ted Wheeler has been responsive to our concerns‚ as much as a $15 million overall ‘budget hole’ will allow him to be.”

Instead of holding off making cuts in the future, Giusto said Wheeler is making cuts starting this year. “He’ll be making a cut, county-wide, of $10 million this year and $5 million next year.

“But, on top of the cuts we’ve taken at the Sheriff’s Office — $6 million one year, $8 million another year and another $5 million cut this year ‚Äì these cuts are starting to get very painful. The cumulative effect of these cuts is this: We’ve run out of services that are debatable‚ wondering whether or not they’re important.”

Core services reduced
In other words, the Sheriff’s office will start making cuts to core services, Giusto clarifies for us.

“We are now down to ’emergency response’ levels of funding. This includes investigations, drug investigations, patrol and river patrol.”

Giusto pauses, and adds, “Although, yesterday, the Chair did add back $750,000 for River Patrol.”

Had some funding not been restored, Giusto states frankly, he’d have to make deep internal cuts to keep the River Patrol in operation. “The River Patrol either has to be funded at a reasonable level, or we have to stop providing this service. But, we can’t get ‘out of the business’ because nobody else does it. We have the equipment, trained personnel‚ and a state mandate that we provide this service.”

Redefining services to East County
“What this means for East County is this,” the sheriff continues. “We’re working with Gresham to redefine our services.”

This is difficult, he says, “Because where you find drugs, you find crime. Drugs and crime go together. As you know, we work with East Precinct’s CRU [Crime Reduction Unit]‚ and we’ve reduced crime. But now, violent drug-related crime is popping up on Gresham and East County on a regular basis.

“Major incidents in Gresham of shooting and stabbings, drug killings, are going to increase — now that they’ve reached that 100,000 population mark. This is hugely problematic. When cities grow to this size, they start to experience big-city crime.

“Gresham has a couple of choices. They have to get serious about funding some officers for ‘street crimes’ unit. They only have two FTEs [full time officers] right now. It’s a good start, but it’s ineffectual against mid-level drug dealers.

East Portland: something has to give
We ask, “Let’s talk about your work with East Precinct’s Crime Reduction Unit (CRU) and the Regional Organized Crime Narcotics Agency (ROCN). If there are budget cuts, what can we expect?”

Giusto thinks for a moment and replies, “We’re still working on how to move our personnel around. But, something has to give. We may have to give up drug investigators and release deputies to do general [crime] investigations.

“But, the fact of the matter is, downstream, the things SIU is doing to reduce drug-related activities are more important than anything else. We can’t let drug dealers run wild. That’s a bad idea.”

“We can’t let drug dealers run wild. That’s a bad idea,” says Giusto.

Migrating crime to East County
“The crooks go to the places of least resistance. If Portland keeps pushing hard, they’ll go to Gresham or East County. They don’t quit. They just go somewhere else. And, we really don’t want East Multnomah County to be the place they go.

“If you don’t think East County is ‘growing up’‚ last month, we had our first drive-by shooting in City of Wood Village at 7:30 in the morning. We’re ‘growing up’ in a way that isn’t very good. It’s happening before our eyes. We’ve got to recognize what’s going on.”

What you can do
We ask Sheriff Giusto if there is anything citizens can do to support law enforcement.

“Express your priorities around public safety, law enforcement presence, and jail beds to your County Commissioners,” replies Giusto.

“Secondly, if the County can work with the City of Gresham or other jurisdictions, these governments must ask citizens to help fund an increased law enforce presence.

“Gresham has run out ability to address the problems. They’re doing a good job with [the funding and officers] they have. But when you only have 106 police officers, in a city of 100,000 people‚ this isn’t a good ratio.

“Gresham, and the east end of East Precinct, has become the ‘poverty center’ of the county. This means not only more crime, but also more victimization. It’s tough to ask citizens to help sometimes, but we need to be able to provide service.”

“Anything else?” we ask

“We’re not opening our new jail this year, either. We’re having our third birthday party out there‚ empty,” concludes Giusto.

