See volunteers from “Jane’s Park Group” as they take the next step in Midland Park’s development.  And‚ learn why this project could help YOUR garden grow‚

Arlene Kimura, Velda Altig and Dorothy Drews work with other volunteers to plant a butterfly-attracting garden at Midland Park, just west of the library’s parking lot of SE 122nd Avenue.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When it comes to helping keep outer East Portland “green”, many folks agree that Linda Robinson would qualify for an award, for her volunteerism.

When we caught up with Robinson‚ and seven additional volunteers‚ on March 31, she was working at Midland Park.

“We are planting a Butterfly Garden,” Robinson explained. Burying insects and hoping they’ll grow, we asked?

No indeed: We learned that a “butterfly garden” is one that includes plants which provide both nectar for the adult butterflies, and also plants on which caterpillar-stage butterflies can dine.

The butterfly is more than a pretty insect, Robinson assured us. “Sure, one can see pictures of butterflies in a book, but it’s always better to see them live, and in nature. More importantly, they are pollinators. Pollinators are especially important here, now that our honeybees are having problems with colonies collapsing. And, our native bees are more important for pollinating.”

About Midland Park
It was a grant that funded the purchase of Midland Park’s land. “It was written in the grant that the park be created and maintained as an urban bird and butterfly sanctuary park,” said Robinson. “When we did the master plan for the park about 10 years ago, the butterfly park was planned. We’re fulfilling the plan.”

Looking around the area, one sees rocks and some open area‚ butterflies warm themselves up on the rocks before they fly off, we learn.

This is the garden’s first phase. According to Robinson, planting will continue in the southern area of the park. “We’re planting the more colorful perennial plants right now. Then, we’ll plant some Oregon Grape. We’re doing this over a three-year span. We don’t want to plant more than we can maintain.”

Volunteer project coordinator Linda Robinson helps the garden’s designer, Sharon Perala, of “As Seasons Change Landscape Design”, shows us the plan for the Butterfly Garden.

Meet the designer
Robinson said this kind of garden doesn’t “just happen”. The garden used the services of Sharon Perala, of “As Seasons Change Landscape Design”.

“I like contributing to the community,” said Perala. “I’ve volunteered many hours, as well as being a contractor of the Jane’s Park group.”

Perala says there were many challenges in designing the garden. “We wanted to attract butterflies, and to have as many native plants as possible. But then you have to consider crime aspects‚ we couldn’t place any large dense shrubs which would hide criminal activity. We couldn’t have areas that would become too weedy; the garden needs to be low-maintenance.”

A favorite of butterflies, she says is the Snowberry. “But, the berries are poisonous; with kids coming into the park, we can’t have toxic berries next to the libraries.”

Even with these restrictions on the plant choices, the garden today is looking good. Included in it are Red-flowering Current, Rosemary, dwarf Red-twig Dogwood, Corabells. And, butterflies use grasses as places to hide and feed.

Around the edge of the garden are Douglas Iris and evergreen iris. We’re told rhododendrons will be planted later.

“It is more satisfying to design a park than, say a someone’s back yard. Everyone can come and enjoy it, and it’s for the whole neighborhood,” Perala commented.

You can help
Do you enjoy gardening? Come help out with their next planting. Contact Robinson at lrobins@pacifier.com and she’ll let you know when you can join the volunteers at Midland Park.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

When you see these photos, you’ll wonder how the driver was able to wedge her car between a building and utility pole‚ sideways!

Everyone who saw it said they were amazed to see how the driver of this car managed to wedge her vehicle between the utility pole and building.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Reports start coming into 9-1-1 Dispatch shortly after 9:30 p.m., reporting a car‚ stuck sideways‚ at 4434 SE 25th Avenue, on March 10.

On scene, we’re told a driver heading east on SE Holgate Blvd. tried to turn left, to go north, on SE 25th Avenue.

“Officers on scene said she took the turn too fast, popped up over the curb and onto the building,” is the official word according to Portland Police Bureau Sgt. Brian Schmautz. He identified the driver as 23-year-old Erica Wiggins.

