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Day: July 1, 2011

Who killed Phillip Johnson?

Phillip Johnson was shot dead in 2004, one of two unsolved homicides in the City of Keizer. (File Photo)

Of the Keizertimes

An unsolved 2004 homicide still has the attention of Keizer Police, who traveled out of state last week trying to figure out who shot a 33-year-old man dead.

It’s been seven years to the day since Phillip Lynn Johnson was gunned down at a Keizer apartment complex. It’s one of two unsolved killings in the city; Christine Speten’s killer is still at large. Speten was beaten to death in her west Keizer apartment in February.

Keizer Police weren’t given a whole lot to work with on July 1, 2004, when a shooting was reported at about 11 p.m. at Cascadian Village Apartments on Claxter Road. Johnson, 33, was pronounced dead on the scene. He left behind a son, a 19-year-old also named Phillip, and a daughter who was not yet born when her father was slain.

Keizer detectives have contacted “at least 100 people” and probably more, said Det. Dmitry White. He and Lt. John Troncoso traveled to Arizona last week, investigating a connection between people in Casa Grande, Ariz. and Johnson. White said “significant developments” led the pair to travel there.

After having spent almost 10 years in prison for armed robbery, relatives say Johnson had plans to join his brother in the Seattle area for a new job, and was close to successfully completing a parole program.

The road hadn’t always been smooth: A diamond ring Johnson’s mother gave him became the subject of dispute after it turned up missing following a pickup basketball game, escalating to “really, a lot of ugliness,”

mother Jean Ausborn told the Keizertimes in 2008.

White didn’t get into specifics but thinks Johnson and his killer knew each other.

“It wasn’t random; I can tell you that,” White said.

Over the years, family members say Ausborn has been the rock of the family. She said she “promised I was not going to let this consume this family.” But this time of year brings back memories.

“You kind of relive the whole thing, you know?” Ausborn said. “When I look at his little daughter and son growing up and you see Phillip in them, their mannerisms, the way they look, it just brings back all of those hurt memories.

“But you move on. That’s all you can do.”

Moving on is not the same as letting go. The family is convinced Keizer Police are making progress on the case.

“This case is so big, there’s so much to it because of the amount of people involved,” Ausborn said. “But as you go along and you can start weeding out some of these people and focusing on people they feel are seriously involved. And that’s what makes us feel we’re moving in the right direction.”

White said there’s “some people who think they know and people who know,” perhaps a dozen who actually know how Johnson died, White said. “Unfortunately, on this case, we’ve had a lot of people who do know that haven’t been willing, for whatever reason, to talk about it.

“It’s sad for the community, I think, because it makes it that much more difficult for the person who took his life to be brought to justice,” White added.

Civil War comes to Willamette Mission

Re-enactors will fill Willamette Mission State Park for the Northwest Civil War Council’s event this weekend. (File Photo)

The Northwest Civil War Council will present a full reenactment of the Civil War at Willamette Mission State Park from Friday, July 1 through Monday, July 4.

As many as 800 Civil War reenactors will present the living conditions and circumstances of early 1863 as well as battle reenactments each day with artillery, infantry and cavalry.

The event, open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, will offer over six acres of  living history with reenactors in period clothing and uniforms, campsites, and character.  Battles are scheduled at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.  There will also be demonstrations presenting period medical practices each day, multiple period music demonstrations, a daily fashion show and hundreds of period tents showing a variety of activities that would be found at an 1863 military and civilian campsite.

On Monday historian Steve Betschart will present ‘Oregon during the Civil War’ at 1:30 p.m.   There will be a Civil War-era church service on Sunday at 9:30 p.m.

Admission is $8 for adults, $5 for seniors 55 and older  and students with ID.  Kids under six are free.  There is also a day use fee from the Park Service.  Willamette Mission State Park is north of Keizer on sleep in canvas tents while they participate in battle reenactments and military or civilian life.

Little River Band, Tracy Lawrence featured at fair

Tracy Lawrence and the Little River Band (below) headline this year’s Marion County Fair. (File)

Marion County Fair weekend brings with it both major national acts and homegrown talent. Here’s a glimpse at fair entertainment:

Thursday, July 7: Tracy Lawrence, all seats $20. With 18 no. 1 hits, Lawrence is known for country classics like “Sticks and Stones,” “Time Marches On,” “Lessons Learned,” “Paint Me A Birmingham,” “Texas Tornado” and “Alibis.”

Friday, July 8: Little River Band, all seats $20. Little River Band had hits in the 70s and 80s like “It’s A Long Way There,” “Happy Anniversary,” “Help is On Its Way,” “Reminiscing,” “Cool Change” and more.

