Learn how turning the calendar back 100 years at the Portland Water Bureau is part of Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard’s plan to shift this bureau’s focus from “water, and only water” to also being a land steward ‚Ķ

Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard tells Friends of Powell Butte why he’s adding bureaucracy within the Portland Water Bureau to insure its properties are maintained, or turned into parks.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton

Note to current and future mayors of Portland: If you want a Portland city bureau to eschew change and stay the same ‚Äì don’t put it in Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard’s portfolio.

Anyone who has had to deal with the Portland Water Bureau (PWB) in the past has probably come away with a bad taste in the mouth ‚Äì and it’s not caused by our tasty Bull Run water. A citizen requesting simple information might be told to file a Freedom of Information Request. At best, one would get a curt answer. In meetings, PWB representatives were said to be downright rude.

Last July, Portland City Commissioner Randy Leonard was assigned the PWB. Within months, heads rolled; only one top employee still works for the bureau. We caught up with Leonard as he met with the Friends of Powell Butte on April 20.

Leonard’s Powell Butte connection
Leonard told the Friends of his personal connection to Powell Butte – hiking, biking and enjoying the wonderful, unique view of the city it provides.

“I came to a meeting between Friends of Powell Butte and the Water Bureau about four years ago,” began Commissioner Leonard. “I came to listen to a proposal to put a filtration plant here on the Butte. It was a pivotal experience. I was far less than positively impressed with the attitude of those representing the bureau. This experience has never left me.”

He went on; saying he “got the angst many of you have felt, over the years, in that one, single meeting.” Leonard said he told Dan Saltzman, the city commissioner in charge of the Water Bureau at the time, “I will fight putting a filtration plant on Powell Butte. Put it anywhere between Bull Run and Portland ‚Äì but I’ll fight to keep it off the Butte.”

Change in the air – actually, water
Leonard said the PWB developed a culture that could be summarized as, “We deliver water, nothing else”.  But now, the bureau is broadening its scope and becoming more “user friendly” and accessible he asserted.

“I’ve instructed workers at the bureau to volunteer information when asked,” Leonard said. “There’s nothing to hide here. Make it easy for citizens.”

Harking back 100 years, Leonard said the PWB was then “a premier bureau of the city, building and operating fountains and parks on land it owned. Somehow, most of the burden of maintaining the lands and fountains has fallen on the Parks Bureau.”

Neighborhood office and “Hydro Park”
The first thing Leonard did when he was assigned the PWB was ask for a summary of property owned by the bureau.

Last fall, he offered the use of the underused former Hazelwood Water District office building to the East Portland Neighborhood Office. At the same time, Leonard proposed the city’s first “Hydro Park” at the Hazelwood site. “Why have this perfectly good building sit empty ‚Äì and the land be fenced off ‚Äì when we can put it go good use for East Portland neighbors?”

Leonard pointed that developing the Hazelwood property was the first time, in a century, that the PWB has developed land for public use and enjoyment. He added that other Hydro Parks are being considered on bureau owned property.

Leonard makes a point about how he manages the Water Bureau.

PWB: Maintain what you own
In every budget cycle, the Portland Parks Bureau struggles to for funds to maintain and improve parks. “The PWB owns Powell Butte,” questioned Leonard, “so why aren’t we maintaining it?”

Under the new plan, the Water Bureau will pick up the tab for maintenance of Powell Butte. No workers will be displaced, they will merely change bureaus. In some cases, the PWB will transfer funds to the Parks Bureau to fund maintenance of their properties.

Water Museum planned
The PWB is planning to build an interpretative center and a water museum on Powell Butte. “We are looking for something that connects Portlanders with their water system. We’ve lost a ‘connection’ what it really means to have Bull Run water. It was created by people with great foresight so long ago. It provides us with what many agree is the best municipal water supply in the world,” the commissioner stated.

Leonard was asked why he feels so strongly about having a “water museum” at Powell Butte.

“All of Portland’s main water supply flows through Powell Butte; this is the logical site,” Leonard explained. “But many people don’t understand why our water supply is unique and should be protected. There is constant pressure to log Bull Run and develop it or allow grazing. We need to remember why, from the days of Benjamin Harrison, that no humans, animals, or developments are allowed near Bull Run.”

