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Day: December 3, 2010

McNary GSA offers refuge, support for GLBT students

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Editor’s note: Names of students in this story have been changed to protect their privacy.

When Dane Moore hears someone toss out the slur “faggot” either in jest or as something more disparaging, he’s quick to point out the original meaning of the word.

“Why would you call someone ‘a bundle of sticks?’” Moore said.

Moore began attending McNary’s Gay-Straight Alliance meetings last year when he began questioning his sexuality.

“Three of my best friends were coming to the meetings and the people who are in the group now are some of the best friends I’ve ever talked to,” Moore said.

Diane Wolter started McNary’s GSA 10 years ago after watching a son struggle with his identity throughout middle and high school.

“I knew he had struggles, especially in middle school. I wanted to be part of creating an environment where kids could just go to school and feel safe,” Wolter said.

Uneasiness around her peers led Serena Altshul to take part in McKay High School’s GSA when she was just a middle schooler.

“No one would talk to me because I was openly bi,” Altshul said. “I started going so I could have people to talk to.”

In the years since its inception, McNary’s GSA has contributed to change in the school’s climate, Wolter said.

“What I’ve seen is that more students come to the meetings willingly open to declaring their sexuality. When we started out that never happened,” Wolter said.

Most of the students felt the pressure to closet themselves ease as they made the transition from middle school to high school, but they still have plenty that they would like to see change – double standards, for instance.

“You still hear people say that gay guys are so stupid, but gay girls are hot. I would like to see that change. They’re both the same and you’re saying one is great and the other is not,” said Rachel Wyatt.

Religious views and how they affect the lives of the GSA members often come up.

“I’ve done a lot of research with my pastor and we’ve looked at the six main passages of the Bible that are perceived as anti-homosexual. They’re almost all taken out of context from the time period in which they were written,” Moore said.

GSA members are also confronted with the question of whether choice is part of their sexual preference.

“Why would anyone choose to be part of a population that a certain segment of people hates for no good reason,” Wyatt said.

“If I had the choice, I wouldn’t do it. Who wants Westboro on their tail all the time?” Moore added. Westboro Baptist Church has earned infamy for protests promoting anti-homosexual messages at the funerals of U.S. soldiers.

Most GSA members would settle for dispelling some of the predominant myths around homosexuality.

“Gay guys don’t look at every guy and think he’s hot,” Moore said. “The same way every straight guy doesn’t look at every girl and think she’s hot.”

Through it all they manage to keep a sense of humor.

Referring Leviticus 18:22, the Bible passage most often cited as anti-gay, Moore said, “If we followed everything in the book of Leviticus, we couldn’t eat shrimp, plant fields with two different types of seeds, shave our face, or wear clothing of mixed fabric. We couldn’t eat pork.”

To which Altshul quickly chimes in, “Oh, no bacon. That makes me sad.”


Use cuts to create jobs

Ten years ago a presidential candidate said if elected he would cut taxes for the middle class and for the wealthy.  The middle class would benefit in two ways:  they would have more money in their pay evenlopes, and jobs would be created by those in the upper income bracket because they received the lion’s share of the cuts.

The average Oregonian can ask “Where are the jobs?”  The people who earn great wealth are business owners and leaders; they are the people who said that with lower taxes they would be able to grow their companies and thus create jobs.  Unemployment is holding stubbornly at around 10 percent and there is an economic recovery in only a few sectors.  Wall Street is enjoying record profits and billions of bonus dollars will be paid out.

In the past decade in which high income tax rates were cut, less than 2 million jobs were created, compared to over 20 million jobs created in the previous decade.  If the Bush era tax cuts are extended across the board, Americans should expect to see that extra money go to business growth and job creation.  The federal government cannot and should not be the employer of last resort.  It is the duty of the government to create the environment for economic growth and the creation of jobs.  The rest is up to the private sector—businesses big and small.

How can the country square this dichotomy?  Companies, their owners and shareholders want the big profits that come in part from increased productivity.  Many businesses have learned to do more with fewer employees.  Why hire people if profits are up?

Some sectors may be enjoying a resurgence but that is little comfort to the 14 million without jobs and especially for those 2 million facing the end of their unemployment benefits this month.  If tax cuts for the upper incomes are extended or made permanent there should be a commitment from business to use that money to do what they’ve been telling Americans for more than ten years:  lower taxes will result in economic growth and job creation.  We didn’t see that in the past ten years.

