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Day: July 25, 2014

State Champs

The Keizer 10U Celtics show off their trophies and plaques after winning the state title with a 5-1 victory over Lebanon in Hillsboro Sunday, July 13. The Celtics went 35-0 against other JBO National teams. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
The Keizer 10U Celtics show off their trophies and plaques after winning the state title with a 5-1 victory over Lebanon in Hillsboro Sunday, July 13. The Celtics went 35-0 against other JBO National teams. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer 10U Celtics had a history-making season this summer that ended with a state title in competition Sunday, July 13.

The Celts beat Lebanon 5-1 in Hillsboro for the state championship, capping a 35-0 record against JBO 10U National teams and a 37-5 overall record. Pitchers Eric Olsen and Logan Ready shared duties on the mound and threw a no-hitter in four innings against Lebanon. Olsen struck out six batters, walked five and allowed one earned run.

The Keizer team leapt out to a 3-0 start in the final game that included an RBI-single by Isaac Scroggins and a sacrifice fly by Jackson Alt. Gunner Smedema led the team at the plate going 2 for 2 with an RBI and a run scored. He singled in the first and third innings, the latter plated Jake Paton. Scroggins helped Smedema round the bases on a single.

The Celts finished the state tournament with a 4-0 record.

While the team saw much success during the season, it started off on shakier ground said Kyle Hughes, Celtic head coach.

“We traveled to Redmond for an open tournament in May where we would play four teams above our level. Our boys lost those four games but learned about what it was going to take to be better as individuals and as a team,” he said.

Hard work and a family atmosphere that included supportive parents helped the team thrive despite adversity, but the players’ attitudes were cemented in mid-June at a tournament in Reedville.

“We were tied 4-4 in the bottom of the last inning and with two outs and two runners on when 8-year-old Gage Smedema hit a double to win the game and the tournament. It was one of his few hits of the entire season. After that moment, the entire team believed we could win any game no matter what was up against us,” Hughes said.

In addition to the state title, the Celtics brought home first place tournament trophies from the Banks Invite, Reedville Invite and Aloha Invite. They were also Valley District champions with an 11-0 record.

Devin Burruss, Blake Felbob, Jake Hudson, Easton Hughes and Riley Mahoney rounded out the roster this season. Kyle Hughes was head coach of the team, Dave Ready, Matt Mahoney, Matt Paton and Mike Smedema served as assistant coaches.

Cops nab tire slashers

File photo
File photo

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Two Keizer teens were arrested for puncturing tires on 15 vehicles.

Sgt. John Troncoso with the Keizer Police Department said a 15-year-old Keizer male was arrested along with a 16-year-old Keizer male.

Troncoso said on Wednesday the younger juvenile is believed to be solely responsible for tires being punctured on seven vehicles the night of July 17.

Both were arrested for slashing tires on nine vehicles the night of July 20. On that night, there were seven victims, as one resident had tires on three different vehicles punctured.

In addition, one victim from the first night spent $1,000 on new tires, only to have all four tires slashed again the second night.

“This one really doesn’t make any sense,” Troncoso said. “At least with theft, you’re getting something of value. Here, you get nothing out of it. It’s just being mean spirited for sake of being mean spirited.”

Troncoso said the 16-year-old was arrested at his residence on Windsor Island Road, while the other was arrested at his residence on Evans Avenue. In essence, vehicles hit were in between the two homes, on Shoreline Drive, Ventura Avenue, Dearborn Avenue, Windsor Island and Evans.

Sugar was poured into the gas tank of one vehicle.

Troncoso said the two were among four juveniles spotted by officers around 2 a.m. on July 21 and given rides home.

“The next morning, all of these reports started coming in,” Troncoso said. “It became apparent pretty quickly what they were up to at 2 a.m.”

According to Troncoso, the two female juveniles spotted that night were present but are not believed to have been active participants in the crimes.

