Read, and learn about ordinary citizens who are taking a “bite out of crime” along the streets where they live ‚Ķ and why you should join them ‚Ķ

Block captains from the Madison South neighborhood — Geneva McArtor, Pal Mermwore, Paul Barton, Lisa and Frank Walsh — are joined by Lents neighborhood block captains John and Judy Welch (partially hidden by the arm of BOEC’s Laura Wolf), as they tour the Bureau of Emergency Communications, also known as the “9-1-1 Center”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Most people agree that “community policing” is a good idea ‚Äì but few really understand the meaning of the term.

From the perspective of the Portland Police Bureau, it means interfacing closely with neighbors and businesses to help reduce crime, and the fear of crime.

“The other part of ‘community policing’ is us, the community,” is how volunteer Dave Smith, Coordinator, East Precinct Block Captain Program, put it to us.

“Part of making the streets on which we live safer is taking personal responsibility,” Smith continued. “The ‘Block Captain’ program trains ordinary people to help reduce crime directly in our neighborhoods.”

Being a Block Captain doesn’t mean one turns into a neighborhood spy or snitch, Smith told us. “We’re just ordinary citizens who are willing to ‘look out’ for our block and our part of our neighborhood. We simply are looking to prevent crime problems before they get a foothold.”

Not a “Trunk stocker”
Smith, a kindly-looking man with a quick smile, told us he didn’t set out to become the Block Captain Program Coordinator. After he retired, Smith said he asked to become part of the volunteer group who restock supplies in the trunks of East Portland officer’s patrol cars. “Commander Greg Hendricks said that if I wanted to volunteer for something, he had another job for me. They gave me a desk, even though I’m not a police officer, and put me to work.”

Specifically, Smith acts as the go-between for Block Captains and the Portland Police Bureau. Part of his volunteer position is the training of potential Block Captains. Also, he coordinates and hosts bimonthly meetings for East Precinct Block Captains.

Block Captain coordinator Dave Smith (second from left) listens to BOEC’s Laura Wolf as she explains the organization’s role in public safety.

Captains tour 9-1-1 Center
Some of the monthly meetings are field trips, at which the Block Captains are exposed to the inner workings of the public safety system.

At the last meeting a group of Block Captains visited the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC), also known as the 9-1-1 Center in Lents.

The tour was led by Laura Wolf, public communications coordinator for BOEC. Wolf first gave the group an overview of BOEC’s mission and policies. A tour of the call center floor followed. Block Captains witnessed, first-hand, call takers receiving calls of all kinds–and saw how the dispatchers, on the other side of the large room, quickly sent police, fire or medical personnel to deal with those emergent situations.

Behind locked doors
BOEC is a high-security facility. We asked Wolf why these neighbors were granted a tour. “It is important to get the message out about what we do,” she said, “and how they are trained. Not only can the Block Captains pass the information on to their neighbors, they help the community be better prepared for an emergency.”

The concept Wolf stressed is to know the difference between emergency and non-emergency situations. “911 should only be used to report a fire, stop a crime, or save a life. There is a limited number of 911 trunk lines and operators. If you’re using 911 inappropriately, someone with a true emergency will have to wait on line ‚Äì it may cost a life.”

After the meeting, some of the Block Captains shared what they had learned with us.

John Welch from Lents told us, he enjoyed seeing how the call center works. “The tools they have are fantastic. At the same time you’re calling in, they are already sending the information to dispatchers by computers.”

Donna Dionne, an outer East Portland resident and president of the Midway Business Association, said she thought it was interesting to see how operators dispatched the calls. “I can see why one should call only in case of an emergency. Non-emergency calls bog down the system, and it could cost a life.”

Smith said this field trip, and his other programs, give Block Captains information they otherwise wouldn’t get. “Our meeting here at the 911 center helps them understand the issues involved with the 911 dispatchers. There seems to be some negative press when there is a misunderstanding or perceived rudeness by a communicator. But seeing the environment, the pressure, you can’t help but know our emergency communicators are working to make the community better.”

Next Meeting: Don’t be an ID theft victim
You don’t have to be a Block Captain to attend Smith’s meetings. The September session will be “Identity Theft: What it is, and how to avoid becoming a victim”.

