We call it “the blizzard that never came” ‚Äì but see why careless or unskillful drivers in the Wilkes area kept colliding with one another anyway ‚Ķ

With sleet falling at the Portland Airport Sheraton Hotel the night before, covering cars with a blanket of white, we guessed a blizzard was on the way on January 11.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Gazing out the back window of our office, it looked as if January 11 would bring Portland the promised, hoped-for, dreaded major winter storm. Thick fluffy flakes fell, then stuck to trees, sidewalks, and vehicles.

The forecast of an icy storm closed down Portland Public and Parkrose schools. However, although the morning freeze made driving to work dicey, it certainly didn’t shut down outer East Portland.

Shortly after that “high energy snow event”, as weather forecasters called it, the sun broke through the clouds as we looked out our office window.

Parents with school-age children scrambled to find childcare for their kids. But, the kids didn’t seem to mind at all having the day off.

“This is great,” said Kevin, a Sacramento School student, trying to slide down a small slope dusted with heavy, wet snow.

While many schools closed for the day, like Parkrose Sacramento School, the dire predictions didn’t phase David Douglas schools — they were open for education.

Overall, accidents were few across outer East Portland. PDOT trucks worked through the night spreading de-icer and sand in many of the traditional slick spots.

Vehicles zoomed along NE 148th Avenue, oblivious to treacherous patches of ice on the roadway just east of Glendoveer.

The main trouble spot was NE 148th Avenue in the Wilkes neighborhood. The combination of tall trees, shading the road, and the curves along the east end of Glendoveer became the main trouble spot for the day.

Even though the roadway had been sanded, the icy conditions–combined with fast, perhaps careless driving–caused one accident after another during the morning hours.

Upset that we’d witnessed the aftermath of her SUV smacking into this parked car, the out-of-control driver demanded we not photograph her.

The driver of a massive SUV looked upset when we came upon the accident scene at which it looked like she careened into a parked car. She wouldn’t tell us her name, nor permit us to photograph her nor her vehicle. “I was only going the speed limit,” she protested. “They should know better! These people shouldn’t park cars along the street when it’s icy.”

Later in the day, just blocks away, another SUV slid on a patch of ice on NE Halsey St., near 146th Ave., jumped the curb. and rolled on its side.

Lessons to learn
On days when the temperature dips below the freezing point, expect icy conditions on some roads ‚Äì especially if the pavement is shaded by tall trees during the day and can’t dry out.

And, in the case of that anonymous lady mentioned earlier, best not to park on the street when she and her SUV are fish-tailing by!

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Saying he “feels at home” in outer East Portland, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard pitches his “cell phone tax”, chides the PDC, and pumps the Water Bureau in his own unique way. Read here what he had to say ‚Ķ

Never shy to speak his mind, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard did so frankly, before members of the East Portland Chamber of Commerce last month.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Catching up to date with the East Portland Chamber of Commerce, they’ve been providing networking opportunities for businesspeople, endorsed the “Small Business Bill of Rights”, and held conversations with public officials.

Randy Leonard speaks out
During the holiday season, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard spent the time with East Portland Chamber of Commerce members at their weekly morning networking event. He candidly talked about his pet projects and city issues affecting East Portland businesspeople.

“Not only do I live close by,” Leonard began, “I also feel close to this chamber because I work with Ken Turner (Government Affairs chair for the Chamber) on the Small Business Council ‚Äì they meet in my office downtown.”

Enthused about bio-diesel
“Our country has energy problems,” Leonard stated. “I believe bio-diesel can solve those problems.”

Having talked with Eastern Oregon farmers, the city councilman asserted that Portland is poised and positioned to be a major hub for bio-diesel production and distribution. “We have the waterways to bring crops here. A production facility would create new jobs in our region.”

Changes in city government
Turning to the city’s management, Leonard said there has been a big change in how since Tom Potter became mayor. “We have a better atmosphere at City Hall. We have vigorous discussion; not so much disagreements, but honest, open discussions.”

Digging into the PDC
“In the past few months, I’ve focused on Portland Development Commission,” Leonard told the group.

“The PDC provides assets for the city to improve economic wealth for Portland. But they’ve forgotten their mission; they’ve lost their way. It seems is if they’ve lost sight that the PDC is a taxpayer-funded origination.”

Leonard said he believes the City Council is split, three to two, regarding holding PDC more accountable.