Leonard went on, saying Portland needs a consistent water resources education program, and educational facility. “If we educate people about our water supply, we’ll have citizens in the future who will be willing to fight to keep Bull Run water intact.”

Asked about a proposed third dam on Bull Run, Leonard said he was against it. “Why destroy thousand-year-old trees to gain water we’ll sell to suburban communities? Do we really need the income so badly we’d be willing to potentially ruin this resource?”

Bureau budget items indicate changes ahead
The new PWB budget includes money to restore three worker cabins at Bull Run. Also, work may be done on the main building at historic Dodge Park. “120 years ago, the bureau managed its land, as well as supplied water. We’ve created a unit in the PWB that will manage the bureau’s property.”

Why create new positions in city government?

“The bureau owns hundreds of properties,” Leonard responded. “Commissioners come and go. So, we ‘institutionalized’ this change of policy by creating the new section. Tom Klutz is in charge. These workers understand their unit’s only function is to manage and develop open spaces.”

Additionally, the commissioner said they’ve added a staff position within the bureau to provide educational outreach.

© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News Click Here to read more East Portland News

High fashion in the ‘burbs? Read (and see photos) that explain why 27 young ladies dressed up in Roaring-20’s fashions ‚Äì and, why hundreds came to see them ‚Ķ

Posing in garments they created, 27 models (and students) in David Douglas High School’s Interior and Fashion Design department gather for a group photo after their first-ever fashion show and design display.

Photos and story by David F. Ashton

In high school, if you aren’t in team sports, theater or music, there is a good chance no one may ever see your accomplishments.

Trisha Fisher, Interior and Fashion Design teacher at David Douglas High School, decided her students deserved their moment in the spotlight.

The department’s first-ever fashion show and design display, they called “All Dolled Up” got underway on March 27 in the David Douglas High School South Cafeteria.

The room was transformed into a Roaring-20’s “speak-easy” ‚Äì but served age-appropriate beverages, of course.

“This is a fashion show put on by students in the Interior and Fashion Design program at David Douglas High School put together,” is what DDHS junior Lindsey Robretht told us. “It was inspired by fashions of the 1920s. The students voted on several ideas and chose this one.”

She said that each of the 27 models who participated either manufactured or tailored the garments they wore. “The best thing was working hard and seeing this come together. We all put in a lot of hours after school Ms. Fisher practically lived here helping us put program on.”

Jennifer Oliver, DDHS senior, and Lindsey Robretht, DDHS junior served as Mistresses of Ceremonies for the event. Here, they are presenting their instructor, Trisha Fisher with their gratitude and a beautiful bouquet.

Trisha Fisher, Interior and Fashion Design teacher at DDHS told us why she thought this event was important. “It gives them a chance to have a taste of the professional world. And, it helps them explore options for their careers in the future.”

Also on display were exhibits of interior designs. The students offered displays showing how furniture, materials and colors could blend in various themed rooms.

In addition to the fashion show, students exhibited their interior design portfolios at the event.

“This is the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of kids who, typically, don’t get recognized,” said DDHS principal, Randy Hutchinson. “It was put together through diligence on the students and their teachers.”

While this was the first time in the history of the school this kind of event was held, Hutchinson said, it was very well attended. “Perhaps some of the students were concerned about whether or not it would come off well. But, as you can see, the evening was a success. I’m very pleased and proud of what they have achieved. It was remarkable to see a full house. All around, this was a great success.”

© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News Click Here to read more East Portland News

While planting roses along the 82nd Avenue of Roses is a new event for many businesses and homes, learn which outer East Portland school has had this tradition since 1955‚ and why‚

Standing with her court, Jalah Reid, Jaimie Taber and Brittany Ades, Rose Festival Ambassador Katrina Holland poses for photos with the Royal Rosarians before planting a rose bush at Madison High School.

Photo and story by David F. Ashton

Seeing members of the Royal Rosarians in their dapper suits and jackets has become a more common site along 82nd Avenue of Roses these days.


Planting and maintaining roses along the storied 82nd Ave. of Roses are a part of the transformation‚ renaissance, if you will‚ of this thoroughfare.

But the planting ceremony, that took place on a sunny afternoon outside Madison High School on April 25, was different. It was an official part of the 2006 Portland Rose Festival.

“We’ve been doing this rose planting for the Rose Festival Court Ambassador since 1955,” is what the Prime Minister of the Royal Rosarians, Dennis Brookshire, told us.

