See why you should be making plans to see ‘PETER PAN’, opening on November 30 ‚Äì and why many performances of the show will be soon sold out ‚Ķ

The pirate band teaches one of their own a little discipline, as this group of students block out a number from their upcoming production of “Peter Pan”.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
We are constantly amazed at high quality of productions mounted by the David Douglas High School Performing Arts Department.

This season’s blockbuster show ‚Äì a full Broadway-style production of “PETER PAN” ‚Äì looks to be a very entertaining show.

The story:
In old Edwardian London, Wendy Darling nightly fascinates her brothers by telling bedtime stories featuring swordplay, swashbuckling, and a fearsome Hook. But, these youngsters become heroes, themselves, in an even greater story.

One night, Peter Pan flies into their nursery, leading them over rooftops and through a star-filled sky to a place called Neverland. There, Wendy and her brothers are enlivened to find a land where adult rules are set aside. But, they also face confrontation with Captain Hook and his bloodthirsty pirates.

But, what happens if Peter Pan “grows up” like normal kids?

DDHS Theater Technical Stage Manager Mark Taylor Jessica Baltzor and Adara Elliott building Wendy’s house for the play “Peter Pan”, opening November 30.

A show to amaze and delight both children and adults
The sets, designed by DDHS Theater Technical Stage Manager Mark Taylor and built by the student crew, rival those found at major theatrical productions. In fact, we’re told professional theater companies have already bid to rent the sets from this show after it closes.

Add to this, the professional-quality lighting and sound, operated by the twenty-member technical crew, and you have the underpinnings of a great production.

Under the direction of Judy LeCoq, a cast of sixty – yes, 60 – actors, singers, and dancers will fill the stage, to the accompaniment of a chorus and thirty-member orchestra.

And yes, Peter Pan really flies
This classic story would certainly lose panache if Peter Pan were grounded. Have no fear – Peter Pan indeed will fly high above the stage. We have photographic evidence.

Check back in a week and you’ll see Peter Pan fly for yourself!

Don’t be disappointed, order tickets now
Opening night for “PETER PAN” at the Howard Horner Performing Arts Center is November 30 at 7:30 p.m.

Additional performances are at the following dates and times:
Friday, December 1 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 2 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday Matinee, December 3 at 2:30 p.m.

Thursday, December 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, December 8 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, December 9 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday Matinee, December 10 at 2:30 p.m.

Tickets are $7 for seniors and students, and $10 for adults.

Call the David Douglas Box Office at (503) 261-8270, Mondays through Fridays, 3 to 5 p.m. It’s also open an hour before show times ‚Äì but don’t risk being disappointed if that performance is a sellout! Order your tickets in advance.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Why was Gilbert Heights Elementary School the only grade school in Oregon to win the title of National Title I Distinguished School? Read this article and see …

Gilbert Heights Elementary School Principal Kevin Fordney says the award belongs to the entire staff of the school, because of the way they work together improving each child’s educational experience.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
Being an educator in outer Southeast Portland is a challenging. An increasing number of their students come from less affluent – in fact, poverty-level – families. And, more of their kids are learning English as their second language.

Yet, this David Douglas School District school, Gilbert Heights Elementary, was the only school in the state this year to be awarded the title of National Title I Distinguished School.

“This is an affirmation for our staff, for the work they do every day,” Principal Kevin Fordney told us in an exclusive interview. “Indirectly, this award affirms that David Douglas schools are working hard to help a diverse group of students make good things happen.”

No overnight success
The award was six years in the making, Fordney said. It started with the expectation that children can learn; and the realization that the demographics of the area are changing.

“The school’s improvement process was started by Principal Sherrie Barger and her staff,” Fordney explained. “They took the time to stop, look at research, and determine where they were succeeding, and what they needed to strengthen.”

The school focused on making sure each child has good reading skills said the principal. “Reading is the foundation for success in every subject area of school. It also provides personal enjoyment for those who are good at it. We pour lots of effort into reading skills.”

The result: Over the last six years, staff developed, implemented, and worked together to support student achievement in key subject areas.

Beyond “teaching to the test”
Some educational advocates feel schools measured as being successful merely show kids how to “ace” achievement tests. We asked if “teaching to the test” might have been Gilbert Heights Elementary’s method for success.

Fordney pondered our query for a moment.