“Identity theft has become the crime-of-choice for meth addicts,” Smith explained. “This crime can cause enormous financial distress for its victims. East Precinct Officer Barbara Glass is an expert in the area of identity theft.  She will explain how this crime is committed, and also offer advice on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim.”

Block Captain Meeting is Wednesday September 27, from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at the East Precinct Community Room at 737 SE 106th Ave.

When we asked what message he’d like to convey to East Portland residents, Smith replied, “Get personally involved in public safety. Help reduce crime, and the fear of crime ‚Äì right where you live”.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Those wanting to go to the Airport Costco store on September 11th had to find another route; NE 139th Ave. was blocked for most of the day. See our exclusive photos …

Workers from Union Pacific look at the brand new truck, lying on its side, just outside Altec, at NE 140th Ave. and Sandy Blvd.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Witnesses at the scene said it looked as if the driver was trying to beat a freight train across the tracks at NE 140th Ave. and Sandy Blvd., into the parking lot at Altec, but if he was, he didn’t make it.

Others guessed the driver might have been blinded by the rising sun as he looked eastward, and so didn’t see the westbound freight barreling toward him.

“We don’t know exactly how it happened,” Cpt. Mike Brouillette from Portland Fire and Rescue told us, on Monday, September 11th, “but what we had here is a brand-new truck being delivered to Altec. It came off of Sandy Boulevard, and went north over a private railroad crossing. The engine of a Union Pacific freight train tagged the back end of the truck. The truck twisted around and went over.”

As the truck came to rest, it broke the utility pole behind it. You can see the pole hanging at an angle behind the wrecked rig.

The driver was transported to Portland Adventist Hospital. “He had no real obvious injuries. The driver was standing up inside the cab when we got to him,” said Brouillette.

There were no reports of injuries to the crew of the Union Pacific freight train. But you can see the damage on the far, front corner of the engine.

By the time the freight train came to a stop, it had traveled west of NE 122nd Avenue. The accident is still under investigation, but no citations had been issued as of the posting of this report.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Portland firefighter Ed Hall was on hand to help with the rescue effort after the World Trade twin towers fell in New York City. See why he was honored in Pioneer Square five years later …

Before taking his place on the stage at the 9/11 remembrance ceremony at Pioneer Courthouse Square, Ed Hall took a moment to reflect on how his experiences have helped him better train our firefighters here in Portland.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
On the morning of September 11th five years ago, 25-year veteran Ed Hall, firefighter assigned to Truck 2 at Portland Fire & Rescue’s training station, got a call from co-worker Dwight Englert asking Hall to work a shift for him so he could travel to New York City and help at the World Trade Center.

Instead of working Englert’s shift, Hall said he, too, wanted to be part of the rescue effort, and the two agreed to meet at PDX. At the airport, the pair met two additional Portland firefighters on their way to New York. The four were on the first plane allowed to fly.

“We didn’t know what to expect, or how we would help,” Hall said. “We offered to do what we could.” While the local public safety workers first looked askance at the Portland foursome, they soon appreciated the hard work and professionalism they brought to the effort.

Representatives from Portland Fire & Rescue stations around Portland gathered with other public safety workers and nearly 500 citizens on September 11, 2006 to remember those who died in the attack on the World Trade Center towers, and thank those who helped in the rescue efforts

Five years later
Mayor Tom Potter asked Portland Fire & Rescue to help organize a remembrance ceremony on September 11th; Hall was asked to join dignitaries on the stage set up at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

Before he took his place on stage, he told us his story. “Looking back, it’s tough to put it into words. It is an event that will be part of our national psyche for a long time. There are different ways of looking at it. I prefer to look at it as what ‘went right’ as we helped out at this tragic event.”

Training to be the best
Hall says he believes Portland firefighters are some of the best-trained in the country. And, his experience in New York has helped him keep in mind what is important when he trains new firefighters coming to the bureau.

“When I talked to survivors, firefighters, and police officers at the World Trade Center, I heard the same thing. It was that public safety workers were so well-trained that they could act independently that really counted. They were able to refocus, and redirect their energies on the spot. When the towers collapsed, the chain of command was broken. But, these people thought quickly, and were able to make initial rescues.”