Another rose bush is planted at Madison High.

“This predates the Avenue of Roses plantings,” Brookshire continued. “The principal of the high school, back then, was a Royal Rosarian and started the tradition.” If you haven’t noticed as you zip past the school, a large, circular rose garden is directly in front of the main building.

“But, today’s planting takes nothing away from the Avenue of Roses program. It’s terrific.” Brookshire reminded us that the Royal Rosarians lent their support when the group was proposing changing the name to 82nd Avenue of Roses before Portland City Council. “We were pleased to see it developed. We’re big supporters of it. This is an important aspect of the community.”

©2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

In a startling announcement, METRO, our “extra” government, said people should take old cans of paint, insecticide, and other household products classified as “hazardous” to a place of worship ‚Äì or a grade school! Read why ‚Ķ

If you don’t know where to take “hazardous household wastes” ‚Äì here is an event for you! Frankly, we’ve never been to the METRO Recycling Center, and have wondered how to safely dispose of some old house paint.

Free household hazardous waste collection events take place almost every weekend (except  Labor Day weekends).

These events will take place between from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., now through the through autumn months. The nice folks at METRO say these events are small, frequent and community-friendly.

By the way, churches aren’t the only location; if you are uncomfortable taking your hazardous waste to a church or school, you can visit the August event in the parking lot of the Parkrose K-Mart!

Oct. 6 – 7
12350 NE Sandy Blvd.

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

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

© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

The owners of Truax Builders supply watched their showroom burn to the ground. See how this family-owned company has bounced back …

After the Thanksgiving Day fire a couple of years ago, there wasn’t much left of the company, except a bit of the awning.

Standing in front of a case containing “accidental sculptures” —  aluminum extrusions that melted during the intense 2004 Thanksgiving Day blaze — Truax Builders Supply president Joe Sidey is company 11-year veteran, Dan Piluso.

Story and Photos by David F. Ashton

The last time we spoke with Joe Sidey was about a year-and-a-half ago, on the chilly Thanksgiving Day morning of 2004. We stood quietly together for a few minutes, looking at a huge pile of smoldering rubble – the remains of the family business he heads – Truax Builders Supply on SE Division St.

At that time, we asked Sidey if he wanted to share his thoughts. With wafts of smoke partially obscuring his face, he told us that, after all, the building was insured, and no one was injured. His concern was for his workers. “We’re a family company,” he said, “I hope we don’t have to lay off too many workers.”

Those who regularly drive outer SE Division Street have seen the rubble being removed and the ground being leveled. Eventually a concrete pad was poured, and a new building started taking shape.

Looking through the doors and windows manufactured and sold by Truax Builders Supply, company president Joe Sidey was proud to show off their new building during the reopening party.

Truax Grand Reopening
When we revisited the scene of that fire, this April 22, Sidey had a big smile on his face. “Welcome to our grand reopening,” he greeted us. “We’re having a celebration today to thank our customers ‚Äì and neighbors ‚Äì who stood with us while we rebuilt our building and our business.”

At the party, KXL Radio’s “Mister Barbeque” was grilling bison dogs, a coffee barista was making java drinks, and the staff was giving tours of the new building that serves as the headquarters for this family-owned business started in 1946.

Sidey, who said he married into the family, and then the company, is its president.

We reminded Sidey how his primary concern, the day of the fire, had been for his employees. “We had to let a couple of guys go,” he responded. “But, we were back in limited production within a week. And, we put our showroom in a modular building behind the burned building. We’ve staffed up again, and just hired another worker last month. I feel very good about this, indeed.”

Sidey added that working through the rebuilding process was difficult. “It has taken longer than anticipated. I was hoping to be completely rebuilt within a year. Maybe I was too optimistic.

“But look, a year and five months after the fire, we’re celebrating our reopening.”

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Read how this unique event in Lents brings more than 800 people to see all kinds of birds, and learn about them from their breeders

The Bird Festival has grown into a large, lively event. If you want to know about birds, from the small to the largest – people from all over the Pacific Northwest say this is the show to attend. Free admission and parking makes it easy for everyone to join in the fun.

Story & Photos by David F. Ashton

On April 8, breeders from across the Pacific Northwest, put on another Bird Festival event. This one attracted more than 800 visitors.

