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Month: April 2014

Note-by-note young maestro impresses

Hyrum Kohler, a sophomore at McNary High School, plays his Concerto of Broken Bows, an original composition at McNary's Knight of Arts. Kohler is a featured soloist at a Salem Youth Symphony concert Sunday, April 27. (KEIZERTIMES/ Eric A. Howald)
Hyrum Kohler, a sophomore at McNary High School, plays his Concerto of Broken Bows, an original composition at McNary’s Knight of Arts. Kohler is a featured soloist at a Salem Youth Symphony concert Sunday, April 27. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes 

McNary High School sophomore Hyrum Kohler can do something few others can replicate.

Have him stand with his back to a piano and play a note of your choosing. He can turn around and replicate it with no other auditory or visual reference. It’s a fun trick, but perfect pitch can be equal doses enlightening and frustrating for Kohler.

If he hears music slowed down or sped up from its typical performance, he’ll know it’s wrong and want to fix it. On the other hand, the 16-year-old has had five of his original compositions performed in public venues.

“When I hear music, I see the notes on a page. I’ve only met one other person who could do it, and that was here at McNary,” Kohler said.

On Sunday, April 27, Kohler will be a featured soloist in a Salem Youth Symphony (SYS) concert. The performance begins at 3 p.m. at Willamette Valley Music Company, 484 State Street, Salem. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Kohler, who turned 16 this week, will perform the second movement of Miklós Rózsa’s Viola Concerto, a piece that won him the top spot in the SYS competition in January.

“Rózsa composed it in the 1980s. I tend to like the newer composers because there’s a better chance that the audience has never heard it. There’s also a lot of experimentation,” Kohler said.

Kohler first started playing the viola in fourth grade under the wing of Whiteaker Middle School music teacher Bonnie Gallagher.

The viola was a spur-of-the-moment choice and he’s since expanded his skills to the violin. One of his latest toys is a case that can hold both instruments.

“I treat them more like children than instruments,” he said.

The viola is a good two inches bigger than the violin and requires a wider spacing of the fingers while playing. Kohler started composing music in middle school. His first full composition, Variations on a Sad Day, ended up being 13-minutes long.

“I started playing something on the viola and I liked how it sounded. I just kept adding to it. I wasn’t trying to tell a story, I was just figuring out ways to express the title,” he said. “Every time that I didn’t feel as happy as I wanted to feel, I would sit and play and add a little more to it.”

By the time he moved past eight grade, two of his pieces had been played by the Whiteaker orchestra. He sent one original piece to instructors at Lewis and Clark College and they brought in professionals to play it. Yet another piece was commissioned by the McKay High School orchestra.

Most recently, he played Concerto of Broken Bows at the Celtics’ Knight of Arts. The performance drew a winning bid of more than $500 for another original composition in addition to a standing ovation.

He still has a soft spot for the piece he sent to Lewis and Clark. It was made for a quartet and starts with a violin, adds a viola, then a cello and, finally, a second violin.

The last movement features the four instruments halting play in reverse of the order they were introduced originally.

“The musicians who played it pointed out chords they really liked, and they liked the overall structure,” Kohler said.

If there’s still some part of you that’s feeling like an overachiever, Kohler also became an Eagle Scout in March.

With plenty of time before he needs to decide on a career, Kohler said he’s making the most of all opportunities to expand his skills and knowledge.

“I know that I want to pursue a musical education, but I’m not sure what exactly. I don’t know whether I want to perform, or teach, or conduct or study musicology. I’m trying to do as much as I can now so I can make that decision,” he said.

Lady Celts rally to beat Titans


Of the Keizertimes

A late rally was enough to tie the game, but it took 10 innings for the McNary High School varsity softball team to put away the West Salem High School Titans for a 6-5 win.

The teams met Tuesday, April 15, at McNary in a game where the Celtics trailed 4-0 before getting on the board.

“We have a hard time controlling our defensive errors right now,” said Lady Celt Kimi Ito. “We tend to turn one error into two. What we’ve got going for us is our hitting, and I’m not worried about that at all. The freshmen contribute really well.”

The Titans pieced together their lead one run at a time, but a four-run seventh for McNary tied the game. Working on two outs, Kinsey McNaught singled to right field and Ito followed it up with an RBI-triple. A single by Madi Oliver scored Ito and a triple by Megan Ulrey scored Oliver. Ulrey scored on a single to right field by Kiana Villarreal.

