A new tradition in Brooklyn draws neighbors together at a delightful end-of-summer fling. Take a look at all they had going on …

Getting cool treats are Max Cristian, and Alex and Cindy Plous. They’re being served 25-cent ice cream treats by Brooklyn neighborhood volunteer Amanda Stuke.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The Ice Cream Social we attended in Brooklyn not long ago wasn’t located in the New York borough ‚Äì it was right here in River City!

The chair of the Brooklyn Action Corps, Adam Tischler, described his southeast Neighborhood: “We’re a pretty small neighborhood. But we’re incredibly diverse. Our area, bordered by the railroad tracks and the Willamette River and two major roads, is like Portland in miniature. Homeowners and renters; well to do, and those of modest means, have chosen to live here.”

Chair of the Brooklyn Action Corps Adam Tischler draws tickets for kids door prizes at their annual family-friendly neighborhood event.

Tischler told us most of the association’s efforts are spent on serious issues like land use, crime prevention, and advocacy. “This event gets everyone together to meet one another. There’s a ton of stuff for kids to do here.”

Bringing neighbors together is important, he explained, because the neighborhood is in flux as more families move into it.

“Not your average Joe” Mishkin was in Brooklyn to clown, juggle, and twist balloons, much to the delight of adults and kids.

Kathy Orton, Brooklyn Historic Society, shows neighbors the building located on the street where they now live. “I’ve become addicted to it since I moved here in 1978. It’s just fun.”

“We’re all so busy,” Tischler continued. “This event gives people a chance to hang out, enjoy some simple pleasures like eating ice cream and barbecue with your neighbors.”

Cooking hot dogs is Mike James, who serves up big juicy hot dogs which are, almost too big for the buns. It was a fund-raising event for Loaves and Fishes.

Brandon Holder is being introduced to Ginger, a bull python by Michael McKay with the Zoo Zap team.

While Tischler admitted that the neighborhood association takes a chance on bad weather by holding the annual event on the first weekend after Labor Day, he said, “It gets better every year. You can’t beat it.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Rose Festival isn’t the only time 22 folks pile into long, narrow boats and paddle like crazy. Read on and see why 720 aqua-athletes pitted paddles at Sellwood Waterfront Park on a late summer day ‚Ķ

From the dock of Sellwood Riverfront Park, 33 teams of dragon boat racers vied for both local and regional honors.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The sun glinted off forty wet paddles as two more teams of dragon boat racers headed downstream from Sellwood Riverfront Park.

Rose Festival isn’t the only time 22 folks pile into long, narrow boats and stroke the river’s water in unison, to the beat of a drum or the call of their coach.  On Sept. 10, 720 aqua-athletes pitted paddles at the park as dragon boat races took place in Southeast Portland.

The event’s announcer, James Rinehart, told us that dragon-boating is a grand sport in Canada and Australia. “There, they build civic festivals around the dragon boat races.”

Missing from the long, narrow dragon boats, we noticed, were ‚Äì dragons! “The boats used at Rose Festival are different,” Rinehart said, “those are larger, heavier, and have the dragon carving on the prow.”

Queued to race

The Castaways limber up and queue up to step into a boat for their next race.

The racers’ boats are identical, and are supplied by the event. The paddlers, however, are very different from one another. The young and older, both men and women, make up the paddling teams.

“We are from all over the Portland area,” Said the spokesperson for “The Castaways” paddling club, Kerry Jeffrey. “What we mostly have in common is that we like dragon racing. Most of us met through the club.”

Castaways team (boat #3) casts off the Sellwood Riverfront Park dock. The boats head toward downtown Portland, then stage, and race upstream.

Although a paddling club may have as many as fifty members, Jeffrey explained, a paddling team consists of 22 crew members: 20 paddlers (they don’t row), a tiller to steer the boat, and a “caller” who keeps the crew paddling in unison, either with calls or by beating a drum.

Serious fun
Janna Brown, a member of the Wasabi Warriors Paddling Team, explained that riches aren’t to be won in dragon boat racing ‚Äì teams simply race for fun and glory. To help cover expenses, the Wasabi Warriors sell canned nuts bearing their team’s name.

Each of the paddling clubs set up their own encampment at the park, lead their crews in stretch and flexibility exercises, and study the race standings.

Snapdragons’ Gloria Jones and “BJ” check the listings to find their team’s standing and see the time of their next race.

Race officials embrace technology
We found the race officials at the south end of the park.

“We do our best to accurately stage, time, and record the outcome of each race,” said race director, Joel Shilling, looking up from his computer screens. “The paddling clubs take this very seriously; so do the officials.”