Saturday, July 9: Radio Disney, featuring Josh Golden and Savannah Outen, meet and greet 5:30 p.m., show at 7:30 p.m., free with fair admission.

For a more local flavor, general admission to the fair buys a glimpse at these acts:

Thursday, July 7: Severin Sisters, bluegrass, 5:15 p.m.

Friday, July 8: Ty Curtis Band, blues, 7:15 p.m.

Saturday, July 9: Sunderland, alternative pop/rock, 9:15 p.m.

Tickets available for Lawrence and Little River Band at; fair general admission is included in the price.

Little River Band

Duck… Duck… GOOSE?

Mary Ann Cotton with a poster of a photo her daughter took at Willamette Lutheran Retirement Community. (KEIZERTIMES/Lyndon A. Zaitz)

Who knew a simple photo of a water fowl with her chicklets would cause a stir at a retirement community?

Willamette Lutheran Retirement Community is having a debate over whether a picture on their community bulletin board is a photo of a duck with her ducklings or a goose with her goslings.  So far the vote among the residents of Willamette Lutheran is about even.

Resident Mary Ann Cotton’s daughter, Claudia Wark of Washington state, was visiting her mother when she noticed the bird and her little ones parading through the retirement community’s courtyard.  Wark took a photo and it quickly was posted on the board near the lobby.  And the discussion began.

Some residents insisted that it was a photo of a duck while others were sure it was a goose.  Executive Director Raeanne McDonald saw an opportunity for a party and asked residents to place their vote on whether it was a duck or a goose.

The final answer will be revealed at a party at Willamette Lutheran on Friday, July 1, complete with cheese and “quackers.”

McDonald even got fowl experts involved; she called Darcie Wentzel at the Oregon Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health and Identity department.  Wentzel said “They are ducks.” Other experts, such as Brandon S. Reishus of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and Chris Brindle of Wild Birds Unlimited in Salem, both said it was a photo of a hen mallard duck with her ducklings.

At press time 24 Willamette Lutheran residents voted that it was a goose; 23 voted that was a duck.  Many more were undecided.

The final answer will be hatched at the party on Friday.

More than 400 jobs lost with approval of Salem-Keizer budget

For the Keizertimes

The Salem-Keizer school board adopted the district’s 2011-12 budget Tuesday night, a budget that involved personnel cuts that no one liked making.

Adoption of the $621,978,721 budget came on a 5-1 vote, with director Ron Jones opposing passage and director Chuck Lee absent.

Noting that three elementary schools, including Lake Labish just northeast of Keizer, were being discontinued as individual schools while a middle school and an elementary school were being built in West Salem, Jones said the board and administration should have examined the general fund more closely and eliminated such programs as teen parenting.

Director Steve Chambers replied, “We’re not closing the schools; we’re repurposing them.” The school buildings still will be used for classes.

Director Chris Brantley said that, although he agreed with Jones that there should have been more exchanges of ideas, the reductions in the budget seemed unavoidable.

The staff cuts totaled a full-time equivalent of about 420. People spoke from the audience about possibilities of saving library teaching jobs. Chambers said the budget addressed as well as possible his primary concerns of maintaining library collections and teaching library skills.

Also approved were appropriations for the budget, imposing and categorizing taxes, and confirming the continuing requirement for the asset replacement fund. A resolution to confirm a change in the targeted ending balance for the general fund was tabled, and the board is expected to consider it at its July 26 retreat.

The board voted not to rejoin the Oregon School Boards Association for 2011-12. Board members have disapproved of recent OSBA actions, and Chambers said that withdrawing from the OSBA did not mean that the board would stop cooperating with other school boards.

Although the board normally holds its regular meetings the second Tuesday of the month, next month’s meeting will be July 19.

Get free Slurpees for doing right thing

Warning to kids: Keizer Police are looking for you, tickets in hand.

Only this time it’s the good kind of tickets. Keizer Police officers will be “ticketing” youngsters with free Slurpee coupons when they are observed doing good deeds, participating in community activities or obeying laws like wearing bicycle helmets.

It’s called Operation Chill, and it’s part of a program partnering with 7-Eleven to reward positive behavior.

Youth “ticketed” by police will receive coupons good for a free small Slurpee that can be redeemed at participating 7-Eleven stores, including both Keizer locations.

Student bus passes cut by legislature

Student bus passes for the Cherriots transit system ended Thursday, June 30.

The Business Energy Tax Credit funded the program via the state legislature, according to Salem-Keizer Transit, and state lawmakers opted not to fund the program this year due to statewide budget cuts.

Transit officials hoped to keep the program running for another year, but the legislature opted to end it now.

Jerry Thompson, president of the SKT board, said the program was “a real benefit to our students” and “adds one more barrier to quality education for many students.’