“That’s a good question. The answer is ‘No. We teach to the standards.’ And because we teach to the standards, students learn what they need to be learning to be well educated. Because they are well educated, they can pass the tests.”

Secret of their system
Asked if there is a secret to their success, Fordney explained, “Everyone here has agreed to ‘own’ the responsibility to help all of the kids learn, according to standard programs we’ve found to be successful. The individual classroom teacher is supported by other teachers who collaborate with them.”

On several occasions during our conversation in his office, Fordney emphasized, “This is a team honor. Every single person in the building has contributed to this award.”

Note to parents
We asked what parents can do to help their youngsters become better students.

“Reading to and with your child is important. So is being connected with your school, and your child’s progress,” Fordney responded. “We believe the success is a partnership between the student, school, and family. We appreciate parents’ help, and hope they continue to support our efforts.”

The school will receive a $5,000 award, which will be used to further assist in student achievement. The school will be honored at the National Title I Conference January 27-30 in Long Beach, California.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Learn why this event attracted hundreds to go for a run on a cold, soggy Sunday morning …

After their run, Friends of Trees volunteers Scott Fogarty, Lori Hoffman, Rachel Haig, and Steven Sonderman mulch the roots of young saplings the group has planted along the Oaks Bottom Trail.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
More than 230 runners and walkers decided to “leaf their problems behind them” as participated in the first “Fun Run for Restoration” held by the nonprofit group, Friends of Trees.

“We wanted to have an event to draw attention to our activities,” Scott Fogarty, the group’s executive director, told us. “The run is routed though a neighborhood and natural areas where we’ve planted trees.”

Fogarty said that their volunteers are active people. “We like to get out, work, and make friends. Many of those participating in our fund-raising event today are already members.”

Event kicks off planting season
“Our planning season is starting. In addition to raising funds, and awareness, this event kicks off our ‘work’ season,” Fogarty explained. “Trees and natural areas are valued by people in the greater Portland area. People move to Portland and live here because of our trees, clean air, clean water, and green streets. We want to keep Portland green.”

The organizer said the event raised about $8,000 for their cause. Want to join in on a “tree planting party” in your area? Check their web site at .

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See how this unique event combined a soup cook-off with a dinner and auction raising $32,000 for SE Works Career Center …

Heather Ficht of Worksystems won the coveted “Golden Ladle Award” for her “Wisconsin Delight” soup; it was, presented to her by five-time previous winner Anne Sweet.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
An organization that helps people find jobs has found a tasty formula for fundraising here in Southeast Portland. They call it “Recipes for Success”.

The Sixth Annual SE Works Soup Cook-Off and Auction used its tried-and- true recipe of mixing a soup cooking contest, banquet, and charity auction to help financially support their One-Stop Career Center.

The event, held at inner SE Portland’s Melody Ballroom, attracted 225 guests, who tasted unique soups cooked by 15 volunteer “chefs”.

Two chefs were awarded for their potages. The coveted Golden Ladle went to Heather Ficht for her “Wisconsin Delight” soup that garnered the greatest number of popular votes. Kerry DeBuse, owner of acclaimed Portland restaurant Genoa, and Sunset Magazine writer Susan Hauser, bestowed the Celebrities’ Choice award on Bryan Tremayne, for his “Roasted Vegetable Soup”.

As dinner was served, the organization’s staff, board, and volunteers were honored. “SE Works strengthens our community by providing employment and education programs,” explained executive director Heidi Soderberg. “Our clients say we do more than just help people get jobs. They say we help them improve their lives, and the lives of their families,” added board chair Mitch Cogen.

Clients William Parker, Tina Velasquez, and Nakeisha Bent gave moving testimonies about how SE Works went beyond getting them a job by also helping them improve their lives.

Guests bid generously during the lively auction run by Stan Ash. The event raised $32,000 to support the mission of SE Works: Strengthening the economic health and well-being of the diverse Southeast community by increasing access to employment, educational, and support services.

To learn more about the organization, see

“Recipes for Success” photo album

Three of the fifteen “soup chefs”, sampling their creations, and hoping to win the coveted “Golden Ladle Award”. They are Patty Park of Daverci Solutions, Inc., “Cream of Wild Salmon Pumpkin Soup”; Heather Ficht of Worksystems, “Wisconsin Delight”; and Amy Parkhurst, also of Worksystems, “Autumn Pumpkin Stew”.