Shilling told us he started dragon racing twelve years go. “The Sellwood race is relatively new. This is our second year here; I think we’ll be back.”

Race director Joel Shilling works with a crew of volunteers to stage, time, and accurately record the results of each race.

In addition to the Portland-area paddling clubs’ competition, the culmination of a racing series, the Northwest Challenge, was also underway. “During the season,” Shilling explained, “we hold races in Oregon and Washington. We’ll find out who the regional winner is today.”

The portable radios crackled, as water-borne officials radioed that the competitors’ boats were in position. At the firing of a starter’s pistol, forty paddlers strain against the water to move their boat across the finish line first.

A camera at the finish line eliminates arguments over who won the race. In this race, the Sun Dragons beat team Wicked Kaldzone by a mere tenth of a second.

“We have, as our vision,” Shilling told us, “promoting fitness and friendship through paddle sports. These races give everybody the chance to see how much their fitness has improved over the summer paddling season. It’s a fun way to get in shape.”

Picture yourself here! Paddlers say they this is the most fun way to exercise!

Want to learn more? See their website at www.groups.yahoo.com/group/DragonSports.USA

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Careless drivers do more than wreck vehicles. Look what happened when a reportedly-speeding truck blows a red light and nearly kills the driver and passenger of a van …

Witnesses say a large truck hit the Qwest van so hard, it skidded over 100 feet before stopping at the curb.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
“I was waiting to cross the street,” Sammy Harris told us, “and the driver of the big truck over didn’t even slow down for the red light. He slammed into the van so hard, the ladder and pieces flew off everywhere.”

The accident at SE 72nd Ave at Duke St. was more than a fender-bender. “This could have been a fatal accident,” reported the traffic officer on duty.

On October 4, about 2:00 p.m., a truck, reportedly owned by Metro Interiors, was going southbound on 72nd Ave. Witnesses said the big hauling truck was going fast — really fast — before it blew through a red traffic signal light at SE Duke St.

Sadly, that intersection wasn’t empty.

Unfortunately for the driver and passenger of a van, operated by Qwest Communications, they were – at that moment – eastbound on SE Duke St., through a green light.

Rescue workers had to use the “Jaws of Life” to remove the driver.

The Qwest van was struck on the driver’s side with a shuttering blow. The impact was so severe, the Qwest truck skids sideways, south from the point of impact, well over 100 feet according to our unofficial measurement.

Within minutes, Portland Fire & Rescue crews were on scene, using the Hurst Tool (Jaws of Life) to extricate the driver of the Qwest truck.

Another vehicle, a white Pontiac hatchback, was facing north, stopped on SE 72nd Ave at the red light at Duke. The big truck tore off the front, passenger side quarter-panel of the vehicle.

The driver of this vehicle says she’s lucky to walk away, or even be alive, after the two wrecked trucks skidded in her direction.

“It happened so quickly,” the shaken hatchback driver told us. “It’s like the big truck and the Qwest van split; they slid by both sides of me.”

The driver, who asked not to be identified, said she wasn’t injured. “I got out of my car and went over to the truck that got hit. I saw the woman in the Qwest truck. She didn’t look so good. I feel so bad for her and hope she’s OK.”

The impact of this large truck on both the Qwest van, curb and shrubs looks like it pushed the front axel backward two feet.

The driver of the big truck was cited for “Failure to obey a Traffic Control Device.” New privacy laws affecting hospitals prevent our learning the condition of the victims in this crash.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Crime Stoppers will pay up to $1,000
if you help police find his killer …

Police say this man, 57-year-old Ronald Lee McClanahan, was murdered in his home on SE 141st Ave. Can you help find his killer?

By David F. Ashton
Police say an otherwise nice Sunday, September 24, was the last day on earth for a Southeast Portland man.

East Precinct officers discovered the body of 57-year-old Ronald Lee McClanahan inside his residence at 3515 SE 141st Ave just before 8:00 p.m.

Police say McClanahan died from blunt force trauma and his death. Their ruling: homicide.

We don’t know much about McClanahan. He was said to frequented taverns and convenience stores within walking distance to his home, befriending many people he met along the way. Sometimes, he invited them back to his home.

Detectives need help in locating anyone who knew McClanahan or saw him prior to his death.

Burn a murderer, get a grand
Crime Stoppers is offering a cash reward of up to $1,000 for information, reported to Crime Stoppers, that leads to an arrest in this case, or any unsolved felony, and you remain anonymous.  Call Crime Stoppers at (503) 823-HELP (4357).