Hall said a firefighter’s probationary period lasts for a year. Ten months of that is intense training.

“We teach them how to perform many tasks, use a wide variety of equipment, and how to work as a team. But more than that, they learn how think actively and work safely. Ultimately, when people can put all of their knowledge and skill together in an unexpected circumstance, they really shine.”

When you see Portland firefighters at work, now you know that they are better-trained than ever, thanks to the experience Ed Hall gained as a 25-year veteran here, as well as his experiences on a fateful day in New York City.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See one of the ways Midland Library got kids into the library this summer – leaving with a craft that sticks to the refrigerator …

Ryan, Nic, Megan, their mom, Beth McClain, take part in one of the library’s Summer Fun and Reading programs ‚Äì making creative refrigerator magnets by cutting and layering materials onto a magnetic surface.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Dozens of East County refrigerators will be better decorated, after kids came home from this event at Midland Library.

We asked library manager Carolyn Schell why they run programs like this. “A library doesn’t benefit citizens unless they use it. And, thanks to creative programs for young people during the summer, Midland Library gets well-used!”

Making animal magnets was the theme of the session a few weeks ago. Young artists cut and arranged fabrics of all colors and finishes, to make their own unique designs.

These girls were too shy to tell us their names, but their parents said they loved being photographed as they created works of magnetic art.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Why on earth would government officials allow such a thing? Read on, and discover a special program helps keep kids – and families – safe from toxic materials …

1 This school was a hazardous waste collection site. Read on, and learn why bringing hazardous chemicals to school – on special occasions – can be a GOOD thing …

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
It may seem crazy to encourage people to bring their toxic household chemicals and leftover paint to a school ‚Äì but that’s exactly what they did on August 25.

On that afternoon, Theresa Fielch drove to Alice Ott Middle School, just of SE 122nd Ave. in Powellhurst-Gilbert, with her car loaded with nasty stuff. “It is important to me that we don’t have this toxic waste around our house! And, I sure don’t want to dispose of it by dumping it where it shouldn’t go.”

No, Fielch wasn’t putting kids in danger by taking her toxic materials to a grade school. She was participating in a “Hazardous Waste Round-up” held by METRO.

Debbie Humphrey, Hazardous Waste Specialist with METRO, helps Teresa Fielsch a neighbor from Parkrose unload unused paint and other household chemicals, with the help of METRO worker Margaret Slate.

Nasty gunk round-up
Folks who came by the school were directed to drive into a tented area, the ground under which was completely covered with thick plastic.

“We’re collecting household hazardous waste from people in outer East Portland today,” explained Debbie Humphrey, Hazardous Waste Specialist with METRO.

“This is important because it reduces the stockpiles of products and chemicals, leftover paint, and other hazardous materials from people’s houses. It makes homes safer for both people and pets.”

Sometimes–Humphrey told us–people don’t know what to do with wastes that could hurt them. “We’re providing a simple, free method to dispose of them. Dumping them in the backyard or putting it in the trash is the worst thing anyone could do for the environment.”

There is no charge to homeowners for this service, Humphrey explained. Small businesses can also participate, she said, for a small fee.

Painting the town
“We do great things with the latex paint we collect. At our facility on Swan Island, we recycle used paint into good quality, inexpensive paint,” Humphrey told us. “The money we make from selling paint helps us fund programs like these.”

METRO worker Laura Brokaw is suited up to handle highly hazardous and toxic chemicals and wastes dropped off at the round-up events.

Last chance for East County
If you missed this event, it isn’t too late to rid your home or small business of hazardous materials. Check into one of these two remaining events:

Parkrose
Oct. 6 – 7
K-Mart store parking lot
at 12350 NE Sandy Blvd.

Rockwood/Gresham
Oct. 27 – 28
Rockwood United Methodist Church at
17805 SE Stark St.

For more information, call Metro Recycling Information at (503) 234-3000 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; or see www.metro-region.org .

