Without funding available to build and expand schools, read this and learn how DDS administrators are scrambling educate outer East Portland’s growing number of students with what they have ‚Ķ

Rob Buckner, 5th Grade teacher at West Powellhurst Elementary School, can’t fit even one more student into his already-packed classroom.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Voters in the David Douglas School District (DDS) made it clear, last November: “No new taxes”. The bond measure requested by the schools garnered only a 44% “Yes” vote.

But homeowner’s reluctance to increase funding hasn’t stopped their flood of new students into the already over-crowded schools.

Back to school
“Honestly, we’re having challenges finding space to educate our students, given our growing population,” is how Allen Browning, principal of West Powellhurst Elementary School put it to us.

“We’ve had combine programs and offices through the school,” Browning continued. “Our reading coach and Title 1 program are all housed in one small area. Our school counselor’s office was moved into a closet-like space. Every classroom is full. If we have any more children come here, we will have no place to put them.”

As we tour the school, Browning didn’t grumble or whine. The teachers with whom we speak appear to be cheerful and conscientious educators. Instead, they seem to have taken on their crowded situation as a challenge. The principal shows us how the gym’s former locker room was turned into first-rate classrooms to accommodate the increase in students. “We use the stage for after-school programs, the closets for book rooms. We’re making the most efficient use of the space we have.”

And, we learn, some of the other schools in the district are even more crowded, especially in the south end of the district.

Once-rural district faces explosive growth
In 1959, three small, rural districts – Russellville, Powellhurst and Gilbert – joined with the David Douglas Union High School District to form a 1st through 12th grade school district.

Over the decades, enrollment has increased, peaking in 1970. It slightly decreased during the 1980s, but has resumed growing as unincorporated East Multnomah County continues to grow.

Superintendent Barbara Rommel, David Douglas Schools.

“By 1993,” explained the district’s superintendent Barbara Rommel, “we needed additional classrooms.” Voters approved a $20 Million bond measure that funded building classrooms on existing schools, and paid to renovate others.

But the kids kept on coming. In 2000, voters approved a $40 Million bond to refurbish a once-shuttered building, and build a new middle school. It funded new classroom space at many buildings, including the high school.

But, enrollment continued to increase.

2006 adds a ‘school’s worth’ of students
“Last year, we had a 4% increase,” Rommel continued. This translates into 400 new students, she said. “In many districts, this number represents the population of an entire school.”

Because families with older students have been moving into the district, David Douglas High teaches 2,900 students. “To accommodate the increase,” Rommel explained, the school board used some ‘reserve funds’ to build an additional wing of classrooms at the high school.”

Challenges of changing demographics
Over the last five years, the superintendent told us, they’ve seen a dramatic increase in kids eligible for free or reduced cost lunches. “David Douglas has the highest level of poverty represented by that factor of any of the fifteen largest school districts in Oregon.”

Another challenge to DDS educators is the influx of newcomers to the district. “Currently, about 25% of our student population needs ‘English as a Second Language’ assistance. Those students represent over 46 different languages or dialects spoken in the home,” Rommel said.

“B” grade doesn’t translate into votes
Asked for her analysis of the fall election results, Rommel told us, “Our polls said residents give us a “B” ‚Äì a pretty good grade. So, residents feel we’re dong a pretty good job. My personal feeling is it [that ‘no’ vote] was an economic statement. I think residents were saying, ‘We just can’t afford it’.”

The FFD board was disappointed, Rommel said, “but they are pragmatists. They both understand ‚Äì and share ‚Äì the concerns of the community.”

The school board, she continued, has a dual responsibility: To be fiscally responsible with the public’s dollar; and to make sure students get a full range of educational opportunities. “An example is our music program. Students begin their instrumental music in grade school; we have full time, certified music specialists in every elementary school. As students move up the grades, the performance level of these students allows them to go into music as a career. But, our main mission is still ‘reading, writing and arithmetic’.”

Kindergarten a key to success
What helps their students do well is the kindergarten program, Rommel said. “We have full-day kindergarten for every student in our district. Since the state only funds a half-day program, the board makes up the rest the support from general funds.”

Kindergarten students in Mrs. Leah Robinson classroom get a full school day of literacy-based education.