Tax cuts should not be seen as a gift but rather as an incentive for those who have the ability to create jobs to do so.  While we all want to see jobs created that will put America and Oregon back to work, we also need to be careful not to expect jobs to be created just for the sake of creating jobs. New jobs should come from the manufacturing sector including new energy industries and from health care.

If they get tax cuts the recipients should get to work putting their fellow Americans to work.

—LAZ

Adopt-a-decoration

The Keizer Chamber of Commerce and the City of Keizer have done a good job over the years overseeing the holiday lights that adorn poles up and down River Road.

Due to budget constraints this year the city had to cut money that would have helped the Chamber maintain the decorations which are decades old.  The holiday decorations go up every year with the efforts of Mr. Christmas himself, Dave Walery, and his crew of volunteers.

Their careful maintenance hasn’t prevented the decorations from suffering the effects of time, especially the thousands of light bulbs that bring them to life.

The Chamber and the city should set up a program like Adopt-a-Street, only it would be Adopt-a-Decoration.  A family could adopt a decoration and assure it has the bulbs, wiring and frills it needs.

Love them or hate them, they are Keizer’s decorations and giving its citizens a sense of ownership will result not only in fully lit decorations but a sense of community pride.

—LAZ

Radical plan: start where we agree

By JON BARTHOLOMEW

Last week, the two co-chairs of The President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform released an initial proposal for reducing the federal government’s wide budget deficit.  Predictably, a rush of negative reaction immediately followed from both the left and the right.  Each side warning that the other wants to either raise your taxes or slash valued benefits and services.

The silence, however, is deafening when it comes to the Commissioners’ explicit recommendations to Congress to cut many of the carve outs and giveaways won over the years by lobbyists for corporate special interests.

Moving forward, leadership in Congress has a choice. They can either begin the process of real fiscal reform by focusing on the specific remedies in the Commissioners’ recommendations that make sense to taxpayers and have bipartisan support or they can dodge the issue by continuing to fan the flames of disagreement and gridlock.

If they choose progress over paralysis, they should start by reviewing common ground reforms.  Right and left alike can agree to end unnecessary payments to mature, profitable industries that do not need taxpayer subsidized financial incentives to run their businesses. Few, outside of the lobbyists for the direct beneficiaries, would argue that it is a national priority to spend taxpayer funds on TV ads in Asia, Europe and elsewhere hawking consumer products on behalf of multinational corporations.  The so-called Market Access Program has outlived whatever its original purpose might have been.

Overspending on unaccountable contractors has reached unfathomable heights.  The government continues to award sole-source contracts – contracts without any competitive bidding process – to, in several expensive examples, produce far more goods than it needs.

Competition and planning are values that cross the partisan divide.

Americans heard quite a bit about extravagant federal spending in this election.  Many candidates made taming the spending culture in Washington their lead campaign theme.  Now in office, these lawmakers have a chance to match the rhetoric that brought them to office with actions that begin the process responsible fiscal management.

We urge Congress, the new members as well as leadership – including Rep. Walden, to start where the left and right can agree, where lobbyists for corporate special interests have gamed the system, where the American people hope and expect progress can be made by working together.

Government can work better and safeguard taxpayer dollars.  There is common ground if our leaders are willing to look for it.

Jon Bartholomew is policy advocate for Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG).

Cell phone tax

To the Editor:

A recent article in the Keizertimes indicated that a group of so-called conservative outsiders may come to town to challenge the tax on cell phones. These nut cakes care little about our protection and are only anti-tax fanatics.

If there are enough Keizer citizens who wish to reduce police, fire and ambulance services in our city then I would support a vote.  I would not support a yes vote to repeal the tax but certainly the voice of the people.  If Keizer is going to combat the drug problem, gang and other crimes, we certainly need more police on the street. This only makes sense.  If the citizens wish to have long waits for ambulance and fire services which directly affects their lives then additional revenue should be denied. I firmly believe that a vast majority of our neighbors want the best services and are willing to pay a few dollars a month for them.

The facts are, there is not enough 911 money coming to the city and fire district to cover the costs of the 911 services. The 911 service is not cheap as the direct service and the equipment needed to do the job efficiently is expensive. The city shells out over $600,000 per year and only receives $114,000 back from the 75 cents on your phone bill. The fire district pays over $300,000 and gets back $75,000.  The difference has to be taken from the general taxes which pay for personnel. Nobody likes to pay taxes but if they are necessary to protect my safety and my health, then I am willing to pay a little extra.