He brought up the SW 3rd Ave. and Oak (former Portland Police Bureau headquarters) transaction. “The PDC paid more than appraised value for the property; and then sank $500,000 to remediate it. Then, they came up with an appraisal showing it was worth a negative 2.7 million. The auditor said the PDC appraisal was a sham.”

While staff members might not consider Leonard’s attention helpful, “I’m helping them be more transparent,” he added.

Commissioner Leonard spoke with pride about the “new service attitude” at the Portland Water Bureau.

Water Bureau pride
“I was assigned the Portland Water Bureau 18 moths ago,” Leonard continued. “It is a wonderful city agency. This bureau got hung with the computer billing system, but it wasn’t their mess. There is a renewed spirit of service there.”

The commissioner also talked about his “Hydro-Park” project. “There are many parcels of water bureau property that are large expanses. Starting in Hazelwood, we took the fences down; moved in the East Portland Neighborhood Office.” Instead maintaining unused space, Leonard said they’re in the process of turning other properties into parks, community gardens, and walking trails.

Against city license fee changes without ‘cell tax’
Leonard said he was in favor of eliminating the current Business License Fee tax altogether. This would be possible, he proposed, if the city instituted a tax on cellular telephone service.

“Look, everyone hates taxes,” Leonard confided. “But Vancouver levies a 6% cell phone tax ‚Äì Seattle’s tax is at 22%. The fairest tax is one that touches everybody. Absent a tax like this, I can’t begin to gift away parts of the city’s revenue.”

Comments on the City Charter Review
For months, a “blue-ribbon panel” has met, at the mayor’s request, to review the Portland City Charter and make recommendations.

Asked for his comment on the results of the review, Leonard responded, “What disturbs me most is the recommendations [which the review contains, to] totally recreate the city’s structure ‚Äì change the very nature of our city government. Yet, it leaves the PDC pretty much unchanged. It doesn’t make sense.”

Meet Portland’s new Business Program Coordinator on January 17
City Commissioner Erik Sten was originally scheduled to speak to the Chamber members on January 17 at The Heights At Columbia Knoll.

Instead, members will hear from Christopher Hartye. He joined the Office of Neighborhood Involvement (ONI) as Business Program Coordinator on December 4th. Hartye is charged with working with business associations, chambers of commerce and other community-based organizations to provide a variety of services to the small business community, including technical assistance, leadership and organizational development training.

Plan now to meet Hartye, and the Chamber’s members, at their “Good Morning East Portland” networking meeting on January 17 from 7:30 to 9:00 a.m. Meetings are free, and guests are welcome. The Heights At Columbia Knoll is located at 8320 NE Sandy Blvd. For more information, see www.EastPortlandChamber.com or call (503) 788-8589.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Giving a novel twist to the City of Portland’s budgeting process, Commissioner Sam Adams talked with outer East Portland folks BEFORE the budget was set. Read this, and you’ll discover what he learned ¶

Saying he wanted to hear directly from outer East Portland citizens, Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams lets folks at the Parkrose forum speak their minds about roads, sewers, and the arts.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Most Portlanders complain that their government officials only listen to them after key decisions – like budgeting – have been made.

Not so with Portland City Commissioner Sam Adams.

Before the meeting, he told East Portland News Service, “I came here before I put together the budgets for the bureaus I oversee. The best time to get comment is before the budgets are finished, don’t you think?”

Folks from all over outer East Portland–about 60 in all–filled the Parkrose High School Community Room on January 4. Attendees identified themselves as being from the Parkrose, Argay, Hazelwood, Wilkes Community Group, Pleasant Valley, Lents, and Russell neighborhoods.

Meeting first of its kind
“As far as I know,” Adams began, “there hasn’t been a meeting like this held before. Outer East Portland is the newest part of the city. Many people here feel it has been treated with inequitably. I’m from North Portland, and I can tell you that people there don’t feel they’re getting fair share, either.”

Before the road, sewer and arts bureau chiefs made their presentation; Adams called for questions related to their services.

Show on the road(s)
After questions regarding transportation issues were recorded, Sue Keil, Director of Portland Office of Transportation, (PDOT) began her presentation. She detailed sources of the bureau’s revenues ‚Äì gas taxes and parking meter revenue. Then, Keil outlined projects being looked at for outer East Portland.

Sam Adams and PDOT’s Sue Keil take questions before talking about specific highway safety projects being considered for outer East Portland.