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Thanks to help from the Portland Water Bureau, the East Portland Neighborhood Office is now meets in the Hazelwood Water District building …

Now, these chairs and committee leaders of east Portland neighborhoods can meet in their own space.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
For years, the low concrete block building at 1017 NE 117th Avenue was used primarily for storage by the Portland Water Bureau.

“I was looking at some of the Portland Water Bureau properties last year,” Commissioner Randy Leonard tells us, “and thought this building might make a good location for EPNO.”

For the EPNO, the timing can’t be better. Their lease on their cramped offices, located behind Portland Police East Precinct’s office, is about to expire. Leonard approached the EPNO’s leaders and made them a deal they didn’t refuse: A lease for $1 per year.

“Their move here helps the city, by keeping the building occupied,” Leonard explains, “and will keep down vandalism. With $1-a-year rent, their move here frees up approximately $8,000 [paid per their former lease] that can go directly into neighborhood programs.”

What’s next? Leonard’s water bureau staff is turning the property which surrounds the building into the city’s first “Hydro-Park” ‚Äì a Water Bureau property opened, landscaped, and prepared for public use. Check back next week to see how this project is coming along!

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

From Gresham to inner SE Portland, a group of dedicated volunteers work to clean and keep up the 26 miles of Johnson Creek. Read this article and see why their work is important … and how you can help …

Jeff Uebel, Chair of the Johnson Creek Watershed Council, shares a moment with the organization’s executive director, Michelle Bussard, in the silent auction room at their annual meeting.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
From Gresham to inner SE Portland, a group of dedicated volunteers work to clean and keep up the 26 miles of Johnson Creek.

The leaders of the effort to restore the creek say their acts continue to pay off in measurable ways.

“We can quantify the result of our programs,” Michelle Bussard, Executive Director of the Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC), tells us, “with scientific measurements: The improvement in Johnson Creek’s water quality, and an increase in fish counts. Beyond this, we’re also gratified to see also see the ways land owners, with property along the creek’s bank, better steward their property.”

We are checking the progress of the JCWC at their annual open house and silent auction. “We invite the community in our watershed to come in and look at all the wonderful work we do as a result of the community’s investment in our work,” Bussard tells us as we glide through a room with banquet tables laden with exquisite dishes, like poached salmon, mounds of hummus, and salads.

In another room, in which patrons are bidding on a wide variety of items up for silent auction, we speak with Jeff Uebel, JCWC’s chair: “The proceeds of our silent auction support the on-the-ground work in the watershed.”

Uebel says they’ve expected to raise $5,000 ‚Äì funds they’re able to leverage with matching and in-kind contributions.

The Foghorn Duo keeps the atmosphere lively at Johnson Creek Watershed Council’s annual open house and auction.

How contributions pay off
Two of the group’s major projects this year, Bussard tells us as we look a large, colorful maps in their project room, have provided big and positive payoffs.

“First is the work we’ve done at Eastmoreland Golf Course,” Bussard continues. “We’ve removed invasive species in Johnson Creek, especially the Yellow Flag Iris. It crowds out the native plants. And we done really significant wetland restoration there.”

The other really big project, Bussard points out, was their “In-stream, Watershed Event” mounted in July. “Our objective was to remove trash, do a reconnaissance of the banks, and remove fish passage barriers.” 60 people worked on this project at four different sites.

“At these and smaller projects, it is very gratifying to see the stuff we’re able to pull out of the creek, and to see all that we are able to learn about its condition,” Bussard enthuses.

Importance of their mission
As their keynote speaker, Metro Chair David Bragdon, checks in, and as guests fill the facility, Bussard talks about JCWC’s mission. “It is all about the community investing in being good stewards of this watershed. It is about valuing this resource, Johnson Creek, in perpetuity. Ten years ago, the creek was decimated in many ways. Today, because of the work done by the community, organized by the council and our partners, we’ve seen some really positive changes.”

It is important, Bussard adds, to recognize their “partners” in their efforts to improve the creek’s hygiene. “We can’t do anything without the help of the cities of Portland, Milwaukie, Happy Valley, and Gresham ‚Äì and the two counties.”

Your invitation …
Metaphorically speaking, Bussard asks east Portlanders to consider “getting your feet wet” with the council. “We’re a fun group of caring people. Whether you’re an intern in our office, or you want to be involved in a volunteer group doing invasive removal and riparian plantings, there is no end of opportunities in which you can get involved here. There are so many ways individuals with many interests and areas of expertise can help.”

So here’s your invitation: “Let us take you on a tour of the watershed,” Bussard entreats. “You will be amazed when you travel the 26 miles of Johnson Creek’s main stream, and venture out around its tributaries. The treasures that exist are unimaginable. We really enjoy showing and sharing these treasures. Come join us.”