Celebrities’ Choice Award winner at the event was Bryan Tremayne of Pacific Foods for his “Roasted Vegetable Soup”; the award was presented by Anne Sweet.

Bob Homer and Mary Phelps, ready to bid on some of the dozens of great items at the silent auction, which ranged from weekend getaways to event tickets.

Kerry DeBuse, owner of famous Portland restaurant Genoa, and Susan Hauser, a longtime freelance writer, sample and judge each soup entry, as they prepare to bestow the Celebrities’ Choice Award to one soup chef.

Mitch Cogen, SE Works board chair, & Heidi Soderberg, executive director, start the evening’s program.

Silver Ladle Sponsor Pam Olson, of Farmers Insurance, gets ready to pop her own prize balloon, to see what she won.

Soup chefs line up to receive their Medal of Appreciation.

Auctioneer extraordinaire Stan Ash has fun with the participants, as he gets top dollar for each item.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See why this timely event helped several folks in outer East Portland stay a bit more comfortable – while they saved money …

Anastasia Howard and Mike Masat, REACH Community Development, helped homeowners in the Lents area learn how to make their homes safer and more efficient at the workshop.

Story and photo by David F. Ashton
When the November 1 “Home Maintenance and Weatherization Workshop” took place, no one who attended would have ever guessed that pelting rain and gale-force winds would soon be on blowing through the Lents neighborhood.

To start the meeting, Anastasia Howard and Mike Masat from REACH Community Development helped homeowners in the Lents area learn how to improve home safety. They also showed how simple home improvements make a home more efficient.

Then, Thomas A Brodbeck, Multnomah County’s energy-saving guru, showed the attendees exactly how to weatherize their homes.

Folks who attended the 90-minute, seminar at Kelly Elementary School got more than just information and how-to tips. They also received basic hand tools and a fire/smoke detector with at 10-year battery.

Agencies work together providing information
Christine Rhoney, SUN Site Manager at Kelly Elementary, told us many organizations worked together to put on the workshop.

“We, in connection with ROSE Community Development, Kelly SUN Community School, Multnomah County Weatherization Program, and REACH Community Development, put together these classes to help our families have more information about home security, maintenance, and security.”

Weatherization is especially important, Rhoney told us, because many of their students’ families come from lower-income families. “The money they save in heating bills can put more food on their tables throughout the winter,” she added.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See how an organization named ROSE helps to stabilize and improve the livability of Southeast Portland neighborhoods by helping families move into homes they’ll own ‚Ķ

Award winners were: Community Leader: Pastor Don Sieckmann, Great Day Fellowship Church; ROSE Volunteer: Board Member Virginia Petersen; Nick Sauvie, ROSE Executive Director; Business Partner: Roger Hinshaw, Bank of America; and, Community Partner: Sgt. Larry Graham SE Precinct.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
While it may seem as if Portland city government tends to focus its housing efforts on building glamorous high-rise structures, a nonprofit organization in Southeast Portland has been rebuilding downtrodden neighborhoods like those in Lents, Brentwood-Darlington, Foster-Powell, and Mount Scott-Arleta.

On Nov. 9, ROSE Community Development Corp. celebrated the agency’s 15 years of providing affordable housing to outer Southeast Portland.

As guests filtered in, the agency’s executive director, Nick Sauvie told us that ROSE stands for “Revitalize Outer Southeast Portland”.

The event was held at an unlikely time and location ‚Äì 7:30 a.m., at OMSI. But, as breakfast was served, OMSI’s large meeting room soon filled to capacity with agency partners, volunteers and donors.

Nick Sauvie, executive director of ROSE Community Development Corp.,  addressing the breakfast gathering at OMSI.

ROSE Executive Director Nick Sauvie began the program, telling the group that their mission, providing affordable housing, is difficult work.

Secrets of success
“ROSE gives families a secure place to build their lives,” Sauvie began, “and to feel that they are part of a neighborhood. We bring resources from the broader community to improve life in SE neighborhoods.”

Sauvie said The Community Development Initiative looked at programs in 23 cities. “Successful programs, like ours, have several things in common. Their plans are flexible and simple; there is a deep level of commitment from the board and staff; their plans are holistic and comprehensive; and, they work with families in the context in which they live.”

