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Month: April 2010

Public input on budget

The Keizer City Council and the Budget Committee have some tough decisions to make as the city’s annual budget is planned for 2010-11.

Just as tough as making the budget numbers work will be facing concerned, even angry, citizens who don’t want a police officer cut.  They also want to know how the city got into the financial pickle it is facing.

The Keizer residents who testify before the Budget Committee and the city council will want to be heard as they plead to save the budget items that are important to them.  The sense in Keizer is that everything should be done to keep the police deparmtent intact.

Police Chief H. Marc Adams spoke before the Keizer Rotary Club recently.  He told club members of the number of calls officers make each week, ranging from violent crimes to vandalism to property crimes.  He reminded the club that Keizer sits on the Interstate 5 drug route that runs from Mexico to Canada.  Fighting drugs is where the police department spends a lot of manpower and resources.

The fight against drugs is important but residents also want to be sure that a patrol car pulls up shortly after a 9-1-1 call.  It doesn’t matter if someone calls because of a noise, a suspicious person or an actual crime, Keizerites want the security a full-staffed police department offers.

That is why the council and the budget committee are facing a thankless job in May and June as they finalize the new fiscal year’s budget.

The budgeting process this year needs to include the city manager and the city council explaining the choices that need to be made.  Keizerites are a reasonable people and they will understand when the facts are laid in front of them.

One of the things people may not understand is how a city that has been touted as “pay as we go” finds itself in such a fiscal predicament.  They may not understand why Keizer city employees are not facing pay freezes, pay cuts or furlough days when many in the private and public sectors throughout the country have had to face.

Seventy-five percent of the city budget is earmarked for public safety (i.e., police), as it should.  Taxpayers and residents routinely rate public safety as one of the top issues in Keizer.  The budget committee and the city council need to listen to those testifying during the process.  Not everyone who is passionate about the city spending will testify during hearings on the budget; they will express their opinions to friends and neighbors.

To make the hearings go as smoothly as possible the council should enforce its own rule and limit a person’s testimony to the three minutes as stated in council rules.  More people will be able to testify and the hearings will move along.  Questions of residents should also be limited and comments about the pros or cons of an issue should be excised.

The budget process is a public process between the city council and the citizens they serve.  Let the people have their say, then clearly explain the reasons for the final council decisions.

—LAZ

Home charter has too many flaws

By ROSS DAY

Have you noticed all the campaign signs sprouting up around our town?  When we see the campaign signs everywhere, it means only one thing: there is an election coming up.  In fact, ballots should be in the mail and you should be receiving those ballots any day now.

I love looking at campaign signs to see what new and creative ideas candidates and their consultants have come up with.  Obviously, campaign signs all contain the same information: who to vote for and what office the person is running for (interesting side note: I actually saw an Anna Peterson For Mayor sign in Keizer – problem is, she is running for Mayor of Salem!)

There is one issue that will be on the Marion County ballot this May that has generated some interesting campaign signs: the proposed amendment to the Marion County Charter.

In case you are not aware, the proposed charter amendment would turn Marion County into what is called a “home rule” county, increase the number of county commissioners from three to five, and divide the county into separate county commissioner districts.

As it currently stands in Marion County, we elected each of our county commissioners on a county-wide vote.  The supporters of the charter amendment claim that dividing the county into commissioner districts will “give everyone a voice.”

This is a particularly confusing argument given the fact that everyone in Marion County has a voice right now in the selection of all the county commissioners.  Under the proposed charter amendment, the citizens of Marion County would only have a voice in selecting one county commissioner.  If anything, the proposed charter amendment would silence my voice.

I cannot understand for the life of me how anyone would think the proposed charter amendment would do anything but restrict the voices of the citizens of Marion County.

The fact is the proposed charter amendment has nothing to do with “giv[ing] everyone a voice.”  This amendment was sponsored by a small group of vocal citizens who are unhappy with the current makeup of the Marion County Commission.  The purpose of the proposed charter amendment is to break up the Marion County Commission to allow the commission to be overrun by certain special interest groups.

It is a classic “divide and conquer” strategy.

There are a number of other reasons why the proposed charter amendment deserves your ‘no’ vote, let me give you what I believe to be the top three.

First, by dividing the county into commissioner districts, Marion County will no longer have commissioners accountable to the voters of the entire county, but instead we will have five county commissioners, each with their own fiefdoms, each with loyalties to one part of the county, to the detriment of the rest of Marion County.

Second, the addition of two new county commissioners means the addition of new county staff at a time when Marion County is having budget difficulties.  The proposed charter amendment does not provide for additional funding for these new employees, which means taxes are either going to be raised or cuts to other county departments are going to be made.