West took a 5-4 lead in the top of the 10th inning, but Dani Saunders smacked a two-RBI double to centerfield scoring Sarah Jensen and Hannah Carr for the win.

After waiting for their moment to shine against West, McNary Head Coach Kevin Wise wanted them to approach a follow-up game with Sprague High School, April 16, with more energy.

“We talked about getting on Sprague early, which we did with five runs in the first. But they’re just one of those teams that keeps gnawing at your heel the whole game,” Wise said.

The barnburner of a game saw the Celts lose 13-12 in seven innings.

The Keizer team’s biggest inning was the first as McNaught scored on a double by Ito, Ito scored on a double by Villarreal, Villareal and Carr scored on a triple by Ulrey and Nicole Duran singled to score Ulrey for the 5-0 lead.

The Olys had closed the score to 7-6 by the end of the second frame, and took a 10-9 lead in the bottom of the third. Saunders scored on a Sprague error to tie the game at 10-10 in the top of the fifth, but Sprague answered with two runs of its own in the sixth.

In the top of the seventh, Saunders scored on an Ito single and Ulrey singled to drive in Ito for a 12-12 tie.

Sprague took the win on a wild pitch in their last at-bat. Errors were a problem for both teams; each racked up four.

“We have to clean up the defense and we can do it by being more focused in practice and getting things done,” McNaught said. “We have the ability to do everything cleanly, we just have to believe in ourselves.”

McNary took a 16-1 win over a rebuilding McKay team that took a hit when the team’s starting pitcher injured her hand making a grab for a line drive. McNary had at least one run in each of the game’s five innings.

Carr led the team at the plate going 4 for 4 with two RBIS, three runs scored and a home run. Ito went 3 for 4 with two RBIs, three runs scored and two triples. Nicole Duran went 2 for 2 with a run scored, two RBIs and a triple.

While the team maintains a lock on third place in the Central Valley Conference, Wise is still waiting for the girls to put together a complete game.

“If we do that, we can hang with a team like South Salem. If they limit the errors, winning will take care of itself,” he said.

Medical marijuana draws small crowd

Kimberly Strand, who operates the PGN Lodge on Cherry Avenue, speaks at the Medical Marijuana Facilities Task Force meeting on April 22. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Kimberly Strand, who operates the PGN Lodge on Cherry Avenue, speaks at the Medical Marijuana Facilities Task Force meeting on April 22. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Of the Keizertimes

Before the hearing started on Tuesday evening, there was a question of how long it would last.

As it turned out, not too long.

Keizer’s Medical Marijuana Facilities Task Force met for a second time at Keizer Civic Center – the group had first met on March 19 – with a majority of the meeting set aside to hear from members of the public and to gather input on what the city should do in regards to state laws about medical marijuana dispensaries.

At various recent meetings in Keizer, there had been talk about an expected large turnout. Since those speaking were allowed three minutes each, a long meeting was anticipated.

Instead, the meeting was done in barely more than an hour.

Helping to keep the length down: only five people in the sparsely packed council chambers spoke.

City councilor Dennis Koho, allowed task force members to have their say first. When none of the eight spoke, he opened the floor for the public hearing.

Kimberly Strand, who runs the PGN (Patient Grower Network) Lodge on Cherry Avenue, noted her business is a social lounge, rather than a dispensary as currently being discussed.

“We’ve been there four years now and never had one incident on the property, leaving or coming to the property,” Strand said. “If you don’t allow a dispensary, you are displacing a people of your community. You’d be surprised who the people from this community are. Many have done 20 to 25 years at their jobs. They are people who have given to their community.”

House Bill 3460 and Senate Bill 1531 both recently went into effect and have rules regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, most notably none can be within 1,000 feet of schools or of each other.

“I agree with the 1,000 feet within schools rule,” Strand said. “The 3460 rules are very strong. I do agree with the restrictions.”

Strand noted a key difference between a lounge like hers and a dispensary.

“You are not allowed to medicate at any dispensary,” she said. “You will make an educated purchase and then go home and do that.”

Task force member Jonathan Thompson was among those referencing “some consternation” in the community about possible dispensaries.

“What are your thoughts about what kind of system we can put in place to give the community comfort there is a good neighbor policy?” Thompson asked Strand. “What are things the city can do to make sure a permit can be suspended, but not be so onerous that you couldn’t operate?”