Editor’s note: the Multnomah County budget is currently in its draft form; it is not finalized until June. Contact your county commissioner to express your views now.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Help ID the jerk who has been busting into NE Portland businesses. Your confidential tip could earn you $1,000 in cash‚

Know who this is? Turn him in and claim your reward!

By David F. Ashton
Before dawn on April 5, at 4:50 a.m., a burglar breaks through the front door of the 102nd Street Market at 4646 NE 102nd Ave.

Surveillance video at the store catches this guy as he enters the store and starts loading his brown-and-black Adidas duffle bag with cigarettes, candy, and money from the store’s till.

Then, on Sunday, April 8, at 2:35 a.m., the same suspect breaks into Subway restaurant at 10643 Northeast Sandy Blvd. During this break-in, the crook can’t defeat the lock on the cash box‚ so, he opted to take the entire box with him.

You can’t see him as well, but here’s the crook in the Subway store.

The suspect on the video looks to be a white male, possibly late 20’s to early 30’s, 5’6″ or shorter, with dark brown or black hair, and bushy dark eyebrows.

His clothing: A light colored sweatshirt with the hood up, underneath a short sleeve dark shirt or jacket, dark pants, and white shoes. The dark colored shirt was pulled over the lower part of his face, and he appeared to be wearing light-colored gloves.

Bust the crook for cold cash
Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to the resolution in this case, or any unsolved felony, and you may remain anonymous.  Call Crime Stoppers at (503) 823-HELP (4357).

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See this story about the Earth Day event that drew in neighbors from the entire district‚

Youthful artists Brandon and Amanda Boothby help create an Earth Day mural at Ventura Park School.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
“Come on in,” beams Susan Gerritz, Principal of Ventura Park School, on April 14. “We’re having an Earth Day Education Celebration for the whole community.”

Students from the elementary school invited their neighbors, family, and friends, Gerritz tells us, as she works in the school’s greenhouse.

Many people who came in to celebrate Earth Day at Ventura Park School participated in activities ranging from making “worm boxes” to making artistic hats out of newspaper‚ fun ways to learn about recycling.

What’s important about this event, Gerritz informs us, is that “we’re helping people learn what they can do to take care of our planet, and leave it in good hands with the next generation.”

The idea for this celebration started, Gerritz says, with a METRO grant allowing students to do restoration work in the community‚ primarily removing invasive plant species in the area.

David Douglas High juniors Kaila Murray and Amanda Krekow help visitors play a “Find the Animal” game.

“We have a massive recycling effort here at the school. Every milk carton is recycled. We have a ‘Green Team’ which visits our classrooms and rates how we’re doing with recycling or paper, and turning lights and computers off,” Gerritz goes on.

The Principal adds that this event is actually the culmination of a year-long educational effort. At this event, students demonstrate concepts they’ve learned at school.

Jason McCarty and Kendra Rose learn how to write their name in Japanese from Marcia Watanabe.

“It is important to educate young people, their parents, and the community the ways to reduce, reuse, recycle, and restore in everyday life,” adds Gerritz. “We want to teach children ‘sustainability’‚ how to take care of the earth. We educate children, not only academically but environmentally, here at Ventura Park.”

Krista Hickey, Tiffany Anderson, and Jennifer Theede sell flowers they made, to help support their David Douglas Ecology Club.

No one will nod off for a nap during this adaptation of this classic Shakespeare play! See why you should get tickets right now to see this limited run, “black box” production May 10‚11, 12‚

Juliet (Jacquelle Davis) and Romeo (Tyree Harris) prepare for a scene from the upcoming production of Romeo & Juliet.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
While thousands of people travel to Ashland to see the works of William Shakespeare every summer‚ most regular folks usually consider his plays to be long, and rather boring, shows.

Entering Stage Left: ‘Black Box’ Romeo & Juliet
“This production of Shakespeare is more to-the-point,” says Parkrose High School theater instructor, and director of Thespian Troupe 1783, Ms. Zena.

