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Month: September 2010

Keizer man arrested on kidnapping, sodomy charges

Michael S. James
Michael S. James

A Keizer man faces kidnapping, sodomy and sex abuse charges after his arrest Wednesday afternoon.

The investigation stemmed from a Sunday incident at the suspect’s home in Keizer involving a 32-year-old woman who does not live with him, according to Oregon State Police. The two-day investigation resulted in the suspect’s arrest.

Arrested was Michael Scott James, 45, for first-degree kidnapping, attempted sodomy and sex abuse. James is a training and development specialist for the Department of Public Safety Standards and Training (DPSST) in its Private Investigator/Private Security program. James will be placed on administrative leave by the agency, according to DPSST Director Eriks Gabliks.

Schrader looks back on first term, ponders work yet to be done

Kurt Schrader

While the race for Oregon’s 5th District Congressional seat is generally considered the federal race to watch here in the Beaver State, freshman Democratic Rep. Kurt Schrader feels good about his accomplishments in his first two years in Congress.

The congressman, who faces Oregon House Rep. Scott Bruun in November’s midterms, recently had a wide-ranging conversation with the Keizertimes on issues from Afghanistan to unemployment and government spending.

Q: About a year ago you told us you wanted to “evaluate” progress in Afghanistan a year from then. What are your thoughts now?

A: “Well, there hasn’t been any progress. It’s been very clear there’s an extremely corrupt regime. … Karzai’s got to get his act together. There’s still no political unity. … You can’t even call it a nation with various tribes fighting among themselves. The intelligence agencies in Pakistan still collaborate with the Taliban … basically none of the conditions laid out by Congress when we approved the first supplement have been met … It’s time to bring our men and women home and fight the war on terror where it is, and it’s not in Afghanistan.”

“The other thing, the biggest threat to our nation, … is the economy. We’ve got to make sure the men and women coming home have jobs and can repair their lives.”

“Once you’re in the conflict there are those who would like to see Afghanistan turned into a wonderful, democratic country where everything is peaceful and wonderful. If you look at history I don’t see where any outside nation has been able to encourage Afghanistan to accomplish that goal. … We’re having enough trouble doing that with Iraq, with the religious and tribal differences… Alexander the Great couldn’t do it. Russia couldn’t do it. The United Kingdom couldn’t do it … I think we’re reliving the 1960s and 1970s and I would hope we’d learn something from that era.

Q: There has been initial talk on Capitol Hill of extending unemployment benefits beyond 99 weeks. Thoughts?

A: “I’d have to look at that carefully. We’ll see where we are with the economy in November. I think it would be premature to extend unemployment beyond 99 weeks at this time.”

Q: What effects of the health care bill will your constituents start to see soon? What have they already seen?

A: “We’re seeing young people under 26 able to get health care. … Under new plans, the pre-existing conditions is not an automatic termination for you, you’re not one illness away from destitution. I think that’s really important. The high-risk pool is already helping Oregonians … we’re already doing a lot of these things. Some of the money and programs coming from the federal government we’re already doing so we can move our precious tax dollars to help with the budget problems we talked about earlier.”

Q: Is Defense Secretary Gates on the right track with his proposed cuts?

A: “I think it’s appropriate. I think one of the key things to let people know is, for the first time in my lifetime, I see a president and Congress proposing a budget that spends less than it did a few years ago … We’re increasing spending for education and research and reducing other discretionary programs in this recession … We’ve got to make sure the troops have their money, the (Department of Veterans Affairs) has their money  – we’ve increased both of those areas – but contracting is rife with excesses that shouldn’t be there, as is weapons procurement. Only in Congress could you be developing two engines for the same plane and call that saving money. … The Department of Defense is going to share the same reductions as the rest of the federal government.”

Q: So give us your pitch on why voters in the 5th District should send you back to Congress in November.