People who came said they were amazed to see the large variety of breeds being shown – many more than they typically find at other bird shows.

Kristin Stai shows off her Cockatoo named Playboy, a Cockatoo. “I’ve had him for about three years. He’s a great pet,” she told us. Stai said she came to the Bird Festival to see “The Bird Doctor”, Pam Burke.

All kinds of birds, from to large, talking macaws tiny, brightly-colored finches are the stars of the event.

“The breeders here are all so friendly,” commented Mary Singleton. “The variety of birds is great, but what makes this the best show I’ve been to is that the breeders will take time to talk with you.” She said a breeder with whom she was speaking didn’t have the exact bird she wanted. “Instead of just saying ‘sorry’ ‚Äì he introduced me to another breeder who had what I was looking for. This event was well worth the drive in from Beaverton.”

Guy Cone (seen here) and his wife, Judith, co-host this event, even though it requires them to close down their business ‚Äì Quality Cage Company ‚Äì to do so. “Breeders were looking for an east-side location for a show,” Guy said, “and we decided to help. It’s great fun; we really enjoy watching people learning about birds.”

The gray, rain-swept day didn’t keep people from seeing 22 breeders’ birds, including Finches, Ringnecks, Parakeets, Cockatiels, Canaries, Love Birds, Cockatoos, Macaws, African Greys and Quakers.

All this, and “The Bird Doctor”, too!
Veterinarian Pamela A. Burke is known in the greater Portland area as “The Bird Doctor”. From little tweety-birds to mighty Macaws, Burke’s passion is for winged creatures. Dr. Burke gave out free advice at the spring Bird Festival.

Asked why one should seek out a bird “specialist”, Burke told, “We’re like any medical specialist. Because I’ve spent my career caring for birds, I’m able to quickly diagnose problems and recommend treatments. Would you want horse vet trying to save your cat’s life?”

At the Bird Festival, Dr. Burke provided on-site avian clinic services like wing and nail trims, DNA sexing, and health certificates for a modest fee.

Johnnie Reinhart of Johnnie’s Jungle in Washougal, WA spent part of the day giving kids an up-close experience with some of her larger birds.

Fall Bird Fest scheduled for October 7

Come learn about a wide variety of birds from their breeders at the Fall Bird Festival on Saturday, October 7, 2006. Hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

This free show is being put on by the breeders in the warehouse of Quality Cage Co., 5942 SE 111th Ave., Portland, OR 97266. For more information about the fall show, call the company at (503) 762-2607, or watch www.BirdFest.net for more details.

© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Can’t sit still during an entire, long, drawn-out play? With one-act plays, the evening really moves along! Check out this festival of short plays, directed by David Douglas High seniors and acted by the school’s Thespian troop, on May 3 through 6 ‚Ķ

What’s up here? These students didn’t go nuts ‚Äì they’re working out their parts for their play, “A MAD CLASSIC”, written and directed by David Douglas students Mia Allen & Bryan Oliver. You can see it on stage on May 4 or 6.  David F. Ashton photo

By David F. Ashton

While taking photographs of students rehearsing, we ask about the topic of the one-act play, called “A MAD CLASSIC”, that takes stage on May 4 and 6 at David Douglas High School’s Horner Performing Arts Theater.  “Picture this,” says the play’s co-author and co-director, Bryan Allen, “Dick Tracy meets Tom & Jerry.” His partner, Mia Allen adds, “It is completely done in pantomime, there are no lines it in. The action carries the story.”

This is just one of eight short plays presented by the David Douglas High School Theatre Arts over two evenings, directed by the talented seniors, on May 3, 4, 5, and 6. Each play will be performed twice, on alternating nights.  The plays range from comedies, dramas, romance plays, murder mysteries and a pantomime.

Wednesday, May 3, and Friday, May 5
THE SANDBOX by Edward Albee, Directed by Brystan Strong, Music by Christopher Uehlein, Technical Direction by Adara Elliott, Matthew Dwyer.
DINNER WITH THE MACGUFFINS by Chris Sheppard & Jeff Grove, Directed by Jason Hiller & Lorena Pelayo, Technical Direction by David Tangen.
THE PATIENT by Agatha Christie, Directed by Jennifer Elliott, Technically Directed by: PJ Burks.
THE TWO HALVES OF ANDREW’S BRAIN by Alex Miceli, Directed by Caitlin Loughran & Amanda Naylor, Technical Direction by Matt Stevens.