“We changed the pacing‚ the scenes blend one into another,” she adds. “The action is continuous. And, we’ve created a sound track to go with the production‚ this enhances the dramatic effect of the words.”

Unlike “Arsenic & Old Lace“‚ presented on stage with a professional multi-level set and theatrical lighting‚ this production of Romeo & Juliet is what Zena describes as a “black-box” style of theater.

The first thing audience members will notice is that they are being seated on the stage of the Parkrose Theater. “We’re using alternative spaces in the theater, including the catwalks and stairs, for example,” she explains.

Intimate drama
The action takes place on the stage, in and amongst the audience members, allowing for a more intimate theatrical experience.

“The show will run a little over an hour,” Zena continues. “This version of Romeo & Juliet is abbreviated quite a bit. It makes it more of a one-act style production. We’re still using Shakespeare’s language‚ but instead of saying everything three times, as he’s written‚ we’re saying it once. We’re getting to the point.”

The idea is, Zena tells us, it to make Shakespeare more accessible to the school’s younger audience, and “to introduce our community audience who may not have seen a performance of Shakespeare’s work.”

Adapting Shakespeare’s plays isn’t new to Zena. “I’ve been doing this with Shakespeare for thirteen years. I really like creating these adaptations, because it encourages kids to explore, and get excited about, Shakespeare. Typically, most young people‚ in fact, many actors‚ are ‘afraid’ of Shakespeare. Presenting Shakespeare in this way makes his work fun.”

Limited tickets
Because of this unique seating arrangement, each performance will be limited to 150 audience members. Don’t miss out on “culture-made-fun”‚ call (503) 408-2621 to reserve your tickets today.

Romeo & Juliet

  • May 10, 11, 12
  • Tickets $5 for all patrons
  • 7 p.m. curtain

At the “Black Box Theatre”
Parkrose High School
12003 NE Shaver Street (at NE 122nd Ave.)

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See why residents are celebrating as the first, major ROSE Community Development turns ten years old‚

These ten-year Lents Village residents say they’re proud, and happy, to have been among the first residents of the facility.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
As hard to believe as it may seem, the affordable senior housing project on outer SE Holgate Blvd. — Lents Village — is already ten years old.

“It is great to get together with the residents who live here, and community members, to celebrate this facility,” comments the executive director of ROSE Community Development, Nick Sauvie.

ROSE board member Rick Soards and executive director Nick Sauvie congratulate the long-term residents at Lents Village Apartments.

Sauvie reminded us that ROSE (Revitalize Outer South East) Community Development Corporation is 15 years old this year. “This was the first large, new development that ROSE did. It has been tremendously successful.”

Further, there has been a lot of progress in the Lents neighborhood in the last 10 years, Sauvie adds. “ROSE has been a significant part of that. There is a huge need for affordable housing for seniors, people with disabilities, and families. ROSE is working to meet that need.”

Portland Fire & Rescue’s Lt. Richard Jones gives residents safety tips and reminds them, “When ever you need us, we’re just minutes away.”

In its 63 units, Sauvie says Lents Village accommodates persons 55+ years old who meet low-income qualifications.

Even after residing there for a decade, Lents Village resident Lynn Simmons says she feels blessed to have been selected to live in the building.

“Blessed to live here”
One of the folks we meet is Lynn Simmons, who moved in on opening day.

“I moved in here in 1997,” Simmons tells the group of celebrants assembled in their Lents Loaves & Fishes dining hall.

“There hasn’t been one day that I have regretted moving into Lents Village,” continues Simmons. “I’m happy here. All of my needs have been fulfilled. The location is good, the facility is clean, and they take good care of the property. I’m thankful to the Good Lord that I heard about Lents Village, and have been able to live here.”

Resources:
Find out more about all of the ROSE programs by going to www.rosecdc.org or by calling (503) 788-8052.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See why business people in the southern portion of outer East Portland are penciling May 8 in their calendars‚ and learn more about this organization as our weekly series about East Portland business associations continues …

Bill Dayton, Donna Dionne and Dr. Norbert Huntley pitch “50/50” tickets at the Pizza Baron End-of-Summer Cruise-In to raise money for the association’s activities.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
In order to serve businesses and neighborhoods in the southern area of outer East Portland, the Midway Business Association (MBA) was started in 2004.