Third, the proposed charter amendment will make the Marion County clerk extremely powerful because the county clerk is responsible for drawing the district lines for the five county commissioners.  The county clerk will have the opportunity to gerrymander the districts to benefit one particular special interest group.  Under the current system, there is no possibility of such gerrymandering.

In the interest of full disclosure you should know that my organization has come out in opposition (not surprising after you read this column) to the proposed charter amendment, while the Keizertimes has come out in support.

There is no compelling reason to change the Marion County Charter in such a drastic and inequitable manner.  Marion County’s government works just fine, represents the interests of all the citizens of Marion County, and is efficient in doing so.  The bottom line is the Marion County government is not broke.

And as the old saying goes:  if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Ross Day lives in Keizer.  He is executive director and general counsel for Common Sense Oregon.

IN THE RING: What do you think of Arizona’s new immigration law, and how should the federal government respond?

Each week the Keizertimes asks community leaders a question about current events.  To see more of this week’s answers or answers to past questions log onto www.keizertimes.com and click on In the Ring.

This week’s question: What do you think of Arizona’s new immigration law, and how should the federal government respond?

Roy Duncan, retired Oregon state analyst—

I am personally offended when our president, who practically rides a helicopter to his mailbox and has 24/7/365 protection, interjects his opinion into a state where government  is trying to deal with invading criminals bringing drugs in and killing citizens but he does nothing to deal with what, all agree, is a federal responsibility.

I would not suggest that every state enact draconian policies but Arizona is a sovereign state that, in absence of Washington D.C. fulfilling its responsibilities, is trying to solve problems.  When those elected to take care of this kind of business step up then Arizona might not find it necessary.

Vic Backlund, former state representative—

I think Arizona’s anti-immigration bill is a result of the federal government’s inability or unwillingness to do its rightful job of controlling the Arizona border.  The bill surely over-reacts and likely gives too much authority to the police to make determinations about illegals.

I think the governor of Arizona was under considerable pressure to sign the bill.  The Arizona governor is engaged in a primary fight and I have the feeling that she felt that if she did not sign the bill, she would lose the primary.  So, politics rules again.

The federal government has been remiss in its obligation to control the U.S. borders.  The federal government seems poised to try to deal with the issue, but I predict that nothing really serious will happen until after the November elections.  President Bush had a plan to deal with the issue, but his plan was rejected by the Congress.  Again, I feel that it was politics that dominated the issue.  Too many congressmen and senators were reluctant to support that bill because of the fear that they might not be re-elected if they supported it.

Stu Crosby, MultiTech Engineering —

I would hope every state would adopt the Arizona law or one very much like it. The issue is not about discrimination against the Mexican people, it is about control of a runaway problem. In the southeast it is Haitians and Cubans, in the southwest it is Mexicans and Chinese, for example. It is so attractive to come here for both people seeking a better life and the criminal to peddle his wares, especially the drug trade. The Arizona law is indeed a hard call but one that has to be made. Come here legally and earn your citizenship, you are very welcome.

Art Bobrowitz, Compass Rose Consulting—

The state of Arizona acted because the federal government did not. It would not surprise me if other states follow in Arizona’s foot steps. This is a no-win situation. I doubt the federal government will pass an immigration bill this year because it, too, will wind up in the court system. Besides, why pass a federal immigration bill in an election year when you can polarize the voting public with the issue?

One state had the courage to do what other national leaders could and probably will not do. The sad part is all sides will lose. We have people living and working in this country who are not United States citizens. They need and deserve an answer. I believe Arizona acted out of frustration. Is it good legislation? That will be up to history and the courts.

Arizona’s stand is a symptom of much larger issues. One state took action that represents a growing national concern regarding our borders. At least they did something. Someone once said there is no sin in failing. There is only sin in not trying.

Kimberly Strand, owner, Willamette Valley Real Estate—

Immigration is a tough issue when families are concerned. I do believe, If you want to come to America, do it legally and learn the language.  Speak English if you want to live here, read and write English if you want to live here.  We have made it too easy to welcome illegals to our country by assimilating the language into our daily lives.  Everywhere you go the signs, the directions and our class rooms are all in English and Spanish.  If it was harder for illegals to blend in it might not be so easy for them to get in and stay.  America was built on immigration, legal immigration.

Vowell should go to a Tea Party rally

To the Editor:

Don Vowell writes in the April 23 Keizertimes that the grassroots Tea Party is too filled with anger to suit his needs. He clearly has never been to a Tea Party rally and I would invite him to attend one and see what it is all about.

He would likely run into some of his neighbors there. I have been to every Tea Party rally ever held at the state capitol and I can tell you that I have read much angrier words in Mr. Vowell’s articles over the years that I have ever witnessed at a Tea Party rally.