“On the first calls,” reports PF&R Lt. Allen Oswalt, “there were reports the car was on fire. When our personnel from Engine 23 arrived, they saw steam escaping from the car’s radiator, but there was no fire. In fact, they reported no injuries in the accident.”

Portland Fire & Rescue workers stand by in case natural gas fumes ignite after the accident.

Engine 23 crewmembers tell us it looked as if Wiggins’ car “drove over” a natural gas meter and its pipe feeding Premiere Manufacturing, located at that corner. They, and police, cordoned off a block surrounding the site to make sure any leaking gas would not ignite.

A NW Natural Gas emergency service technician checks for leaks, and turns off the gas supply. You can also see the skid marks leading up to the building and the impact point on the cement block wall.

As NW Natural Gas gets the service safely shut off for the building, Engine 25 and Truck 25 firefighters arrive. “Our personnel accompanied a representative of Premiere,” reports Lt. Allen Oswalt, “to inspect the inside of the building. They were checking both for gas fumes and the structural integrity of the wall that was hit. PGE crews also checked the utility pole and guy wire.”

Wiggins was cited for Reckless Driving, Schmautz says..

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

This story reads like an action-movie script. And, see why detectives say conflicting information leads them to believe this crime may be drug related‚

After the report of an armed home invasion, police mobilize SERT officers on SE 92nd Ave., three blocks north of the target house.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A resident is taking a late afternoon nap. Suddenly, he hears the door crashing in. Shaking off the cobwebs of sleep, he somehow knows the home-invading bandits have guns, and figures it’s best to get out.

Clad only in boxer shorts, the victim grabs his cell phone, bolts out another door, and calls 9-1-1. He tells operators three armed men just busted into his house.

Even though the location is about as far south as one can go on SE 92nd Avenue while remaining within Portland city limits, cop cars arrive in a flash. Officers sprint from their cars and collar two suspected robbers as they stroll out of the house.

Portland Police Bureau Commander Michael Crebs heads into the “Mobile Precinct” to coordinate the operation.

One reportedly armed thug not found
With one armed bandit presumed to be still on the lam, officials activate the Special Emergency Reaction Team (SERT).

From across Portland, SERT officers roll up “code three”, and gather under the I-205 viaduct on SE 92nd Avenue. The precinct commander steps into the Mobile Precinct, and takes charge of the unfolding situation.

Not an action movie
While this tale may seem like the story line from a thrilling action-adventure movie‚ the scenario actually played out at 4:47 p.m. on March 11, in the 8500 block of SE 92nd Avenue at SE Clatsop Street. It disrupted the lives of residents for a four-block radius.

We arrive on-scene shortly after the call-out. Portland Police Bureau’s Sgt. Brian Schmautz filled us in on the developing situation.

Armored SERT vehicles arrive on scene.

“If there was a third individual,” Schmautz tells us, early in the event, “this person may have gotten out in the very short time it took us to set the perimeter [a dragnet of officers]. Either the third suspect bolted from the house, or is still inside. Because we’ve found two suspects armed with handguns, we’re not going to take a chance. Protocol is to activate SERT.”

SERT is activated, Schmautz explains, whenever the best information available alerts them that an armed person has barricaded him or herself in a building. The Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT), attempts to make contact. The commander makes the decision on whether, and if so when, to deploy SERT into the building.

This woman came up to police lines, saying she is a resident of the target house. She was not allowed past the yellow police tape that cordoned off the area.

Draw a tight dragnet
Police swarm the area, all activity coordinated by the police official in charge, East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs.

No one‚ for any reason‚ is allowed in or out of the quarantined area.

Neighbor Bob Hamilton shakes hands with an officer‚ and waits to go to his home just one block away‚ but located within the quarantined zone.

From where he stands with us at SE 92nd Avenue and SE Crystal Springs Drive, neighbor Bob Hamilton can see his house, a block away.

“I’ve talked with my wife. She’s OK,” says Hamilton. “It looks like the police have this really well organized. They’re doing what they have to do; they’re not letting someone run around the neighborhood with a gun.”