Strand, who noted she doesn’t know of any applications yet for a dispensary in Keizer, pointed to what has happened in other places.

“Most dispensaries cleaned up the property, have community gardens and most do give back to the community,” Strand said. “Many in Salem have been operating for five years with no issues. If you look at dispensaries, some I wouldn’t go to. It’s like a bar, if you don’t like the vibe or if you don’t feel safe there, you’re not going to patronize the place.”

Strand suggested dispensaries don’t need to be open more than eight hours a day.

“It gives some security to the community if they are open 10 (a.m.) to 6 (p.m.),” she said. “Eight hours is plenty of time to be open.”

George Weathers noted he has lived in Keizer his whole life and remembers before the town had taverns.

“A lot of people wanted to keep things that way,” Weathers said. “People thought we would have drunks on the sidewalk when the first tavern opened. That didn’t happen. I think it’ll be the same thing if a dispensary opens. The sky won’t fall.”

City councilor Jim Taylor shared some concerns.

“My concern is about the youth of Keizer,” Taylor said. “Studies show youth under 16 who frequently smoke or do marijuana are a lot less productive in later age. Also, the state does not test these like they do other drugs, so I’m concerned about the quality…I’m concerned about putting dispensaries in Keizer at this time. I say let’s wait until May 2015 to see if it becomes legal. I’d hate to step into this without all the information out yet.”

Tim Brannies, a medical marijuana patient and grower, spoke about the moratorium.

“I encourage this task force and the city council to not impose another year of moratorium in Keizer,” Brannies said. “There is a small demand for a dispensary here in Keizer. It’s unfair for Keizer to deny people in the area access to cannabis that is allowed by law. House Bill 3460 sets stringent rules aplenty.”

Mark Caillier, representing the Keizer Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development and Government Affairs (EDGA) committee, thinks more time is needed.

“We do support a moratorium to study this issue as much as possible,” Caillier said. “Don’t get caught up if marijuana should be legal or not. You’re here to talk about dispensaries.”

Koho noted the way River Road is laid out, a rule of no dispensaries within 1,000 feet of each other, schools or residential areas would limit the possible numbers.

“The business district is fairly linear,” Koho said. “If you said you can’t have them within a certain distance of each other, that provides some limitation.”

The task force will meet again April 29 at 7 p.m. to come up with a recommendation to send to the city council.

Big delay for Big Toy?


Of the Keizertimes

Is construction of The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park project going to be pushed back?

For months, it has been known construction of the 10,000 square foot play structure will take place Sept. 17 to 21.

However, for the past three months there has been ongoing dialogue about where to put the structure. That came up as a suggestion to use a site in the orchard along Chemawa Road – part of 28 acres within city limits but not within Keizer’s Urban Growth Boundary.

While plans to move forward with the UGB process and update the city’s parks master plan are in full swing, concern has been raised about whether that could be done before mid-September.

Thus, talk of the construction being pushed back.

“I had heard about that,” project general coordinator Mark Caillier said April 18, following a talk with city manager Chris Eppley. “That is a possibility. It is being considered. My perspective is, with the questioning of siting and the 28 acres and so forth, there is a growing concern that if we add amenities without master planning the 28 acres we may not be satisfied with some of the things we do.”

Marlene Quinn, the Keizer City Councilor who is chairing the Community Build Task Force, said April 18 she expected to have a decision by Monday. Asked what the decision was prior to Monday night’s council meeting, Quinn indicated there was no answer yet.

“Council has to vote on it,” she said. “We will have everything known by the May 5 meeting. We won’t make a decision until then. We’re looking out for the best interest of everyone in the community.”

Caillier said not building in September would likely mean a delay of several months. There had already been some concerns expressed mid-September might run into weather issues.

“We’re not going to do it in the winter,” Caillier said of the project. “If it gets postponed, it would have to get postponed until about this time next year. But if you look at Keizer calendars, there are a lot of events at the end of April and in May. That gets until about this time next year. But if you look at Keizer calendars, there are a lot of events at the end of April and in May. That gets us almost into June.”

Advantages to a delay would include more time to complete the UGB and master planning process, more time to raise funds and an opportunity to look at possible sites more. Both Quinn and fellow councilor Jim Taylor last week expressed a desire to have a community meeting next month to discuss possible sites.