The result: 70% of the students meet educational objectives. “The increases in learning are strongest among students who come in with some kind of learning risk factor. Students who qualify for free or reduced lunches, ESL assistance, or special education students ‚Äì all of these at-risk groups showed remarkable gains, from being in this program.”

Condemns consolidation concepts
Last fall, Mayor Tom Potter briefly floated an area-wide school consolidation plan.

“A consideration is looking for efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” Rommel responded to the notion. “Bigger isn’t necessarily better. I don’t believe most parents want their children being bussed across the metropolitan area to fill an empty school.”

Looking at the efficiency aspect, she said DDS has a fewer-than-average number of administrators; business-level and support level services are run very lean. “Look at the Chalkboard Projects’ Open Book; it shows that we manage the district in a very thrifty way.”

Rommel added that the district is almost the perfect size. “We’re small enough to retain contact with our community; yet large enough to offer a wide range of elective subjects and extracurricular activities.”

Funding the district’s future
We asked bluntly, “OK, so what’s the plan?”

“This is a dilemma,” Rommel candidly responded. “One of the options is to look at increasing class size.”

Another option, she explained, is to shuffle classrooms. “For example, a number of high school classes are being held in the Children’s Service Center. When the new high school wing is finished, we can relive pressure on crowded elementary schools by using that building for classes, even to the point of making a small primary school in that building.”

Others suggest using “modular classrooms” at existing schools. “These trailers are an expensive fix, and don’t make a good educational environment. And, with the increased school populations we’re seeing, we need every square foot of playground space we have.”

Other possibilities are to eliminate the full-day kindergarten program ‚Äì a step that would free up 10 classrooms. “It would break my heart. We’ve documented the tremendous good that the full-day program does for students. It makes them successful learners from the start, reducing resources spent on remediation.”

ABC’s of school funding
Puzzled why districts, other than Portland Public Schools, successfully raise funding, we asked why it is so difficult in outer East Portland.

“There are no industries, and little business, in the district,” Rommel explained. “The entire burden for education falls upon the homeowner and residential property owner. If you have a good industrial base, those businesses shoulder part of the responsibility ‚Äì it reduces the amount homeowners must pay.

“In Beaverton, for example, a 47 cents-per-thousand levy raises $195 Million. In DDS, a $1.12 -per-thousand levy raises only $45 Million.”

State funding possibilities
To find out if state aid might be available, we talked with a man who was educated in the DDS school system from 3rd grade through the high school level, Oregon House Speaker Jeff Merkley.

“The schools are bustin’ at the seams with more children poised to come in. The district has a substantial challenge to find classroom space,” agreed Merkley. “Our families [in the school district] are working incredibly hard. They are squeezed too tightly to afford a property tax increase.”

Merkley said the state legislature recognizes that this is significant problem for fast-growing school districts that have a low prosperity basis. “One of the ideas we’re exploring is to see if ‘system development charges’ can be used to help build new schools.”

Another concept, the “Kansas Plan”, is up for discussion, said the state legislator. “It is a brand new idea. It allows districts with lower tax base to get a matching grant from the state government. The match would be 2-to-1 in David Douglas. But I don’t know if that will have the support of educational organizations.”

You can help: volunteer
We asked if parents and interested citizens might directly help DDS schools. From the schools themselves, we learned they can.

Rommel answered, “Just go to any neighborhood school to the office, say ‘I’d like to volunteer’.”

Principal Browning added, “We get many supportive comments from parents. Parents, you are welcome to help out in our school! We’d love for you to become part of your child’s education.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See how this unique David Douglas Schools program is helping kids gain a better understanding of what it’s like to be young ‚Äì and disabled ‚Ķ

Fifth-grader Max Sklyaruk is wearing vision impairment goggles. He says, “It was hard to see and concentrate. If I couldn’t see well, it would be really difficult to do good in class. I’d feel left out.”

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Menlo Park Elementary School is the home for four self-contained classrooms, providing Structured Learning Program for Academics (SLPA) to 41 students with various eligibilities.

To help students at this school gain a better understanding of their less able counterparts at the school, the staff developed a special program they offered in late January called “Come Walk in My Shoes”.

We’re invited to observe the students experience this learning session, and are greeted by Menlo Park principal Brooke O’ Neill.

Walking to the gym area, O’ Neill fills us in. “Because we house SLPA, we feel it is important that all of our kids ‚Äì both students in the SLPA program, and general education classes ‚Äì learn empathy. To see what it feels like to go through life with certain challenges. And, they learn how they can respond to those challenges, and lend a helping hand and be a friend.”

