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Day: March 18, 2011

Don’t cut grade school money

The looming $50 million short-fall in the Salem-Keizer Schools budget is beyond unsettling.

There are programs that are endangered, hundreds of jobs are on the line.  Pain will be felt across the board, from the adminstrative offices, to schools and the classroom.

If the face of education in America is going to change due to budget constraints, then we need to make a push to put what resources there are to where it will do the most good:  elementary education.

A child’s joy of learning is borne in the the first years of their education.  That’s where the bulk of education spending should be—if you get children excited about learning at a young age it will carry through to high school.

Too many students are disengaged from learning once they reach high school.  There are too many distractions and too much laxity when it comes to assuring students actually attend class and actually do assigned work.

If children are taught in elementary schools with fewer students per class and more one-on-one time with their teachers, they will grasp concepts easier and learn rather than memorize.

A lot of focus is put on the high school level, which is important especially for those planning on higher education.  But high schools across the country are being decimated by budget cuts—many  have dumped extracurricular programs.

That’s all the more reason to focus on elementary school, even in tough budgetary times.  Children at grade school age are eager to learn, their minds are still developing and they are discovering what they can do as little people.  The joy and enthusiasm one sees in our grade schools should be nutured and fostered; when one uncovers the power of education at a young age it can only benefit them throughout their educational career.

If there is to be millions of dollars cut from the Salem-Keizer Schools budget we hope the superintendent, the school board and the financial officers take an honest look at where education dollars will do the most for our kids, our community and our country, in the long run.

There is no one who will deny the importance of education.  Let’s be sure we focus our attention on the classrooms where that education really takes root.

—LAZ

Approve hens and move on

The Keizer City Council should let residents have chickens within city limits.

A proposed text amendment that the council will hear next Monday would allow homeowners to have up to three hens.   This is a controversy that isn’t.

A story in this week’s Keizertimes reports that other cities that allow urban chickens have received scant complaints.  Some people say that chickens will be a noisy nuisance, others say they are dirty and attract vermin.  Leaving dog or cat food outside attracts unwanted visits such as rats, raccoons, opossums and more.

Some people say that allowing homeowners to have chickens in their backyards will be the target of neighborhood dogs and cats.

It is doubtful there will be flood of people seeking permits for chickens.  But those who want them should be able to have them as long as they follow whatever rules the proposed text amendment sets down.

A text amendment should limit any home to three hens and allow no roosters—the ones that loudly cock-a-doodle-do before most people are ready to get out of bed. Chicken coops should be located far enough from any house.

It will be personal responsibility that will make urban chickens a non-issue.  Those who want chickens need to be vigilant that their birds are not a nuisance to their neighbors.  They must assure that the chicken coops are cleaned regularly, coops are securely built and they respond to any complaints from neighbors immediately.

The city council should approve a text amendment, without taking hours to discuss it, and then move forward on issues that are more important, such as how to fund the vacant police positions.

—LAZ

Depth will be strength of track & field team

Stefani Johnson heaves the shot put. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

For Jake Lucey, the new head coach of McNary High School’s track and field team, the challenge of corralling the 150 students who came out for the team this season might have been a daunting one, but it was made easier by the quality of the athletes.

“They’re just a nice group of kids ands it’s gone about as smooth as can be. The biggest thing is we’re really young and there’s some seriously talented kids coming in,” Lucey said.

While the number of returning athletes dwindled due to the loss of several powerhouse seniors last year, five with state meet experience return to the team this year: Tim McDowell in the high jump and 400-meter sprint; Jenna Quesnel in the pole vault; Dylan McHugh in the 800-meter run; Averi Wing, who took part in the 4×400 and 4×100 relays; and Laura Donaldson, who was part of the 4×400 relay.

Quesnel, one of only two returning senior girls alongside Hannah Phipps, is chasing the school record in the pole vault. Her personal record in competition last year was 10-4 and the school record is 10-9.

“But I hit 11-3 in off-season training,” Quesnel said. “I need to get comfortable on the outdoor poles, the feel is a lot different [from training indoors through the winter].”

The Celts’s first meet of the season was scheduled for Thursday in McMinnville past press time.

“We lost a lot of strong seniors, but our guys have put in a lot of work conditioning in the off-season and we’ve got a good group of underclassmen returners who will work their way up,” she said. “I’m ready to move from the conditioning mindset to the competition mindset.”

McHugh’s sights are set on besting his father’s score in the 800-meter.

“He ran around a 1:55 as a senior and I want to see if I can beat him as a junior,” he said.

He was pleased with the look of the Celtic distance team compared to the 2010 season.

“We have a lot more people out this year and a lot of good freshman,” McHugh said. “We just have to push ourselves to come out and work hard every day.”

McDowell planned to focus his efforts on the high jump in his senior season and cleaning up his starts off the block, but was happy with his early look at the team as a whole.

“It looks like we’re going to have a really strong team with a lot of fast freshmen coming in, and some seniors who have never done track before to help our throwers,” he said.