“Some of the most dangerous intersections are out here,” Keil told the audience. She said, statistically, the most deadly are at SE 96th Ave. at Foster Rd., SE Stark St. at 102nd Ave. and NE Glisan at the I-205 interchange.

“We’re considering installing ‘red-light cameras’. They don’t typically reduce the number of accidents. But they reduce the severity; especially for pedestrians,” Keil explained.

In all, PDOT plans to spend $250,000 to improve six outer East Portland intersections and roads.

Answering those who asked why more streets aren’t being paved and sidewalks installed, Adams told the group that PDOT prioritized available funds, focusing on the most dangerous intersections and roadways first. “Before now, the City Council has never invested this amount of money in intersections.”

Down the drain —  or not — in outer East Portland
“We take care of everything that falls out of the sky, or gets flushed drown the drain,” is how Bureau of Environmental Services manager Dean Marriott described his department’s responsibility. “We have an operating budget of almost $100 million per year. Most of the cost goes into operating our two waste water plants and 95 pumping stations located throughout Portland.”

Portland Bureau of Environmental Services manager Dean Marriott explains his agency’s budget.

Many questions posed regarded why outer East Portland residents were forced to pay “storm water remediation” charges when their rainwater runoff never enters the sewer system. “We paid to have our sewers installed; why don’t people in old Portland have to pay to fix theirs?” a neighbor asked.

Adams responded that the city chose to operate as single sewer agency. “There are benefits of economy over time.”

Adams went on to explain that there are 9,000 rainwater injection systems, known as “sumps”, all across the city. He added that federal regulators are concerned that the city sumps aren’t protecting groundwater from polluted rain runoff.

Pressed for details, Adams explained, “We’re retrofitting some sumps to catch brake dust, asbestos, and oils from vehicles. When you filter a sump, you have to maintain it. A sedimentation trap collects the dirt, keeping it out of the sump; and the groundwater.”

The bottom line is, Adams stated, that if all of outer East Portland’s sumps have to be retrofitted to meet federal government standards the cost will be borne by all residents across the city.

Adams listens to a forum participant as he expresses his concern about sewer costs in outer East Portland.

Marriott said East Portland initiatives to be funded include protecting wellheads, installing “green streets” program as streets are improved, sewer improvements along SE 92nd Ave. and Powell Blvd., the Lents sewer extension, and an extensive project along Johnson Creek.

“How many times have you seen Johnson Creek flood this year?” Adams asked. “It hasn’t. The BES has recreated the creek watershed.”

Marriott added, “We can’t keep Johnson Creek from flooding, but we’ve worked hard to reduce flooding. And, with the help of a $3 million grant from FEMA, we can do more.”

Arts and Culture in East Portland
Eloise Damrosch, Executive Director of the Regional Arts & Culture Council, started her presentation by asking, “What would it be like if there weren’t arts in the parks and schools?”

Regional Arts & Culture Council executive director Eloise Damrosch listens to a neighbor’s concern about arts spending in East Portland.

Damrosch explained how the RACC advocates for state and federal funding, distributes information about project, art jobs and programs, and gives out grants for art projects.

A handout provided by Damrosch detailed sixteen grants for East Portland projects. Sadly, listings for “Public Art in East Portland” detailed only five projects, some of them more than a decade old.

Adams’ analysis
After letting the commissioner and his staff have a few days to digest the information gleaned from Parkrose forum, we contacted Adams to find what he, and his bureau directors, learned.

About PDOT, the commissioner commented, “The residents of East Portland share my concern about the safety of the roads that they and their families travel on. I was pleased we recognized some of the same critical intersections; but most importantly I was glad to see that so many neighbors were engaged in the process, and that they care about their neighborhoods enough to advocate for safe streets and improvement of our transportation assets.”

Asked his thoughts regarding BES, Adams told us, “The city has a lot of work to do to repair the hurt feelings in the wake of decade-old decisions about sewer services out in East Portland. Many residents east of 82nd Ave. don’t feel they were given a fair shake when they were annexed into Portland and our sewer system. It is important that elected officials like me are out in the community being held accountable for the decisions that we make that affect the lives of our residents. I was pleased that people care about storm water management, and could hear that joining the system is better for the whole.

We asked Adams, “What is the most important feedback you gained from attendees regarding the RACC budget and programs?”

Adams responded, “We need to get information out into the communities about grant opportunities, so all of our lives can be enriched by art and culture. A society that fails to invest in its arts is a culture fails to invest in its future. I hear clearly that there is more opportunity for RACC to make a difference in East Portland.”

