Subscribe to get tough, fair journalism seven days a week.
Subscribe today

Day: October 21, 2011

Because the money is needed

The City of Keizer has prided itself on running a low-service, low-tax rate town.  Delivering public services that continue to increase in cost without the opportunity to increase the tax rate is a situation that is not sustainable.

The city’s current tax rate of $2.08 per $1,000 of assessed value has not kept up with the times, especially at the Keizer Police Department. That’s why residents will be asked to vote on Measure 24-324,  the Public Safety Communications Fee, in November’s election.

The measure would add a $4.86 per month fee onto each residential and commercial unit in Keizer.  Thirty-nine percent of the additional $800,000 in revenue would be shared with the fire districts that serve Keizer.  The money is to offset the city’s and fire districts’ obligation to the Willamette Valley Communications Center (WVCC) which operates the 9-1-1 system.

The fee would be added to the city’s utility billing statement which includes water, sewer and storm water fees.  It does not affect the rate for those utilities.

The 9-1-1 system had been financed with a fee on telephone land lines which worked just fine in the past.  Technology has allowed many households to abandon their land lines and rely solely on cell phones.  Adding an additional 9-1-1 fee on cell phones was a non-starter. Also, prepaid phone cards are not levied a 9-1-1 of any kind (something the legislature should take up in 2013, pushed by Oregon cities and their lobbyists).

The bottom line is that the city needs the extra revenue to pay its 9-1-1 obligations.  In the past few years the city had to make up the difference between what it took in from telecommunication fees and what it owed for 9-1-1  by taking it from general fund dollars which are needed to fill police officer positions that have been vacant too long.

Some people are coming to a realization that a city the size of Keizer can’t operate at full strength at our low tax rate.  The tax rate is static while costs we can’t really control continue to climb, especially in the area of labor—health care, PERS, wages and benefits. Government is expensive, it is labor intensive, not to mention unfunded federal mandates that Keizer has no choice but to obey.

The choices the city and its residents face if the Public Safety Communications fee is not approved are not pretty.

The police department is already operating with four fewer officers than is optimal.  Even adding four police officers doesn’t bring the department up to the recommended strength for a city of Keizer’s size.

During each budget setting season in Keizer when cuts need to be made it usually means that jobs will be lost. Cops are expensive; cutting a police officer position saves up to $100,000 in expenses.  In a city that operates on a razor-thin margin, a few hundred grand is quite the savings.

How does the city square the budget realities with the public’s demand for police protection and public safety?  You can’t have a Cadillac police force on a Pinto budget.  We’ll settle for a Hyundai police budget—not the lowest, not the highest.  People want to know if they call 9-1-1 in an emergency an officer will show up fast.  Without additional revenue there would be fewer officers to answer calls; responses to traffic accidents may be secondary to responses to a crime.

Measure 24-324 is really about the kind of city in which we want to live. Public safety should be defined as a level of comfort citizens feel about living where they do, the cop’s response times and the visibility of police in their neighborhoods that help deter property crimes and ensure safer driving on our streets.

No one wants to pay more fees, but the Public Safety Communications Fee is money we will pay to live in the kind of city we want. There are very limited places to cut a city budget that has already been stretched and slashed.  We would doing ourselves more harm than good if we fail to pass the measure and end up cutting meat out of the budget because costs of the 9-1-1 system are out of our control.

The money is needed.  The Public Safety Communications Fee is a relatively harmless way to collect it. We endorse a yes vote on Measure 24-324 because we like were we live and we want to be sure that safety is adequately protected and served by our police department.

—LAZ

Wealth shouldn’t run government

A Box of Soap
By DON VOWELL

Sometimes an Op-Ed angers you enough that you can’t not respond.  Charles Krauthammer recently condemned President Obama for fanning the flames of the “villainy-of-the-rich” sentiment growing in our nation.

He was making the case that the President Obama hopes to cover his failures by shifting blame to the very rich.  That sounds plausible.  From there he postulates that this created the breeding ground that bore the Occupy Wall Street movement.