A TV reporter asked Hamilton if crime near his home frightened. “Not really,” he responds, “there’s crime all over Portland.”

Reports “extenuating circumstances”
Schmautz stays at the event, updating reporters with what little news becomes available.

We ask the police spokesman, “What, specifically, did the victim say that leads police to believe there were three‚ not two or four‚ assailants?”

“Our situation intelligence people from HNT talked to the resident,” Schmautz informs us; “and detectives are talking to the two captured suspects. There are some extenuating circumstances, we’ve learned.” He doesn’t elaborate.

After hours of “loud-hailing” fails to produce a suspect, SERT officers shoot tear gas grenades into the house.

SERT makes entry
Darkness falls on this drizzly evening. After hours of “loud-hailing” the house, the commander orders the SERT entry team to search the house.

We hear a “pop, pop, pop”‚ the sound of teargas canisters being lobbed into the house. Dressed in heavy body armor, SERT officers storm inside.

A room-by-room search produces no third suspect‚ only a dog, limp from inhaling teargas, is carried from the house.

Police say that this man, Reynaldo Chamizo-Zayas, was sleeping, when the home-invading robbers broke in his door, causing him to flee.

Situation still under investigation
No third suspect was ever located, either in or out of the house. Officials aren’t saying whether they still believe the report that there actually were three suspects involved in the home invasion.

Schmautz later states that the victim, 34-year-old Reynaldo Chamizo-Zayas, gave police detectives conflicting information about the crime. “Information obtained during interviews has led detectives to believe that this crime is drug-related,” he reports.

Owners of the house board up the door broken by the bandits, and the windows busted out by teargas rounds.

As clean-up efforts begin on the broken-into house, police continue to investigate this case.

In the wee hours of April 12, detectives book 31-year-old Jossean Rivera and 29-year-old Juan Aguilar-Fernandez in connection with the home-invasion robbery. Both are charged with one count of Burglary in the First Degree, and three counts of Theft in the First Degree.

Authorities say these two men, Jossean Rivera and Juan Aguilar-Fernandez, were caught red-handed with cash, guns, and stolen I-Pod in hand.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

The principal knew the grocery store manager was about to present a gift to his school. But see just how BIG a check this southern outer East Portland received‚

West Powellhurst Elementary’s principal, Allen Browning, welcomes his young students back after Spring Break.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
Streams of kids pour into the gym at West Powellhurst Elementary a few minutes before their assembly begins, in early April.

Principal Allen Browning confides, “I invited you here so that you can learn about the connection we’ve made between an area business and our school.”

The school buys supplies for many of the school’s events at their nearby Safeway store, says Browning. “And, they’ve also been a great supporter of our projects; they donate food and beverages for many of our events.”

No April Fools joke
Into the gym then walks Joe Quigley, manager of the Safeway store at SE 122nd Ave. at Powell Blvd. And, he’s holding a VERY large check in his hand.

“We’re presenting West Powellhurst Elementary with a check in the amount of $1,105.05,” says Quigley with a big smile. “This money came from the generosity of our customers, and the employees at the store. We have collection canisters at our check-out stands. Any spare change customers wanted to donate they placed in the canister.”

Joe Quigley, manager of the Safeway store that “adopted” the school, greets the student audience.

Quigley says he chose the school because of its proximity to the store. “Many of the students’ families shop with us. We had a couple of teachers at this school introduce themselves to me when I started managing this store. Our relationship has grown from there.”

The store manager explains that the store’s employees themselves decide who will get the funds from the “spare change” canisters for a ten-month period.

“It’s great. I’m excited‚ and enjoy seeing the kids,” exclaims Quigley. “After we made a presentation at the school last year, supporting breast cancer research, many of the students have come up to me to say hello. It is great to build this kind of connection with our community.”

Safeway’s Joe Quigley and Principal Allen Browning “show us the money” which was donated by the store’s shoppers and employees.

Funds support good behavior
Browning says the school buys a lot of small prizes for positive behavior support program.