Commissioner Sam Adams talks with a neighbor at his Budget Forum held in Parkrose.

Overall, we asked, what specific effect will this meeting have on the budget process?

“We’ll take the specific ideas and concerns proposed by residents, and try to decide which projects deserve the most review and attention, and how we can work them into our budget. Obviously, we will have to address sewer rates, as a specific big issue coming out of this meeting, when it comes to budget hearings.”

Finally, we asked the Commissioner how he feels about the outcomes of the Parkrose meeting:

“I feel good about a few things coming out of this meeting. I was glad to see so many residents attend. The strong turnout affirmed for me that these town hall meetings are a good means by which to get the community together.

“Also, I was heartened to learn that neighborhood safety was such a key issue for community members. I feel so strongly about resident safety. I’m glad I was able to convey my dedication to work with this community in making it as safe as we can.”

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

This wreck looked pretty bad. Yet, everyone walked away from it …

Fortunately, a tree and the bushes slowed down this car enough so it didn’t quite get to the Centennial neighborhood Safeway store.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The police radio crackled, “car into a building on SE 162 east of Division”. Police and Portland Fire & Rescue were dispatched to the scene. We drove out to take a look.

It didn’t help that Jan. 8 was a heavily overcast day, and a heavy mist was falling. “It may have contributed to the accident,” the officer on scene told us.

A witness told us the curb-climbing car we found driven up the lawn and almost into the Safeway store had been northbound on SE 162nd Ave. “The green SUV was pulling out of the parking lot,” she said. “Somehow, it clipped the van, and skidded around.”

This van pulled out of the lot, a witness said and may have caused the accident.

Fortunately, no one was seriously injured in the incident.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

See why traffic cops gave nine East Portland drivers a “$242 reminder” to yield to pedestrians at intersections ‚Ķ

Ignoring traffic laws, drivers whiz past PDOT’s Sharon White. She’s working with Portland Police’s Traffic Division to make drivers more mindful about stopping for pedestrians along Portland’s third most dangerous avenue ‚Äì for those on foot.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Those who drive along SE 82nd Avenue of Roses often don’t pay attention to pedestrians. In fact, on December 27, we witnessed several occasions in which those on foot ‚Äì walking within marked lanes, with a green light ‚Äì almost became another accident statistic.

“We’re out here today along 82nd Ave., in front of Eastport Plaza,” Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Commander Marty Rowley told us, “doing crosswalk safety mission in conjunction with PDOT.”

Clint Lenard, safety chair for Lents Neighborhood Association, and Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Commander Marty Rowley, as well as Lents volunteers Judy and John Welch, observe the crosswalk enforcement action along Eastport Plaza on 82nd Avenue of Roses.

Asked why this location was chosen, Rowley responded, “Sharon White, from the Portland Office of Transportation, has been researching pedestrian safety issues. The intersection of SE 82nd Avenue and Holgate Boulevard has the third-highest rate of  pedestrian accidents in the entire city.”

Rowley said that while PDOT workers are looking at this east-side pedestrian danger zone from an engineering perspective, “We came out to help educate the public by doing law enforcement.”

Ready to write (tickets)
“Specifically,” said Rowley, “we’re doing crosswalk enforcement, and looking at other violations by vehicle drivers ‚Äì disobeying traffic lights or making improper turns. It isn’t just to write tickets that we do this. We use this as an educational tool.”

Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division officers are looking for drivers ‚Äì and pedestrians ‚Äì who don’t follow the street crossing laws.

Vehicle drivers weren’t the only people being issued citations or warnings while we watched.

“We don’t discriminate against vehicle drivers during these special enforcements,” the traffic bureau commander told us. “If pedestrians are crossing illegally, they will be given a citation. Jay-walking isn’t a ‘right’ in Portland, although some people behave that way.”

Police say this young lady, pushing a stroller containing a toddler, dashed across the busy intersection at SE 82nd at Holgate – against the light! Because of her dangerous behavior, she received a traffic citation.

The bottom line, Rowley instructed, is that the laws of physics apply, whether a pedestrian is in the right or not. “When a pedestrian gets hit, they don’t fare very well. Pedestrians have to accept some responsibility for their safety. Part of a pedestrian’s responsibility is to make sure it’s safe to cross a roadway when they leave a sidewalk.”