Find out more information by calling (503) 652-7477, or visit www.jcwc.org on the Internet.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

While they long for a permanent home, founders of the Ladybug Theater still play to full houses in Sellwood, and spark imaginations …

Michele Earley and her son, Matt Pipes start the show with Baby Bear in their production of “The Three Little Pigs”.  Wait!..Baby Bear? “He wanted to be in our show, and the kids agreed it was a good idea,” Earley explained.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Many of Portland’s professional “Equity” actors started their careers sharing the stage with a ladybug. So did National Public Radio’s Ari Shapiro.

No, they weren’t doing scenes with insects, but with Ladybug–the hand puppet who is the mascot of the famous Portland children’s Ladybug Theater.

Introducing kids to theater
Back in 1959, the Ladybug Theater was formed, performing for two decades at the Oregon Zoo in a building shaped like, you guessed it, a ladybug.

“There is nothing like it anywhere,” the theater’s director Michele Earley, told us. “We have audience participation in every show. But more importantly, kids learn that theater isn’t frightening.”

Pat Carter, Tyler Mapes, and Renee Carter said they had been looking forward to seeing the Ladybug Theater’s September production.

Because children who come to Ladybug Theater shows are encouraged to use their humor and imagination, Earley said, they are more likely to attend, or even participate in, live theater.

Kids also learn theater manners and etiquette. “In a TV generation, it is important for kids to learn how to behave in a public setting. We help young parents learn how to teach their children how to enjoy live programs and theater.”

According to Earley, all of their shows are created in-house. “We start by making a scenario; an outline for how the storyline will progress. Then the actors take the scenario and create the play and story.”

Ladybug without a home
Earley was upbeat as she and her son, Matt Pipes, prepared for their September 13th show. But, she admitted that not having a permanent home for the theater was difficult for her.

“After the Zoo, we were in Multnomah Village for three years, and then at Oaks Park for 15 years. But, for the past six years, we’ve been ‘homeless’.

“This means we can’t do larger, family shows on weekend dates. But, we’re keeping the Ladybug Theater tradition alive by doing smaller shows here at the SMILE Station, at S.E. 13th and Tenino in Sellwood. This is the building of the Sellwood-Moreland Improvement League neighborhood association; they let us use it. Thank You SMILE!”

Young actors consult Pig about the roles they are about to play

It’s showtime!
As opening music played, about 50 parents and kids filtered into the hall. Older kids sat in front of the puppet stage.

As Pat Carter came in with her son Tyler, she said, “We’re here because we like puppet shows. The interactive programs put on by the Ladybug Theater helps him learn — not just be entertained. He starts preschool later this week ‚Äì so we won’t be able to come for a while!”

Earley and the kids get into the show, talking with none other than Ladybug.

The lights were dimmed. Soon, everyone’s attention was on Ladybug’s introduction. Another production of the Ladybug Theater was underway.

Don’t miss these shows on October 11-12, Ladybug Theater presents “The Three Silly Goats Gruff and the Troll is Enough”. This show features silly fun and lots of audience participation.

October 18-19 and 20-25, see their Hallowe’en tradition, “The Ghost Catcher”, featuring Boo Hoo Ghost. This show is rated “Absolutely NOT Scary”!

See the shows at the SMILE Station, 8210 SE 13th Street, 1 block south of Tacoma in Sellwood. Showtime is 10:30 am; tickets are $3 each. Call (503) 232-2346 for your reservation, or more information

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ‚Äì East PDX News

Read this and see why some of the top P.I.R. drag-racers’ jaws drop when this former Datson 1200 silently slinks up to the starting line ‚Ķ

John “Plasma boy” Wayland, the owner of this 100 mph electric dragster, says petro-fueled racers snicker when his battery-powered car rolls up to the line ‚Äì until smokes them at speeds of over 100 mph.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
We’d never seen a “cruise-in” like this before, at the Village Inn restaurant in the Gateway/Mall 205 area. And this car show ‚Äì featuring a dozen electric cars ‚Äì was drawing quite a crowd.

“We created this event,” John “Plasma boy” Wayland, explained to us, “to raise public awareness about electric cars. We’re showing that electric cars aren’t a fantasy or a dream. They’re real, right here, right now.”

Wayland rhapsodized about the benefits of driving vehicles that don’t run on fossil fuels. “We run on American-generated electrons. I drive an electric car almost exclusively. Why use gas or diesel when you can hum around on electricity?”

This 1921 Milburn, an electric car made in the USA, looked like a horse-drawn carriage, but had been modified to run on batteries instead of horsepower.