I’m not saying Mr. Vowell wouldn’t feel out of place at a Tea Party rally, he might feel uneasy around such radicalism as shameless public prayer. He might not feel comfortable in the company of a few hundred people standing, hand over heart, to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Perhaps the thought of an American-loving amateur singing the National Anthem gives Mr. Vowell a pricky rash.

Mr. Vowell once wrote that if his child wanted to serve in the military, he didn’t feel he could support such a decision. So yes, Mr. Vowell might feel awkward surrounded by so many proud U.S. military veterans, each one sworn to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, with their service patches and embroidered hats displaying their pride of service and love of country. Sure, the Obama administration has labeled veterans as a possible terrorist threat, but you wouldn’t know it will all the friendly smiles and handshakes you get from these angry, dangerous militants.

Mr. Vowell would also be surprised to know the Tea Party and the Obama administration have something in common. Neither one has any leadership. With the Tea Party it is a feature, not a liability. There is no formal Tea Party organization, no membership dues, and no secret handshake. To “join” you only need to show up at a rally with a positive attitude. The one thing that everyone at a Tea Party rally has in common is they are all there hoping to make a change. I invite Mr. Vowell to come out to a Tea Party rally and talk with his neighbors and shake a veteran’s hand; they aren’t nearly as scary as he thinks and he might be surprised at what he learns. He may even make some friends.

My experience has been that people attend Tea Party rallies for a wide variety of reasons but in general they only want two things for the country they love so dearly: personal responsibility and government accountability. Radical thoughts indeed.

Bob Gallagher
Keizer

An urgent call to Keizer businesses

To the Editor:

Urgent call to all businesses:

Keizer sign laws are too stringent and in a tough economy things have got to change.

Businesses have a right to advertise the way they see fit.  If signs are professionally  made and not handwritten, they do look nice.

Local government has overstepped its bounds and are out of touch with local businesses.  When regulations affect our ability to earn a living, it’s gone too far.

As a former business owner and manager, I know how critical capitalizing on drive-by traffic is.  I am committed to the rights of the people and businesses.

In talking with local businesses, many have expressed their concerns and getting involved either in meetings or are willing to sign a petition.

You can help by coming to the Keizer City Council  meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, May 3 at the Civic Center.  You can also voice your concerns via email at [email protected] or by calling 503-390-0628.

Kim Lewis
Keizer

It’s time for a change in Marion County

To the Editor:

When a three-legged stool loses one of its supports, it becomes unstable and eventually will fall. That’s why voters should support Measure 24-292, establishing a non-partisan five member board of commissioners elected by district.

Ten years earlier in Marion County a three member county commission failed their citizens. Infighting led to bad decisions that produced a failed $30 million county building, economic failure at the Oregon Garden, inability to focus on community needs and instead focus turned inward on commissioner’s personality conflicts.

The voter’s pamphlet includes the full text of the proposed charter which establishes the framework for the election of a five member non-partisan commission. Other provisions are necessary for the county to continue to function as always.  Except for the elimination of the elected treasurer position to maintain cost neutrality, the electionand tenure of the other county elected officials remains  unchanged.

The latest 20 year population projection for Marion County is 410,000. Our budget is now $350 million. We are no longer the sleepy little county of 1982, but a growing and thriving county requiring a modern government. The time has come for a change and now is the time to do it. Vote “YES” on 24-292.

Roger Kaye
Turner

Woman injured after she falls off car hood

A 19-year-old woman was seriously injured last weekend after she fell off a vehicle hood, police believe.
Keizer Police responded to an injury accident in the 1700 block of Brian Court NE and found 19-year-old Melissa Lorenzo of Keizer “lying in the roadway with severe head trauma,” according to Keizer Police Sgt. David LeDay.
It is believed the victim was riding on the hood of a vehicle driven by Chieko Silem, 21, of Salem, and fell off while it “was reported to be traveling at relatively low speeds,” LeDay said. The victim fell and struck her head on the asphalt, LeDay reported.
Keizer Fire medics took the victim to Salem Hospital. Reports will be submitted to the Marion County District Attorney’s office for review once completed.

Testifying citizens call out councilors, mayor for calling out testifying citizens

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Councilors not only heard an earful about land use on Monday night.

They got admonished for their own alleged behavior.

Keizerite Dave Bauer, a former Salem-Keizer School Board member, said the council has a tendency to interrogate or even attack the views of residents testifying during public hearings.

“Often, it seems, a council member or the mayor has something to say to the citizen other than, ‘Thank you for their comments,’” Bauer said. “If the person is disagreeing with the council, the mayor or a councilor is always trying to justify their position on the topic.”

He called such behavior “a continuing practice of the council.”