A: “My pitch is it’s certainly a lot better than it was a year and a half ago when we were losing 700,000 jobs a month … We were headed to a Great Depression. Your 401k was disappearing before your jobs. I’m not going to pull any punches. It’s going to be a slow slog back. … I’m proud of the work I’ve personally done for Oregon to make sure the pain … is going to be as little as possible. I’m proud of protecting unemployed Oregonians. I’m proud of standing up for our children and seniors … both from the recovery bill and my more recent bill a year ago. I’m very happy with the work my small business committee has done … we were able to jump the loan volume in the Small Business Administration almost 90 percent. We need to reinvigorate that with more money … My attention has been in bringing jobs home to Oregon. I can’t help everyone as soon as I would like, but Newport has the NOAA fleet, largely due to help from my office. … Salem and Keizer are getting the employment center built out as a result of the infrastructure dollars I brought home the past two years – the Mill Creek Employment Center – both in transportation and infrastructure. … And I’ve increased the research dollars for OSU and OHSU to keep jobs, build innovation, and, I think, make Oregon a center of the new economy we’re going to have going forward. I believe I’ve delivered on a lot of different levels. And that’s why you want to re-elect me.”

Q: Do you find the atmosphere in Washington D.C. to be as partisan as it’s often depicted?

A: “Oh boy. On one level, yes. The politics, sometimes, trump common sense and good policy. But I will say on a personal level, generally speaking, the men and women get along pretty well.”

Q: What are your thoughts on the New York City mosque issue?

A: “I think that’s an issue in search of a problem. Right now we should be focused on the economy and jobs. I can’t believe that’s gotten the notoriety it has. Thank goodness people seem to be exercising common sense.”

Q: Progress has been reported in the transfer of power from North Korean ruler Kim Jong Il to his son Kim Jong Un; how do events of recent months affect American interests and security there?

A: “I think it’s still a very heightened concern in the Korean peninsula. He does not appear to be any more stable than the father. I worry very, very much about that region and how it could affect our allies and our own trading interests over there.”

Q: What was it like presiding over the House when Anthony Weiner went off on the 9/11 responders bill? (Editor’s note: Google “Anthony Weiner goes off” to see the video.)

A: “That was a little surreal. I hadn’t quite expected him to go off like that. But Rep. (Peter) King had gotten a little animated, shall we say, just before that. And Mr. Weiner was responding to that. I had to gavel both of them down more or less successfully. They did both go over their time a little bit. Both were out of order. But this is a very emotional issue. … Taking care of the first responders to the 9/11 site is pretty emotional for New York and New Jersey, so I allowed them a little discretion I thought that was appropriate given the circumstances. The parliamentarian said I did a good job.”

Keizerite finds fulfillment, and a living, in Saudi Arabia

Deborah and Tom Hogan on the third floor of a Starbucks in Khobar, Saudi Arabia. Hogan has worked there as a contractor and with Saudi Aramco, while Deborah worked for the U.S. Department of State. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Welcome to Saudi Arabia.

Tom Hogan, a Keizerite who spent much of the 1980s training employees at Saudi Aramco – the state owned oil company that is also the world’s largest – had gone back to Khobar, S.A., as a contractor in May of 2004.

Two days after his arrival, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the Oasis Compound just miles from where Hogan was living, along with buildings for two oil companies. The compound was primarily housing for foreign workers.

In total, 19 people were killed in the attacks, including two children after someone fired into a school bus.

“My wife was still back in the States,” Hogan explained. “She got up the morning after the attack and reads that about Khobar. She was scheduled to come over in August. Of course, she has no idea that I’m in the Aramco compound. And everything is safe.”

It might have scared off a first-time employee – and indeed, several companies pulled their foreign workers out of Khobar after the tragedy. But Hogan has spent enough time there to have a little more perspective.

He worked from 1981-88 for Aramco, coming home when it was time for his youngest daughter to attend high school. His two sons attended prep school for their high school years in Minnesota, where Hogan grew up.

Hogan moved to Oregon in 1977 to attend Oregon State University’s leadership development program. He worked at Linn-Benton Community College as director of co-op work experience.

His world changed forever on a convention trip to California in 1979.

Aramco was recruiting at the conference, and met with Hogan and a colleague.

They had breakfast, and Hogan had two questions: “Where is Saudi Arabia and what does Aramco do?”
Must have been a good breakfast – they were both offered jobs. His colleague was overseas in four months. It took Hogan a year and a half to decide to go.