Even at that early hour of 7:30 a.m., the meeting room at OMSI was filled to capacity with ROSE supporters at their annual meeting.

Over the last 40 years — he stated, as an example of their success — the homeownership rate has decreased in Lents to about 50%. ROSE brought 40 partners ‚Äì lenders, builders, government agencies ‚Äì together to increase homeownership there.

“We hold ourselves accountable to measurable outcomes. During the two years of the Lents Homeownership Initiative, our partners have helped turn 100 families into new homeowners. Homeowners care more about their area; get involved in programs like neighborhood watch, and improve safety and livability.”

Growing ROSE
Looking to the future, Sauvie said their five-year plan includes tripling the number of homeownership units. “Working with partners, we expect to put 250 homeowners into homes in Lents; we’ll add rental units. We’ll keep helping families to succeed; working with children in neighborhood schools, particularly Kelly School.”

Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams tells why he feels a personal connection to the mission of ROSE.

Commissioner Adams testifies
After the awards were given, Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams joined the celebration. He told the group, “We can choose many things in life, but we can’t choose our families. My family had difficult times in each of Oregon’s five major recessions. Because my family had help with housing, I understand how much a ‘hand up’ can help. I’m honored to be here, among people who have done so much for so many people in East Portland.”

Adams said he was concerned with gentrification. Pointing how the MAX Green Line sparked gentrification in North Portland, he expressed concerns that the new MAX Yellow Line might price families out of the outer Southeast Portland area. “This is one reason that the work ROSE is doing is so important. Families who become established homeowners will see their property appreciate.”

You can help
Find out the many ways you can contribute to your community by getting involved with ROSE Community Development. They’re office is located at 5215 SE Duke St. Call them at (503) 788-8052 or visit them online at

Nick Sauvie lets staffer Sue Pupo know how much she is appreciated by him and the organization with a presentation of flowers.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Amid the blowing rain and water-filled roads, see the story of a driver who felt compelled to help a helpless motorist …

With water up to his floorboards, the unlucky driver in the blue car discovered the penalty of driving through water too deep: a dead car.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Most residents of East Portland just stayed inside when while the wind blew the rain sideways, earlier this week.

Fortunately, there were only minor reports of homes damaged by falling trees or flooding during what some called the heaviest rain in a 24-hour period in over a decade.

Low car + high water = dead vehicle
While we were out surveying East County, looking for weather-caused problems, we encountered flooded traffic lanes on Powell Boulevard. Near SE 72nd Avenue, a large SUV hit the water, hydroplaned, and ended up climbing the curb. The only real damage appeared to be the driver’s pride.

When we checked SE 92nd Avenue, about a block north of Powell Boulevard, we discovered that this particular low spot was severely flooded.

We noticed a white Toyota, sitting motionless in the southbound lane of SE 92nd Avenue. Thoughtless drivers of high-riding vehicles plowed past the disabled car, sometimes drenching it with a rooster-tail of rainwater runoff.

“I was at the top of the hill,” its driver, a damp Evan Clothier, later explained; “and I saw a Geo Metro go through the deep water just fine. But my car just ‘died’, and there I was.”

We watched a Jeep drive past the dead-in-the-water compact car slowly. It backed up, and the driver got out. A young man got out, his pants rolled up. He had a long tow strap in hand. He conferred with the driver of the waterlogged car. Within minutes, the Jeep had pulled to Toyota to safety, leaving it in a nearby parking lot.

“Good Samaritan” Larry Cusick told us he didn’t mind getting soaked when he helped pull the waterlogged car to safety.

‘Karma bank’ deposit
We asked the Jeep driver, Larry Cusick, what he was doing out on such a stormy night as was November 5th.

“The bad weather kept us in all day,” he explained, “and we were getting ‘cabin fever’. My girlfriend and I decided to go for a soft drink at the 7-11 Store.”

Why did he stop and get out of his dry Jeep to help?

“Because I figure it is good karma. Someone might stop and help me out someday, eh? They were stuck. I don’t mind. It’s just water.”

Clothier, the rescued driver, said, “What a great guy! I really appreciate this guy’s help. I don’t know him, or anything.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

The Oregon Clinic’s Gateway facility officially opens its doors. See why its physicians are proud to welcome patients to their new offices ‚Ķ

At the official opening of the Oregon Clinic in Gateway, Dr. Lou Libby, MD, Co-president, Chris Roemer, nuclear medicine technologist, and cardiologist Brad Evans, MD, show us their cardiac nuclear medicine camera.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
A year ago, the ground on which The Oregon Clinic’s Gateway facility now sits was a parking lot for MAX and TriMet.

