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Day: April 9, 2010

Health care costs

To the Editor:

I believe most Americans wanted lower cost for health care when they went to the polls in 2008. Unfortunately, all they got was a socialist health care plan with big profits for a few. When government takes money and service from someone and gives it to another, this is socialism. I don’t mind helping the poor and unfortunate but not to the extent of the new health bill. Putting an additional 36 million people into the health care system will certainly take service away from most of us. There is only so much medical care available in this country today and putting more people into the system without increasing providers is just plain crazy. Everyone but Congress knows there are not enough primary care doctors in this country and nothing has been done to address this problem. I believe the federal government should create and/or finance more medical schools and teaching hospitals around the country. There are plenty of qualified candidates for medical school but there is not enough capacity in the schools at present.

Making everyone buy health insurance will certainly raise premiums for everyone and this is good for the insurance industry. The insurance companies’ stock prices rose immediately after the health bill was signed. The lobbyists got their way again. I believe health insurance companies should be not-for-profit as they once were.

There are many good points in the new health care plan but it certainly does not reduce cost. One obvious way to reduce the overall health cost would have been to reduce the cost of drugs. The President and the Democrats did nothing to reduce this huge burden. The drug companies got what they wanted and we will continue to pay the highest prices in the world for the same drugs.

Making sensible limits on malpractice awards would have also reduced costs, even to a small degree. The lawyers are the big gainers here.

In life there are winner and losers. The new health bill demonstrated this clearly!

Bill Quinn
Keizer

Vote no on home charter measure

To the Editor:

Let us not fix what isn’t broke.  In my lifetime home rule charters have been referred to Marion County voters three times and all three times it was defeated.  The creators of measure 24-292 have brought this issue to voters because of differences in opinions on land use planning.

The real issue is control.  With three commissioners, each is elected by and is a representative for the entire county.  Proponents of Measure 24-292 have suggested that having five commissioners instead of three will allow the board to be more “collaborative.”  A glass of wine after work and private meetings behind closed doors two by two by two by two is not my idea of more “collaborative.”

You may remember this type of decision making happened with a rather large decision in Multnomah County.   The decision made by this type of back door “collaborative” system required by law the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  No notice.  No citizen testimony.   No public meetings.

This same type home charter process has Lane County, the proponents model  for success, in a lawsuit for breaking Oregon’s public meeting law.  This is not how Marion County does business.

Marion County Commissioner’s office has an administrative budget of $1.9 million.  Lane County Commissioner’s office has an administrative budget of    $3.1 million.  Saying that Measure 24-292 won’t cost tax payers more is a bad joke.

In a recessionary climate we need job creation and transparency in government.  The last thing we need is a law that protects secrecy and encourages back room deals.  We were smart enough to vote “no” the last three times this politically disguised collaborative system was proposed.  Let’s make sure we are smart enough to vote “no” again.

Robert Zielinski
Salem

Mission kitchen does saintly work

Just when you start thinking you might be a decent human being, you meet someone who’s really making a difference in the world.  While I take the neat and clean way of allotting a payroll deduction to different charities, this man gets messy and hot running the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) kitchen every day.

He probably doesn’t view himself as a saint, and he probably isn’t.  But he is there every day providing meals for hungry people.  Some of the people he feeds each day would frighten most of us, or, worse, be invisible to us.  He understands that some of his patrons won’t thank him, and might take his stuff if he leaves it lying around.  He warned us against careless placement of our valuables.  Still, he recognizes only their hunger, not their character flaws.

The kitchen manager and all his staff were gracious in the handling of volunteers.  They made us feel appreciated for helping, not shamed for missing the other 364 days.  Union Gospel Mission serves three meals a day year round.  Three hundred sixty five times three  equals 1,095 meals a year.  For the one meal we prepped and served, 60 or 70 dozen eggs were cracked, eight or 10 gallons of pancake batter mixed, four cases of sausage links cooked, many gallons of frozen juice mixed, buckets of coffee brewed, jugs of syrup decanted, the dining hall set up, and after the meal we cleaned up.  We volunteers then got to go home and the kitchen manager needed to start lunch.