His view of these “indignant indolents”  gets lyrical – “Starbuck’s-sipping, Levi’s-clad, iPhone-clutching protestors denounce corporate Americas even as they weep for Steve Jobs, corporate titan, billionaire eight times over.”

I can’t speak for any other protestor.  I have never had a Starbuck’s coffee, and don’t have Levi’s or an iPhone.  I’ll be 63 in January.  I would only denounce corporate America to the extent that they successfully buy legislation in their favor, which makes it rather a denunciation of Congress.  I feel bad for the family of any citizen who dies, but don’t admire anybody’s amassing of billions.

If I were to mirror Krauthammer’s stereotypical vitriol I might believe that Messrs. Krauthammer, Will, and the other exalted conservative pundits are little else than vainglorious sourpusses – unable to see the problem because they are the problem.  They have all forgotten, or never experienced, struggle.   I was curious enough about what would make Krauthammer so acidic that I researched his life.  He’s a remarkable man who’s done amazing things and overcome some obstacles.  That makes it harder to understand his utter certitude that he knows the Wall Street protestors.  I think he hasn’t met them.

This movement is criticized for not having any clear goals.  Their one constant is frustration at being forgotten by their government.  Their discontent is formless only because Congress is clueless and helpless.  The growing demonstrations may only seek to create pressure, to be heard and counted, and to change the discussion.  I went only so the crowd could be numbered one person larger.

Mr. Krauthammer sees the Occupy movement as reaction to the Tea Party movement.  What vanity.  In the rally I witnessed I heard no mention of the Tea Party, President Obama, or any major political party.  All I heard was people clamoring for recognition as participants in a representative democracy.  They don’t care about the Tea Party, the president’s blessing, or any party affiliation, and they least of all need the approval of the punditocracy.  They just want to be represented.

In the 2012 election we will elect either a Democratic or Republican President.  People are in the streets because neither of those results will right the economy.

The economy needs to be wrestled away from corporate control.   We have the world’s most expensive health care, costliest internet service, and most neglected public transportation.  Still your government hopes to be run more like a business.  God save us.

Mr. Krauthammer worries that President Obama is trying to turn the general discontent into rage against a maligned few.  Malign is his word, but it is true that the wealth keeps moving to the few, away from the many.  That sounds like plutocracy – a thing America’s founders specifically aimed to prevent.  I have no rage at private or corporate wealth.  I just don’t want that wealth to run my government.

Don Vowell lives in Keizer.

Is 911 really in jeopardy?

To the Editor:

Signs and literature urging Keizer taxpayers to vote yes on a fee on their water bill for public safety are very misleading.  Campaign signs indicate 911 will go away if the fee is not collected.  Flyers being distributed make it sound like the bad economy is responsible for the difficulties paying for 911 in Keizer.  This is simply not true.

What is true is that if this measure passes and another fee is collected on my water bill, both police and fire will hire additional staff.  Yes, more staff, more salaries, more benefits, and more public employee retirement system costs.  At a recent interview with the Statesman Journal Editorial Board the fire chief said he would hire three new employees and the police chief said he would hire four new employees with this additional money.  Do we really need more employees?  Can this growth be sustained?

The bad economy has nothing to do with funding 911 in Keizer.  911 is paid for by taxes and fees already collected.  911 will not go away.  Your local government simply wants more of your money.  I am not anti-government or anti-tax.  I simply want my local government to live within their means.  I appreciate police and fire.  But times are difficult and I cannot afford another fee or tax.  Please provide the best services you can with your current resources.

David Rios
Keizer

Public Safety Communications fee

To the Editor:

Literature being distributed advocating Keizer taxpayers vote yes for another fee on their water bill for public safety found its way to my doorstep.  I certainly understand the passion of those who favor this new fee.  But I have to say I am disappointed in the misleading content of the literature.