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Wonder why the good folks at Portland Fire & Rescue advise using caution when burning decorative candles? Take a look …

Fire department officials say all it took was the careless use of a candle to set off a blaze that destroyed the second story of this outer East Portland home. The resident was helped down the ladder that stands against the roof of the front porch.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Minutes before noon, firefighters get a call saying a house is on fire at SE 88th and Duke Street. Three stations respond, and indeed find smoke and flames pouring out of the home.

On scene, Battalion Chief Jay Olson tells us, “A resident was on the roof, over the porch, when we arrived. There was heavy smoke showing out of the attic area. Crews helped the resident down off the roof with a ladder.”

Firefighters say a man crawled out of this small attic window to escape the smoke and flames sparked by a fire ignited by a candle. Fire crews haul out smoldering material to make sure the fire is completely out.

“Then, the firefighters attacked the fire,” Olson continues. “We sent a crew into the interior of the home, up the stairway, and they took care of the rest of the fire. Yet another crew opened the roof to ventilate the residence, and check for extensions into the roof.”

Could this blaze been avoided?

“We’re told that the fire was started by a decorative candle, and quickly got out of hand,” Olson commented. “This is why we urge people to be careful with candles!”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

After the mentors and role models finished keeping kids busy during the summer, the PAL staff is working to get ready for the fall season, starting Sept. 11 …

PAL Center Director Beth Faulhaber spends time with Angel Swearingen, during the ‘Role Model Day’ on August 11. “I really appreciate Beth,” Swearingen tells us, “She is a good role model. She makes it great for kids here at PAL.”

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Many people agree with that old saw, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”. To avoid that situation among youth, volunteers and staff members at the Police Activities League (PAL) work year-around to keep youngster’s hands ‚Äì and minds ‚Äì busy.

Our visit to the PAL center came during “Role Model Day”, an event created by PAL youth and volunteers in 1994 to celebrate everyday role models in the community. “It has become an annual event for us, culminating more than 500 annual hours of summer youth activities,” program director Michael Jezewski, told us.

PAL program director Michael Jezewski plays Kiddy Pool Ring Toss during their special event.

This special annual event provides a carnival of fun: face painting, potato sack races, water balloon toss, crab walk relay, tug of war, a scavenger hunt, kiddy pool ring toss, a pie eating contest, 3 legged races and much more.

Role of PAL in the community
“PAL gives kids the opportunity to see police in a different light,” Jezewski continued. “Sometimes, these kids’ involvement with police officers isn’t the best. We give youth the chance to see police officers as normal people and develop mutual respect.”

He added that most PAL activities center around recreation and sports. “These bring the kids in. Then, we help them learn life skills, including reading and math. We even have a kids cooking class where they learn to make real nutritious meals.”

Jezewski introduced us to Beth Faulhaber, the center’s director. “Few of the kids we serve have great role models as adults. So, it is really important that we’re here for them,” she told us. “Working together in programs like this, we see that we make a difference in the lives of youth.”

Portland Police Bureau Officer Ron Mason, Family Services Division, cooks up a barbecue banquet of brisket, pork loin, barbecue beans, and potato salad ‚Äì using his own hand-built cooking rig. “I wanted our kids and visitors to have more than hot dogs, so I came here ready to cook.” In addition, Mason participates in PAL’s summer baseball camp.

“It looks like we’re hosting 125 kids today,” Jezewski informed us. “We average 120 a day during the summer; during the school year, we get about 140 young people visiting us each day.”

Fall session begins September 11
PAL Youth Center, located at 424 N.E. 172nd Ave. begins it’s fall hours on September 11; running from 2:30 ‚Äì 7 p.m., Monday -Friday.

Youth membership fees are $50 for the year or $25 for families which qualify for school reduced lunch. For more information, contact PAL at (503) 823-0250, or the Youth Center at (503) 256-3479.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Police say the homeowner was defending herself when attacked by a bungling burglar …

By the time we arrived on scene, investigators had cordoned off the scene; journalists were lined up trying to get more information on this unusual case.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
On September 6, a few minutes before 7 p.m., officers were called to do a “premises check” ‚Äì seeing if everything is OK ‚Äì in the 7900 block of SE Alder St.

When the arrived, the cops found the body of 59-year-old Edward Dalton Haffey inside the home. They called in detectives from the Homicide Division to investigate.