At a recent meeting, Bill Lawyer and Nate Brown – the city’s Public Works and Community Development directors, respectively – noted when the concept of the Big Toy first came up at the start of 2013, avoiding UGB issues was the suggestion.

“When the concept came up and the idea of expanding the UGB of those 28 acres, the approach at the time was that can’t be done without expanding the entire UGB of the city,” Lawyer said at the April 10 West Keizer Neighborhood Association meeting, noting Brown has had follow-up conversations with state and county leaders since.

Brown said “we had made more of an assumption it was a painful process,” but other agencies found it wasn’t going to be much additional work, since some had already been done as part of updating the city’s Housing Needs Analysis.

“It was then, ‘We don’t see why you would not go with this,’” Brown said.

Earlier this month, the Keizer Planning Commission tackled the master plan issue. By a 5-1 vote, commissioners agreed the Keizer Rapids Park master plan should be amended to include the extra 28 acres, with an emphasis on no trees in the orchard being taken down until the master plan process was done.

Lawyer estimated at the WKNA meeting the master plan revisions wouldn’t come to council until July at the earliest and more likely August or September. Delaying the build dates would thus allow for the process to be done more easily.

“If we’re going to do the master planning thing, my question is why are we building something before the master planning is done?” Caillier asked rhetorically.

Disadvantages to a delay would include changing a date many had looked forward to for months, keeping the momentum of the project going and figuring out just when the build would take place.

If the project is delayed, Caillier expects to hear grumbling about it.

“That’s going to be the initial response,” he said. “That was mine. When I talked to a couple of other guys, that was their response. But they’re not going to quit. If it’s the best decision, fine. I’m still preparing for September. I don’t have a choice. I can’t not prepare until someone tells me a decision has been made. I hope it happens with some speed.”

Several things would need to happen if there is a delay.

“We would need to make a decision and stick to it next time,” Caillier said. “We’ll take a hit with the momentum. But there are things we can do to keep the community involved. We’ve got several months that people need to keep their eye on the ball. I’m hoping we can make a decision and commit to it. Until then, I’m still preparing for September. But I’m also thinking about contingencies for other possibilities.”

The issue was a hot topic during Tuesday’s fundraising committee report, with co-chair Janet Carlson asking about it at the start of the meeting. Fellow co-chair Richard Walsh mentioned the master planning process would be discussed May 5, with the second question being if the Big Toy placement is included in that process.

“If it goes into the big look at every possibility, that process will probably result in a delay,” Walsh said.

Carlson had a couple of thoughts on that.

“I’m not sure that’s a bad thing,” she said of a possible delay. “In some ways we’re spinning our wheels. Larger issues are getting in the way. It’s hard to raise money when we’re so ambivalent about what we’re doing… It feels like we’re pressing towards something we’re not ready for.”

Clint Holland, however, was not thrilled about the idea of a delay.

“We promised the kids this would be built in September,” Holland said prior to the meeting. “Now I’m hearing we may be backing away from our commitment. That’s a big, big mistake. We need to keep our commitment to the kids that this would be built in September.”

‘The devils are all here’ and in the details

Right: Dylan Bunten's Stephano offers a drink to Osvaldo Torres' Caliban. Left: Ashton Thomas makes his appearance as Ariel. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Right: Dylan Bunten’s Stephano offers a drink to Osvaldo Torres’ Caliban. Left: Ashton Thomas makes his appearance as Ariel. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Anyone entertaining the idea of going to see McNary High School’s production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, should plan to see it at least twice.

In addition to performances by two different casts – one traditional and male-dominated, the second gender-swapped with female leads – attendees are almost assuredly going to spend the first hour agog at the set, make-up and props. Even during dress rehearsals, it was hard to focus on the dialogue while simultaneously trying to dissect the various pieces used to create an angelic jet pack: folding fans and two-liter bottles are just the start.

Fortunately, audiences have two weekends to choose from. The play opened Thursday, April 24 and continues Friday, April 25, and May 1 through 3. Curtain time is 7 p.m. for all shows. Tickets are $5. (See cast listings for specific cast dates)

The attention to detail in the technical aspects of the production have upped the ante for the the actors who, to a one, are trying to do the Bard’s play justice.

“I hope that people get the true meaning of the show, and being able to communicate that to the audience is always the biggest challenge. Especially with Shakespeare,” said Dylan Bunten, who plays Stephano in the male-led cast.