Familiar face, new place

Former McNary teacher, coach Erik Jespersen will take over as next MHS principal.
Former McNary teacher, coach Erik Jespersen will take over as next MHS principal.

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Former McNary High School teacher and coach Erik Jespersen has been tapped as the next Celtic principal.

Jespersen will serve as an assistant principal and lead the school once the current principal, John Honey, vacates the office to take on the establishment on a new career technical school full-time in January. Jespersen said he could not have written a happier chapter for his life.

“This is really a dream position for me,” he said. “I have so many former students and parents at McNary who I am still in touch with, and there are a number of people on staff who I genuinely care for as friends. My goal now is to look at the school climate and see where I can help to make this a great place to come to work and go to school.”

Jespersen taught history, coached and was an instructional assistant at McNary before he was hired by former McNary principal Ken Parshall as an assistant principal at McKay High School four years ago. As part of the administrative team at that school, and with the help of a federal School Improvement Grant, the Royal Scots made large gains in the classroom and in graduation rates.

“The school had lots of challenges, but it was an opportunity to think long and hard about how to leverage the money we receive to create sustainable systems for increased achievement,” Jespersen said. “We had great teachers who just needed someone to believe in them and great students who needed that, too.”

Part of what has Jespersen so eager to return to the hallowed halls of McNary is his knowledge of the community that surrounds it.

“What’s cool is the community of Keizer loves McNary and I recognize that fully. I love that our community loves the school and we can continue to love them back,” he said.

With the announcement of his return less than a week old, Jespersen said there’s still much he needs to learn about what’s changed since his departure, but he also has some specific goals he wants to work on.

“On the academic side, I want to look at where our gaps are and where they’re achieving now and how to get to the next level. I want to look at our data and the subgroups (low-income, ESOL students, etc.) and think about what we need to do to close that gap,” he said.

He also hopes to be a point-of-contact for strengthening ties to the community.

Jespersen said teaching is something that’s encoded as much in his DNA as hair and eye color – both his parents were teachers and his grandfather was a principal – but that it was his own experiences in high school that drew him to the field as a career.

“I personally had such a positive experience in high school being involved in clubs and student government and sports and I wanted to help create that for other students,” he said.

Doing more with less

KEIZERTIMES/Andrew Jackson
KEIZERTIMES/Andrew Jackson

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Recent discussion of Keizer’s salary survey and raises for city manager Chris Eppley and city attorney Shannon Johnson have brought a spotlight to the rather unique working conditions at Keizer City Hall – at least in comparison to comparable cities.

As mentioned last week in the Keizertimes, there have been some questions raised lately about the process and raises given to Eppley and Johnson. Both received 3 percent merit raises based on performance evaluations conducted by Keizer City Councilors, in addition to the 2.5 percent Cost of Living Agreement (COLA) raises other Keizer employees got.

Keizer’s salary survey, completed last year, raised the salary range for both Eppley and Johnson, allowing both of them to reach the new top steps of their respective ranges.

Machell DePina, director of Human Resources for Keizer, compiled salary ranges for city managers and city attorneys in January 2013 for the nine cities listed as comparables (Albany, Lake Oswego, McMinnville, Oregon City, Salem, Tigard, Tualatin, West Linn and Woodburn), in addition to Marion County and the state of Oregon.

The city manager range in adjusted compensation for Keizer at the time was $9,069.07 to $11,834.26 per month. The low end was 34.4 percent below the median; however, the high end was much closer, at 5.46 percent below. Most of the cities had a flat rate listed.

The city attorney range in adjusted compensation for Keizer at the time was $8,637.30 to $11,268.36 per month. Comparing salaries for the attorney to other cities was more difficult, as DePina found only about half of the other cities had a city attorney on staff.

As a result of the salary survey process, the city manager range is now $9,392.93 to $12,256.40 per month, with Eppley making the maximum amount. The city attorney range is now $8,521.07 to $11,115.87 per month, with Johnson making the maximum amount.