Detectives say that the 51-year-old homeowner, nurse Susan Kuhnhausen, returned home from work and found an intruder inside her home. A violent struggle ensued resulting in the death of the intruder, and non-life-threatening injuries to Kuhnhausen.  Kuhnhausen ran to a neighbor’s home and called police. She was transported by ambulance to a local hospital.

A day later, the Multnomah County Medical Examiner performed an autopsy on Haffey. The result: not death from the blows of a hammer, as some media had been reporting, but death by strangulation. The Medical Examiner ruled the death a homicide.

Officer Catherine Kent told us that detectives have determined that Kuhnhausen killed Haffey in self-defense. Investigators now believe that Haffey was in the process of burglarizing the home when Kuhnhausen came home.  Detectives did find property of the victim’s stacked up inside the home.

Detectives do not believe this case will be presented to a Grand Jury; however, investigators and the District Attorney assigned to this investigation are still in the process of reviewing the case.  A final determination will probably be made early next week.

The victim has not made herself available to the media and the 9-1-1 tape will not be available until the final disposition has been reached.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detective Steve Ober (503) 823-4033 or Detective Rich Austria (503) 823-0449.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Aaarrrr, avast, ye maties! See 1,200 kids and adults having a great time to the tunes of ‘Captain Bogg and Salty’, as a Southeast Portland Summer Reading Program comes to an end ‚Ķ

The turnout to see ‘Captain Bogg and Salty’ at Sellwood Park was even larger than expected by the youth librarians at the Sellwood Library.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The area of Sellwood Park north of the Sellwood Pool started filling with parents and kids long before the band was to take the stage on August 9. It was apparent that word had gotten out that ‘Captain Bogg and Salty’ were set to entertain.

Going backstage to greet Captain Bogg, we were rebuffed. This band dresses, swaggers,  talks — and treats the press! — like pirates. “The Captain is tuning up his voice, best not to bother him,” said First Mate McGraw (Kevin Hendrickson). “Or he may ye walking the plank!”

We settled for an interview with First Mate McGraw, who told us, “We’re a pirate band for all ages. We play many libraries every summer.”

We asked, “Why libraries?”

“Kids need good music, too!” exclaimed Mr. Fillabuster, aka Lucas Haley. “This is the third time they’ve played for Sellwood Library.”

The First Mate added, “Each time we’ve moved to a larger location. Now it looks like there be better than 1,200 young and old buccaneers here!”

Making their eye-patches at the event are Nico, Jake, Owen and Jenna Robertson. Asked why they came, mom Jenna said, “Why do you think? Arrrrr! This is so much fun!”

Reading treasured
Minutes after the very entertaining band started playing, kids were laughing and dancing. We asked Sellwood Children’s Librarian Marcy Davis why the library chose a pirate band to perform at the finale for their Summer Reading Program.

“Pirate-themed movies have caused an upswing in kids looking for pirate books. And we like anything that gets kids to read,” Davis explained. “We love having them perform for our kids. No one gets them having more fun than Captain Bogg and Salty.”

Everyone seems to be have a great time listening to, and watching, the antics of Captain Bogg and Salty’s professionally-performed, yet silly, musical show.

The band, all Portland natives who have played together for seven years, do more than just play songs and make jokes. “They connect kids with the love of books,” Davis explained.

School support for summer reading
Brianne Williams, another staffmember at the Sellwood Library, revealed that 747 kids signed up for the summer reading program at the branch this year. “But this number doesn’t include all the kids who signed up directly at their school,” Williams explained.

For the last few years, she said, the Multnomah County Library system has worked directly with public and private elementary and middle schools to get kids signed up for summer reading before school is out in June.

“For example, the librarian at Llewellyn Elementary, Cheryl McDonald, has worked with teachers to get every single student signed up for summer reading the last two years,” said Williams.

Bogg and band to play Pirate Fest Sept. 23

You have another chance to see this fun group on September 23 ‚Äì but you’ll have to go to St. Johns to see them!

If you missed this event, you can take in a “full day day of piracy,” as First Mate McGraw put it, at Cathedral Park on September 23. “We’ll have The Lynx, a replica pirate ship used in recent motion pictures docked under the bridge.”