Electron-fueled drag racer
Wayland motioned us over to his “modified” 1972 Datsun 1200 Sedan.

“When we go to PIR or Woodburn and roll out to the drag race starting line, a lot of people are surprised to see an electric car,” Wayland told us with a sly smile breaking over his face.  “Jaws drop when we run it. We pull up to a standard, fuel-gulping car on the line as they smoke their tires. We glide up silently ‚Äì and then smoke OUR tires. At the green light, my car pulls its front tires off the ground for the first 50 feet.”

After winning a race, Wayland said one of two things happen: Either the opponent is so embarrassed they lost to an electric car, they slink off and go home. Or, they come over, and shake hands, and want to learn more about electric-powered vehicles.

Wayland loves showing off his “ampere-sucking” drag racer while he talks up electric vehicles as a good alternative to gas-powered transportation.

Wayland rattled off his drag racer’s statistics: “The old Datsun had a 69 hp, 4 cylinder engine. Now it is a electronic, wheel-standing electric drag car that does the quarter-mile as fast as a Dodge V-10 Viper. Doing 0 – 60 in 3.2 seconds, it’s pretty quick. In the eighth-mile, no one can touch it. It hits 106 in the quarter mile. Top speed? Unknown!”

An all-electric driver
“This isn’t my regular car,” Wayland confided. “We drive two electrics and one hybrid. Look: Most people do most of their driving in town. Doesn’t it make sense to stop polluting, stop supporting foreign oil producers, and use the great technology that’s now available?”

Want to learn more? See Wayland’s website at www.plasmaboyracing.com, the national site at www.nedra.com, or the Oregon Electric Vehicle Association. www.oeva.org, a non- profit statewide association.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

The smiles you’ll see on this family’s faces tell the story. Read this story and learn how a group turns low-income renters into homeowners ‚Äì but makes participants work long and hard for the privilege ‚Ķ

Celebrating one of sixteen new homes in Lents is (back row) Steve Messinetti, executive director Portland Habitat for Humanity, new “sweat equity” homeowners Thomas and Luda Le, Bill Goodale; (front row) homeowner’s kids Jasmine and Taylor Le and Carol Goodale. The Goodales are the Le’s Habitat for Humanity “family supporters”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The day for moving in to their new home has been a year in the making for the Le family. And, “making” isn’t a figurative term. We’ve followed the activities of the Le family as they’ve lifted walls, hammered, and painted their home at the newly-completed Portland Habitat for Humanity project.

The coming winter season, foreshadowed by wind-blown rain at the project’s Sept. 14 dedication party, made the Le family all the more eager to cozy into their brand new town home, just off SE 82nd Ave. of Roses in the Lents Neighborhood.

A home built with love
Thomas Le smiled and invited us into his family’s new home on SE Lambert St. He told us he’d been accumulating his “sweat equity” by working on his and other Portland Habitat for Humanity projects since 2003.

“This home is built with love,” Le told us. “A lot of volunteers went out of their way to help us build our new home. Our children will have a place to call home; they’ll have their own rooms. I think it helps children do better in school when they know they have a home of their own.”

“It was fun and exciting,” Thomas’ wife, Lyudmila, confided. “I did hammering, putting up walls, and painting. I feel real ownership. I think we will have a better family life here.”

Young Taylor Le welcomes us into his family’s new home.

Opportunity, not a hand-out
When we came upon Steve Messinetti, Executive Director Portland Habitat for Humanity, he reminded us that only a year ago, the two of us were standing together in a vacant field. “Within days, sixteen families, 65 people, will be moving into their decent homes here. It was made possible by 30,000 volunteer hours, and generous donations of individuals and firms.”

The organization’s mission, Messinetti reminded us, is helping hard-working, but struggling, families move out of substandard housing and into a decent home. “Even more important, they’re buying the home and investing in their futures ‚Äì and the futures of their children. So, the kids that move into this house will have financial stability, and eventually, equity that gets passed on to them.”

It works like this, Messinetti said: All Habitat families put in 500 hours of “sweat equity” toward their home, and purchase their home at cost with a zero-interest, 1% down payment mortgage. Their mortgage payments, based on 25% of their income, pay into a revolving “Fund for Humanity” used to build more homes in the Portland area.

Messinetti said they’re planning to build more houses in the Lents neighborhood; they’re currently negotiating for property. “And, we also received a commitment from the Portland Development Commission to fund the buying of more land in Lents over the next three months, to build ten more houses this coming year. We will build wherever we are able to get affordable land in a decent community.”