At a signalized intersection, a pedestrian has the right of way to walk when the ‘hand’ sign is on. If there isn’t a signal at a crossing, he added, the pedestrian can’t just step out in traffic and expect to be given the right-of-way.

Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division Officer Fort issues a citation for a driver who failed to stop for a pedestrian in the crosswalk ‚Äì she swerved around PDOT’s Sharon White and kept right on going.

28 actions taken in two hours
After working the intersection at SE Holgate Boulevard, the team moved to an unsignalized intersection in front of Eastport Plaza.

Sharon White, the PDOT researcher who identified the area as one of Portland’s most dangerous for walkers, took part in the enforcement action. Although she was dressed in a bright yellow rain slicker, cars and trucks simply whizzed past her.

Drivers who failed to yield for her were pulled over and issued a traffic citation carrying a $242 fine.

A total of 9 citations were issued for “Failure to Yield to a Pedestrian”, and the traffic cops wrote 19 more warning citations.

Did you know…?
At a signalized intersection, if the pedestrian is in the street, a driver must give pedestrians clearance of lane in which they’re traveling, plus six feet.

At unsignalized intersections, the pedestrian must first make sure it is safe to cross. Once a vehicle has stopped to allow them to cross, all other vehicles must also stop and let them cross, regardless of the lane, or direction of travel.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

Read this story to learn the first words spoken by Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler to a reporter, as he vows not to neglect East Portland …

Multnomah County Ted Wheeler, as he is sworn in by Tina Velasquez of SE Works. His wife and newborn child stand with him, at the podium at Parkrose High.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For the first time anyone can remember, newly elected and re-elected Multnomah County officials were sworn into office in outer East Portland.

Although there was little advance publicity, Parkrose High School was teeming with activity on January 2.

Well-wishers swirled throughout the Student Center, meeting and greeting Jeff Cogen, Multnomah County Commissioner, District 2; Bernie Giusto, Multnomah County Sheriff; LaVonne Griffin-Valade, Multnomah County Auditor; and, Ted Wheeler, Multnomah County Chair.

The swearing-in ceremony and reception began at 6:30 pm. In turn, four county officials were called to the podium to take the Multnomah County Oath of Service.

During the ceremony, Multnomah County Chair-elect, soon to be Chair Ted Wheeler reviews the notes for his prepared remarks while sitting with his wife and baby.

The former candidates thanked their supporters, related stories from their campaign, and promised to do their best for citizens of the county.

“This being my second time around, I get to offer a little advice,” quipped Sheriff Bernie Giusto, looking at the county’s new officers. “No matter what they tell you, this job isn’t really all that tough. I just make it look hard.”
County’s new boss speaks

After being sworn in, Multnomah County Chair Ted Wheeler said during prepared remarks, “People in the nation have lost confidence to solve problems. Without public confidence, we cannot raise the public funds necessary to support our infrastructure. Nor can we build the partnerships we’re going to need in order to make healthier and more productive communities. These are the hard facts.

“From this moment on, I’m taking ownership and responsibilities for these problems and challenges. My administration will be about offering specific solutions, and the leadership and conviction to implement them.”

Wheeler admonished citizens to not merely observe county government in action, but instead to get involved in the myriad of volunteer activities available throughout the county.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, the new county leaders – Chair Ted Wheeler, Commissioner Jeff Cogen, Auditor LaVonne Griffin-Valade, and Sheriff Bernie Giusto – share a light moment as they greet their electorate.

Chair’s first interview
Giving us his first interview as County Chair, we asked Wheeler why he selected Parkrose High School as the location for the ceremony.

“I thought it was very important that we pick a location that is central to the county,” Wheeler told us, “because there are people all throughout this county who are represented by the County Chair. I want to let people know I represent all of them.”

The new office-holders’ celebration included cake ‚Äì lots of cake!

We asked the new chair whether or not his representation will include the residents from Parkrose to Powell-Gilbert.

“I have spent enough time in outer East Portland,” he replied, “to know that people here feel neglected by local government. I’m going to make sure that, as we pursue policies, we’ll include input from people in East Portland.”

He paused for a moment, and added, “Quite frankly, I will be there personally in East Portland. They will not feel neglected under my administration.”

Multnomah County’s new boss greets well-wishers at the conclusion of the formal program.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

If you haven’t seen ‚Äì and heard ‚Äì this band, read this article and find out why you should look for their next performance ‚Ķ

Under the baton of co-conductor Fev Pratt, the Portland Metro Band starts off the second half of the evening’s program.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Many people love good, live, orchestral band music – but hate the high-ticket prices charged for downtown performances. Nor are they thrilled with fighting for a parking place, after battling traffic to get there.