The flyer states the bad economy and high unemployment make it difficult to run 911 services.  911 services are run by the Willamette Valley Communications Center which is part of the City of Salem.  The bad economy and unemployment have little to do with funding 911 in Keizer.  911 in Keizer is paid for with the 911 excise tax on our telephones, both landline and cellular.  Those taxes do not cover the full cost of 911.  In Keizer other money, property tax revenues and franchise fees on our utility bills, are used to make up the difference.  According to current city budget documents, Keizer property tax revenue has increased more than $280,000 over the last four years while franchise fee collection is down about 1% or $29,000.  The flyer also states that a senior citizen or a child in trouble depends on 911 and for only $4.86 a month on your water bill you can ensure 911 is functioning.  911 in Keizer will continue to function with or without this new fee.

I took the time to see who is paying for this literature by checking the Oregon Secretary of State’s webpage.  At the time I looked I found that 90% of the donations to the political action committee in support of this fee came from the firemen’s union, the president of the firemen’s union, and a public safety consultant.

I believe Keizer is a safe place to live.  Thank you police and fire.  I believe we will remain a safe place to live without the addition of another fee on our water bill.  I encourage all Keizer voters to carefully consider the facts when making up their minds on this issue.  I also encourage the advocates of this fee to please stop the scare campaign.

David McKane
Keizer

The writer is a Keizer city councilor.

Keizer is safe without new fee

To The Editor:

We currently pay for fire and police through property tax assessments which we vote on through operating  levys.

If the new tax on our water bill for the police and fire passes, we will lose control and reliability on our water and sewer bill because we will no longer get to vote on future increases  for this fee.

Although the bill says  they will have a public hearing for increases,  when was the last time  you went to a public hearing? Public Hearings mean nothing anyway if a council has made up its mind what it is going to do.

Remember the tax on cellphones?  The public testimony was overwhelmingly against the tax, yet the council went forward with it anyway.

Picture the future.  Your water and sewer bill becomes your water, sewer, police and fire bill.  Now  you will pay police and fire monthly,

And annually through property taxes.  Renters will most likely get a boost in their increased operating costs.

Fire Chief Jeff Cowan makes an attempt to convince citizens to vote for the tax in the the September 2011 newsletter from Keizer Citizens for a Safe Neighborhood,  by stating “Keizer residents can help make sure boots are on the ground in time to keep our neighborhoods safe.”  Shame on him for attempting to frighten citizens into thinking that if this tax doesn’t pass, we will not be safe.

Property tax revenue collected by Keizer is not decreasing.  In fact it has increased slightly each of the past few years.  This is not a revenue problem.  It is a spending problem.  We have all been hit hard with this poor economy.

Please live within your means just as the rest of us must.

Keizer is a safe community and will continue to be safe without passing this new fee onto our water and sewer bills.

Judy DeSpain
Keizer

Occupy villages vs. Hoovervilles

To the editor:

For those of us who can remember, and only a few can, the Occupy Wall Street encampments of today are reminiscent of the “Hooverville” camps of the Great Depression.  Visually, the main difference seems to be that the participants today tend to occupy rather nice tents, unlike the cardboard, tar paper and tin shacks of the previous era.  In the United States, even the homeless seem to have better “digs” than third world squatters do.

It is noted that jobs, or lack thereof, seems again to be a major issue.  History shows that unemployment peaked at over 20 percent during the early 1930s, more than double what it is today and never returned to pre-Depression levels until well into World War II.  However, let’s not wag the dog, war just isn’t worth it.

Like the dams on many rivers that now reduce the severity of major flooding, without the many protections that have been devised to level the economy, the situation today would likely be worse, much worse. Please don’t listen to those who would advocate removal of such protections in an effort to stimulate the economy.  Their interests are not yours and mine!

Art Burr
Keizer

No to 9-1-1 tax

To the Editor:

Keizer’s 911 system is not broken,  Keizer’s crime rate has not soared, in fact there were only 20 more “incidents” in 2010 over 2009 per the Keizer Police Department’s  annual report of 2010.

Initiative 24-324 is all about hiring four new police officers and three new fireman and all that that entails to get them “street” ready.

Can we afford that? Not in our current economic climate. I say no. Especially when the city has to rob Peter (Urban Renewal funds for sidewalks for our kids) to pay Paul (Chuck Sides’ debt) in Keizer Station.

Enough already!

Just say no.