Dinner in the rain

Large tents, filling the development’s driveway, kept celebrants dry at the project’s dedication and dinner.

The rain showers and chilly wind didn’t dampen the dedication ceremony for this new housing development. The local owners of Romano’s Macaroni Grill restaurants, “Waterloo Restaurant Ventures”, paid to have huge tents erected in the project’s driveway.

During his brief remarks at the dedication ceremony, Messinetti told the assembly this project came in on time, and $10,000 under budget.

A full, three-course dinner was served, under tents, by the franchise owners of Romano’s Macaroni Grill, and the restaurants’ employees and managers.

More than 200 people, including new homeowners, friends, Portland Habitat for Humanity volunteers, sponsors and donors tucked into full-course hot dinner provided by Romano’s Macaroni Grill.

“Why this generosity?” we asked of Barry McGowen, the CEO “Waterloo Restaurant Ventures”.

“We’re a locally-owned company,” McGowen told us. “We believe it’s important to give back to the communities our restaurants are rooted in. Habitat for Humanity executes their mission well; they bring decent homes to people in our community. I, and the thousand team members we employ, understand this. We’re honored to be part of this great program.”

Habitat for Humanity volunteers Bob Bothman and his wife Jacquie.

At dinner, we sat with Habitat for Humanity volunteers: Civil engineer and retired director of ODOT Bob Bothman and his wife Jacquie. In addition to Portland-area projects, the couple told us they also work each year on projects outside the area, most recently in Kirgizstan, New Orleans, and New Zealand.

Ray Hites, board member of Lents Neighborhood Association

A familiar face present was that of Ray Hites, board member of Lents Neighborhood Association. “In the past, I worked with Habitat for Humanity projects in Portland,” Hites said. “When they came to Lents, I couldn’t pass up to opportunity to help out. It makes homeownership affordable to good people. Given that many people here are low income, I think encouraging more home ownership helps make the neighborhood more stable. Home owners have an investment in the neighborhood.”

New homeowner Thomas Le speaks at the Habitat for Humanity dedication.

Thomas Le was chosen to speak at the dedication ceremony. “I’ve finished [my sweat equity hours], but I still put in a little more time to help others. This is good program. This is wonderful: People, gathered together, with open hearts, building communities. I don’t see this very often. Even though we have different backgrounds, we all help each other like a big family.”

If you are interested in becoming part of the Portland Habitat for Humanity “family”, or would like to become a homeowner under their program, find out more at www.pdxhabitat.org; or call them at (503) 287-9529.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Celebrate a library’s birthday? Look at this article and see GIANT lions invade the main reading room. And, you’ll discover why this mid-county library touches so many lives ‚Äì and how things might change of the library’s bond measure fails ‚Ķ

Midland Library’s 10th anniversary celebration got underway with the help of two fanciful lions from the Northwest Lion Dance Association.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The reading room is normally very quiet. But today, a ceremonial drum pounds out a desk-shaking rhythm, waking dozing library patrons from their dreamy reveries on September 16 at Midland Library.

Children gasp and adults smile as two giant, fanciful lions dance their way from the entrance of the library, through the stacks and around the computer tables toward a stage by the ceiling-high windows facing Midland Park.

This joyous chaos, courtesy of the Northwest Lion Dance Association, marks the opening of the library’s 10th anniversary celebration.

Molly Raphael, director of the Multnomah County Library System, came to welcome patrons to this branch’s birthday celebration.

Library director welcomes all
The Director of the Multnomah County library system, Molly Raphael, takes the stage, and tells the throng that it was on this date that the newly rebuilt Midland Library branch was reopened 10 years ago. “The building more than tripled the space of this branch,” she says. The original branch ‚Äì and its entire parking lot ‚Äì would easily fit within the new building, she adds.

The director tells the group that Midland Library is, at 24,000 sq. ft., the largest and the second-busiest branch in the system.

“This branch is a valuable community resource,” Raphael tells us after her brief remarks. “It is located at the crossroads of east Multnomah County. It brings in people from all over the area. And, it brings people together, of diverse backgrounds, to participate in programs and attend community meetings.”

In addition, Raphael adds, it is also a partner to the schools. “Many students come in after school. We have many programs that reach out to young people. And, we offer many great family programs as well. We also serve our older citizens by helping them learn computer skills and other activities.”

Cake and crafts

Before crafting their own crowns in the activity room, Gateway-area residents (and library patrons) Naomi, Amanda, and Hannah Whitlock are enjoying Midland Library birthday cake and punch.