Thursday, May 4 and Saturday, May 6
NO VACANCY written and directed by Theo Wilder, Technical Director, Brian Wagner.
SURE THING by David Ives, Directed by Jason McAnally, Technical Direction by Chris Beck.
PLEASE, NO FLOWERS by Joel Ensana, Directed by Natalie Raymond, Technical Direction by: Mandy Petrie
A MAD CLASSIC written and directed by Mia Allen & Bryan Oliver, Music composed by Mia Allen & Jeff Baumann, Technical Direction by Ryan Montgomery

Tickets are only $5 per night, but you may purchase tickets for both nights at the same time for only $6! That’s less than a dollar per play! Curtain time for all performances is 7:30 PM. Tickets will be available at the box office only on the dates of performance (no pre-sales or reservations).

If you have any questions about the One-Act Play Festival please call the David Douglas Box Office at (503) 261-8270.

© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

See what happens when two David Douglas High School seniors take charge of a project that brings out hundreds of kids to learn about the environment on Earth Day …

DDHS Seniors Sarah Wolff and Amanda Kraus organized this Earth Day educational outing for the district’s fourth-graders on April 21.

Story & Photos by David F. Ashton

Learning about bugs, weather, plants, and electric cars, 800 fourth-grade kids swirled, in orderly groups, around Lincoln Park, on SE Mill St., as they visited Earth Day learning stations.

The afternoon-long event on April 21 was planned and coordinated by David Douglas High School Seniors Sarah Wolff and Amanda Kraus. The students, from the Natural Resources CAM, took on this event as their Senior Venture Project.

“We’ve helped out in past years, as part of our classes,” said Kraus. “It seemed like a better Senior Project than just writing a paper.”

The two students said it was a lot of work to call the companies who presented the exhibits — like the electric and hybrid cars, and donated tents for use during the event.

“We also arranged for the student and adult volunteers to help out, work the stations and lead the kids,” Wolff told us. “We also go the David Douglas Soccer Club and Track students involved, setting up tents and helping out.”

Enjoying the fruits of their labors ‚Äì pizza from Bill Dayton’s Pizza Baron ‚Äì DDHS  Seniors Michael Wafford and Michael John said helping out with the Earth Day project was a fun way to earn school credits.

The importance of Earth Day

Asked why this annual observance is important, Wolff explained, “Children here come from diverse backgrounds. With an Earth Day program, we can help give them learn why protecting the environment is valuable. Personally, doing this is significant to me because I’m interested in preserving the environment, and I like being around kids.”

Helping the students were CAM teachers Katey Meza and Heather DeSanto.

As each school came to visit, the young students were treated to storytelling by Margaret “Lorax” Eng. Booths and presentations from the MESD Outdoor School, Johnson Creek Watershed Council, Oregon Green Schools, METRO, PGE, and others were part of the celebration.

As she headed into the park to check on a group’s progress, Kraus added, “I’ve always been involved in camps, and how to take care of the environment. It feels good to pass on this knowledge to the kids.”

Judging from the smiles and looks of wonder on the faces on the fourth-graders, the day was both fun and educational for them.

© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Years ago, Dan Graham had a dream – to create a school that trained people for the construction trade. See how his dream became a reality on April 17

Hundreds turned out for the opening ceremonies of a college dedicated to teaching people building skills.

Story and Photos by David F. Ashton

How do you build things ‚Äì bridges, homes, office buildings and supporting infrastructure like water, sewer and electric power ‚Äì if there’s a shortage of trained workers?

The President of the new construction college, Dan Graham, speaks at the ceremony marking the opening of the new school in Parkrose.

More than three years ago, Dan Graham, then Director of Workforce at Associated General Contractors (AGC), had an idea. “It seemed logical,” Graham said, “to bring together the diverse training programs operated by the construction and contracting groups under one roof.” Through Graham’s efforts, the Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland, the Associated Builders and Contractors, and the National Utility Contractors Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington joined with AGC to start a comprehensive “building arts school” in Parkrose called Northwest College of Construction (NWCC).

On April 17, NWCC officially opened its doors. About two hundred people attended the grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony.

