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Day: March 2, 2011

Unions dominate Keep Keizer Livable funding

By Jason Cox
Of The Keizertimes

Union dollars make up almost 90 percent of contributions promoting a ballot measure enacting retail building size limitations.

The United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 555 has pumped $15,000 into Keep Keizer Livable’s coffers in the past three weeks alone as the March 8 ballot deadline approaches. Keep Keizer Livable has also retained the services of a John Kitzhaber campaign veteran and a political strategy firm.

In the coming few days, KKL co-founder Kevin Hohnbaum said efforts will be focused on “continuing our get-out-the-vote campaign, based on door-to-door, a good deal of phone calling, and a little bit of direct mail.”

The group, founded to oppose a big box discount grocer at Lockhaven Drive NE and Chemawa Road NE, has come out in force during the past two months in particular, spending $21,481 in the past two months, $17,302 of it in February alone. The group spent $10,435 in 2010.

And about 89 percent of its contributions came from labor unions, including $21,000 from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Local 555. Three chapters of the AFL-CIO put in a combined $5,000 toward the effort.

A union representative told the Keizertimes last August, when this newspaper first reported UFCW’s involvement, that his organization’s interest was in “preserving communities, having local, family-wage jobs that provide affordable healthcare and safe pensions.”

The union represents some or all of the employees at Roth’s Fresh Markets, Safeway and Albertsons, along with all Fred Meyer employees.

Jeff Anderson, secretary and treasurer of UFCW 555, said Wal-Mart in particular “is the number one predator, not a competitor” and said the company shifts costs like employee health care onto taxpayers via publicly-funded healthcare programs.

“Much of the retail industry does not provide affordable health care to their employees,” Anderson said. “Very few actually offer pensions. So there’s a spiral down when you expand big boxes into communities, you actually also lower the wages of the community that you enter.”

The measure would restrict retail buildings 65,000 square feet or larger to the currently-developed portion of Keizer Station. The restrictions would apply to both single-store retailers like Walmart and strip malls with multiple tenants, meaning any new retail buildings would have to be less than this size. Ballots are due March 8.

Roth’s Fresh Markets has given a total of $2,200 in cash and in-kind contributions, state records show. About $893 came from other cash contributions.

As of Tuesday, about 22 percent of ballots had been returned. Sharon Ricks, supervisor of Marion County Elections, said this was a “good” turnout so far, but it’s too early to tell for sure what the final turnout might be. She said about 50 percent is a solid benchmark in a special election, “but we would like 100 percent.

“I do know there are campaigns out there, notifying the people who are not voting,” Ricks said. “That will make a difference.”

Campaign finance records from the Oregon Secretary of State’s office show the single biggest expense – $6,950 – as a recent payout to Winpower Strategies, a campaign consulting firm that does direct mail, strategy and voter targeting, according to its website.

Records also show $500 paid to Miles Eshaia, who was the Salem-area field organizer for now-Gov. John Kitzhaber’s campaign.

Other significant expenses include attorney fees, signs and printing, postage and advertising in the Keizertimes and Statesman Journal.

KFD fire marshal ends three decades of service

Keizer Fire Marshal Joel Stein helped drive the old KFD ladder truck from the factory to Keizer shortly after beginning his career with Keizer Fire. He’s opting to retire just after the district purchased a new ladder truck and put the old on the secondary line. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The events of Sept. 11, 2001 had chilling effects on emergency services throughout the nation. One of them landed in Keizer Fire Marshal Joel Stein’s driveway.

“We had to do a lot of things differently, we used to keep the fire hall’s bay doors open and people from the community could walk right in and check out the equipment, so that changed. But then they sent out an advisory that anyone who took home marked vehicles should be checking them every morning for anything suspicious before they used them because they might be targeted,” Stein said.

As fire marshal, Stein spends most days when he isn’t at the district offices on call to investigate fires and hopping in the marked car wasn’t something he’d ever given much thought, but his more than 30 years in the fire service can be charted by the changes he’s seen come and go.

He thought about change a lot about as he was making the decision to retire. His last day with the Keizer Fire District will be Feb. 28, about two months shy of his 22nd anniversary with KFD.

“Joel represents those tireless public servants whom constantly monitor the radio for emergencies in Keizer and gave selflessly of his time and commitment to the fire district,” said Keizer Fire Chief Jeff Cowan.

The desire to slow down and recapture some personal time were the primary motivating factors in Stein’s decision to retire. Stein grew up the son of a firefighter in Dallas, Ore., and that’s where he caught the bug.

“As a young kid, I would go to the big fires. I would ride my bike there if I had to, and it was exciting and a privilege to do things like roll hose after the fire was out,” he said.

He started out as a volunteer in Dallas, but applied for what was only the fifth paid position at Keizer Fire District in 1985. He was selected for the job from a field of more than 100 applicants, but he still remembers it as a more simple time.

“There weren’t as many rules, you could ride the tailboard,” he said. “We played pranks and we still do that, but it had a different intensity.”

It was also before the medical calls became the primary business of fire departments.

“We would run on calls and perform first responder duties, but we would have to wait for ambulances to come from Marion County or Salem,” he said.

That’s not to say that all changes are bad.

“During that time, infant deaths and sudden infant deaths were frequent. On those kinds of calls, nothing can prepare you for what you’re walking into. I’ve known guys who left the service because that was something they couldn’t handle. It’s not that they were less capable of doing the job, but unless you’ve got some sort of stress outlet, those calls will eat you up,” Stein said.

Given the chance to serve as city’s fire marshal, successor to Don Boatwright, Stein took on the role in 1989. It was an opportunity to delve into an area that he found fascinating – fire investigation.

“It was kind of like putting a big puzzle back together,” Stein said. “You start from the least damaged point and work back to the most damaged. We may know that it started in the bedroom, but we don’t walk to that bedroom first. We start on the outside and work our way to the room, the quadrant and finally the point of origin.”

It became such a thrill that he started teaching fire investigation classes around the state 10 years ago and is a certified instructor with the Oregon Department of Public Safety Standards and Training.

The fire marshal position also kept him busy in an unexpected ways, particularly as the city experienced explosive growth in the late 1990s and early part of the new century.

“Every time we had a new development, I was called in to talk with the developers about the sort of road access needed for our vehicles,” he said. “There was a time when the roads were getting smaller and smaller and our equipment was getting larger because we had to carry so much more,” he said.

He understands the frustration some experience when traveling through Keizer Station, but he’s proud to have been part of making sure it had all the necessary tools in place for emergency services.

Through all the changes, he also prides himself on carrying on the work ethic instilled in him by his parents.

“My parents expected a strong work ethic, living by the Golden Rule and leaving things better than you found them,” he said. “I never put myself above rolling hose after a fire. We’re all people and we just have different areas of responsibility. That’s what makes us great.”