Overseeing the birthday cake cutting ceremony, Branch Manager Carolyn Schell is bubbling with enthusiasm as she tells us, “We’re having a wonderful time commemorating this building’s reopening. Here, we celebrate the diversity of our neighborhoods. This event shows that everybody is welcome to the library.”

Throughout the afternoon, visitors enjoy multi-cultural performances which include a Vietnamese Dance Team, Ballet Popotle performing Mexican folk dancing, and the band Americanistan presenting music from the Middle East. Along with the entertainment, kids enjoy craft time: making crown-like hats to wear and take home.

Sara Cunningham helps Tyler build a birdhouse at one of the Jane’s Park Group tables, in Midland Park behind the library.

Jane’s Park Group celebrates park
A group of neighbors, “Jane’s Park Committee”, helps take care of Midland Park, located behind the library and parking lot. Volunteers, including Boy Scouts from Troop 828, help kids build their own birdhouses.

In addition, committee members display information about the park, and community groups are on hand to drum up support for their efforts.

Girls can hammer too! Gregory Zolp looks on as his daughter, Ashley, builds her very own birdhouse.

Funding concerns
We buttonhole Raphael about what might happen if bond Measure 26-81, a five-year “serial levy”, doesn’t gain voters’ approval.

“Over half the county’s library system funding comes from the current levy, which is about to expire.”

We learn this measure isn’t a new tax, but a vote for continuation of an existing property tax that supports library operations and maintains services.

“Let me put it this context,” the director continues, “think about what would happen if you woke up and found you had just 45% of your income in your house. With less than half of our household income, you’d have to change the way your family lives. This would be a pretty dramatic change. We’ll work with the community, but I can imagine libraries closing, or, or at least, having hours drastically reduced.”

We ask Raphael might happen, specifically, to the Midland branch. “It remains to be seen,” she replies.

If passed, Measure 26-81 will levy $0.89 per $1,000 of assessed value. This means a home assed at $150,000 pays $133.50 per year.

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

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Firefighter’s fast response ‚Äì and solid construction ‚Äì keeps new condos at NE 84th Ave. and Russell from burning up in a fiery ball of death ‚Ķ

By the time we arrived, minutes after it was reported, Portland Fire & Rescue Engine 12, with assistance from the crew from Station 2, start to clean up their gear.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Crews from Portland Fire & Rescue race into action when a multi-family dwelling catches on fire. They know a small fire can quickly turn into a major conflagration – especially when it is fueled by burning vehicle parked in a garage below the living area.

When the call came in about 5:30 p.m. on September 29, crews from three fire stations raced to newly-constructed, occupied condominiums located east of Nelson’s Nautilus at NE 84th Ave. and Russell St.

The owner of the garage to the right of the burned unit belongs to Pat Tilman, who was home at the time of the blaze, and said the fire could have been worse.

His building on fire
Pat Tilman owns a condo unit, next to the unit where the fire was reported. “I heard someone yelling that there was a fire,” he told us as we stood in the alley behind the beige siding-clad, two-story building.

“I heard fire engines coming. I came outside and realized the fire was in my building. Before I got to the back of my unit, the firefighters were already putting out the fire in the garage next to mine, and starting to chop my garage door open. I told them I could save them time by opening it for them.”

The fire was out; firefighters were clearing everything out of the burned unit next to Tilman’s. “It could have been worse,” he mused.

Firewalls save homes, lives
“We have a rows of condominiums joined together,” is how Portland Fire & Rescue Battalion Commander Dave Disciascio described the situation.

A fire bureau investigator looks over the burned car that was suspected to be the cause of the blaze.

“On the bottom floor, along the alley, we have single car garages. These garages are built with one-hour firewalls. This was a real good thing.”

Although fire investigators have yet to release a report, Disciascio told us it looked as if a car in one of those garages ‚Äì the one next to Tilman’s unit ‚Äì started on fire. “It pretty much burned up the car. But, the fire didn’t extend because of the firewall.”

Had it not been for the one-hour rated firewall, the battalion chief said, the fire would have been a tragedy, instead of an inconvenience.

Apartment and condo units built some years ago weren’t required to line the walls of their garages or parking spaces with firewalls. “If this fire, fueled by a burning car, would have started in an old building, we’d still be fighting it, and the blaze would be awfully spectacular, and perhaps deadly.  This fire is inconvenient ‚Äì it could have been tragic.”