Bill Quinn
Keizer

No right to impose tax on cell phones

To the Editor:

The City of Keizer wants to impose a new tax on our cell phones for the general fund using the verbiage from the franchise fee on land-line telephone service. This is intended to look like the land-line franchise fee which is indeed a fee on land line providers per ORS 221.515 that states, “lets cities impose and collect privilege taxes of up to 7 percent from telecommunications utilities for the use of streets, alleys, and highways.” The city is also receiving fees from electric, gas and cable companies. The companies all pass the fees on to the consumer. Because the fee is for the use of streets, alleys, and highways it is in no stretch of the imagination a valid argument for taxing cell phones as the city does not maintain airwaves.

Similarly, the City argues that due to 911 costs, it is not equitable that land-lines are taxed but cell phones are not. This is not true! Per ORS 403.200, besides the, “911 tax equal to 75 cents per month on each telephone circuit” it also states, “for cellular, wireless or other radio common carriers, the tax applies on a per instrument basis” (and it does appear on my cell phone bill).  This invalidates the City’s argument because our cell phones are being taxed for 911 costs equitably.

Thus the City has no valid arguments for taxing our cell phones for 911 costs.

If 911 costs are greater than revenue collected, perhaps the City should check to see if other cities are also falling short and if so use the State of Oregon 911 Staff responsible for Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) budget and coordination of costs to raise the amount of the 911 tax. I would support this as a legitimate increase and process. On the other hand, if only the Keizer PSAP, WVCC, is outpacing revenues, then this problem should be referred to the State of Oregon 911 Staff responsible, such as the first point of contact for “PSAP, Responder, and Local government”, to resolve the issue of what is being presented to us as a huge cost overrun.

Karen Trucke
Keizer

It’s district champs or bust for boys team

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

One thing the McNary High School boys varsity swim team won’t lack this year is depth.

“We’ve got more boys than girls on the team this year, and that’s never happened before,” said Kim Phillips, Celtic skipper. Most years, we are lucky to get 15 or 16, this year we’ll have 45.”

While the sheer glut of swimmers in the pool bodes well for future Celtic swim teams, the 2010-11 team is shaping up nicely.

“We won district in my freshman year and ever since we’ve been working toward that,” said Mason Grine, a McNary senior. “This year the numbers seem to stack up on paper and that’s very encouraging.”

The trick, Grine and Phillips said, is not losing focus.

“The danger is getting sloppy and thinking we can win,” Grine said. “Hopefully, as the season progresses we can start looking at the bigger picture and focusing on state.”

Going on early looks at the team, Phillips isn’t too concerned with wandering minds.

“The goals in swimming, districts and state, are always so far in the distance,” she said. “We’ve got some guys with lofty goals, but I think they’re minds are in the right place – especially if they keep the focus on winning as a team.”

Ryan Tesdal, Forest Feltner, Grine and Dominic Meyer are among the swimmers Phillips expects to make a splash this season. Meyer, the district champ in the 100-freestyle, has his sights set on breaking the school record in the 100-free and adding the district title in the 100-backstroke to his resume.

“We have a really good senior group and a lot of good freshman that make for a strong team,” Meyer said.

In the immediate future, Meyer sees conditioning as the team’s biggest challenge.

“We need to get in shape and do it as fast as we can,” Meyer said. “We need to push ourselves to the next level and encourage the younger swimmers to do the same.”

On one level, the Celts dive into the season at a disadvantage compared to some other Central Valley Conference teams, Phillips said.

“Some of the other teams have water polo teams and that means the swimmers have been in the pool for three months already,” she said.

According to Grine, the team has all the tools for a success, it’s mostly a matter of getting them to work in sync.

“It’s not just talent, it’s great attitude and when you combine those you make champions,” Grine said. “I feel like that’s what our team is going to be.”

The Celts’ first meet of the season will be the Kroc Invite, Thursday, Dec. 9 at the Kroc Center, 1865 Bill Frey Dr. NE, in Salem.


Girls team focuses on rebuilding ranks

Celtic senior Missy Anderson comes up for a breath before plunging back in during practice. (Keizertimes/ERIC A.HOWALD)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

In the wake of graduating the team’s power swimmers the past two years, the McNary High School girls varsity swim team is approaching the upcoming season with a rebuilding mindset.

“We don’t have the outstanding swimmers, but we have good swimmers and they’ll fill in,” said Kim Phillips, McNary head coach. “They just need to keep working hard and improving every week.”

The swimmers are focusing on sussing out the new team dynamics with a passel of new faces.

“Right now we’re getting new people into the team and I think we’ll have pretty good people in the water,” said Celt Hannah Hittner.