– Jason Cox

Reporter’s Notebook is a new feature in the Keizertimes. Here our writers and editors will offer a glimpse behind the headlines to stories and issues bubbling just below the surface.

Rights and responsibility

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

These words, etched in history by our founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence, changed not only the world but the destiny of mankind.  To this day people from around the globe see the United States as a beacon, a shining city on a hill.  Lady Liberty lifts her lamp and silently welcomes the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  Millions have risked life and limb to find their way to the freedom of our shores.  The promise of America still burns bright in the hearts and minds of people around the world of every ethnicity, race, religion or political leanings.

Those extremists around the world who cry “Death to America” will not stamp out the flame of liberty here.  The idea of America is undying and will continue to be the model for billions around the world.  Despite the economic or social problems that plague the United States, our system is second to none; people around the world fight to live the life we do here. They hope for the opportunity to vote in free elections with real choices; they want a voice in their own destiny and a role in determining what their home countries should be.

The desire for freedom is so strong it led a fruit vendor in Tunisia to set himself ablaze as protest against his country’s tight-fisted government.  That one event set into motion what is called Arab Spring, a sweeping uprising across the Middle East that toppled repressive governments. The fight for freedom goes on in places like Yemen and Syria. If the result is free elections in these countries, it shows that the model of America endures. People in the Middle East will be able to decide for themselves how they want to be governed.

Repressed people around the world dream of a time when they can go to a polling place and take part in a democratic process. Unfortunately, billions of people do not have that ability.  The simple act of voting, an act we take for granted here in America, is a right that people elsewhere risk their lives to attain.

As we mark the 235th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence from England, it would do us well to remember the opening lines during the July 4th holiday. Independence Day should be more than a three-day holiday with backyard barbecues and fireworks. Americans, both native-born and naturalized, should raise a glass to the ideal that allows us all to live in freedom. We do the unalienable rights listed in the Declaration; we also have the right—and the responsibility—to vote.

While billions of people look wistfully at a nation that can decide issues for themselves in elections, too many of us don’t exercise our right to vote.  Cynics often say that elections don’t matter or their individual votes don’t count. Tell that to a fruit vendor in the Middle East or to a citizen of North Korea.  They would disagree that their single vote wouldn’t count.

As Americans we have the right to worship how we want, say what we want, live where we want; those are the rights. What’s missing is the responsibility—the responsibility to take part in the great experiment of democracy. Those eligible to vote should never pass up an election, be it a local or national. Elections allow us to voice our opinions on referendums and initiatives as well as choose the candidates we believe will keep our rights as promised by the Declaration of Independence of the U.S. Constitution.

It’s a tired old saw that says if you don’t vote, don’t complain, but it is as viable as ever. Millions of Americans have worn the uniforms of our military services to protect the rights enshrined since 1776.  Does it not do a disservice to those fighting men and women who fought to defend our rights when we choose not to vote?

We can have life, liberty and we can pursue happiness.  It’s the responsible thing to defend them with our vote in every election.


Where I go from here


When I stopped appearing on this page, I imagined that hundreds of people would ask why.  If any actually had, I might have responded thus:

I got lazy and hurried on a piece I submitted, and cheated some.  I began a piece about our American reluctance to pay for all that we ask and don’t ask our government to do.  It was developed to the rough draft stage, when David Sirota had a column in the Oregon saying much the same thing in a far more elegant and coherent way.   He had a perfect FDR quote about shared sacrifice, and contrasted that to the modern day Presidential responses.

I should have independently found my own quote about the nature of shared sacrifice, but that one still seems most perfect.  Where I really went wrong is the wholesale theft of Mr. Sirota’s condemnation of the more recent Executive branch reactions to national peril.  I just nodded my head in agreement and included them.  Most especially I agreed with his contention that any President foolhardy enough to speak adult truths would be quickly isolated and never reelected.

Then I was justifiably confronted about whether I had actually written any of it or simply taken the Sirota piece and redecorated a little bit.  I was asked to take a hiatus from this space and agreed that it was the right thing to do.

At the time I was pretty hard on myself.  Reclaiming journalistic integrity seemed a little like reclaiming virginity – no easy task. I have softened that view a little.  Now it seems more like painfully visible evidence of a thing I have always known – I have ordinary flaws and failings.  Primary flaw is probably excess ego, as demonstrated by my imagining that somebody besides me cares about all this.

If we continue from here I cannot guarantee that everything I submit will be purely original, ideas never entertained by any before me.  Opinion is born by viewing a variety of sources reporting about local and national events through the lens of your own life experience.  Having nothing more than the same sources of information available to all in Keizer, all I can offer is my unique perspective, hopefully different from your unique perspective.   What I write, outside of any other value, is how things look to one working slob.  That’s an under-represented constituency in this country.