¬©  2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Discover why a retired company president is leading a campaign to fully-fund Head Start programs. And, see a cute photo of Governor Ted Kulongoski reading to kids at the rally at Russellville …

Governor Ted Kulongoski read the storybook, “David Goes to School”, to the children in such a colorful and engaging way that, the kids at the Head Start program at Russellville didn’t pay attention to the reporters and TV gear at the “Ready for School” campaign stop.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
“If we want to cut crime, reduce social services expense, and boost the state’s economy, fully-fund Head Start programs statewide.” This is the message delivered at a “Ready for School” campaign rally in Russellville on September 12 by business leaders, politicians, and the East Precinct police commander.

While Governor Ted Kulongoski appeared at the rally as a media drawing-card, Richard Alexander, the retired founder of Oregon-based Viking Industries, talked up the initiative effort.

“The statewide ‘Ready for School’ campaign is committed to making early childhood education available to all eligible children living in homes below the poverty level,” Alexander told us in a private interview. “Our organization is made up of concerned folks, none of whom stands to benefit — either financially or politically — from this effort.”

Those listed as initiative supporters range from liberal to conservative; and come from all sectors of the economy. “We’re a diverse group, but we all agree that early childhood education will improve the lives of many children. But more importantly, it will improve their lives as adults.”

Retired founder of Viking Industries, Richard Alexander, makes his case in favor of early childhood education before a well-attended press conference at the Russellville Head Start program.

Economic argument for Head Start programs
Early childhood education is a critical economic issue for Oregon, Alexander, Chair of the “Ready for School” campaign, explained. “Without a good education, children tend to do poorly in school. Many drop out of education along the way. Those who ‘fall’ along the way eventually get ‘caught’ in our social safety net. They are more likely to become incarcerated throughout their lives.”

During his remarks at a press conference held at the Russellville Head Start Center, Alexander said the research he’s seen is convincing:

“If a child isn’t reading at the third-grade level at the end of the third grade, the odds are high they will not be reading at ninth-grade level in ninth-grade. They are likely to drop out of school.

“Too often these kids go into the fourth grade and beyond, and decide that won’t be measured by academic standards. Mentally, they drop out of school. They get big enough to walk out in ninth grade.

“After that, if they drop out, the likelihood they’ll get in trouble with the law, or be incarcerated, goes up very sharply. As they grow into adults, they are likely to depend on long-term social services, including lifestyle-induced medical problems.”

Head Start breaks poverty cycle
Sadly, Alexander added, it is likely that the children of poorly educated individuals will repeat this cycle. “We’re trying to break that cycle. Things clearly don’t need to be this way.”

To back up his sentiment, Alexander produced the results of research studies demonstrating that a child who has been in Head Start is twice as likely to graduate college as one who didn’t. “That’s compelling. In addition to their having a more fulfilling life, consider the enormous economic savings to society.”

On the bandwagon

Oregon’s education superintendent, Susan Castillo, speaks up for early education programs.

State Superintendent of Schools Susan Castillo, spoke briefly, noting yet another benefit to the program: “Every dollar we invest in Head Start means fewer teen pregnancies.”

Governor Ted Kulongoski said he visited the outer East Portland Head Start facility in Russellville to draw attention to the need for early childhood education.

Governor Ted Kulongoski remarked, “We have a changing society. In this competitive global economy, change is the rule of the day. How do we give every child in Oregon an opportunity to compete in this economy?‚ĶInvest in education and skills training. Oregon’s niche should be to have the best trained, skilled, and educated workforce of any state in the country.”

Merkley cites a 17 to 1 return on investment
While not an official speaker at the event, Oregon Representative Jeff Merkley told us he attended to show his support.

“I’ve been championing full funding for the Head Start program. I’m glad the governor came to my district to support this campaign for early childhood education. It is really clear that when you invest in children, the returns for society are enormous. The young people have happier and more productive lives, pay more taxes and consume less social services.”

Merkley added, “Reports I’ve seen shows a 17-to-1 return on dollars invested in early childhood learning programs. This is well worth considering.”

The antidote to crime: Hope
We asked Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct Commander Michael Crebs why he was at this event.

“I support this new campaign for Head Start,” Crebs related to us, “because education and mentoring for young people are keys to reducing crime and the fear of crime.

“It’s all about hope. People who are educated tend to have more hope in their lives. People who have more opportunities are less likely to become involved in criminal activity. They’re more likely to be productive, tax-paying citizens.

“From my experience as a police officer, it’s clear to me that people who have the hope and opportunities that education brings, typically don’t get in trouble. The ones we see [in the criminal justice system] are the ones who have no hope.”

Behind the scenes: Ever wonder what is going in the room during a “photo opportunity” set up for person running for political office? The scene isn’t quite as warm and cozy as it looked on TV news.

For more information, see www.ready-for-school.org.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

© 2005-2019 David F. Ashton East PDX News™. All Rights Reserved.