“Our focus is bonding and working as a team in the relays,” added Rachel Hittner.

With the tell-tale meet – district competition – still a distant oasis, Hannah is working to meet her personal goals.

“I want to get into districts in the 50- and 100-freestyle, and then the relays, too,” she said.

Phillips expects strong individual performances from the Hittners, Morgan Kuch, Jade Boyd and Laura Donaldson. Kuch was a top-six finisher in state competition earlier this year. The team will put only a handful of seniors into the pool, but boasts a large contingent of juniors.

“I’m really excited about the new freshman coming up and the good season they have ahead of them,” Rachel said.

Team bonding will be crucial to the success of the team, Hannah said.

“The captains on both teams are planning things we’ll do together outside the pool. We want the team to be more than just getting together for practices everyday,” she said.

That mentality gels nicely with Phillips’ overall philosophy as a coach.

“Every year, I just want them to improve and for [swim team] and the fun and effort to be something they remember in 10 or 15 years,” she said.

The Lady Celts’ first outing of the season will be the Kroc Invite Thursday, Dec. 9 at the Kroc Center, 1865 Bill Frey Dr. NE, in Salem.


WinCo not coming to Keizer Station?

To the Editor:

Now that the plans for Area C at Keizer Station have been revealed I think it’s time to put a rumor to rest.  The rumor is that WinCo may occupy the discount grocery anchor store.

I called WinCo Foods headquarters in Boise, Idaho and talked to Morgan Randis, vice president of development.  I told him I was a member of Keep Keizer Livable and explained who we were and about the rumor.

He said, “That is a false rumor.  We looked at Keizer Station two years ago but they wanted too much money.  We have our large distribution center in Woodburn and may consider it again in a couple of years.”

I asked “What if WalMart comes to Keizer Station?”  He said, “If WalMart comes to Keizer, WinCo Foods will not.”

Forrest Anderson
Keizer

Wheatland-Brooklake improvements will boost safety, officials hope

These road markings, along with rumble strips, a reflective barrier and more noticeable signage, could help drivers notice the sharp drop-off at the intersection’s west end, county officials hope. (KEIZERTIMES/Jason Cox)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

More signage and rumble strips will be key to making the Wheatland and Brooklake Road intersection safer, county officials hope.

Hazards there were reported in the Keizertimes in September.

In part as a response to a fatal car accident at the site in September, rumble strips were added to Brooklake Road as it approaches Wheatland Road. In addition, Marion County Public Works staff painted large letters on the street, switched to more reflective stop signs and added a reflective barrier on the west end of the intersection.

“There’s a long history of crashes at that intersection,” said Bill Brownlee, the county’s senior engineering technician. “We are always monitoring it, and the last crash was a good time to do the upgrades.”

It’s the intersection’s west end that proves perilous. There’s no guardrail there, and just past the intersection is a sudden and steep drop-off.

A Keizertimes story published in September showed four people have died in crashes at the intersection since 2000. Contributing factors varied, but they had a few common elements: 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 crash that killed Jeff Weathers, 53, showed vehicles traveling down the embankment on the west side of Wheatland Road.

“We actively monitor all of our road system for problem locations,” Brownlee said. “This is part of our ongoing efforts to make the appropriate adjustments where they’re needed.”

Our September story also outlined how fixing the primary problem – alerting drivers to the westbound stop sign and the steep drop just past Wheatland Road – isn’t easy.

Rumble strips can cause discontent with homeowners on the street, and the sudden drop on Wheatland Road’s west side makes installing a barrier difficult. In addition, county officials maintain a strong barrier, like a guardrail, wouldn’t be easy to install and could make matters worse.

“You would run head-on into whatever kind of barrier that you put there,” Brownlee said. “And typically we like to have barriers with glancing impacts because (driving) head-on into a barrier could be worse than going over the edge.”

Keeping in mind the quasi-rural nature of the intersection – it’s in the county, but sees its fair share of traffic – Brownlee said crews installed three small rumble strips to alert drivers of the upcoming stop sign.

“You hit three bumps – boom boom boom – when you go over the stop ahead legend” that was painted onto the street, he said.
A reflective barrier was also added at the west end of Wheatland Road at the intersection.

“It’s another warning device,” Brownlee said. “If you’re going fast enough to run off the road it’s not going to stop you.”

They also replaced the stop ahead and stop signs with ones that better reflect light, he said, and – as were the previous signs – these are also oversized.

“We want to make it visible and raise awareness of the intersection and what drivers are expected to do there,” Brownlee added.