“We also conduct fundraisers with our booster organization‚ we’re looking to replace some of our old playground equipment. But we also do field trips and assemblies‚ this money helps support that as well,” Browning adds.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

You, too, might be amazed at how much food these elementary school kids gathered to help feed the needy. Take a look, and see why they did it‚

The Russell Academy’s 1st grade class collected the most food for the needy. They’re joined by their teaching assistant (sorry, we missed her name), teacher Tammy Hess, and the school’s Food Services supervisor, Rena Mauldin.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Students at Parkrose’s Russell Academy of Academic Achievement celebrated National Nutrition Month throughout the month of March by learning good eating habits.

“In addition to the food education program,” explained Joan Opp, Parkrose School District’s food services manager, “we also wanted to contribute to the needs of our community.”

Russell Academy’s food service supervisor, Rena Mauldin, championed the notion of having a food-collecting contest among the rooms, Opp said.

“Our students asked why we’re doing this food drive,” continued Opp. “This gave us the chance to tell them that some people in our community don’t have enough food to eat. We’re sharing our food with their family.”

Collect a truckload of food
The idea caught on, and soon stockpiles of nonperishable foods were growing.

Tammy Hess’ 1st grade class collected the most. “They worked really hard to bring food for the drive to help food for hungry people,” she said.

A “beep-beep-beep” sound signaled that a large Parkrose School District truck was backing up to the school’s door.

“All of this food will be delivered today,” Mauldin told us. “It’s going to our ‘local’ food bank, Crossroads Cupboard, on NE 102nd. This food resource will stay here in Parkrose, helping Parkrose families.”

Helping move the food into the Crossroads Cupboard, Louise Tatro supervises Parkrose School District workers [behind] John Butler, Al Lanxon.

Warmed by kids’ “good hearts”
At the Crossroads Cupboard, we met the organization’s secretary–volunteer Louise Tatro. “I’ve been working with the food bank for 20 years now. It’s affiliated with Crossroads Christian Church.”

As the men unloaded the truck, Tatro exclaimed, “It is wonderful to get this food. Earlier today, in a two-hour period, we served more than 82 families. The families are large, which means we helped 200 people in total.”

Tatro said this outpouring of food‚ gathered by kids‚ warmed her heart. “It’s wonderful that grade school students do this. Some people think today’s kids are just ‘throwaways’‚ but they are, in fact, good kids. This shows they have good hearts and want to help. We really appreciate the help.”

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

They’ve been shooting this movie, starring Diane Lane, all over town. See what we saw “on location” in Eastmoreland‚

Many moviemakers try their best to keep citizens far away from their site. But, the producers of the forthcoming major film “Untraceable” welcomed neighbors to watch them shoot their movie.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Eastmoreland was turned into a Hollywood back-lot for three days during Spring Break, as the crew of the motion picture Untraceable moved into the neighborhood.

Spring Break traffic was slightly disrupted along SE 39th Avenue, because the street was lined with motion picture craft services trucks.

Although they were shooting in and around only one house, located on SE Carlton Street midway between SE 39th and SE 36th Avenues, trucks loaded with movie-making gear lined Eastmoreland area streets.

The production company hired “crossing guards” to direct traffic, keeping vehicles moving smoothly along SE 39th Avenue, while at the same time protecting crewmembers carrying equipment or rolling carts laden with gear.

Because they were shooting the movie in a home just west of SE 39th Avenue, the portable dressing rooms and food services were set up in the Holy Family Church parking lot.

Caravan moves in before dawn
A homeowner at the corner of SE 39th Ave. and Henderson St. stood in his yard, looking at the tents and trailers across the street in the Holy Family Church parking lot.

“They came in this morning about 5 a.m.; I was getting ready to go fishing when they showed up,” he told us on March 26, the first production day in Eastmoreland.

At the home in which they were shooting, tons of movie magic making gear gave the director the exact “look” he was seeking.

Production company makes friends
While many movie producers try their best to shoo “locals” away from their production areas, the Lakeshore Entertainment production team showed up demonstrating a remarkably affable attitude.