While Keizer aims to stay competitive in terms of salary, DePina said that’s made more challenging due to Keizer’s base tax rate of $2.0838 per $1,000 of assessed value being notably lower than comparable cities.

“We have a tax rate that is super low,” DePina said. “Is it realistic we can hire people commensurate with the tax rate? To provide services, it’s impossible if we hire only based on the tax rate.”

To stay competitive in terms of salary, the number of employees is lower than average. Including employees at the Keizer Fire District, Keizer has 115 full-time equivalent employees, or 3.13 per 1,000 residents.

Among Keizer’s comparables, the next lowest rate is Tigard with 5.72 FTE per 1,000 residents.

“A lot of those FTE (in other cities) are more community services,” DePina said. “Some of the services we choose not to have are a senior center and we have a limited city park staff. Some of the other cities have whole park departments. We have two parks employees.”

Another example is the library, run in Keizer by volunteers.

Like others at the city, DePina noted she wears a number of different hats.

“In Keizer, at any time, your job can change and you can take on something that was not on the radar when you started,” she said. “We spread the work out, sometimes move and shift things. We have to hire people that are flexible, have a big tool bag of skills and can shift. We try to be lean, responsive, try to get things turned around quickly and try to take advantage of good ideas and people volunteering.”

DePina has a list of things she looks for in prospective employees.

“The model can fail quickly if you hire wrong or if you don’t supervise or manage well,” she said. “We work hard and have our hearts in the right place. We hire people who don’t have pay as a top priority. Enabling the positive culture and valuing customer experience and public service are the top things I look for.”

DePina makes no bones about the need for employees to be flexible.

“How do we compete? We are lean and mean,” she said. “Here, people are always on duty. There’s nowhere to hide. You can’t blame three other people. Our employees enjoy the environment. No employee has said they feel disconnected. What each person does is critical.”

Report OKs cow park change

Larry Odle was among those speaking out against a proposed apartment project at the corner of Verda Lane and Chemawa Road during a public hearing on June 12. (KEIZERTIMES/Lyndon A. Zaitz)
Larry Odle was among those speaking out against a proposed apartment project at the corner of Verda Lane and Chemawa Road during a public hearing on June 12. (KEIZERTIMES/Lyndon A. Zaitz)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Hearings Officer’s report about a controversial land use change at the “cow park” on Verda Lane isn’t coming to the Keizer City Council until September.

If the public hearing on the topic from last month is any indication, council chambers will be a busy place again on Sept. 2.

Herber Family LLC is attempting to change zoning from Single Family Residential to Medium Density Residential and to change the Lot Line Adjustment, consolidating the current 14 lots into one 7.5 acre parcel.

During the June 12 public hearing, a developer discussed plans to build approximately 120 apartments on the property, which would require the removal of the cows currently on the property. Most of those who spoke at the hearing were against the idea, with many expressing a desire for the cows to remain.

The report from Cynthia Domas was submitted to the city earlier this month.

“It is hereby found that the applicant has met the burden of proving the applicable standards and criteria for approval,” the recommendation reads in part. “It is recommended that the Comprehensive Plan map amendment, Zone Change and Lot Line adjustment be approved.”

The report acknowledges councilors will have final authority on the issue and lists a series of suggested conditions.

The conditions include issuance of sewer permits, connecting to existing sewers, coming up with a master water system plan, abandonment of any existing wells, street improvements that will “provide an adequate transportation system” along Verda Lane, the development of an overall storm drainage plan and a vacation of the Philip Street right-of-way.

Nate Brown, director of Community Development, noted during Monday’s council meeting the anticipated delay in the discussion.

“The family has out of town commitments for the month of August,” Brown said. “We felt it was important for them to be able to offer testimony.”

During the June 12 hearing, developer Mark Grenz of Multi-Tech Engineering noted the Herber family came to him and asked what the best use of the land was.