November 3, staff members, managers, financiers and medical providers at the new facility celebrated its opening for patient care.

Shortly after we arrived, we became reacquainted with Dr. Lou Libby, MD, co-president, chief medical officer of The Oregon Clinic. “We are celebrating this new facility that will benefit the citizens of East Portland.”

Sixty physicians will have moved their practices into the modern brick-faced building. “Until now,” Libby said, “they’ve been crowded, elbow-to-elbow, in cramped offices in different buildings.”

Libby described The Oregon Clinic as a “one-stop clinic” for patients with complex diseases. He said they’re proud that the building is patient-friendly and environmentally sound. And, it’s right on the MAX and TriMet bus lines.

As we toured the building, we stopped in the cardiac nuclear medicine area, and met nuclear medicine technologist Chris Roemer and cardiologist Brad Evans, MD.

“This ‘camera’ is used to evaluate blood flow to the heart,” Dr. Evans told us. “With this non-invasive device, we can see if they’ve had a heart attack, if they are experiencing low blood flow, and see the pumping motion of their heart. It quickly tells us a lot.”

One-stop clinic
The new Gateway facility brings together specialty practices, including pulmonary health, critical care, sleep medicine, cardiology, thoracic and cardiovascular surgery, gastroenterology, and herpetology.

“We have rehabilitation services, such as physical therapy, on-site,” Libby informed us. “The facility also has durable medical equipment suppliers on hand who provide items such as wheelchairs and oxygen systems, in conjunction with Providence Medical Center.”

Completing the clinic are a Providence laboratory, radiology and CAT scan, and MRI and X-Ray services.

Enjoying some of the hospitality at the opening ceremony of The Oregon Clinic’s Gateway facility are Steve Maxwell and Steve Gray of Key Bank, and Dr. Kayleen Shiiba, MD.

Crossroads location important to patients
“This location is ideal for us,” Libby continued, “because Gateway is the crossroads of East Portland. When we looked at relocating many of our practices, we found this location is central to where many of our patients live‚Ķand, it is right where two major freeways intersect, right on the MAX line, and at a TriMet bus hub ‚Äì this makes it easy for patients to get here.”

A commitment to community care
Libby said the founders and managers of the clinic are committed to helping people from all walks of life.

“We’ve always been committed to caring for the Medicaid and Medicare patients. We’ve helped patients without insurance since we began operations twelve years ago. We maintain the philosophy to never exclude patients based on their ability to pay.”

Physicians, service providers, financiers, and dignitaries gather at the official opening of the new Gateway facilities of The Oregon Clinic.

As Libby prepared to welcome those who had gathered at the reception, he told us, “We want to continue to provide excellent service to the people of East Portland. We have some of the best doctors in Portland ‚Äì and now, we have one of the very best facilities in Portland. If you need good medical care, consider the physicians at The Oregon Clinic.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See the fun that kids had at the
East Portland Community Center’s Halloween Carnival,
and Midland Library’s “Day of the Dead” events ‚Ķ

Enjoying the Halloween Carnival are (left side) Jaime Cole with her parents Dave and Pearl, and (right side) Kamrin Yee with her parents, Karlan and Karen.

Story and lots ‘o’ photos by David F. Ashton
Before the memory of this year’s Halloween festivities get washed away by the oncoming rush toward the Thanksgiving Day holiday, we thought you’d like to see the fun kids had at two different, but similar, celebrations.

East Portland Community Center’s Halloween Carnival
“Welcome to our ninth annual Halloween Carnival,” smiled center director Abbe MacFarlane, as she continued her task of filling orange and black balloons with helium on Oct. 28. “We hold this in cooperation with the Montavilla Community Center and Portland Park Bureau.”

Shelli Stuhr encourages Aryana Henry to play and win a prize from game attendant Helen Wu.

“This carnival gives kids the opportunity to get out and have fun in a safe, clean environment. They wear costumes, have games, face painting, crafts and hear stories,” MacFarlane explained.

Hundreds of kids spend the Saturday before Halloween playing fun games for prizes at the East Portland Community Center.