The service area of MBA is Interstate 205 east to SE 162nd Avenue; and, from SE Harold Street north to Market Street.

“We’re committed to building a strong business association,” said MBA president Donna Dionne. “Working together with the neighborhood associations in our area, Powellhurst-Gilbert and Centennial, we can make a lot of positive changes for an area.”

The political power of these combined associations, Dionne added, can increase city dollars being spent in a specific area. “This translates into better parks, sidewalks, maintained roads, increased property values, and a nicer, more-maintained area to live and work in.”

Guest speakers, such as Multnomah County Judge Thom Ryan, help keep Midway-area business owners and neighbors up to date on important issues.

Volunteering spirit
Although the membership of the association is small, their members volunteer their time and resources to help their local community.

With funds raised at Pizza Baron Cruise-Ins, the association has provided direct aid to their community by–for example–providing refreshments for the Midland Library Dia de los Ninos celebration, as well as purchasing ice cream for the library’s Summer Reading Program; and, helping with the Gilbert Neighborhood Association clean-up, by sponsoring the dumpsters.

Portland Planning Bureau East Portland Liaison, Barry Manning, shows a map that details the Commercial Corridor Study underway.

Signs mark the spot
With a grant from the Alliance of Portland Neighborhood Business Associations (APNBA), the Midway Business Association has published a directory of all businesses in its area.

And, a later APNBA grant is allowing them to design and install highway signs, welcoming consumers into the area. One sign will be at SE 99th Ave. and Division St.; the other will be at SE 161st Ave. and Division. Each sign will also identify its respective neighborhood.

“The idea is to start branding the area,” Dionne said, “so as a business collective, we can more effectively market to our Midway neighbors.  This will form an identity for the area, and hopefully will encourage neighbors to shop locally and support local businesses first.”

Neighbors invited to participate
“Local businesses create local jobs,” Dionne explained. “A person can live close to and walk to their job. When businesses get involved with their neighbors, we see cleaner and better-maintained properties. This benefits everyone.”

One goal of the MBA is to increase pride in the area, among both neighbors and businesses. “Support those businesses that make a positive impact in that area,” commented Dionne. “Let the businesses know that you appreciate what they are doing.”

Members spotlighted
Wells Fargo Bank – Tammy Williams, Manager
From the beginning, Wells Fargo has been supportive monetarily as well as organizationally, with Tammy volunteering for its events. Ms. Williams has also acted at treasurer for the association’s funds since inception.

Pizza Baron – Bill Dayton, Owner
For more than 30 years, families have enjoyed great pizza and fun at this landmark SE Portland Restaurant. The owner, Bill Dayton, has supported the MBA from the start, provides the meeting place for the association, and is well-known in the community for helping all kinds of civic causes, from sponsoring pizza parties for DHS kids, to helping David Douglas sports teams.

At their Annual Midway Business Association Get-together, community members, dignitaries and business people get to mix and mingle‚ and enjoy great food at Pizza Baron.

Come see for yourself on May 8
Come learn all about this new business group dedicated to helping neighbors and businesses improve the southern end of outer East Portland.

On Tuesday, May 8, Midway Business Association is hosting their Annual Association Get-Together from 11:45 am until 1:00 pm at Pizza Baron, 2604 S.E. 122nd Ave. It’s a mix-and-mingle, drop-in event, featuring a free pizza buffet. You’ll get to meet business people; officials, such as Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams; and neighborhood leaders.

The group also meets on the second Tuesday of most months from 11:45 am until 1 pm at Bill Dayton’s PIZZA BARON Restaurant on SE 122nd Ave., just south of Division Street. Neighbors and interested business people are always welcome. For more information, go to www.midwayba.com.