I wonder if he has time to look at the news these days.  While he is the reliable last defense against people having nothing to eat, he could read stories about those who protest making health care available to more people.  If he doesn’t feel that food should be available to only those Americans with the mental, physical, moral, and financial capabilities to provide for themselves, seeing a doctor should not be different.  A homeless person needing medical care ends up at the emergency room anyway, but not before he is desperate.  Is that the best delivery system for medical care?

When scripture advises that the poor will always be with us, it does not suggest exhorting the value of hard work as the solution. If people are not condemned to hunger and cold for the sins of greed, lust, envy, wrath, and pride, then maybe we shouldn’t penalize them for the sin of sloth.

Laziness is not the primary cause of homelessness/poverty.  The Great Depression changed some American reality.  People with jobs and work ethics were left with nothing.  This led to the creation of Social Security and other safety nets.  Causes of today’s homelessness are lack of affordable housing, low pay, mental health problems, medical conditions, and drugs – problems that are societal as much as individual.

Churches have been in the news lately for abuse of children, medical neglect of children, and despicable demonstrations at the funerals of soldiers.  Churches might better focus on the real work that lies all around them – helping those who need help.

I’m certain that the UGM kitchen manager would not denigrate checkbook charity, and neither will I.  He knows better than anyone that what he does requires the continual purchase of a lot of groceries.  But it was good for me to get in there and see his world.  The real needs in America are pretty simple.

Don Vowell lives in Keizer.  He gets on his soapbox regularly in the Keizertimes.

Urban renewal and jobs

It is nice for cities to have  green parks with lots of amenities.  It is even nicer for cities to have jobs for its citizens.

That’s where the city council should be putting its focus—creating opportunities for jobs and recruiting businesses to Keizer that will offer living wage jobs.

Despite the cheers about 166,000 new jobs in the country, that pales compared to the more than 10 million lost since the recession began almost two years ago.  The fact that the stock market is flirting with 11,000 gives hope, but pales in comparison to the thousands of feet of empty retail and factory space.

Keizer does not exist in a vacuum.  Although our employment base is heavily weighted toward government jobs, more than 75 percent of our jobs are in the private sector.  Our local unemployment rate hovers around 10 percent and that number doesn’t reflect the underemployed and those who have dropped out of the job market all together.

The city should be focused on bringing to Keizer the kind of jobs that will support a households.  If that means that improving parks has to be put on the back burner for a while, so be it.

We are big boosters of Keizer’s parks and understand the role parks play in the livability of a community.  Funding everything that keeps Keizer’s quality of life at desired levels is the goal of most citizens.  These are extraordinary times and some choices must be made.  We opt for whatever will promote economic development now and create jobs.

There are some who are predicting a second wave of home foreclosures to hit sometime later this year.  On top of that are the looming troubles some economists are predicting for the commercial real estate sector. This is not good news for the country or for Keizer.

Buying land to add to Keizer Rapids Park is a great idea but the timing is not right.  If the economy was stronger we would be all for rushing to purchase the land to add to Keizer Rapids Park.  The property being considered for purchase is now priced at 40 percent off its top asking price; as they say, buy low, sell high. But that is still an outlay of more than $1 million.  We can think of better uses for that money in this economy.

The River Road Renaissance project is funded by urban renewal funds.  Creating attractive sidewalks is important, but in this climate urban renewal funds should be made available to loan to those River Road businesses and landowners who want to remodel their buildings and attract retail or office tenants.  The pay off of such a use of funds would be quicker than developing park land years in the future.

There is, of course, a chance that some other buyer can swoop in and purchase the land next to the Keizer Rapids Park.  Some say we should strike while the iron is hot.  That’s all good and fine but for now we need to focus on more immediate economic development.  And economic development means more jobs.

Parks are important to Keizer  residents and to us.  These times call for tough choices and that may include putting off adding to parks for a while.  If the trade off is more jobs, we’re for that.

—LAZ

Home rule charter debate Fri., April 16

A debate on the upcoming home rule charter referendum comes to Keizer at noon on Friday, April 16, at the Keizer Heritage Center.

Rick Stucky, a former Salem city councilor, will argue in favor of the charter, while Marion County Comissioner Janet Carlson will make the case against it.