The play is Shakepeare’s tale of Prospero, the overthrown Duke of Milan, who plots to restore his daughter, Miranda, to her rightful place in society. It takes place on an island where manipulation and illusion reign.

“It’s a very dense and beautiful story about a man’s moral choice between punishing the people who have wronged him or showing them grace. That’s really cool and I hope it comes across,” said Osvaldo Torres, who plays Caliban, a villainous trickster figure.

Morgan Raymond is Torres’ counterpart in the female-led cast. While the two started with their own interpretations of the character they found working together helped them achieve a deeper understanding of the different ways the role might be played.

“Osvaldo has a more monkey-like interpretation of his physicality with one arm on the ground and one arm loose and moving. I tend to have both arms on the ground and move more slowly,” Raymond said. “It was interesting to look at how much we differed at the beginning and still ended up agreeing on things by the end.”

The make-up alone for Caliban’s character takes close to an hour.

Dorothy Woolford plays Bunten’s counterpart in the female cast. Both are taking cues from Captain Jack Sparrow’s loose swagger in regard to the physical comedy Stefano supplies.

“It’s interesting because the physicality is not what I’m used to, but I can act as childish as I want to. When I realized that, it made it easier,” Woolford said.

Prospero is played by Shyleen Johnson and Christopher Adrian Rodriguez, who purposefully held their portrayals close to the vest and arrived at different and valid interpretations.

“I’m trying to bring out the motherlike qualities. He’s seen as stern and mean all the time and I like being able to go against that and then turn on the mean when he needs it,” Johnson said.

Rodriguez, at first went a little too far in the opposite direction.

“I thought it was a real serious role and Mr. (Dallas) Myers would tell me to lighten up. It’s actually a comedy and one of my aims is to show that there are a lot of jokes,” he said. “We all bring a different vibe to the roles, but this is an impressive show considering we’re teenagers. We’ve put all our hearts into it.”

The result, said Woolford, is that the players would have very different expressions on their faces if they could show their true emotions.

“We would just have huge grins,” she said. “It’s definitely going to look awesome, but everyone has put a lot of work into this, and you can feel it when we come together onstage.”

Traditional Cast: April 25 & May 1, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Prospero: Christopher Rodriguez
Miranda: Jade Rayner
Ariel & Juno: Carina Myrand
Caliban: Osvaldo Torres
Alonso: Brandon Seely
Sebastian: Kyle Hogan
Antonio: Cory Bond
Gonzalo: Trevor Bielaga
Adrian: Nikey Hikes
Francisco: Jesse Harrington
Ferdinand: Nicholas Woolfert
Trinculo: Gabriel Elmore
Stephano: Dylan Bunten
Iris & Master: Jacob Grimmer
Ceres & Boatswain: Nick Neddo

Gender-Swapped Cast: April 24 & May 2, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Prospero: Shyleen Johnson
Miranda: John Bryant
Ariel & Juno: Ashton Thomas
Caliban: Morgan Raymond
Alonso: Serena Dufour
Sebastian: Gloria White
Antonio: Kelli Thompson
Gonzalo: Trevor Bielaga
Adrian: Madelyn Zuro
Francisco: Megan Mitchell
Ferdinand: Emma Blanco
Trinculo: Julia Sjakovs
Stephano: Dorothy Woolford
Iris & Master: Iris Coffee
Ceres & Boatswain: Elise LeDuc

Ensemble (Appearing in all shows)

Sarah Hays, Chelsea Stoffers,Claire Zielinski, Morgan Hoag, Cameron Engle, Adam Nelson, Abe Nelson, Jonathan Hall

Both Casts will appear at the same time on closing night, May 3, 2014 at 7 p.m.

Marv Jenson

Marv Jenson, 80, died on April 12 after a two-year battle with cancer.

Marv was born Oct. 9, 1933 in Salem to Ole and Bertha (Bratton) Jenson. A lifelong resident of Salem, he graduated from Salem High School in 1951. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Marine Corps during the Korean War. On July 12, 1975, he married Lorna Harwell in Salem.

Marv was a pressman at the Statesman Journal for 37 years. He built several homes in the Salem area. He was a very active member of the Keizer Elks, Willamette Eagles and American Legion. He took great delight in helping friends and family whenever he could.