The money helped – Americans offered a chance to work abroad are often pretty well-compensated, and Saudi tax laws at the time were beneficial to foreign workers. But more than that, it was the chance for him and his kids to experience another culture.

“But when people work overseas, it’s not, ‘Yeah, the money’s great so let’s go,’” Hogan said. “You’re in another culture, even though you’re supported by the Western culture within the compound. You have to understand their culture is predominant over your culture.”

For sure, Hogan wasn’t in Oregon anymore. Alcohol is outright banned in the Saudi kingdom, which is predominately Muslim. Women cannot drive, much less vote, and must dress very modestly. Most wore an abaya – a robe-like dress that covers everything but the hands, face and feet.

“Some people say they have to cover their face – no, not Western women,” Hogan said.

Stores close five times a day for prayers – even if there are customers there.

His wife Deborah, who worked for the U.S. State Department while with Hogan in Saudi Arabia for a time in the 2000s, said no car of her own was the hardest part. There were taxis – or convincing Tom to take her somewhere – but driving in Saudi Arabia is not for the faint of heart.

“The drivers over there aren’t really good,” Deborah said.

Tom elaborated.

“It’s all-about-me kind of driving,” Hogan said. “You have to be very careful – you may be going straight, someone’s in the far right lane and they make a left turn in front of you. I’ve been there 13 years and never had an accident. But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to it.”

If you want a drink head to Bahrain, a small island kingdom in the Persian Gulf. When Hogan was there in the early 1980s getting there required a boat or plane, but a causeway opened in 1986 allows more or less free movement to the island. The atmosphere there is a bit more liberal – meaning you could actually buy a beer.

Some, particularly in the 1980s due to closer relations with Iraq, would smuggle in alcohol. Or you could try some homemade “wine” made right in Saudi Arabia.

“It’s not French wine, it’s not Oregon wine,” Hogan said. “It’s a makeshift, make-believe wine. Because what they do is they take a grape juice, a dark or white, and put yeast in it. Then they let it ferment for a while, and it becomes alcoholic in some way.”

That said, “Saudi Arabia is the last place you want to go if you’re trying to become less dependent on alcohol.”

As different as the nation is from Western culture, Hogan said the Saudi population “has a great love for Americans.” The difference between the country in the 1980s and today, purely in terms of modernization, is vast.

“Roads were much better, and many high-rise buildings made it almost unrecognizable,” Tom said.

His job is conducted in English; Hogan said he picked up basic greetings and niceties in Arabic, but doesn’t know the language.

When he was living there in the 80s he usually came back to the States for a month or two each year. His employer the second go-round only paid for return plane tickets as far as London.

Some might consider it an inconvenience. Hogan took it as an opportunity, having his now-grown children, or his wife, meet him in London, or Amsterdam, or Vienna.

“Just in the six years we’ve been to Greece four times – to Crete, to Athens three times,” Tom said. “Of course we’ve been to Bahrain many times, we’ve been to Dubai – that’s where they have the beautiful, indoor ski slope.”

Deborah, who called working for the State Department “interesting and fulfilling” – including assisting in planning for official visits from then-Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice – loved the traveling they got to do throughout the world. But Saudi Arabia – which has some, but not all, of the modern amenities we take for granted – has its own charms.

“Because there weren’t all of those modern distractions, it sort of forced you to sit back and do quiet things like reading, watching movies, taking walks around the compound – just enjoying the simple things,” Deborah said.

The physical distance remains the same, but Skype and Vonage – video and phone chat – has lessened the emotional gap between family back home.

“Not to be a commercial for Skype, but it’s a wonderful thing when you’re away from your family,” he said.

His three children attended school through ninth grade in Saudi Arabia.

“It was a great experience for them,” Tom said. “It also taught them responsibility.”

Deborah has been back since 2008, working for Scio Telephone. Tom is in town for a leave, but returns for a few months before his retirement at the end of this year.

New eatery offers homemade Asian fare at a nice price

Owner Pk Yi, his wife Morkath Hach and her brother Sopheak operate Mekong Asian Take-Out. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

A new Asian takeout restaurant offers a variety of homemade sauces and more at their location behind the 76 station in north Keizer. [MAP: 1]

The owner is Pk Yi, who moved with his family from Cambodia when he was a child, arriving in Springfield and graduating high school in Alaska.