For example, a few days before the production moved into Eastmoreland, neighbors told us a public relations person went door-to-door, telling them that the crew was about to come to their neighborhood. “She gave me her card and cell phone number,” said a resident, “and said to call if there were any problems.”

And, instead of being chased away from the home being used as a set, neighbors were invited to watch.

A production assistant, who stood in the street in front of the house, answered questions. In addition to shooting on the Broadway Bridge, he said, the crew has also shot in Irvington. “The rain does get to you. You get wet. But it wasn’t as bad as the film I was working on in Chicago‚ man, that was cold.”

When the cameras are rolling inside, workers outside disappear for a few minutes.

All quiet‚ Action!
From inside the house, we heard some shout, “All quiet”‚ a call echoed by crewmembers around the property. Crew stopped their activities. The neighborhood fell silent.

Then, we could faintly hear director Gregory Hoblit call “Action”‚ and we watched the actors perform their scene. Finally the call “Cut” rang out, and workers started preparing the next shot.

About Untraceable
Here’s the story line: In a story set in the future, an FBI cybercop must race against time to track down a ruthless online predator.

The cast includes Diane Lane as Jennifer, Dan Callahan as Trey Restom and also features Colin Hanks, Billy Burke, Joseph Cross and Mary Beth Hurt.

This thriller, also known as “Urgency“, is a Lakeshore Entertainment production to be released by Screen Gems Production Co. The release date has not yet been set.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

From “saluting the tie” to humorous tales spun by a political insider, to a gourmet wine and food fundraiser, see how the jovial Parkrose Business Association seriously helps its community‚

There wasn’t an American flag in the room‚ so, resourceful and fun-loving members of the Parkrose Business Association pledged allegiance to our nation’s colors by saluting the red, white and blue necktie worn by association president Mark Eves.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When one thinks of a business association meeting – images of a stodgy bunch of flint-hearted tycoons come to mind. But, if you need a mid-month lift, consider visiting the Parkrose Business Association (PBA).

Although the attitude at their luncheon meetings is light, jovial, and packed with good humor – the Parkrose business folks provide considerable and significant help to their community. They work to beautify the streets, lower crime, and provide multiple yearly scholarships for graduating Parkrose High seniors.

Salute the…ah…tie
To start off the March meeting, association president Mark Eves was about to lead the group in the “Pledge of Allegiance”‚ only to discover the American flag was missing from the room. Without missing a beat, Eves held his red, white and blue necktie aloft‚ and members saluted our country’s colors metaphorically.

Immediate past president Wayne Stoll then told how the association’s members were working to improve the “traffic triangle” where NE Sandy Blvd and NE Portland Boulevard split.

Kerry Tymchuk warms up the Parkrose Business Association audience.

Talks about humor in politics
The group’s featured speaker was Kerry Tymchuk, the Oregon Chief of Staff for U.S. Senator Gordon Smith.

Tymchuk, an Oregon native, has been the State office director for Smith for 10 years. In addition to working for Washington D.C. movers-and-shakers, he also helped Gert Boyle write her book “One Tough Mother”‚ and, was a four-time “Jeopardy” game show champion.

His topic is also the title of a book he authored:  “Great Presidential Wit”.

“I watched auctions for historical memorabilia play out on e-Bay,” quipped Tymchuk. “I found it curious that original photographs of three American Presidents sold much less than ones of The Three Stooges.”

America’s funniest presidents
Tymchuk listed those he believes are the funniest U.S. Presidents. “By the way, I don’t think it is a coincidence that, when historians list the presidents considered being the most successful, they are also the funniest.”

Tymchuk relates stories depicting the humor of US Presidents.

Here are Tymchuk’s “Top 3” humorous presidents:

Number 3: Franklin D. Roosevelt
Tymchuck told how, during a difficult time in our nation’s history, President Franklin D. Roosevelt displayed his lighter side, including conducting a daily cocktail party he dubbed “The Children’s Hour”. We learned this president enjoyed writing topical limericks and poems, and Tymchuck offered one, written about the man in charge of WWII wartime rationing, Harold Eckies:

“There was a lady of Ashion,
Who had a particular passion,
As she jumped in to bed,
She was heard to have said,
This is one thing that Eckies can’t ration!”