Survivors include Lorna Jenson, his wife of 39 years; daughters Corby Miles, Cindey Girall, Tami McGinnis; sons Wayne Jenson and Brian Jenson; many grandchildren and great-grandchildren; brother Clifford Jenson and sister Pearlie Schmidt. Marv was preceded in death by his parents, five sisters and two brothers and son, David.

A memorial service was held on Friday, April 18 at Keizer Funeral Chapel. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Willamette Valley Hospice, Gospel Mission and the Humane Society.

We get the kind of government we vote for

A Box of Soap

Last time I wrote here about the flood of money that is drowning out any remaining citizens’ voice in federal elections. This week I’m wondering what it would take to learn more about the candidates running for the Oregon House District 25 seat. Elections at the most local level have a different set of problems from the overheated, hyper-expensive federal election campaigns. It’s surprising how little we’ve heard from the three candidates hoping to win this seat. The primary is May 20, only a few weeks from now. Only the Republican nomination is contested, but it would be good to know more about everybody.

There is a general sense that whatever we do makes little difference in choosing and electing candidates for federal elections. Those candidates come from somewhere. If we take seriously and pay attention to who we elect in local and city elections, maybe that judiciously chosen candidate will go on to become a well chosen U.S. House of Representatives candidate.

So far the only source of information I have found about these candidates is their websites, and the quantity and location of their lawn signs. They all say they are out knocking on doors and meeting voters—that is a very good way to introduce themselves.

The websites are like all political websites. I don’t think it would be too strong to say that they are filled with platitudes —“support strong local economy,” “burdensome regulations,” “hold government accountable,” “evaluate all options,” “provide world class education,” “build strong workforce,”etc. The devil is, and always will be, in the details. I’ve never heard a candidate anywhere, anytime say he was against any of those laudable goals. If we so strongly agree on how to move the country ahead, why are we still so stubbornly mired?

I think it’s my fault we don’t know more about the District 25 hopefuls. And your fault. I’m retired and could have devoted some time trying to set up a debate or two. Anyone could have done that. Keizer has many civic organizations and local businesses that could sponsor a debate, some that could even provide a space. A real debate, where candidates delineate their differences and submit themselves to unscripted questions, gets behind the campaign fascia and reveals a little about personal philosophy and personality. Like a test drive. The candidates need a public forum. If we cared enough, it would happen. If we get to May 20 without ever learning any more about our candidates it is not their fault alone.

Our choice in this election affects our lives and our future. It’s a decision we ought to be willing to research thoroughly. Hopefully the endless barrage of misleading and negative ads common to federal election campaigns have not completely tuned us out to local elections. This is the election where, if we pay attention, we are rewarded with office holders we know something about.

(Don Vowell lives in Keizer. He gets on his soapbox regularly in the Keizertimes.)

Unscrupulous political radio ads

To the Editor:

I was recently stunned to hear some radio ads broadcast on KYKN radio.  These ads were presented as “public service announcements” urging listeners to support various non-profit organizations on behalf of House Republican candidate, Barbara Jensen.

 It was my understanding that it is illegal for a non-profit organization to be affiliated in any way with a political candidate.  So, I contacted the presidents of the organizations and to a person they were extremely surprised that these ads were running.  They were aware that they could not be affiliated and they all stated that no one from the Jensen campaign had contacted them first to ask permission to use their names.  They all followed up with me to let me know that they had contacted both KYKN and the Jensen campaign to have their names removed, but that did not happen and the ads are still going forward with new organizations being added regularly.

Frankly it’s smarmy and disgusting political campaigning.  I am a registered non-affiliated voter and don’t have a dog in the fight, but I have to ask myself, “if Ms. Jensen wants to represent the needs of the voters why would she trample on wonderful organizations and put them in potential tax jeopardy?”  It sure looks to me like it’s Barbara Jensen first and the rest be damned—not someone I want as my representative.

Richard Siewert

Nevada showdown: all hat, no cattle


Nevada cattle rancher Cliven Bundy and his well-armed supporters forced the well-armed federal government to back down and return Bundy’s seized cows — which were seized because Bundy, 67, stopped paying grazing fees in 1993. How does anyone get the government to back down?

At first blush, Bundy seemed to have right on his side. He’s a cowboy who just wants to keep being a cowboy.

The federal government, which owns more than 80 percent of Nevada land, including the land on which the Bundy family had settled, threatened to put him out to pasture. The Bureau of Land Management told the rancher he would have to cut back cattle grazing on federal lands to accommodate the threatened desert tortoise. So in 1993, Bundy stopped paying federal grazing fees. “They were managing my ranch out of business,” Bundy explained, “so I refused to pay.”