Representatives of Associated Builders and Contractors, Northwest Chapter; Oregon-Columbia Chapter; Home Builders Association of Metropolitan Portland; and the National Utility Contractors Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington join Dan Graham, president of the new Northwest College of Construction at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Officials speak

Speaking on behalf of the National Utility Contractors Association of Oregon and Southwest Washington, Bill Martinak of Emery & Sons told the gathering, “Training our future workforce is not only a local, but also national concern for all construction industries. We are extremely excited to have this college in place to help with training. No one will do this for us. If we don’t step up and put something like this college in place, no one will do it for us.”

Talking about AGC’s role, the organization’s vice president, Todd Hess, told the gathering, “Workforce development is one of our greatest needs. This school fills that need. AGC contributed a lot to this program, including giving up training director, Dan Graham, to make this happen. Dan showed how it would help us all to have a combined training program.”

In an exclusive interview after the ribbon cutting ceremony, Graham told us, “The most important thing about this day is how such a diverse industry to agree to work together to make this happen. It took a lot of work by a lot of people to make this day possible. I’m so glad we were able to make this happen.”

Partnering with local schools

This college plans to expand beyond its walls, according to Graham. “Schools in Portland Public, Parkrose, and David Douglas districts have expressed interest in having a building arts program partnership with us,” he told us. Additionally, NWCC is creating partnerships with education-to-work services like SE Works.

Community training available

If an individual wants to learn basic constructions skills, he or she should check out NWCC’s community educational programs, said the school’s director of employment services, Guy Crawford. “Whether you want a career in construction, or just want to learn how to build a deck on your home ‚Äì you can learn it here at NWCC.”

Learn while you earn

“NWCC brings together many apprentice programs under one roof,” Crawford added. “Anyone who wants to work and learn can get into our work/study programs.” Often, he said, students will work on a jobsite during the day, and take classes in the evening.

The NWCC campus is located at 8111 NE Holman St. The easiest way to get there is by going north from Columbia Blvd. on Holman ‚Äì the “access road” that runs on the west side of NE 82nd Ave. Learn more: Call the school at (503) 256-7300, or see www.nwcc.cubemanagement.com for more information.

¬© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

While the TV cameras rolled at PDX and the downtown post offices, see why hundreds of people were thrilled they could drop off their tax return in outer East Portland …

All smiles ‚Äì People dropping off their income tax returns, just before midnight, were smiling because they were relieved to have their taxes done. And postal workers who stayed up late ‚Äì like Laurie Harms seen here in this photo ‚Äì seemed happy to provide late-night service on April 17. David F. Ashton photo

By David F. Ashton

Near midnight, things normally are pretty quiet around Eastport Plaza. Typically, the only vehicles seen driving into the venerated shopping center, on 82nd Avenue of Roses, are hitting the late-night drive-through windows of Burger King, Taco Bell, or Jack in the Box.

But, on April 17, there was a steady flow of vehicles parading past a tent set up in the middle of the street outside the shopping center’s US Post Office. This was one of the few places in the city where tardy tax-payers could drop off their income tax returns right up to midnight ‚Äì and still get it postmarked on time.

Each of the patrons with whom we spoke was tickled. “This is great! I don’t even have to get out of my car,” said Elaine Hinkley. Then she begged, “Don’t take a picture of me. I’m in my pajamas and housecoat!”

By the time we arrived, their large hamper was filling up with envelopes addressed to the IRS, State of Oregon, Multnomah County, and City of Portland.

“This is fun,” postal worker Laurie Harms told us. “The best part is being able to help people who waited until the last minute to get their taxes done. We’re out here to provide customer service.”

She, and her postal partners, said people are so glad they happy to find “drive through” service at Eastport Plaza, “they give us cookies and other treats. And, it is our pleasure to be of service!”

© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Learn how NOT to get swindled: East Portland auctioneer Robert W. Mathisen is said to have stolen more than $1 million in goods and cash. Even worse, he robbed a community of trust …

Looking at a doll that was part of a truckload of merchandise Portland Police say was stolen ‚Äì then taken to Chicago ‚Äì is NRT Officer Michele Michaels, with its owner, West Coast Antiques’ Ann Smith. David F. Ashton photo

By David F. Ashton

Members of Portland’s antique and collectables community were shocked in late 2004 to find the Southeast Portland building, home of Robert W. Mathisen’s Professional Auction Group, empty.