His wife, Morkath Hach, is the inspiration behind the food. She had worked in the restaurant industry in Cambodia, so it seemed a natural fit to open their own business here in Keizer.

One of the restaurant’s specialties is its barbecue pork bao, a variation on the traditional bao. It’s a steamed roll with a barbecued pork filling.

“The egg rolls we make ourselves,” Yi added. “A lot of other restaurants buy those from vendors.”

The menu also has Pad thai with chicken, beef or shrimp. Other options include a variety of fried or steamed rice dishes. The steamed rice is available with pineapple chicken, spicy Penang chicken, basil chicken, beef or chicken with a spicy lemongrass flavor, flaming wok chicken and veggie stir fry, available with chicken, beef or pork.

Other house-made specialties include the teriyaki pork over rice, which includes a sweet and sour sauce made at the restaurant. Their peanut sauce is homemade.

Yi said favorites so far among customers are the chow mein and the beef pad thai.

Plus, he said, “our prices are definitely competitive.”

Yi’s backstory is almost as interesting as the food. Having emigrated with his family from Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge’s reign of terror, his family was sponsored by a Presbyterian church here in the states, and they lived in Springfield, Ore. upon his arrival in the United States.

Yi moved with his father when he got a job in Alaska, attending high school in Petersurg, Ak., a small town in the southeast portion of the state.

He returned to Oregon after graduation, he said, “because I like Oregon. The weather is definitely a lot nicer here than in Alaska.”

He attended Oregon State University “until I ran out of money” and later became a cook there. In fact, he still works there while the restaurant is getting off the ground.

He met his wife through his mother in what was more or less an arranged marriage.

Yi described traveling to Cambodia to meet Morkath Hach – spending about four hours with her, then they wed the next day in an elaborate Cambodian ceremony.

He said arranged marriage is fairly common in Cambodia, but having lived in the States for most of his life he was a bit skeptical at first.

“But I decided to take a chance – and I’m pretty happy,”  he said with a smile.

And with the recipes from their homeland, they started a restaurant.

——-

Mekong Asian Take-Out
Location: 5151 River Road N.
Phone: (503) 991-5503
Hours: Mon. through Sat. 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Closed Sunday.

A perilous intersection, but what’s the solution?

Above, the intersection of Wheatland and Brooklake roads, just more than a mile north of the Keizer city limits. It has claimed four lives since 2000, leading some to question what can be done to make it safer. (Photo Illustration by Andrew Jackson of the Keizertimes)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

Four people have died in separate incidents at the intersection of Wheatland Road and Brooklake Road just north of Keizer since 2000, according to state records.

The deceptively quiet intersection, where Brooklake’s west end forms a T-junction with Wheatland Road, is on three sides a fairly typical quasi-rural intersection, with homes and a filbert orchard on the east side of Wheatland Road.
But where Brooklake Road ends – an unforgiving drop into a ravine on the west side of Wheatland Road. There’s no guardrail or other barriers there; only a yellow sign with arrows pointing left and right, indicating the road is ending. Miss that stop sign, and chances are the vehicle’s occupants are in trouble.

Causes vary – Some were speeding, alcohol was involved in others, and for some there’s not an easy explanation.

What they do have in common: All were single-vehicle accidents, all ended off-road and all involved striking a fixed object, such as a sign or a tree.

News reports from accidents in 2006, 2009 and the most recent incident showed vehicles traveling down the embankment on the west side of Wheatland Road.

It should be noted that statistics provided by the Oregon Department of Transportation went back to 1985, and showed no accidents from 1985-1998.

“There was one in 2000, then four years later, then five years later you’ve got one in 2009,” said Kelly Hawley, a crash analyst for the Oregon Department of Transportation.

“This one has had problems over the years, but it’s been real sporadic,” said Cynthia Schmitt, a transportation engineer for Marion County.

The agency doesn’t yet have data for 2010 thus far, which included a fatal accident last week that killed 53-year-old Jeff Weathers of Gervais.