Demonstrating how students with autism can learn better through the use of instructional picture cards is teacher Jennifer Schloth.

Challenging learning situations
In the gym, we meet Suzi Zehsazian, the school’s music instructor and chair of the program.

“We’re seeing an increasing number of students with autism,” explains Zehsazian. “This year, we added autism stations.” At the first station, we find students trying to complete educational tasks after viewing instructional picture cards.

Menlo Park teacher Sarah Magnano helps students understand the “sensory overload” many autistic students must overcome.

“At another section of this station, Zehsazian continues, “we simulate the sensory overload many autistic students experience. All of their senses are overloaded, and then, we give them an academic task to do.” Most students couldn’t complete simple math problems while being exposed to static-like noise, flashing lights, and surprise sounds.

Student K D Henley tries to make it through the “motor skills course” in a wheelchair without dropping her pretend lunch tray. “It’s not easy,” she says, “I dropped it.”

Life in a wheelchair
Principal O’ Neill adds, “We also changed the ‘gross motor station’. This year, we incorporated the task of going through a door and over different textures and surfaces while holding a lunch tray.”

To many of the fifth-graders who took the course, it seems like fun at first, trying to maneuver in a wheelchair. “I learned that it is hard to be in a wheelchair,” student K. D. Henley tells us. “I was able to open a door in the wheelchair; I pushed it open, but dropped the tray.”

A unique, “home-grown” educational program
The kindergarten-through-fifth-grade program doesn’t come out of a box, Zehsazian says.

“This program is unlike any other in the Portland area. This truly came out of teachers’ experience with their kids. It’s going on all around the David Douglas School District schools.”

The event is important, Zehsazian continues, because it gives students the chance to experience something outside of their normal world-view. “They experience what it’s like to have a different ability for a while. This helps them to develop empathy and respect ‚Äì not only here, at their school, but also among people in the real world. In the future, instead of staring at a challenged individual, they can remember what it was like ‚Äì and help them in some way.”

Suzi Zehsazian, the school’s music instructor and chair of the program, making sure the one-hour class ran on time.

Both the teachers and students told us they agree that “Come Walk in My Shoes” is a great event. “It is about becoming a better, more responsible person in the community,” concludes Zehsazian. “Isn’t this part of the purpose of education?”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

This business association isn’t basking in its past achievements! See how these Parkrose business people are finding new ways to serve their community ‚Ķ

Incoming Parkrose Business Association president Mark Eves, of the Eves & Wade LLP Law firm, is welcomed to the podium by outgoing president Wayne Stoll, of Argay Square.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Not long after the turn of the year, Mark Eves, incoming president of the Parkrose Business Association, took over the leadership role of the organization. “Our focus this year,” Eves told the group, “is three ‘M’s’. They are membership, meetings, and mission.”

Membership chair Jon Turino said their committee will be dedicated to showing more Parkrose business people the benefit of joining the association. “Together, our voices are better heard downtown. When you meet someone in Parkrose, ask them to come have lunch with us at Steamers on the third Thursday of the month.”

Kyle Ziegler, program chair, told about the lineup of speakers planned. Also, she said their committee actively seeking ways of “tuning up” their already successful meetings.

Eves spoke directly to his third “M”, saying, “We’ve created a ‘dream team’, chaired Gail Bash. We are setting goals, both short and long term.”

Bash commented, “Mark said to set our goals high. As a pilot, I want to rise above 5,000 feet — we’re set on the 10,000 level. With the help and support of this group, we can so many things.”

“We celebrate the successes of all of our members,” Eves concluded.

Anita Tabayoyon of A.R. Moss Florists uses a colorful chart to document the kinds of gifts people like most to receive.

One feature at the noontime meetings is the “Member Moment”, in which one person highlights their own business. At this meeting, it was Parkrose florist A.R. Moss, who told of “floral design and event embellishment”. Anita Tabayoyon said that, in addition to the flowers, their shop stocks many other kinds of gifts. See her online at www.armoss.com.

State of the PBA
Outgoing president Wayne Stoll is famous (or infamous) for always starting off with a joke. “Leaving my post as president reminds me of the man who was fired from the M&M¬Æ factory for throwing out all the ‘Ws’,” he quipped.