When Mathisen and his wife, Ginger, left town, they not only took money owed to collectors and ordinary people who had consigned their valuables for him to sell – but also, a truck full of valuable antiques and collectables.

These valuables came from estate sales and collectors throughout East Portland.

The police had originally advised victims to “write off” their losses. But, when Sgt. Dave Anderson assigned East Precinct officers Michele Michaels and Sheri Davis to the case in 2005, the mystery of the Mathisens’ disappearance slowly began to unravel.

“What kept this investigation alive, Michaels told us, “was that each person we talked to gave us another person to speak with. Many of the victims know one another, in the antique and auction community.”

Son gives up parents

The case broke open when they convinced one of Mathisens’ sons, living in Chicago, to talk. The break came just in time ‚Äì most of the goods were about to be auctioned off in the Windy City.

Anderson, Michaels, and Davis flew to Chicago–packed up the goods–and trucked them back to Portland. The merchandise was put on display at East Precinct in late April, so victims could come and identify their treasures.

“Not only did Mathisen take off with their valuables and money,” Michaels told us, “he took away a piece of their life. The people he cheated gathered at his auction house every week or so. They enjoyed each other’s company; it was like a family. In addition to stealing their valuables and money, Mathisen stole their ability to trust.”

Reunited with lost treasures

Ann Smith of West Coast Antiques was at East Precinct when we arrived. Opening an antique case belonging to Smith and her husband Leonard, she said, “This is one of several dolls we had consigned to Mathisen.”

Smith recounted how their relationship soured, as Mathisen became slow to pay after goods were auctioned. “Finally he stopped paying at all,” Smith continued. “So, we stopped giving him goods to consign.” The final straw, she added, was when two checks Mathisen gave her bounced because he had stopped payment on them.

Officers who helped crack the case, Sheri Davis and Michele Michaels, stand in the East Precinct Community Room – then resembling a showroom at a high-end auction house, laden with merchandise they say auctioneer Robert Mathisen took with him after he disappeared in 2004. David F. Ashton photo

Learn not to be cheated

Michaels told us, “The people who got taken told us, ‘Gosh, I feel so silly, so dumb.’ Or, ‘I wish I’d checked them out better.’ But remember, con artists do what they do well ‚Äì this is what makes them successful.”

How can you protect yourself?

“Listen to your small inner voice,” Michaels said. “If you get the feeling like something isn’t right ‚Äì beware. If someone tells you, ‘please don’t cash this check until next week”, this is a bad sign. Ask around. If you’re putting something on consignment, ask your friends what they know about a particular dealer. Try out an auction house first with smaller, less valuable things.”

Both officers Michaels and Davis said they’d wished they could have collared the Mathisens in Chicago; the slippery couple escaped. “But isn’t it wonderful seeing the smiles on people’s faces who are reunited with their treasures?” Michael’s asked, looking around the room.

© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

Find out why, even though Rossi Farms is usually closed this time of year ‚Äì and it was raining sideways ‚Äì the Farm was packed with families on April 15 …

Sponsors Joe and Nick Rossi take a moment for a photo before the big Rossi Easter Egg Hunt gets under way on April 15. David F. Ashton photo

By David F. Ashton

As their ground rests, awaiting the spring planting, Rossi Farms on NE 122nd Ave. is usually closed this time of year.

But on the afternoon of April 15, families from all over outer NE Portland came streaming in to the location for Rossi brothers’ Second Annual Easter Egg Hunt.

After Joe cuts the ribbon, hundreds of excited kids discover they don’t have to look very hard to find goodies by the handful. David F. Ashton photo

“We have about 8,000 eggs and treats out this year,” Joe Rossi told us. It looks like we have doubled the attendance from last year.”

Ten employees helped get the eggs ready for the free family event.

All over the Rossi Wild West set, eggs are hidden for the little kids to find. They’re off and running!. David F. Ashton photo

Why does Joe, and his brother, Nick, put this on?

“It is a way to give back to the community,” Joe told us. “And, it is fun. We have such a great time watching kids grab up the Easter eggs. They’re like a giant vacuum cleaner ‚Äì the treats are gone in less than five minutes!”

Tim Curran, publisher, MID COUNTY MEMO getting some cute photos for his next issue. David F. Ashton photo

© 2006 David F. Ashton ~ East PDX News

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