Lucey was eager to get the team on the field in competition to see who else rises to the surface of McNary’s deep pool of athletes.

“I’m hoping the McMinnville meet will give us a look at where we are and where we need to go. I’m also hoping for some surprises from the kids who have been practicing,” he said.

Lessons from Japan’s tragedy

Oregonians watched in horror as the scenes played out on televison of tsunami waves obliterating villages in northern Japan.  The tsunami was caused by the biggest earthquake every to hit Japan.  Now that country—and Pacific nations—must contend with the ongoing crisis at the nuclear power plants there.

The harbor at Brookings-Harbor, Oregon was affected by the tsunami, causing more than a million dollars of damage.

Events in Japan should be a reminder for us in Keizer that a natural or a man-made disaster can hit at any time.  That’s why every family should have an emergency kit in place and an emegency plan the entire family knows.

It is relatively inexpensive to put together an emergency kit—water, non-perishable food, batteries, blankets, warm clothes, pet food…and cash.  If the power goes out there will be no working ATMs or credit card machines to retrieve money from.

No one wants to think about a disaster that could change everything in a heartbeat, but as the earthquakes in the western Pacific and the tsunamis in Japan and in Indonesia a few years ago show, no one knows when it might happen.

—LAZ

Area C debate: waste of time?

To the Editor:

Was it simply a waste of time and money?

During the past few weeks I have witnessed a process in the City of Keizer that has opened my eyes to what I think are some unfortunate conditions.

I begin with a vote of confidence to our Mayor and City Council for their patience and obvious dedication they exhibit spending long hours working for the City and the people they serve.  We are fortunate to have them.

I offer the same vote of confidence to the organizers of the “Keep Keizer Livable” for the long hours they put in to exercise their American duty to speak out for the principles they hold dear.  They are a great example to the millions of complacent Americans sitting at home watching TV and complaining about……whatever.

Speaking of patience, thanks to the developer for “hanging in there” as the city scrambled, and scrambled, and scrambled to complete considerations for a requested amendment to the Master Plan for Keizer Station, a simple request for a physical change that began this unfortunate process so very long ago.  We appreciate your investment in our community.  We look forward to seeing Keizer Station reach its full and best potential, bringing lots of tax dollars, jobs, rents and profits.

Last, but not least- the citizens of Keizer need to be commended for their patience during the hours and hours of waiting and listening and waiting and asking and listening and speaking and listening and waiting for the City to finally act on the motion to approve the “Text Amendment”.  The citizens kept their collective cool as the council and the staff navigated a long list of business items that effectively kept the public waiting HOURS as reports were read, various legal issues discussed and analyzed, some related to the amendment and some not.  City regulations were discussed, argued, questioned; lawyers told the council that “no matter what was discussed” the public couldn’t change the amendment unless they could find error in the process, or the text, as approved.

So, the Amendment passes, the initiative fails and the developer moves forward to develop… something… with a BIG BOX in it.  Wasted are thousands of dollars in salaries for legal teams, expert witnesses, city staff, initiative election and initiative promotions lost.  Keizer citizens were seen as barking up an empty tree…

The winner is the city.  They got what they wanted while the citizens are neutered in their attempt to ask for a voice in protection of their neighborhoods from the “BIG BOX” intrusion.

Whether you agree with the issue or not, the process was disappointing.

Gary Blake
Keizer

Seasoned team takes court in girls tennis

Lady Celt Katrina Cabanlit smashes a serve back over the net during practice earlier this week. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Brianna Griffin has a simple-sounding goal for the McNary girls varsity tennis team: error-free tennis.

“That would be ideal, we just have to keep stepping up our game and improving,” she said.

The team fielded a roster packed with freshmen and sophomores last year, but many have returned more seasoned and ready for a new year.

“We’ve played together going on two years now so the whole team will be stronger,” said Lady Celt Allison McGregor.

Experience will play a big part as the season progresses, said Mark Kohley, McNary head coach.

“We’re hoping to be competitive with everybody, so when they all come back as juniors and seniors next year we’ll be even more of a force,” Kohley said.

This season, Kohley expects bigger things from the doubles teams than singles matches, but it will likely depend on how the final roster shakes out.

“Our basic groundstrokes and idea of the game have grown in the past year,” Griffin said.

Griffin and McGregor are one of the duos Kohley expects to see excel on the court.

“Allison has a huge serve and is really aggressive,” he said.

The other pairing expected to make their presence known is Jenny and Allie Labrousse.

“We’ll be pretty strong, we’re both another year older so that adds maturity and knowledge of the game,” Allie said.

“It will be fun to see what those two teams are really capable of,” Kohley said.

The one drawback Kohley saw to fielding a youthful team for the second season in a row was the lack of depth.

“It’s kind of hard to be deep when you’re still pretty young, so I would like to get our 2-4 singles and our 3-4 doubles teams to get really comfortable with everything and be a little more ready for competition,” he said.

Consistency throughout every match will be key, Allie added.

“We need to be getting all our serves in and returning every serve,” she said.