Interested? See www.PortlandPirateFestival.com for more information.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

With fun Рnot business Рon their minds, see Gateway business people having fun at an outdoor party featuring – yes – a hat contest …

Arlene Halverson of Sterling Savings Bank is checking in “Not your ordinary bean counter”, GABA member Kevin Minkoff, CPA.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Taking a break from the serious side of business, the Gateway Area Business Association hosted their “summer frolic” a few weeks ago.

The outdoor event, held at 111th Square on NE Halsey St., featured Mexican food, a hat contest, and an arm-wrestling championship.

Jon Turino, Farmer’s Insurance; Kevin Minkoff, CPA; Bill Gates, Parkrose United Methodist Church; Lee Powell, Farmer’s Insurance; and Jeralyn Morgan, Portland Rent-all/Party Place all show off their hats

Hat judges Fred Sanchez of Realty Brokers, Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Guisto, Multnomah County Commissioner Lonnie Roberts, and Oregon State Representative Jeff Merkley all look over the contestants’ entries.

Grand prize sponsor, Craig Mendenhall of American Sani-Can congratulates winner Jeralyn Morgan (her second win, in as many years), with host Fred Sanchez.

The other “business” of the day included arm-wrestling competitions against David Hardy, personal trainer and owner of One-on-One Fitness at 111th Square.

No matter how hard Sheriff Bernie Guisto tried to beat him, David Hardy prevailed during the first contest of strength and skill.

In the second arm-wrestling match-up, Ann Sanchez of Realty Brokers took a surprise win against muscle-man Hardy. We asked Hardy if he “took a dive” ‚Äì but he wasn’t talking ‚Ķ

All in all, the group had a great time. Come meet these folks at the next GABA meeting on September 14 at JJ North’s, 10520 NE Halsey St. Reservations are not needed. For more information, see www.gabanet.com.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton  ~ East PDX News

If you haven’t been in to visit, come to their open house and see why people come to Midland Library for much more than simply to read books ‚Ķ

One of the most recognizable landmarks along 122nd Avenue is Midland Library’s clock tower.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
Come to this “birthday party” and you get the gifts! All the folks at Midland Library hope you’ll drop by to celebrate their tenth year of operation in their “new” building.

Midland’s director, Carolyn Schell, told us that the original library serving outer East Portland was first opened in 1958. “It was three times smaller than this facility,” she said. “In fact, this new building occupies the space once taken up by the old building plus the parking lot.”

At 24,000 square feet, Midland Library is the largest branch of the Multnomah County Library. Customers enjoy its landmark clock tower, and its spacious interior with views of Midland Park.

Midland Library is the third busiest in Multnomah County library system, Schell continued. “We’re celebrating the diversity of the people we serve here through a variety of programs. The library provides free information to everyone in the area. One can get information on all kinds of information, on all kinds of topics. Midland is also a teaching center, including computer classes for adults.”

Come party on September 16
The library’s open house celebrating ten years of service runs from 1 – 5 p.m. on Sept. 16.

A colorful Chinese Lion Dance kicks off the event, followed by Library Director Molly Raphael’s welcome, and a cake-cutting ceremony.

Stay and see multi-cultural performances — including a Vietnamese Dance Team, Ballet Popotle performing Mexican folk dancing, and Americanistan presenting music from the Middle East.

WANT MORE? Read on! There will be crafts during the day, and participants can build their own birdhouse with the Jane’s Park Committee from 1-3 p.m. Refreshments and other activities will also be provided throughout the celebration.

The Midland Library is located at 805 SE 122nd Ave., a block south of SE Stark Street. Midland Park is located behind the library’s parking lot ‚Äì be sure to see the Jane’s Park Group there while you visit. For more information, call the library at (503) 988-5392 or visit the library’s website at www.multcolib.org.

We’ll see you then!

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Getting health care coverage for 117,000 uninsured Oregon children is a top priority, Gov. Ted Kulongoski tells school teachers and administrators …

Student Joana Rodriguez spends a few minutes talking with Gov. Kulongoski before he kicks off the “Covering Kids and Families Back-to-School Campaign” at Helensview School in northeast Portland.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
If Gov. Ted Kulongoski has his way, “every child in Oregon will be afforded medical and dental car, whether or not their family can afford insurance”.