In the food service area, families were enjoying three-course hot dog dinners. The craft room provided materials for kids to make Halloween decorations. Scary stories were being read in another area. And, the event wouldn’t have been complete without face painting!

John, Jasmin, Olivia and Odessa stop to say hello before they get the face- painting “beauty treatment”.

As we left, the carnival was winding down. We checked at the door; the greeter’s silver hand counter read 1,113 ‚Äì very close to the 1,120 people they had hoped for.

Midland Library’s D??a de los Muertos/Day of the Dead

Look at all the families who are having fun celebrating “Day of the Dead” at Midland Library!

On October 30, Midland Library’s large assembly room was swarming with kids, mostly in costume, as they learned the traditions of D??a de los Muertos ‚Äì translated, Day of the Dead.

“This event draws on the Hispanic tradition, D??a de los Muertos,” explained event coordinator, Brenda Detering de Lopez. “This celebration helps make Halloween also a time we can celebrate those who have gone before us.”

Youth Librarian Barbara Gorter reads a scary story with so much enthusiasm and acting ability, even some of the adults are enraptured by the tale “Under the Bed”.

Detering de Lopez continued, “In church or at home, the focus is on celebrating departed family and loved ones. But here at the library, it’s about using our imaginations and dressing up as some of our heroes or favorite story-book characters.”

Volunteer Adriana Gonzales helps kids at the event to make crafts, like paper flowers.

The event included an exposition of altars, kid’s crafts, story telling, a costume parade and games.

Helping were students from Parkrose and David Douglas High School who showed kids how to use their imaginations while they had a fun and safe time at the library.

Everyone found it difficult to sit still, as Groupo Condor played pre-Columbian music from Peru and Mexico.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Even though firefighters – a lot of them – reached this home near Eastport Plaza quickly, see how devastating a blaze can be. And, learn what may have kept the fire from turning the home into a heap of smoking cinders …

While the results of the fire devastated this SE Portland home, prompt action by crews from four fire stations prevented a total loss of the structure.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The cold and damp weather of the mid-evening hours, November 7th, kept most nearby neighbors inside. They didn’t see the thickening plume of black smoke coming from the garage of the home in the 4600 Block of SE 85th Avenue.

“As fire companies approached SE 85th Ave. along Holgate St., near Eastport Plaza, they saw heavy smoke,” reported Portland Fire Bureau Battalion Chief C3 Erin Janssens. “Coming up the hill, firefighters saw the smoke pouring from the back of the residence, and saw fire had involved both the garage and the house.”

Quickly, crews from fire stations 11, 25, 19, and 29 pulled hoses, and started quenching the blaze.

The fire was out in less than 10 minutes after the firefighters arrived on scene, Janssens told us at the scene. “While the home was heavily damaged, firefighters kept the fire from extending into the attic, preserving the structural integrity of the home.”

By the time we arrived on-scene, the firefighters had extinguished the blaze and were packing up their gear.

Residential alarm summons help
Janssens said no one was home at the time of the fire; and the first calls reporting the blaze didn’t come from a neighbor. “What did alert us, at an early phase in the fire, was the homeowners’ residential alarm system.”

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

This harvest festival featured a safety theme – but see why it still proved to be good fun …

Dressed in costume for the season, Erica Ferguson and Kendra Martin make friends with McGruff, and learn how to “take a bite out of crime” at the Lents Harvest Safety Festival.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
While this event, on October 28, featured food and children’s activities, the theme of the festival was Building a Safer Community in Lents”.

“The idea,” explained co-organizer Amie Diffenauer, of ROSE Community Development, “was to provide an event where Lents neighbors of all ages, cultures, and socio-economic levels to come together and learn about personal safety and crime prevention.”

Portland Police Bureau NRT Officer William Hoover, who serves the greater Lents area, teams up with EPNO Crime Prevention Specialist Rosanne Lee, to give safety tips at the Lents festival.

The festival, held in Lents’ Pilgrim Lutheran Church meeting room, drew dozens of neighbors who made their way through tables loaded with information. They spoke with representatives from TriMet, Portland Fire Bureau, the Portland Office of Transportation, ONI Crime Prevention Program, Lents Homeownership Initiative, Knights of Pythias, and the Lents Neighborhood Association.

Serving up hot chili dogs at the festival is volunteer Laurie Shuart.