©2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

It isn’t just sophisticated equipment that rushes emergency help on its way; it’s highly trained people. Meet three of Portland’s finest emergency communicators right here  …

Portland’s “Telecommunicator of the Year”, dispatcher Kate Williams says she “likes helping people”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The term “9-1-1” is often associated with people trained to dispatch rapid emergency response, show poise under pressure, aid with compassion in times of distress, and make critical decisions within seconds.

“Many people do not stop to think about these individuals, until they experience an actual emergency themselves,” says Bureau Of Emergency Communications (BOEC) Public Information Officer Todd DeWeese.  “You may never meet them‚ or even know their names‚ but these professionals make the difference between life and death, in many instances.”

This year, BOEC hosted its Sixteenth Annual Employee Awards Banquet on April 11 at Lakeside Gardens.

“Tonight is all about recognizing the significance of the 9-1-1 Call Center,” DeWeese explains, “and recognizing accomplishments during the past year. We took over 1 Million calls in 2006. We’re answering a lot of calls‚ helping a lot of citizens‚ and we’re doing it with fewer personnel.”

Telecommunicator of the Year
Dispatcher Kate Williams is given BOEC’s highest honor; she’s conferred the title, “Telecommunicator of the Year”.

Williams tells us, “I like helping people. We help police officers, firefighters, and medics do their jobs. This award is quite an honor.”

Senior dispatcher Stephanie Solomon-Lopez is one of the co-workers who nominated Williams for the award, “Although she’s been with us for about four years, she’s very good at what she does. She came in with a positive attitude. It’s easy to get personally ‘beaten down’ by some of the calls we get. She stays positive. Our job is to help people, but she goes above and beyond.”

Dispatcher Kim Bronson also nominated Williams. “Kate has become a good dispatcher. But even more, outside the bureau, she is a volunteer with TIPS. By working with TIPS, she goes above and beyond the call of duty. She’s amazing.”

TIPS volunteers, we learn, go to emergency events at which individuals have just experienced a traumatic situation. They help these individuals deal with the immediate impact of the event. Williams used her vacation time to take the training class, and she volunteers at least 12 hours a month on her time off.

BOEC Public Information Officer, and Call Center supervisor, Todd DeWeese was voted “Supervisor of the year”.

Supervisor of the Year
Dispatcher Katherine Stevenson says she nominated Todd DeWeese as “Supervisor of the Year” because “he cares”.

“Todd really listens to us. He tries to see our point of view. He helps us build our skills by giving us valuable input and feedback. And, he helps make my job fun. Even when we’re going through a difficult time, he helps by lifting our mood and keeping our spirits up. That is very important.”

There is often drama, negativity, and unhappiness surrounding their work, Stevenson continues. “No one calls 9-1-1 because they’re having a wonderful day. It is easy to focus on the negativity. Todd helps us stay in balance, and be a ‘whole’ person.”

Asked about his award, DeWeese tells us, “It is always great to be recognized by your peers, those whom you supervise and by your own bosses. It means a lot to me. I’ve won this award before, and that trophy is still proudly displayed in my home.”

Meet Team Member of the Year, Connie Cohen

Team Member of the Year
The 2006 “Outstanding Team Member of the Year” honors go to Connie Cohen in BOEC’s Information Technology Department.

“No, I don’t take calls. I maintain the computer systems that help dispatchers to their work.”

We asked why the 6-year veteran of BOEC chooses to work with the bureau. “These folks are all my heroes,” Cohen replies. “To do things that help the dispatchers do their jobs well‚ and through them, help our community‚ it is a wonderful thing for me to do. I love my job.”

Employees foot the bill for their annual BOEC banquet — not taxpayers. Here you see some of the bureau’s “most famous” workers dishing up a full-course dinner at Lakeside Gardens on SE Foster Rd.

Do you have the “right stuff”?
We’ve reached the 30-year mark; some of our staff members are retiring,” mentioned DeWeese. “We’re always looking for qualified people who are willing to train to be a dispatcher.”

Interested? Call (503) 823-0911‚ classes start four times a year.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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