Number 2: Ronald Reagan
“Reagan had a joke for every holiday,” Tymchuk continued. On St. Patrick’s Day, he often recounted, “A man walks into an Irish bar. He boasts, ‘Show me an Irishman and I’ll show you a wimp’. Well, a strapping 200-pound workman walks up to him‚ and the challenger quickly adds, ‘Take a look! I’m a wimp!'”

Tymchuk said President Reagan also loved jokes told to him by Russian people during his visits, and often repeated this story: “In Russia, long lines are part of the culture. Citizens must line up to buy food and clothing, or get almost any kind of service. One man, disgusted if waiting in a long line stormed off, shouting, ‘I’ve had it. I can’t take waiting in line any longer. I’m going to kill Gorbachev.’ Within the hour, the man returned with a sheepish look on his face. When asked what happened, he replied, ‘The line to kill our beloved premiere was much longer than the bread line.'”

Number 1: Abraham Lincoln
“Lincoln was not only our most humorous president, but one of the funniest men in our nation’s history,” revealed Tymchuk. “During the dark days of Civil War, Lincoln relied on humor to get him through.”

Being a self-made man, Lincoln didn’t like pompous self-important people, explained Tymchuk. To wit: In one of his famous political debates with Stephen A. Douglas, a prominent attorney, Douglas pointed out that Lincoln sold booze. Lincoln was said to reply, “It is true, good sir. I occasionally worked as a store clerk and bartender. I sold cotton, cigars, and candles. Sometimes I sold whiskey. Mr. Douglas was one of my best customers. I was on my side of the counter; he was on his. The difference is this: I left my side of the counter. But I’m told that Mr. Douglas is still a good, regular customer.”

The political insider tells a story about his boss, Gordon Smith.

Humor of Sen. Gordon Smith
Tymchuk couldn’t get away from the meeting without telling a story about his current boss, US Senator Gordon Smith.

“In 1996, Smith was named to the European Affairs Subcommittee. President Bill Clinton invited Smith to fly back to the states after an overseas meeting. Making conversation, Clinton asked Smith where he was living while serving in the nation’s capitol. Smith stated he was staying with his mother; his wife would move east and join him after their new east-coast home was completed.

“Clinton remarked that he and Hillary had never built a home together and mused, ‘I think it would be fun to plan and build a home together.’

“Smith responded, ‘Mr. President, I’ve been married to the same wonderful woman for the last 20 years. Together, we’ve built 3 homes. I can’t think of anything that causes more stress in a marriage.’

“Clinton smiled, sat back and replied, ‘Well, I certainly can think of a few things.‘”

The Sip of Parkrose
To help raise funds for its scholarship program, the association’s Foundation created a new event, “The Sip of Parkrose”, which takes place on May 5.

“This is a deluxe all-inclusive evening of gourmet food and wine,” explained the event’s Chair, Gail Bash. “Wine expert Dr. Thomas Taylor III‚ a man with 20 years experience pairing fine wines with gourmet food‚ will demonstrate the art of enjoying fine wine‚ from glassware, to wine selection, to savoring the aroma and taste, to storing wines.”

The four-course dinner will be cooked to perfection by internationally-recognized chef Edgar Stocker. The entrees feature Grilled Wild Salmon, Cajun Style, or Sauted Medallions of Pork Tenderloin. Wine will be paired with each course.

“You get the entire evening of fine wine, gourmet food, and learning about wines, all for just $75 per person,” Bash exclaimed. “And, the proceeds go to help fund scholarships for Parkrose High School seniors through the non-profit Parkrose Business Foundation!”

This new event on May 5 starts at 7:00 p.m. at Steamers Restaurant and Lounge, 8303 NE Sandy Blvd. Order your tickets today by calling Call Gale Bash at (503) 740-6984.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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