But, the hundreds of folks who filled the Howard Horner Performing Arts Center at David Douglas High School a couple of weeks ago enthusiastically received the holiday performance of the Portland Metro Band.

The concert, co-directed by Jay Burchak and Fev Pratt, provided a full evening of musical entertainment, ranging from marches to rhapsodies, plus Christmas music.

Trumpet-soloing “Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas” are Jay Burchak, Mike Claritzio, and Larry Demas.

Started as the Milwaukie Elks Big Band, the Portland Metro Concert Band now numbers 45 musicians. The band includes amateurs, as well as musicians who play professionally. Members represent many fields of endeavor–including medicine, education, law enforcement, and computer programming.

All of the musicians and directors are volunteers. The band is a non-profit organization, and accepts donations at their concerts to defray their operating expenses.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

You might be surprised to see what happened on New Year’s Eve when we went on patrol with one of Portland Police Bureau’s finest ‚Ķ

Officer John Billard, a three-year veteran at Portland Police Bureau East Precinct, checks a driver’s identification and writes Traffic Safety Notice to a driver ‚Äì his first one for the new year ‚Äì in the early hours of 2007.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
To most people, New Year’s Eve is an occasion to go on the town, raise the roof and party heartily, or celebrate the New Year at home.

But to many service workers, including cops, the evening hours of December 31 are merely another scheduled working shift.

On the town, on patrol
Just before 10:00 p.m., we grab our camera bag and slide into the patrol car staffed by Officer John Billard, a three-year veteran of the Portland Police Bureau’s East Precinct.

This is the first time he’s pulled a New Year’s Eve shift, the officer tells us. “By all accounts, it will be like any of the other holidays. Some people will get a little drunk and goofy.”

Billard is assigned to patrol District 40. It’s comprised of the greater Parkrose area and part of the Gateway district. It runs from SE Stark St. north to NE Sandy Blvd.; from I-206 east to Gresham.

As we set out on patrol, our area is quiet. Radio calls are infrequent. We learn that, for years, Billard worked for Macy’s in Arizona, doing “loss prevention”. Impressed with his local cop’s professionalism, he decided to change profession and become a law enforcement officer when he moved to the Portland area.

Looking for trouble
“We’re focusing on SE 160th between Burnside and Stark St.,” Billard tells us. “There’s lots of criminal activity here.” We take a slow drive through several of the apartment complexes along the way.

A manager of one of the apartment buildings walks up to the car and greets officer Billard. “We’re watching a unit here,” the manager tells the officer, “I found out they’re friends of the occupants we kicked out last week. Thanks for coming by.”

We get a radio call and head north, responding to a “panic alarm” on NE 157th Ave. between NE Broadway and Schiller. Billard meets the homeowner who says he saw someone in his garage. Another officer arrives, and both cops carefully check the home and yard. “We didn’t find anything,” Billard says, as he “clears the call”. “But we’re here to serve.”

A young man is reported shooting a BB gun at passing vehicles from his balcony. It’s at the apartments we’d just visited at SE 160th and Burnside. After checking out the complaint, Billard reports, “There were conflicting stories. We didn’t find enough ‘probable cause’ to make an arrest.” Most likely, he adds, police presence was enough to get them to stop doing it, if they were.

After neighbors flag us down, reporting activity a closed business on NE Sandy Blvd. in Parkrose, Officer Billard does a “premise check” and finds all to be secure.

Hunt for a fugitive
It’s now 30 minutes ’till midnight. Billard says he’s looking for a fugitive. The patrol car’s computer shows the female fugitive’s credentials: Arrests for prostitution, drug distribution, mail theft, fraud ‚Äì this would be a good person to get off the street before the New Year starts, he says.

He’s joined by two additional officers along NE Fremont St. in Parkrose. “She ran out the back door and got away last night. We’ll see if we can pick her up tonight.” But, the woman isn’t at the residence tonight. “We’ll get her another night,” Billard says.

Fireworks at the midnight hour
Minutes tick by. It’s midnight. As the New Year arrives, fireworks light up the East Portland sky. Celebrants at NE 148 and Glisan appear to be careless with Roman Candles. Billard talks with them briefly, they agree to be more careful.

“Compared to any other weekend night,” Billard comments, “I’m surprised at how quiet it is.”