This is the message Kulongoski delivered to a receptive group of school administrators and teachers at Helensview School in outer Northeast Portland on August 17.

Warming up the crowd, Kulongoski began, “Here we are, in a school; and to many of us, we realize that summer is passing. While I’m sad summer is about to end, it moves me closer to November 7 [election day]. But we’re here to talk about health care for all children.”

The governor said three major institutions charged with socialization: Families, churches, and schools. When families and churches play less of a role, schools play a larger role, he said.

“Statistically, we have more than 900,000 kids in Oregon under age 19. Over 500,000 of them are in our K-12 educational system. Educators can have an impact on children,” said the Governor.

Kulongoski tells the group, “‚Ķ like the line from the movie, ‘Cool Hand Luke’, ‘we have a failure to communicate’ that health care for kids is available.”

“Of the children in Oregon, 117,000, or about 13% of them under the age of 19, are uninsured. We’re trying to find how to provide health care for them. 60% of them are eligible for the Oregon Health Plan. There are the resources available. But, like the line from the movie, ‘Cool Hand Luke’, ‘we have a failure to communicate’ that health care for kids is available.

“When a youngster has a toothache, he or she can’t concentrate on school. Should they then become really sick, they end up in the emergency room.

“In our next state congressional session, we have scheduled to find ways to have health care for every child, from prenatal until age 19. In most cases, these kids’ parents are working. Their employer does not provide healthcare for them.

“A solution seemed to be a low-cost insurance program for employees. We have the plan, but with the rising cost of health care, it is too expensive for many working families. We will provide a public subsidy to see that they have access to health care.

“I’m committed to school-based health care centers. Some Portland areas centers are open during the evening and weekends.”

Statistics and goals
Kulongoski introduced Ellen Pinney, with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, representing the Oregon Health Action Campaign, who presented data about Oregon’s uninsured.

“Since 2002, the number of uninsured children has increased from 10% to 13%. We have been able to find resources, but many are still not enrolled. Kids are twice as likely not to receive medical care as an adult,” Pinney stated.

Goals she presented included providing kids with a checkup up before school begins; taking care of small medical problems before they become major; and not making families choose between health care and putting food on the table. “Healthy kids learn better,” Pinney concluded.

A school nurse’s view
Bill Tomlinson told how, from his experience as a school nurse for 18 years, young students’ health problems do affect their ability to learn.

There are three main reasons, Tomlinson said, why many families who are eligible don’t enroll in free health care programs. “First, the application and reapplication process is complicated, and requires follow-through. Second, families don’t see kids’ health insurance as a priority. And finally, for recent immigrants, the concept of health insurance is foreign to them.”

The Tomlinson mentioned that Multnomah Educational Service District has two full-time people assigned to enrolling kids in state-sponsored health care plans.

“In Spanish, the word for ‘insurance’ is ‘security’,” Tomlinson concluded.

More comments
After these presentations, representatives from two families told the gathering how much they appreciated having health care provided for them.

The principal of East Gresham Elementary School, Todd Gestrin, claims his school signs up more kids for state-sponsored health insurance than any other Portland-area school.

Last on the program, Todd Gestrin, principal of East Gresham Elementary School addressed the group, “We’ve had the highest enrollment of any school in outer East County. It takes a whole community to take care of kids. When we hold ‘insurance sign-up nights’, we have families who will walk a mile to get there. Health care is not something first-graders can do for themselves.”

Kulongoski concluded the meeting by saying, “Teachers can’t talk about his, but I can. We have suffered from a very difficult time with declining state resources, and employers cutting back on health care. The state is trying to fill the hole.

“In the next legislative session, we have the ability to make a plan to invest in health care for students from preschool through university. See that the legislature makes the investment.

“If you get a good education, you can do anything you want, even become governor.”

To find out more, call 1-877-KIDS-NOW.

It was a media feeding-frenzy after the meeting as several reporters asked the governor to repeat his comments for them in short, easy-to-edit sound bites.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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