“It all hasn’t been ‘guns ‘n’ roses’,” Stoll continued. “Our [PBA] board is great. In addition to getting stuff done, we got it done with a lot of fun and humor. My job was to not screw things up. Gordon Boorse and other presidents before me, and their boards, put us on a track to success. Get involved in our organization. Join in. Help us get new, fresh ideas from your input.”

Stoll reported that the association’s coffers contain $19,600.

Current projects include renovating the traffic island at the divide of NE Sandy Blvd and Portland Road. “If there is one thing the city can improve on us how they treat businesses in the city. PDOT has made it difficult, to complete the project: a beautifully landscaped in an Italian garden motif,” he said.

Stoll also pointed to the success of the association’s scholarship program for graduating Parkrose High School seniors. “Thanks to the support of our community at the Rose Festival Parkrose Cruise-in ‚Äì and the hard work of all our volunteers ‚Äì we’ve gone from giving one scholarship, to providing four of them ‚Äì fully funded for this year.”

Stoll admonished the group, “I hope people join PBA not only for the business we gain from members. Joining the PBA makes you a part of the area, as a whole. Being involved will help your business. People who do business here don’t necessarily have their business located here. Invite them to join.”

Meet the PBA
Come on February 15 at 11:30 a.m. and meet this group of fun, energized business people. This month: Rick Harris, CPA, gives timely tax tips! The Member Moment will be Daniel Woods of SPOTMASTER. You’ll get the best business lunch at town at Steamers Restaurant, 8230 NE Sandy Blvd. (east of NE 82nd Ave.); NO reservations required. For more information, see www.parkrosebusiness.org.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See the East Portland Chamber of Commerce continues to grow, as members take part in formal and casual events …

East Portland Chamber of Commerce members welcome a new business to the area – Zuffrea & Associates – with a ceremonial ribbon-cutting on January 23.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The East Portland Chamber of Commerce has, over a few short years, become a strong voice for Portland businesses east of the Willamette River.

They’re perhaps best known for their “Good Morning East Portland” networking meetings held at different locations every Wednesday morning.

But, other chamber activities include public affairs programs, educational seminars, annual golf and bowling tournaments, and social activities.

The Chamber Ambassadors will help any East Portland business’s grand opening by performing their official ribbon-cutting ceremony ‚Äì whether or not the business is a chamber member.

For example, there was a good turnout a couple of weeks ago as the East Portland Chamber of Commerce welcomed Zuffrea & Associates. This firm helps other businesses market more effectively through advertising specialties and special promotions.

Group socializes after work
Some activities provide members and guests with activities to just have fun.

“Chamber After Hours” gets underway at Micky Finn’s Restaurant and Pub in the Woodstock area. The host of this event was (near left) Richard Kiely, the owner of Home Run Graphics.

In late January, members poured into Micky Finn’s Restaurant and Pub in Woodstock for a fun social evening. The host of the event, Richard Kiely, the owner of Home Run Graphics, made it clear that this event was indeed to be purely social.

Over chicken wings, onion rings, and other pub snacks, members and guests mixed and mingled in the casual surroundings.

Meet the members
Come to a “Good Morning East Portland!” next Wednesday, February 14, from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. Meetings are free and guests are welcome. The host will be Brian Newsom, at DeWhitt Appliance Center, 12518 NE Airport Way.

The East Portland Chamber of Commerce is an independent organization dedicated to serving the interests of businesses on Portland’s Eastside ‚Äì from the Willamette River to Gresham. The chamber keeps members updated through a weekly newsletter and an interactive website: www.EastPortlandChamberofCommerce.com. For more information, check it out, or call (503) 788-8589.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See a posse of volunteers, including Mayor Tom Potter, get ready for a massive tree-planting event in Southeast Portland …

Even though Friends of Trees volunteer Evelyn Spear lives in North Portland, she’s helping plant trees in Woodstock. “I like planting trees. It is ‘my thing’ I guess.”

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The many Woodstock neighbors about to receive a new tree – and 150 volunteers with Friends of Trees – gathered early on February 3, a misty Saturday morning, with work gloves on their hands, and tree planting on their minds.

Because ice and snow froze out their previously-planned January 20 event, These Southeast Portlanders appeared more than eager and ready to start the planting.