The Marion County Sheriff’s Office believes Weathers was driving westbound on Brooklake when he missed a stop sign and traveled down the ravine, lodging his 1992 Toyota Tacoma in a tree. No skid marks were spotted on scene by authorities or by a Keizertimes reporter.

Police aren’t sure why Weathers apparently missed the stop sign – there were no signs of drugs or alcohol and he had lived in the area for years, according to Marion County Sheriff’s spokesman Don Thomson. An autopsy is forthcoming.

When the Keizertimes posted news of Weathers’ death on its website, several commenters spoke up about the intersection’s safety. Concerns are twofold: How to make drivers aware of the upcoming stop sign, and what can be done to keep drivers who do miss the sign from plunging into the ravine on the west side of Wheatland Road.

As one approaches the intersection from the east there’s a sign indicating a stop sign ahead, followed shortly by the intersection itself. On the west end of the intersection there’s the aforementioned yellow double-arrowed sign.

Schmitt said the county has already made changes that make the upcoming stop sign more apparent.

“We have an oversize stop sign … guide signing and warning arrows on the far side of the intersection,” Schmitt said, adding the county upgraded to a different type of sheet metal that reflects more light.

Rumble strips – commonly seen on the side of Interstate highways to give drifting drivers a jolt – could be used to make drivers more aware of an upcoming intersection. But Schmitt said those can create their own problems.

“Rumble strips are good if people aren’t noticing the signs for some reason,” Schmitt said. “They also have a problem where people swing around them.”

Also an issue with nearby homes is the noise when cars drive over them – they’re called “rumble” strips for a reason.

“We still may try those out there, but they generate a lot of complaints because they’re fairly noisy, and generate complaints about head-on collisions because people swing around them instead of going through them,” Schmitt said.

And guardrails, Schmitt said, are more designed for deflecting traffic at a parallel angle than absorbing a head-on collision.

“They can actually increase the severity of the crash … because in this case anyone who runs off the road is going to hit it at a right angle,” Schmitt said. “They can’t take that kind of a hit.”

Alternatives to guardrails can include water or sand-filled barrels designed to absorb the energy of a hard impact. But Schmitt said there isn’t enough room on the shoulder to install them.

“Those would be the types of devices you would need to go to,” Schmitt said. “The problem is there’s no room.”

The primary complaints Schmitt hears about that intersection have to do with light getting into drivers’ eyes in the late afternoon. Through a gap in the trees, one can see all the way to the hills of west Salem when approaching the intersection, causing significant sunlight as the sun sets in the west.

“There’s an opening in the trees there and there’s no background …  so there’s kind of a gap in the trees there,” Schmitt said. “We just don’t have any way to combat the sun issue.”

“What we have to do is get it so people don’t miss that stop sign, or whatever is causing them to go through the end there.”

Celt gridders host undefeated Bruins

Celt quarterback Kyle Ismay looks for a receiver during McNary’s game with Gresham High School. Ismay passed for 306 yards on the way to a 31-13 win. Photo courtesy of Richard Schacht (www.fourseasonsphotography.com)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Judged solely by their 3-0 record, Barlow High School will likely be the toughest opponent McNary High School’s varsity football team will face yet this season.

But an unblemished record didn’t seem to concern the Celts or their head coach.

“They are a running and short screen passing game team. We need to learn to read and take care of it,” said Tim McDowell, a McNary senior. “They like to run inside, move their line around, pull their guards and that’s stuff we just need to step up and take care of.”

Progress from last week’s game will be key, added Head Coach Rick Ward.

“Barlow is probably a little better team than Gresham. If we keep moving forward we should be all right,” he said. The Celts beat Gresham 31-13 last week.

McNary hosts Barlow at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 24.

The Bruins dominated McMinnville High School 41-6, doubled North Salem High School’s effort for a 32-14 win, and eked out a 26-21 win over Clackamas High School.

While the team might rely on short screen passes, it hasn’t stopped Bruin quarterback Campbell Summerfield from tossing for more than two consecutive games of at least 125 yards, with a 185-yard showing on 15-23 against Clackamas last week.

On the Celtic side of the ball, the Bruins will have to contend with senior Kyle Ismay who doled out 306 passing yards in the team’s game with Gresham last week.