One advantage the team has going for it this season, is newly renovated courts to play on.

“There’s no puddles and we don’t have standing water with the new surface, so even if it’s raining the balls still bounce,” Kohley said.

For better or worse, it means fewer rained out practices as the wet season sinks in. The Lady Celts first home match against Canby High School was slated for Thursday past press time.

McNary Oaks and water with e-coli

To the Editor:

I have been a resident of McNary Oaks Mobile Park since June 2008.

We, the park residents, were notified on March 4 that our water supply was contaminated and not to use the water. (We are on a private well.)

On March 8 we received another notice that the water is contaminated with fecal coliform, (e-coli). This the fourth time in the almost three years I have been here that we have fecal matter in our water.

The park management isn’t in the position to deal with it; the corporate owners seem to think that if they supply us with bottled water, than everthing is okay. They do not seem to be interested in solving the ongoing problem. However, they are interested in increasing their profit margin; we have also been notified that they are going to be installing water meters, so that each individual home will be charged for water used. Currently, we pay for water within the park rent.

The park is an over age 55 park and most of the residents have limited resources.

John Brandt
Keizer

Can volunteers help enforce codes?

To the Editor:

Re:  Who enforces city codes? Opinion page, Keizertimes, March 11:

Dave Ledoux  is right about code enforcement, it is complaint driven.

I called the county first about a home in my neighborhood that has been unoccupied since last July. They told me to call the City of Keizer.

Before going to the city I did some research on the place. It turned out it had a total of four liens (all public records). I went to the first lien holder but got no where with them. They take their own sweet time to do anything but with the volume they have it does not surprise me.

I went to the City to see what they might be able to do. I thought they might be able to put some pressure on the first lien holder.I got the scoop on what they can and can not do; but, what surprised me the most was their budget for cleaning up overgrowth:  $5500 for the year. Most get taken care of by the banks but now it seems like it is forever before they act.

Here is a place where volunteerism might help our community. Perhaps reduce traffic fines by working on clean-ups or as community service placement for the courts.

In my neighborhood we all watch out for each other and help where we can. I help clean gutters and power wash moss off walkways. What about you?

Peter DeBeck
Keizer

Rep. Thatcher and HB 2792

To the Editor:

Rep. Kim Thatcher introduced House Bill  2792 in the legislature.  It’s a bill to let nonresidents use their out-of-state concealed handgun permits in Oregon.  Supporters claim it’s just like honoring another state’s driver’s license on Oregon highways.

You can believe that if you’re willing to share the highway with untrained 13 year-olds who’ve never been in heavy traffic. That’s because a Washington resident can get a concealed handgun permit without handgun safety training, a Texan can get one three years earlier than an Oregonian, and a North Carolinian can’t take his concealed weapon into bars, sporting events, or public events like demonstrations or parades.

Driver’s license reciprocity works because it is conditioned on comparable licensing requirements and is governed by an interstate agreement on enforcement.    Oregon’s handgun requirements are there for a reason and Rep. Thatcher shouldn’t be undermining them.

Kathleen Pool
Portland

Boys tennis needs to fill senior vacancies

McNary’s Nick Kiuttu sends a forehand shot back across the net. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

McNary High School’s boys varsity tennis team lost a lot of players to graduation last year, but the team’s head coach has quite a bit of faith in one of his returners.

“Trevor Braun is back as a junior playing No. 1 singles and he’s one of the best players in the league if he continues improving,” said Marc McAvoy, McNary coach.

Braun ended his 2010 season one match away from the state tournament and is hoping to leap over that hurdle this season.

“Right now, I just want to win, but I’d like to make state,” he said.

He’d like to see the team take a step forward from tying for fifth place in the Central Valley Conference last year.

“We’ve got to get down the basic fundamentals of keeping the ball in. When we’re playing teams like Canby, they have a lot of people who can keep the ball in and we want to be right there with them,” he said.

Nick Kiuttu will likely fill in the boys No. 2 singles slot after taking over the role last year.

“I just want to improve overall, I’m not sure I’d be able to make it to state, but I’d like to have that goal in the back of my mind,” he said.

The boys were scheduled to take on Central High School Tuesday, March 15, but heavy rains resulted in a cancellation giving them at least another day to sharpen up their skills. McAvoy lamented the shortened preseason practice window dictated by the Oregon School Activities Association this year.

“It’s a challenge because the kids are just getting their arms back and we don’t have many club players, but we’ve got some kids that are willing to listen and be coachable and develop as quickly as possible,” he said.

Kiuttu hoped the team would focus on a big-picture take on the game as the season got underway and ramped up to league play.

“All of us need to know how the game works and we get strategies  down and timing for when to come to the net. If we do that, we could win some games,” he said.

Beyond the No. 1 and No. 2 singles spots, McAvoy was still uncertain how the roster would shake out, but he was looking to the team’s strengths to reveal themselves as the season progresses.

Weather-permitting, McNary faced Canby High School Thursday past press time. They’ll square off with Sprague High School on the road Thursday, March 31.