We drive past Gateway and Parkrose businesses, including the bingo hall on outer SE Stark Street – and observe that the parking lots are filled to capacity.

A headlight is out on a white Honda driving east on Stark St. “We’re tasked to stop all vehicles with equipment violations,” Billard stays. “It gives us the opportunity to check in on the driver. We write a warning ticket if they appear sober.” The driver, a waitress just off work at Hooters, does appear sober, Billard says.

Ready for action, but all is quiet
The madness and mayhem one might expect on the New Year’s Eve shift never materializes. We ask the officer if anything has surprised him since becoming a cop.

“People say this is ‘thankless’ job,” Billard replies. “But, I’ve been thanked by citizens countless times. Not that I’m doing this job to get praised; it is still nice to know that the good people in East Portland appreciate what I ‚Äì and all of our bureau ‚Äì do out here every day and night.”

The officer pauses and a small smile breaks across his face. “The other thing is, until you actually are on the job,” he says, “it doesn’t occur to you how widely varied are some people’s ‚Äì how should I put it ‚Äì level of personal hygiene. It was more than surprising. The smell wasn’t anything I was prepared for.”

Designated drivers prevent problems
We see the driver of a gold Camry pull in front of us from a side street as we make our way west on E. Burnside St. A tail light is out. Officer Billard “lights them up” with the patrol car’s brilliant blue and red flashing lights. The driver pulls into the parking lot of an apartment building. “Sometimes, drivers try to ditch us in a parking lot,” he says.

An equipment violation leads to this traffic stop. However, the “designated driver” was, indeed sober.

Billard returns to the patrol car with the identification of the three occupants. He queries the computer and finds, as they told him, the two male riders indeed live in the building. The female driver is sober. “She’s doing the right thing tonight, by being the designated driver for her friends.”

On into the early morning hours of January 1, we continue to monitor the local party spots.

In the parking lot of Boss Hogg’s on SE 102nd, we see one person taking the car keys of another. “We’ll get your car in the morning,” was the promise we hear being made. The drunken reveler wants to argue, but sees our police cruiser stopped across the street. He accepts the ride.

It’s well after 1 a.m. The streets of outer East Portland are empty.

Lights go out at residents and businesses across the district. No murders, fights, nor drunken wrecks take place on this watch. “There wasn’t a lot of action,” Billard says as he drops us off in the cold morning air, “but perhaps, because we were seen on patrol, we saved a life or two.”

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Officials say this serious accident could have been avoided …

The victim’s shoes were all that remained at the scene when a woman and baby were struck on New Year’s Eve crossing SE Foster Rd. west of SE 82nd Avenue of Roses.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
For all the partying going on across outer East Portland on New Year’s Eve, most folks here were behaving safely.

Early in the evening, however a woman and a baby were seriously injured when they were hit by a car about 8:00 p.m. on December 31.

Officials told us it looked as if the woman was crossing SE Foster Road, west of the SE 82nd Ave. of Roses intersection, not at the light. “We see many people jaywalking here, to avoid waking the few extra feet to cross at the light,” an officer said at the scene.

SE Foster Rd. was blocked for hours while the accident was investigated.

We were told the car’s driver immediately stopped and cooperated with officers.

The woman, carrying an eight-month old infant, was said to be dressed in dark colored clothing, making her difficult to see on the rain-coated street.

Police did not say if the driver of the car was facing any charges.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

They don’t know what started the fire ‚Äì but, thanks to quick response, residents and pets are safe ‚Ķ

After finding their way through thick smoke into the basement of this home, firefighters from four companies quickly extinguished the fire.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
An early afternoon house fire broke out January 4 and closed down NE 102nd Ave. at Fremont St. for several hours.

“I was just up the street, and saw a lot of smoke coming up,” is what next-door neighbor Tina tells us. “I thought it was from my house. By the time I got home, I could see it was my neighbor’s house.”

Fast fire response saves home, lives
Other neighbors say fire trucks were pulling up before they even knew there was a problem at the modest bungalow on the outer edge of the City of Maywood Park.

Crews from four engine companies and one truck company from Portland Fire & Rescue began fighting the fire.

“We’ve got a fire in a residence,” Portland Fire & Rescue’s Battalion Chief C2 Kevin Brosseau told us on scene. “It started in the basement. There were people at home when the fire broke out. But, the residents, and their pets, got out safely.”

While the Battalion Chief said fire damage was minimal, the smoke residue on the front windows indicates the residents have some cleanup work ahead of them.