“[Barlow is] a pressure defense with seven to eight guys in the box and they’ll try to cover our guys man-to-man outside,” Ward said. “We’ll need to get our athletes out in space against that. If we can force them into a cover 3 where they’re playing off and playing soft, we’ll be able to get them to do whatever we want.”

Defensively the Celts will be looking to shut down wide receivers Nick Bieber and rusher Tanner Dillon. Bieber carried or caught every touchdown in the team’s outing against Clackmas, but Dillion captured the most territory, 145 yards on 20 carries.

“We look at [Barlow] like we do every game, we don’t look past any team and we take every game one step at a time,” said Mike Gerasimenko.

The 2-1 Celtics entered the season as the underdogs on the Central Valley Conference, but have surprised many with their showing in the past two games with Newberg and Gresham. It’s a shot in the arm that has Gerasimenko thinking about what the future might hold.

“We going to make it to the playoffs for sure, and we’re going to give the teams in our conference a run for their money,” he said.

County needs to act

For the fourth time since 2000 a driver was killed in an accident at the intersection of Wheatland Road and Brooklake Road just north of Keizer.

On Thursday, Sept. 16, Jeff Weathers’ vehicle crashed over the steep embankment on the west side of the T intersection.  Local citizens have expressed concern over that junction for years.   Some cite a lack of a strong barrier, such a guard rail, to keep drivers from overshooting Wheatland Road and crashing down the incline.  Others cite the need for better signage.

Four deaths in 10 years at the same location is four too many.  The public expects their governments to make public roads as safe as possible; Marion County’s public works deparmtnet needs to address this location.

At least the county needs to erect a guard rail on the west side of Wheatland Road at Brooklake Road along with a large yellow and black striped barrier.   A guard rail itself won’t stop accidents there but it will stop cars from careening over the embankment.

Beside a guard rail the Marion County needs to update road signs on Brooklake Road approaching Wheatland Road.  Currently there is a stop ahead sign but additional signage needs to be erected.  A big road ends ahead sign will alert the most distracted driver to what’s ahead.  The speed limit on the final half mile of the west end of Brooklake Road should also be lowed matched with reduced speed zone signs. The best solution is to erect a flashing yellow light for all three directions.

In an interview, Cynthia Schmitt, a transportation engineer for the county, said that ‘rumble’ strips have been contemplated but they cause some motorists to drive around them; and the noise of tires going over the strips is annoying to residents in the immediate vicinity.  Rumble strips are effective whether is a row of Bots Dots in the road (easy to see but also easy to drive around) or deep slits in the pavement that can have the same result.

There have four fatalities at that intersection, but how many other close calls have there been?  We’ll never know.  It doesn’t matter, the county should assure that its streets and roads are safe for the people who drive on them.  We can’t legislate how people drive but we can certainly make roads safer for everyone who uses them.

There is no higher calling for a government than to assure public safety.  Marion County needs to take that task to heart and fix the intersection of Wheatland and Brooklake Roads as soon as possible.

—LAZ

Susan Ann Oneth

Mrs. Oneth, of Keizer, died Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010. She was 62.

She was born January 3, 1948. A celebration of life service will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 25, at Keizer Christian Church, 6945 Wheatland Road N.

Arrangements by Keizer Funeral Chapel.

Cooler heads, put still hot

Candidates of the Tea Party were successful in primaries across the country this year.  Angry voters rejected sitting senators such as Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Bill Bennett in Utah and denying long-time Delaware Congressman Mike Castle the nomination for the Senate against Christine O’Donnell who reflected the anger of her state’s GOP voters.

A lack of raucous Tea Party demonstrations should be taken as approval by Oregon voters though.  Oregon voters have as much to be angry about as those in any other state.

Our state’s unemployment rate remains stubbornly high; our state budget is dangerously out of whack.  Citizens feel helpless in the face of a myriad of troubles they can’t control.

All candidates running for office at every level need to address the citizens and the voters and offer some solutions rather than the same old campaigns filled with attacks and platitudes.  Yes, we know that Oregon needs jobs. What are you going to do about it Mr./Ms. Candidate?

This year Oregon candidates shouldn’t be lulled into a sense of complacency just because there are no demonstrations outside their doors.

—LAZ