Carol Doerfler
Keizer

Celts hope for change of fortune in Sprague game

Celt Mason Ross gets a hand on one of the Saxons. (Photo by Jim Sweigart)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The Celts will likely need to rally for their best performance of the season when they head to the field Friday, Oct. 21, for a game with the Sprague High School Olympians.

It will mean shedding the hangdog mentality that had quieted the locker room earlier this week and resurrecting an offense capable of more than 600 yards in a night to join forces with a defense that appeared to find its mettle in a loss to South Salem High School last week.

“We have all the tools, we have all the players, we just haven’t put it together yet,” said Todd Hatley, a McNary lineman. “They’re going to try to smash us with the run game, and we have to take a lead from the beginning so we’re not in a position where we have to come back.”

“We need to stop the run first, but not let them break out on the passing game,” added Celt senior Jacob Sperle. “Our defense stepped up huge last week and we gave up fewer big plays.”

McNary (0-3) faces an Oly team that’s 3-0 in Central Valley Conference play and packing a powerful running attack.

In the team’s latest win, Sprague fought back from a 7-6 deficit to beat North Salem High School 32-7 and maintain its unblemished record. The Olys pounded out 276 yards on the ground and 376 of total offense for the night. Junior Devvon Gage led the team with 201 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Sprague’s defensive line held the Vikings to just 38 yards of offense in the second half. The team is tied for first in the CVC with West Salem High School.

“If we can play like we did Friday night defensively, we can create some opportunities for ourselves,” said Rick Ward, McNary head coach.

The Celt team has had big nights on both defense and offense, but has struggled to get both games working in unison. Ward planned on trying to give the team a big picture view this week during practices.

“We have to do a little bit better with the mental part of the game,” Ward said. “We’re going to do some more visual stuff with them so they see not only their position, but why it’s there and what function it performs on in the bigger picture.”

Celt lineman Kelly Cowan said the team needs the win to put a fire in its belly as the regular season draws to a close next week.

“It’s been a tough year, but if we can get these last two wins, we can go into the playoffs with some fire,” Cowan said. “ Our defense just has to keep it up. Offensewise, we have to give Burgess more time. We have a good running game this year, but our passing game is our staple. If we can put those two together, I think we can get the win.”

Janice ‘Jan’ Cline

J. Cline

Janice “Jan” was born in Silverton, OR on May 9, 1947, then moved to Tillamook, OR soon after. She was the second of six children. She died October 6, 2011.

She graduated from Tillamook High School in 1965, then what is now Western Oregon University with a Art Major in 1970.

Beyond her home business of selling Discovery Toys, she also worked for Starlight Limousine.  Jan was an active member throughout  the community.  She was a member of both the Keizer and the Salem Area Chambers of Commerce, serving as an Ambassador with both.

She was a member of the Soroptimist International of Keizer;  an organizer of the Festival of Lights Parade, Iris Festival, RIVERfair, Keizer Network of Woman, among others.

Jan is survived by her parents Wallace and Patricia Faulhaber of Tillamook; her children Lee Cline of Salem, Matt Cline of Keizer and Tiffany Cline; and granddaughter, Tyler Anne of Salem; brothers Bob Faulhaber of Boise, Idaho and Timm Faulhaber of Nampa, Idaho; sisters Cindy Miles of Tillamook, Deb Wilcox of Gleneden Beach and Gail DuBois of Banks; ex-husband Edward Cline of Keizer; and longtime partner Dave Brandt of Salem.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 30, at the Keizer Renaissance Inn.

Harold Gordon Abbott III

Mr. Abbott, of Keizer, died Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2011. He was 67.

Born July 30, 1944, he was a U.S. Navy veteran and volunteered for Pioneer Little League.

He is preceded in death by his wife of 48 years, Genevieve Estel Abbott, and his parents. Survivors include: three sons, Gordon, Mike (Nikki) and Jon (Shawn); five grandchildren, Tiffany, Ariel, Christopher, Austin and Logan; three sisters, a brother and extended family.

A casual celebration of life service is set for 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at 1120 E. Cleveland Street in Woodburn. Please bring potluck item.