Karin Hansen, Mayor Tom Potter, Kelli Clark (Woodstock coordinator), and Friends of Trees executive director Scott Fogarty pause for a photo, before heading out to seat saplings.

We caught up with Scott Fogarty, executive director of Friends of Trees at the Holy Family Parish Celebration Hall, S.E. 39th Avenue at Henderson Street.

“Events like these are important, because they help build community by bringing citizens together to do something important — restoring our planet and environment. It’s great to see neighbors united in a common goal: Beautifying Woodstock.”

Potter the planter
Portland’s mayor, Tom Potter, came by to lend a hand. “I am a Woodstockite, you know! We started with Friends of Trees by planting seven trees in our own yard. We’ve got five Hawthorns and two Maples in our yard now.”

Potter commended Friends of Trees for their effort to replenish the canopy over Portland. “When one flies into Portland, a unique feature one sees below is all our trees. These volunteers replace trees that have died, or have been removed during development. Not only do the trees beautify Portland, they absorb carbon dioxide, they take a lot of pollution out of the air and give us fresh oxygen back.”

Kylie Nero, Neighborhood Trees manager with Friends of Trees coordinates the volunteer effort in Woodstock.

Ready to plant
A coordinator with Friends of Trees — Kylie Nero — was outside the hall, organizing a gaggle of volunteers, piles of soil amenities, trucks, and of course, the sapling trees.

“These people have this locked down,” Nero told us. “They are very organized, and we get a lot of support here in Woodstock. It’s very exciting to be here, working with these energized people.”

As she strode over to help lift a tree onto a hand truck, she turned and reminded, “We do this every weekend through March. Come join us!”

Claudine Rose helps Donna Acord, one of 150 volunteers, sign in at the Friends of Trees Woodstock planting day.

Planting a tree in his yard
Bert Berney said he was volunteering because he was having a tree planted in his front yard. “A tree there died there, so I’m getting a new one.”

Adding that this was his first such event, Berney explained, “I saw a flyer in the neighborhood, so I decided it would be a great opportunity. This is a good way to help my neighborhood, and make it look more beautiful.”

Want to get involved? See www.friendsoftrees.org for more information.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Folks living on the eastern edge of Portland worried whether the water main break on NE 162nd Avenue would cause a sinkhole …

We saw water gushing — not seeping — between cracks in the street and curb along NE 162nd Avenue for nearly a city block.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
So far this winter, the water supply system in East County hasn’t experienced the ruptured water mains and massive sinkholes we’ve seen in other parts of the metro area.

But, some residents along NE 162nd Avenue, just north of NE Glisan Street, wondered if it was their turn to see the pavement in front of their homes crumple and sag into the ground, on January 28.

Patrick Healy and his son Daniel Owen Healy first noticed the wet pavement – on a very cold, windy dry evening in East County.

Patrick Healy says he, and his son, were working on a car when they noticed something odd. “About 8:30, my son said, ‘Dad, there’s water out in the center of the street’. It’s not raining, so I didn’t think anything about it. Then, I noticed the other side of the street was wet. Since then, it’s been progressing and getting bigger.”

Looking back a little later, Healy says he saw water coming up between the curb and the street. “The area where the water came up kept growing. We couldn’t find the number for the water company, so we called 9-1-1. They said calling this in was a good thing to do.”

Water streams up from the pavement
We arrive at 10:45 p.m. and find that water is not only coming up through the center of the street, but also burbling up where the roadway meets the curb for the length of a city block.

Officials and firefighters say they can’t do anything other than keep calling Rockwood Water District ‚Äì and keep people off the street in case it caves in.

A Gresham firefighter said when they drove into the parking lot off the street; they saw the water coming up turn from clear to murky brown. “We called the Rockwood Water District office,” said a firefighter, “but so far, we’ve only reached an answering machine.”

By 11:00 p.m., Gresham police officers had cordoned off the block, fearing the water might erode the soil under the roadway and create a sinkhole.

When we returned on January 30, crews had filled in the hole and were repaving NE 162nd Avenue.

Rockwood Water crews dug up the street the following day and repaired a water main line. “The main cracked all around a joint,” explained a worker at the site. “It happens this time of year.” But, no comment on why all the emergency responders got, when they called, was voice mail.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But read on! There’s more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two in custody

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

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

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the criterion?

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

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

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

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

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other photos from the show we enjoyed…

The Captain sings for the appreciative crowd.

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

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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