At the festival, Portland Fire Bureau’s Inspector Earl Diment told us why he brought his display. “I’m on the prevention side of the bureau,” he explained.

Portland Fire Bureau’s Inspector Earl Diment, shows neighbors how to be “fire safe”, such as by using up-to-date fire alarms.

“I’m involved in public education,” Diment said. “Most of the people we lose to fires are in their homes. We don’t have jurisdiction to go into houses and make a fire inspection like we do in public buildings. This festival is a great opportunity to help neighbors learn how to become more aware of fire prevention basics that can save their lives. Having a working smoke detector is a good example.”

As we moved on to cover our next story, neighbors were continuing to come in to learn from, and enjoy, this unique harvest festival.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Not giving up after his first attempt at reforming Portland’s Business License fee last year, see how Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams wants to perfect the business tax system ‚Ķ

Before Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams began is presentation, he listened to concerns of Southeast Portland business people.

By V.M. Wells with David F. Ashton
City Commissioner Sam Adams took his drive to lighten the business tax burdens to a meeting of small business people, including those from inner Southeast Portland, on November 2 at a Gateway-area restaurant.

The commissioner started off by showing pages of charts and graphs depicting Portland’s economy and business demographics compiled by Warren Jimenez of his office.

Adams began his presentation by showing a dazzling array of demographics depicting the city’s business climate and financial position.

Adams said, with pride, that Portland “still has a lot of small business” ‚Äì and that Portland business has not been taken over lock, stock, and barrel by chain store operations or other out-of-city firms. Many cities, he warned, have lost a lot of their local business.

But, he added, the region is becoming more prosperous but the City of Portland has not.

He reported that 34,000 businesses paid $31.1 million in license fees in 2004, the last year for which figures are available. He estimated that the fees have yielded about $54 million this year, even though most businesses in Portland gross $200,000 a year or less.

Adams revealed that Oregon has the lowest state tax burden on business among the 50 states. But, Portland has the heaviest burden in the state, he added.

In the last five years the number of jobs in the region increased by 3.6 percent, but in the same time Portland lost 1.8 percent of its jobs, explained Adams. And, family incomes are slipping in Portland.

In Multnomah County as a whole, he said, 94 percent of businesses hire 50 workers or fewer; small business, taken as a whole, hires 125,000 workers.

Sam Adams told the group the purpose of is proposal was to fine-tune the city’s business tax system to make it “more fair”.

Adams tax fairness plan
The City Commissioner then shared five different ways the city’s Business License Fee (BLF) might be adjusted to make it “more fair”.

Regarding the difference between a fee and a tax, Adams said in passing, “A business fee is a tax, let’s face it.”

His proposal to “refine” the BLF would reduce the burden for more than 9,000 smaller city businesses; about 900 of the largest concerns would see their annual tax bill increase. Adams estimated that 59 percent of Portland business would benefit from his plan.

Adams said he wants the city council to raise the exemption below which no business tax is due from $25,000 a year to $50,000, and do it by the end of the year. And, he said, he wants to raise an exemption–the “Owner’s Compensation Deduction”–from $60,000 to $125,000 by the 2008 tax year. However, he does not ask for lower tax rates than the present 2.2 percent on net profit.

“We can help more by raising the owner’s exemption than by lowering the tax rate,” Adams explained.

Adams indicated that the license fee is not fairly applied, declaring that hundreds of businesses which gross more than $1 million a year pay only $100 in business tax. “Some of you are paying more than that, even though you don’t gross $1 million,” he said. “That is unfair.”

At the same time he quoted economists as estimating that eliminating the tax would add 1,500 jobs in five years.

Ken Turner, Governmental Affairs chair of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce commented, “There is fairness in [Adams’] plan.”

David Panichello, president of the Gateway Area Business association and owner of Opti-Con, suggested that stricter enforcement of the tax law is needed. But Adams said the city spends $1 million a year on enforcement and a study has found that it is about 98 percent effective.

Asks for business community support
Adams said he plans to take his plan before the City Council before the end of the year, perhaps early as the end of November. He hesitated to speculate regarding which council members might support his reform plan.

“If you agree the BLF needs reform, come down to City Hall when I present the plan, and show your support in person,” Adams urged the group. “It really does mean a lot when you come, either to testify, or just be there to show your support.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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