“We determined residential is not the best use of the land,” Grenz said. “This land is ideally suited for high-density housing. It will probably be in the 120-plus (apartments) range, probably three stories.”

Aside from Grenz, no one else spoke in favor of the proposal.

Larry Odle, who lives on the same block of Verda Lane, was among the many acknowledging property owners can do what they want with their own property – though he hoped for something else.

“I’m sure most of us have an emotional connection to this property,” Odle said. “I feed the cows. The Herbers have been excellent neighbors. I have no problem with them dissolving their property; it’s their inheritance. The rest of us would love for it to stay as a farm.

“My concern is with the development of the property other than single family residences,” he added. “I have concern of its effect upon us. Verda has not been developed (for more traffic). There’s also the concern of valuation of our homes across the way.”

Since that meeting, several have suggested the city purchase the property and preserve it as open land. City leaders have not shown interest in that idea.

False equivalence

By SUSAN ESTRICH

The “crossfire” mentality that defines public discourse today has the obvious problem of ignoring the fact that most of us land somewhere in the middle, turning every debate into a shouting contest between the extremists who generate passion and ratings, and rarely reflecting the views of the majority in the middle. I’ve been saying for years that it might be just as entertaining, and certainly more productive, to see where ideological opposites find common ground. But until someone actually attempts it, we will keep spiraling down into extremism and incivility.

That, in my mind, is bad. What’s worse is that our crossfire, right and left, mentality can create a sense of equivalence when there is no basis for it.

Survivors and deniers do not belong on the same platform.

Evolution is not debatable.

Israel and Hamas do not stand in the same shoes.

Poor Israel. Until the past day or two, the death toll scoreboard so widely reported in the media was running so lopsidedly in Israel’s “favor” that Israel was being chastised because too few of its soldiers and civilians had died. But that is not for want of trying.

Hamas has launched thousands of rockets into Israel, one so close to Ben Gurion airport that American airlines were banned from flying there. Israel is being punished for investing in shelters (where families are literally living) and building a sophisticated missile defense system—in other words, for protecting its people. Hamas uses children and families as human shields for terrorists.

Israel gets cast in the eyes of the world as an aggressor, but this is not about conquering foreign land. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. This war is about finding and destroying the tunnels that were built to smuggle terrorists and weapons into Israel — more of them than anyone expected and some of them clearly built to target Israeli communities.

Israel is seeking to defend itself, seeking to stop the rockets and attacks. Hamas is seeking to destroy Israel, and they are willing to sacrifice their own wives and children to do it.

So how did Israel become the aggressor?

The murder of three Israeli teenagers was followed by the murder of a Palestinian teen. Equivalent? No. The Israelis suspected of murdering the Palestinian boy have been arrested and charged with terrorism. The Palestinians responsible for the death of the Israelis? If they ever are identified, it doubtless would be to celebrate them.

There are real human beings suffering on both sides. The fact that a father would use his child as a human hostage hardly means that the child deserves to die. If a ceasefire could be negotiated, if the tunnels can be shut down, if an international body can disarm Hamas, the people of Gaza would be infinitely better off. They might be able to share in the economic growth and energy of the Israeli economy, instead of living in dire poverty. Their children could sleep safely at night, instead of worrying about whether their homes will be targeted and whether their parents will protect them.

Israel wants peace. Gaza desperately needs it. And yet its leaders prefer to fight Israel, to send rockets that mostly miss, to expose their children to missiles that mostly don’t miss — rather than recognize Israel and make peace.

And Israel is to blame for that?

A friend forwarded an email to me from a relative in Israel, a wise and thoughtful email, not from a “hawk” or a “hardliner,” but from a man who is living with sirens in the background and wondering how it is that the world press could be painting Israel as the villain in this fight.

It is a troubling question. I don’t like any of the answers. Maybe it’s just the crossfire culture. Or maybe it’s because it’s Israel.