Bauer also said “it’s not appropriate to embarrass a citizen” saying Mayor Lore Christopher “asked a citizen during a public hearing on text amendments for Keizer Station whether they thought buying property near Keizer Rapids Park was a good idea.

“This was nothing but a slap in the face to the citizen who first testified against the property option during the proper time,” Bauer said, saying Christopher was trying to “say the first guy didn’t know what he was talking about.”

Finally, Bauer said a councilor, who he didn’t name, “made (a) citizen act like he didn’t know what he was talking about” on an urban renewal issue.

Bauer, part of a family with deep community ties, has been rumored as a possible mayoral candidate in 2010, although the same was true in 2008 before he declined to run.

“When the council rebuts testimony, it appears to devalue our public,” Bauer said, “and it does not promote the respect our citizens deserve.”

Councilors didn’t reply at the time, but Christopher said the next day that Bauer has a “command and control” style rooted in his daily work at his family’s insurance company.

“It’s not people sitting down and collaboratively working together – his is control and command – ‘just shut up and listen to me,’”  I think our cpllaborative approach has really served us well. … Mr. Bauer has a very successful business in Salem … he doesn’t have to check with anyone to make decisions, but when you’re an elected official you have to dialogue.”

On issues of how they conduct themselves, councilors also heard from Kevin Hohnbaum, founder of Keep Keizer Livable. He said he has testified in front of city councils across the state, but has never seen a council operate “in the way that the city councilors can sometimes quiz the person who’s giving testimony and sometimes, from that perspective … it really seems like they’re coming at the testifier.”

Another request was to shorten the meetings. Joan Pauley asked that meetings be held to three hours or less, continuing them to a following date if more time is needed.

Firefighters draw up cooperation charter

By HERB SWETT
For the Keizertimes

A charter of cooperation, drawn up by a committee of firefighters, won unanimous approval from the directors of Marion County Fire District No. 1, the Turner Fire District and the Willamette Valley Fire and Rescue Authority (WVFRA) on Thursday, April 15, at the Turner Fire Station.

The committee, appointed partly by firefighters’ organizations and partly by fire board members in December 2009 in response to concerns over the WVFRA administration, worked on the charter with the guidance of Bob McCarthy, an organization development consultant. The charter is known as the WVFRA Way.

Its mission is “to support the viability of fire districts who positively impact their communities.”

It lists organizational values of integrity, honesty, attitude, accountability, trust, loyalty, respect, teamwork, a positive work environment, cooperation, commitment and preparedness.

It also lists principles of safety, communication, customer service, competency, financial integrity, relationships, fitness and hard work.

Calling the charter “a vision, a model, a framework,” McCarthy told the boards that it did not yet have “the structure to make it happen.”

However, he said the charter was the foundation necessary for the structure, which he said would be the next step. He told the directors and firefighters that they would have to keep the charter in mind constantly to maintain the structure.

The committee members, he said, did not arrive at the principles by simple majority votes but made sure each one was worded to have the general agreement of all the members.

The joint board meeting was preceded by a brief meeting of the Turner District board, at which Bob Palmer, a former volunteer firefighter for District No. 1, read the letter he had written to the District No. 1 board in March, urging that both fire districts “pay their respective fair share for the percentage of the benefits they receive.”

Where’s the Dalmatian at Keizer Fire Dist?

Ask us a question about just about anything and we’ll find the answer.

This week we’re mixing it up. Our publisher fired off the following missive to Jeff Cowan, chief of the Keizer Fire District.

“Dear Jeff,

I had a thought.  Why doesn’t the Keizer Fire District have a fire hall Dalmatian? Are there health regulations?  I know that other fire departments in the country have them.  Is it too much of a hassle?”

Jeff replied back:

“The original concept was the Dalmatian was an early version of the siren that ran ahead of the horse-drawn and with the uniqueness of the breed, everyone knew there was a fire.

“The list is long. But hassle is the short answer.

“The Dalmatian breed has two versions: mellow and neurotic.  So you have a 50/50 risk of biting a child. We would have to fund special insurance, vet bills, food, etc. without using tax dollars. Dogs also need a special restraint system.

“We frequently leave the station unattended if we are busy, so the dog’s needs may not always be met. The maintenance of the dog must be of the highest level, so a crewmember has to be assigned and we rotate.

“I have seen a successful program with a Dalmatian up north where the dog Blaze would stop, drop and roll for the kids and ride in the engine. That dog belonged to the public education specialist and went home with them.

“My focus is on the nature of our work and a lot of energy would be diverted to the maintenance of a fire house dog.  But I know there are folks that do.

“The best in the world is a Dalmatian volunteer that keeps the fire district mascot and brings them along on fire service community event days.  I’m not against the tradition.”