Bruce Anderson of Northwest Natural will moderate the discussion. Attendees will have an opportunity to ask questions.

The event is sponsored by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce.

New sign coming up at Keizer Station

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Don’t panic when you see it – Keizer Station isn’t going anywhere.
But its sign is.

Donahue Schriber was approved for a building permit to construct a new tenant sign at Keizer Station. It will replace the current, large sign by Interstate 5. Building department documents indicate it will cost about $100,000 to build. [MAP: 1]

It’s expected to be up sometime in June, and the current one will be taken down around the end of May.

But the folks with Donahue Schriber – who bought most of Keizer Station’s Area A from Chuck Sides and Alan Roodhouse in late 2008 – think it will be worth it.

A new sign for Keizer Station will be built near the freeway, replacing the existing structure. Above is an architectural rendering. (submitted image)

“We’re limited on the signs we have out there today,” said Scott Lawrence, who is a vice president of construction for Donahue Schriber. “It’s basically maxed out. We felt a more conventional looking sign would allow us additional panels, hopefully to appease some restaurant users.

“Hopefully this will be a big trigger to entice some new clients,”he added.

It’s not going to be significantly bigger, but its format will allow lots more businesses to put their name up on the sign, increasing visibility, Lawrence said.

Jack Steinhauer, director of acquisitions and development, said the current sign has been “one of the biggest issues” between the tenants and the owners.

“It wasn’t all that visible, the gray on gray, and especially with days in Oregon normally being cloudy it sort of blended into the background,” Steinhauer said. “We were getting a lot of complaints about it.”

The move is part of an overall rebranding for the center, Steinhauer said. Over time, internal signage will also be part of the train theme chosen for the center, and kicked off with the addition of a 1904 Baldwin steam locomotive.

The locomotive is on permanent display at the shopping center after it was dropped in by crane last summer.

“The new signage program that we are installing ties into the rich train history and folklore that is known in the greater Keizer area,” said Audrey Yokota, director of marketing for Donahue Schriber. “It will have the new Keizer Station logo that you see at points throughout the shopping center on it.”

“We feel it will be a better look, especially at night,” Lawrence added.

Council wants to make it easier to lift building caps at Keizer Station, neighbors not happy

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

A move to simplify lifting building caps at Keizer Station was deferred after complaints from a group of residents concerned about neighborhood impact.

Councilors Monday night continued the public hearing until its next meeting on April 19, and some members indicated they might want to separate Area C building caps from the rest of the legislation. Councilors Brandon Smith and David McKane voted against continuing the hearing.

While no vote was taken, councilors may have an ordinance in front of them to confirm the changes at its next meeting.

A series of text amendments before the Keizer City Council on Monday night would have allowed the Council to more easily consider how allocated retail space in different Keizer Station areas could be shifted.

The entire development has a retail square footage cap of 975,000 square feet, spread throughout the four areas of Keizer Station. The text amendments would change the rules so that only a city council hearing would be required to change those allocations. Under current rules, the planning commission and city council both must hold public hearings.

The text amendments would also strengthen requirements for development in Areas B and C. It calls for moving a transit station planned for Keizer Station to Area B – which needs to happen before the transit district can build its location there, city staff said.

What had members of Keep Keizer Livable, a citizen group concentrated in the Chemawa Road NE area, concerned was the possibility of even more development in Area C, which is bounded by Chemawa Road NE to the west, a set of railroad tracks to the east and Lockhaven Drive NE to the north.

Graphic by Andrew Jackson

The group fought, and ultimately lost, a battle to keep a big-box retail store from being allowed to locate there. In 2008 the Council voted to raise the building cap there from 10,000 square feet to 135,000 square feet, with conditions that builders must develop some sort of mixed-use real estate there.

Community Development Director Nate Brown told the audience the primary intent behind softening the building cap requirements was to accommodate development in Area D, a portion of Keizer Station bordered by Interstate 5 to the east and Chemawa Road to the north. That area is currently jointly controlled by the Siletz and Grand Ronde tribes.