The fire was difficult to reach, Brosseau said, because of the large amount of smoke they encountered. “A smoky, basement fire is always more challenging to fight.”

How the blaze started the fire is unknown, he said. “The cause is under investigation right now.”

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Take a look, and see the award-winning,
dazzling displays right here …

The home of Mark LaFerte, on NE Broadway St. in the Wilkes Community Group, took first place.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
The day before Christmas, judges combed the Wilkes neighborhood, in search of holiday-decorated homes.

According to Ross Monn, chair of Wilkes Community Group, the winner was Mark LaFerte for their home on NE Broadway St.

The Swanbergs won the second place with their classically-decorated home and yard.

Second place, Monn told us, went to the Jim Swanberg family on NE 150th Place.

Coming in third was the home of Connie and Frank Garwald, on NE San Rafael St. On the occasions we passed by their home, their decorations were turned off – but we could still see they put great effort into their display.

“What made this contest possible,” Monn said, “was the gracious contribution of US Bank’s 181/Glisan branch, which stepped up and provided the prize money.” The branch manager, Daniel Corcoran, told him they were glad to participate in this Wilkes tradition, and help the neighborhood, Monn related.

¬© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Usually, Mayor Tom Potter is called upon to speak when he appears at events throughout the city. But find out what he learned from his “10 Minutes with Tom” session in inner SE Portland ‚Ķ

Neighbor Thomas Walsh gets his “10 Minutes with Tom” Potter at the SMILE Station on November 18. He brought up noise in city parks, and encouraged the city to use ecological friendly products in city projects.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
Usually, when Mayor Tom Potter makes an appearance outside of City Hall, he makes a speech or proclamation. But, when he visited the SMILE Station on November 18, he was there to listen.

With a staff member at his side taking notes, Potter spent the morning in Sellwood giving area residents the chance to have “10 Minutes with Tom” to vent their concerns, make suggestions, or praise the city’s administration.

Mayor Potter, and his next citizen, Thomas Walsh, allowed us to check in and learn what he’d heard that he found interesting.

Community Center funding
“It is all interesting,” the Mayor began. “What I like about this is, I learn so much more about what is going on than I’d learn sitting behind my desk.

“One issue that has come up is about funding for the community center. A year or so ago, the City Council decided they’d like communities to provide more financial support for community centers.

“So, Sellwood has been struggling with that issue. They devised a couple of plans they wanted to talk about. One is to have the city provide an endowment for the center. It would draw the interest that could be used to offset the cost of the facility. Commissioner Saltzman and I will meet with some the representatives of the community to talk about it. I reminded them that if we do this for the SMILE Station, we’ll have to do it for all the community centers. That gets to be expensive.”

Focus on the Sellwood Bridge
“Another thing we’ve heard about is the Sellwood Bridge. As you know, the structure is slowly moving ‚Äì shifting ‚Äì and starting to have structural problems. It has to be replaced.

“With what it will be replaced is of great concern to this community. One of the things I’ve heard indicates much of the bridge’s traffic starts in Clackamas County, not Sellwood.

Neighbor fumes over odors
“There is an industrial site in Sellwood emitting some noxious fumes that a number of people in the neighborhood are concerned about. It’s making their eyes water.”

Their concern, he added, is there might be health hazards from the fumes. “We’ll be talking to the owners of the facility and see if there can be a cleaner on their exhaust system. If not we’ll try to work with DEQ to fix the problem.”

Neighbors tell Potter that out-of-town relatives said they couldn’t believe an ordinary citizen could talk with the mayor of a large city like they can here in Portland.

Says talk with mayor unique in big cities
Not all of what Mayor Potter said he heard was gripes or problems.

“A man came in with his son, this morning. They’d had a family council last night. They discussed what to talk with me about. A family member from Syracuse, NY was listening in, and commented that it was ‘interesting that out here on Portland, Oregon, that the mayor would meet with people’ to talk problems and issues they identified were important.”

As it turned out, the mayor related, this father and son were also worried about the future of the Sellwood Bridge. “They were also concerned about increasing traffic in their neighborhood. When the Springwater Corridor Trail was put in, it increased the bicycles in Sellwood. So, the conflict between bicycles and cars has increased. They’ve noticed near-accidents. Their request was to see if speed bumps or stop signs could help.”

With that, the mayor went “back to work”, listening to, and learning from, some of the people he governs.

© 2006-7 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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