To those disappointed in my breach of trust, I offer a sincere apology.  To those who hoped I might never resurface, an apology only slightly less sincere.

Don Vowell lives in Keizer.

A quick fix to save Obama’s skin?


Did the International Energy Agency (IEA) just deliver the oil equivalent of Quantitative Easing 3?

The decision to release 2 million barrels per day of emergency oil reserves — with the U.S. covering half from its strategic petroleum reserve — is surely aimed at the sputtering economies of the U.S. and Europe following an onslaught of bad economic statistics and forecasts. This includes a gloomy Fed forecast that Ben Bernanke unveiled less than 24 hours before the energy news hit the tape.

I wonder if all this was coordinated.

The Bernanke Fed significantly downgraded its economic projections, blaming this forecast on rising energy (and food) prices as well as Japanese-disaster-related supply shocks. Of course, the Fed head takes no blame for his cheap-dollar QE2 pump-priming, which was an important source of the prior jump in energy and commodity prices. That commodity-price shock inflicted a tax on the whole economy, and it looks to be responsible for the 2 percent first-half growth rate and the near 4.5 percent inflation rate.

Bernanke acknowledged the inflation problem, but he didn’t take ownership of that, either. Reading between the lines, however, the Fed’s inflation worries undoubtedly kept it from applying more faux stimulus to the sagging economy with a third round of quantitative easing.

Somehow, the new Fed forecast suggests that the second-half economy will grow at 3.5 percent while it miraculously presses inflation down to 1.4 percent. But the plausibility of this forecast is low. It’s almost “Alice in Wonderland”-like.

So, low and behold, the IEA and the U.S. Department of Energy come to the rescue.

Acting on the surprising news of a 60 million barrel-per-day crude-oil release from strategic reserves scheduled for July, traders slammed down prices by $5 to $6 for both West Texas crude and European Brent crude. That’s about a 20 percent drop from the April highs, which followed the breakout of civil war in Libya in March. In fact, both the IEA and the U.S. DOE cited Libyan oil disruption as a reason for injecting reserves.

Of course, most folks thought Saudi Arabia would be adding a million barrels a day to cover the Libyan shortfall. The evidence strongly suggests it has. So the curious timing of the oil-reserve release — coming in late June rather than last March or April — strongly suggests that governments are manipulating the oil price with a temporary supply add to boost the economy.

In theory, these reserves are supposed to be held for true national emergencies. But the real U.S. national emergency seems to be a political one — that is, President Obama’s increasingly perilous re-election bid amidst high unemployment and the second-worst post-recession economic recovery since 1950.

Tall joblessness, big gasoline prices, low growth, a poor housing sector, growing mortgage foreclosures and sinking polls are probably the real reason for the strategic-petroleum-reserve shock. European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet warns of a “Code Red” emergency due to Greek and other peripheral default risk. China has registered its lowest manufacturing read in 11 months. U.S. jobless claims increased again. And the U.S. debt-ceiling talks have broken down. It’s almost a perfect storm for economic and stock market jitters.

So, will the government-sponsored oil-price-drop work? Will it fix the economy, by lowering inflation and speeding up growth? Well, it might, provided that the Bernanke Fed doesn’t bungle the dollar.

If Bernanke keeps his balance sheet stable, applying what former Fed Governor Wayne Angell calls quantitative neutrality, it’s quite possible that the greenback will rise and oil and commodity prices will slip. In fact, ever since Bernanke’s first press conference in late April, when he basically said “no QE3,” the dollar had been stabilizing, with oil prices slipping lower.

Bernanke is right to hold off on QE3 — we could all be surprised with a stronger dollar. Then we could lower tax, spending, regulatory, trade and immigration barriers to growth. If we did that, we wouldn’t need another short-run, so-called government fix, this time from the strategic petroleum reserve.

Lord save us from short-run government fixes. Haven’t we had enough of them?

Creators Syndicate

Grad party made great by donors

To the Editor:

Recently the McNary High School class of 2011 attended their All Night Grad Party, that started at 11 p.m. after the graduation event itself was only hours old.

It’s an enormous undertaking to put on a party of such magnitude and it could not be done but for the many volunteer hours of numerous McNary parents (not just senior parents) and the scores of generous, business donors.

The Keizer Volunteer Firefighters and the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund (STCCF) both made  $500 donations which went toward the entertainment activities that kept the graduates busy and safe all night long.  (A complete list of donors can be seen on the McNary Celtic Celebration Facebook page.)

The great thing about the event was the respect that was shown from the grads during the event; even when they were tired.  There were no problems, no kids out of line, and no disrespect.  I think we’re sending a responsible group into the world who will contribute in a positive way to society.  Way to go class of 2011, and good luck!

Holly Rushton