This was cold comfort to Jane Mulholland, a Keep Keizer Livable co-founder, as Smith found out when he asked Mulholland if she would be OK with a big-box store that was 1,000 square feet over the cap, at 136,000 square feet.

“You can bet I won’t want to go higher than that because I feel 135,000 would be incredibly intrusive to our neighborhood,” Mulholland said.

She also didn’t like the proposed process for changing the caps, noting that when the cap for Area C changed two years ago, city staff opted for a text amendment versus a codes amendment because it “was easier to pass.

“It feels like we’re moving in a direction where we have less and less control,” Mulholland said.

She was also upset about a lack of notice on the proceedings, saying that Keizer Station developers pledged to keep her group – founded to fight the changes in Area C – involved.

But she said she learned of this new process – just like two years ago – in a Keizertimes article.

She asked that the matter be deferred.

City Manager Chris Eppley said that, while there’s been preliminary conversations, they weren’t aware of intentions by Northwest National LLC or RPS Development – the two groups that control Area C – to submit a master plan in the very near future.

“We’re presuming before we see anything you’re going to see it first, or at least concurrently,” Eppley said.

Dave Bauer testified any possibility of lifting that 135,000 square foot cap would be unsettling to nearby neighbors.

Cathey Philbrick said it seemed Keep Keizer Livable was “cut off from the planning process.

“…We are depending on you – on the city council, the mayor and the planners – to be our advocate to protect us so that development doesn’t intrude … where it’s impacting the livability of our beautiful Keizer area,” Philbrick said. [MAP: 3]

In other business:

• Councilors voted to sell some land in Area B of Keizer Station to a private firm called RJMEW Investments, LLC. The stated intent is to build medical offices there on the corner of McLeod Lane and Lockhaven Drive.

Some of the funds will go into the street fund while another portion will go to the Urban Renewal Agency. Total sale price is about $1.4 million.

ATHLETE OF THE WEEK: Rachel Fast

R. Fast

A year of hard work is paying dividends for sprinter Rachel Fast of the McNary Lady Celts track team.

Against McKay on Wednesday, March 31, Rachel clocked a 13.1 to win the 100 meters. She also ran the first leg of the school’s winning 4X100 relay.

“Who was the biggest surprise of the meet?” asked McNary Coach Kelley Borrensen. “I’d have to say it was how well Rachel ran for this time of the year … She performed very well.”

Training contributed to Rachel’s showing.

“It’s not like she has fresh legs. She put a lot of time in this winter,” said Borrensen. “She’s been lifting hard and she’s been training hard. So she (won the race) on tired legs.”

“I think Rachel’s kind of seeing how much stronger she is,” added Borresen.

On a team loaded with senior talent, an improving Rachel Fast is a bonus.

– Lance Masterson

Students learn lessons helping others

By LANCE MASTERSON
Of the Keizertimes

Courtney Lutz knew she wanted to help others. She just didn’t know the best way to achieve her goal.

“My idea started out that I wanted to volunteer at the Humane Society ‘cause they accept volunteers,” said the seventh grader from Whiteaker Middle School. “But then my dad, he didn’t want to drive me out there, like every day. So he suggested the idea of collecting donation. I thought about it for a while. And I thought about a whole bunch of details and everything.”

These details included contacting neighbors for donations on the Humane Society’s behalf. Lutz then made a special delivery.

Humane Society staffers “were pretty excited because we didn’t call in earlier and tell them what we were doing,” said Lutz.

Volunteering is nothing new for the Lutz family. But this particular project was required by her school’s National Junior Honor Society (NJHS).

According to advisor Carolee Zavala, NJHS members must be in seventh or eighth grade, maintain no less than a 3.5 grade  point average and perform 10 hours of community service each semester.

Projects can be in the community or on campus. It’s not unusual, for example, for Honor students to be cleaning up the school’s courtyard.

Whiteaker Middle School student Courtney Lutz joins her peers in helping others.

Dalton Lindsey, 14, is an eighth grader and NJHS member,

“We went down to the homeless shelter and served Thanksgiving dinner,” said Lindsey. “We served about 200 people.”

By “we,” Lindsey meant his father Mike and his father’s fellow employees at Kettle Foods.