As the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorialized, the federal government has endangered a Western way of life in deference to “the ‘threatened’ desert tortoise and a supposedly fragile desert ecosystem that somehow has sustained cattle and the reptiles since the 19th century.”

The BLM surely has earned its black-hat reputation in Nevada. In a classic example of federal overreach, the BLM carved out a small “First Amendment Area” for pro-Bundy protesters, which only fueled the public’s distrust of government. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval suggested that the BLM reconsider its approach to constitutional rights — and Sandoval’s a former federal judge, whom you would expect to stand up for the federal court orders Bundy is flouting.

Sandoval issued a statement before the BLM backed down in which he argued, “No cow justifies the atmosphere of intimidation” that he was placing on BLM’s doorstep.

That sentiment ought to apply to Bundy, as well. The rancher says he does not recognize the authority of federal courts. “I abide by all of Nevada state laws,” Breitbart Texas reports that the scion told talk radio. “But I don’t recognize the United States government as even existing.”

He was willing to start a “range war” and risk the lives of his supporters in order to retrieve some cows. He doesn’t feel he has to recognize a government elected by his fellow citizens.

The BLM clearly can be accused of overreach, but who elected Bundy to be judge, jury and sheriff?

Bundy could have fought the government at the ballot box by trying to elect members of Congress who want to defang the BLM. (It’s strange when you realize that for all their anti-Washington sentiments, Nevada voters have sent Harry Reid to the Senate repeatedly since 1986.) That’s the American way. Threatening to shoot law enforcement officers who simply are carrying out court orders is not.

(Creators Syndicate)

Has the US become an oligarchy?

You may have noticed in newspaper editorials and on Sunday morning talk shows that pundits are claiming the U.S. is no longer a democracy.  Rather, that our nation has become an oligarchy.

New research findings announced at the Princeton University website inform us that the economic elites and organized groups representing U.S. business interests have managed to bring about substantial impacts on our government policy while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no influence.  Distilled into simple language, the U.S.A. is now an oligarchy, a democracy in name only.

So, what’s an oligarchy?  The word oligarchy is Greek in origin: It’s a system of government where power is concentrated in the hands of a small, elite group rather than a democracy where it is theoretically in the hands of all the people.

There’s been a bit of levity of late regarding this matter.   The NFL’s Washington Redskins is under some degree of pressure to change its nickname.  Since it is a team out of Washington, D.C., the suggestion has been made that they become the Washington Oligarchs.  At present, the dispute remains unresolved.

But let’s get serious.  Unlike the Church of England, the Vatican, many Muslim nations and other countries with a national religion, the United States was founded as a secular nation.  If anything, Americans worship   money.  Those who’ve acquired the greatest amounts of it are at least somewhat revered and held in near-sacred status.  Thereby, their riches not only bring them fame, but the power to buy whatever they want.

After the Civil War and into the 20th century the nation was ruled by the trusts and other business interests. Then there was a relatively brief reprieve of two generations of Americans from the Teddy Roosevelt administration through the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration when we functioned more like a democracy, it’s argued, than at any other  time in our 225-year history.

Our “elected” politicians are not the oligarchy.  The oligarchy is composed mainly of the nation’s inherited-wealth citizens and its bankers and corporate heads, as they rule the U.S. by money as much as dictatorships rule by force elsewhere.  One example of this is the latest U.S. Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC; it burst the dam to end limits on political spending.  Every tuned-in American knows what this means for fair elections.

An oligarchy in the U.S. is forecasted as: privatization of Social Security and Medicare; no universal health care; termination of government regulations over business and industry; carte blanche discontinuation of drinking water, air pollution, and food standards; an end to labor unions and worker protections; cessation of all private and public pensions; conclusion of social programs for children, the sick and the elderly; and stricter requirements for seniors, minorities and all non-property-owning citizens to vote.

The 318 million American people could take back the nation and force it to function much more like a democracy; after all, the so-called one percent comprising the oligarchy represent a voting minority of about three million Americans.   Unfortunately, Americans came together as a perfectly-tuned-whole the day after Pearl Harbor in December, 1941 and nothing like it has since been seen.  A reminder from a page out of the comic strip, Pogo, seems more apropos than ever: “We have seen the enemy and he is us!”

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)