Lindsey also volunteers at Weddle Elementary School, local libraries and collects food donations in front of Albertson’s.

“I (volunteer) because I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Lindsey. “It helps people that don’t really have food and stuff. And I do it at places that a lot of people don’t want to volunteer. A lot of people don’t want to volunteer at libraries and shelve books.”

Lindsey noted he would perform community service even if it wasn’t required by the NJHS. But he believes the requirement sends a positive message to the community.

“It shows what responsible students that Whiteaker has and what we’re capable of doing,” said Lindsey.

Jacob Faatz and Zach Abbas found strength in numbers when it came to their project. They became partners.

“I initially wanted to volunteer at Marion-Polk Food Share,” said Faatz. “But the woman that we talked to suggested we do a food drive and we decided yes.”

The Food-Share supplied the school with three barrels, but it was Faatz and Abbas who supplied the idea.

“It was going to be a competition between sixth, seventh and eighth graders. Whichever class won got out of school five minutes early,” said Faatz.

A fair amount of planning was involved.

“We had to make sure our plan was okay with (Principal Laura Perez) and the teacher who directed these kind of things. There was a lot of communication back and forth between us and the lady at the Food Share and the principal, making sure we got all the details planned out,” said Abbas.

The food drive ran for almost two weeks and was held earlier this year. It raised  almost 700 pounds of food.

“My step-mom and dad own a truck and so we transported all the food to the Food Share. They were extremely grateful. They were amazed at the amount of food we brought in,” said Abbas.

The boys decided to hold the food drive after Christmas because that’s when donations to the Food Share decrease significantly.

Like Lutz and Lindsey, Faatz see the community service requirement as a positive.

“I think it’s a great idea because otherwise many people wouldn’t consider doing community service,” said Faatz, “except as maybe a chore or something. I think it’s a great idea because it helps people get up and help their community.”

Abbas called it a learning experience.

“I kind of learned that if feels really good to help people that are less fortunate than us,” added Abbas. “Like I said, I was amazed at the amount food that our school brought in.’

Relive Renaissance era with music

By LANCE MASTERSON
Of the Keizertimes

And now for something completely different.

That’s what the McNary Highlanders Classics choir will provide to those attending its first-ever “Knight of Song” set for Saturday, April 17.

“Not very many people listen to Renaissance (or madrigal) music. It’s something you don’t hear every day, unless you go to church and hear an old Renaissance piece, which is still rare to find,” said senior Renee Wolf of the Highlander Classics. “So it’s a lot of fun to hear something different, that you don’t usually hear every day.”

Madrigal music originated in medieval times and was extremely popular, especially  amongst the peasant class.

“They were easy songs and upbeat so that the peasants could learn them easily,” said choir member Jacob Cordie, a sophomore. “The peasants weren’t well educated. They were always learning songs by ear, not by music. They weren’t written out for them.”

“It’s like a lullaby for us,” said Kyle Kuhns, a junior member of the choir. “You don’t read music to sing them. You just pick it up. You learn them by ear.”

Which doesn’t mean the arrangements are uncomplicated or lacking in beauty.

“When you hear music today, it’s more like a solo line and then maybe some back up singers, you know, kind of doing oohs in the background,” said Wolf. “Renaissance music is different because it has a lot of different parts … Not only do you hear one voice, but your hear four voices, sometimes eight.”

Proceeds from the event will help the department purchase much-needed new robes.

While the robes aren’t quite as dated as the Renaissance songs themselves, neither are they new. Some robes were around in 1967, and it’s estimated it will cost almost $50,000 to replace them.

“We have duct tape hems. The zippers tear off. The colors are fading, and the stitching is coming undone,” said Kuhns. “We need new robes.”

Choir members said they have been practicing their music all year, in preparation for this unique event.

“It’s different because it’s focused all on Renaissance pieces instead of like maybe doing a gospel piece over here and a Baroque piece in the same set,” said Wolf. “We have to think what they used back then and put the musicality into that style of music.”

“A Knight of Song” is at the Renaissance Inn in Keizer. The silent auction begins at 5 p.m. with dinner following at 6 p.m.

Call 503-399-3233 for more information or to purchase tickets. [MAP: 11]