(Creators Syndicate)

Thoughts on dealing with global conflicts

To the Editor:

I have read and listened all Sunday morning to the views of pundits and politicians describing what we should be doing or have failed to do with respect to the Ukraine/Russia and Israel/Palestine crises.  Now that I am thoroughly informed, I offer the following thoughts:

1. Stop threatening Putin.  It is not only a waste of time but strengthens support for him at home.

2.  The tough stance against Russia encouraged by the “other” party reflects either ignorance of the possible outcome or simply a desire to see this administration fail – or both.

3. Trying to get Europeans to support increased sanctions against Russia ignores the fact that they have so much more to lose and how quickly it can be lost.

4. Let’s urge the convening of a congress of Middle Eastern tribes and ethnic groups charged with establishing a “restore point” in history for redrawing of political boundaries.  They will never agree but it would surely keep them occupied for a while.

Art Burr
Keizer

Bullying in state government

Recent news disclosed that two state of Oregon unionized employees have filed lawsuits against the Department of Human Services.  The basis for their suit is a claim that their boss bullied them.

I worked about half my working years as a state of Oregon employee; the other half was spent in the private sector.  I was naïve about work with state government when I successfully applied for a state job. You see, I gullibly thought that government agencies were first and foremost dedicated to bettering the lives of Oregonians.  That belief was soon dashed; rather, state agencies generally operate to benefit the members of the in-office political party and its loyalists and campaigners who’ve been paid-off with state jobs.

That’s why a state job finds those from private sector employment in a wholly strange and dismayingly authoritarian world. Hence, being bullied by and lording over subordinates by managers is the way of life in them.  Here’s what’s surmised to be the explanation for it: Those working directly for the governor and those appointed to state agency managers, administrators and directors must kowtow and practice deference to those in a higher position, the governor at the pyramid’s apex.

Because it’s not wholly the American way, this kowtowing and deferential behavior makes for bad tempers and obnoxious behaviors that are taken out on the subordinates or the unionized rank and file state employees.  It’s human psychology that when a person must crawl on his knees, genuflect to the boss and offer undeserved high praise without a shred of verifying evidence, he who manages will become the devil incarnate.

In the private sector there’s a job to be done and when its done well and on time the difference is success or failure of a business.  In state government the “work” is mostly about serving the moneyed class and power interests through political maneuvering, one-upmanship, and devouring anyone who gets in the way of a politician staying in office for its perks and serving his rich patrons.

I never cared for obsequious behaviors for the sake of advancement and was put off by the dirty tricks used by those who’d crush anyone who stands in their ego’s way for recognition and advancement.  It was actually worse than responding to managers and others up the food chain by practicing subserviency to get ahead.

One aspect of this unhealthy world that reminded the observer of India was the caste system among state workers.  Those who had received a plum administrative job by virtue of campaigning and contributing to a politician’s election, having not been trained or experienced to do the job they were given, had acquired along the way, from, it’s guessed, excessive schmoozing, a superiority complex that meant there would be no social interactions between themselves and their subordinates, resulting in an India-like caste system of untouchables by rank and file underlings.

Yes, given a definition of bullying that could find acceptance in an Oregon court of law will probably present a clear and present challenge.  After all, based on what’s known of the suing employees’ grievances, a manager who’s too aggressive, constantly sarcastic, overly critical, practices discriminatory behaviors and uses offensive language, should be brought to account for his ways as those factors do add up to classic “bullying” behaviors.  Unfortunately, based on personal experience, there are precious few among the state of Oregon administrator ranks who do not bully, while the culture works against humanists, defined as anyone who cares about the health and well-being of his public employees.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer. His column appears regularly in the Keizertimes.)

Obama is crushing the Reagan link

By LAWRENCE KUDLOW

Across his remarkably successful presidency, Ronald Reagan repeatedly made the link between the U.S. economy and U.S. international security and defense. He consistently argued that weakness at home leads to weakness abroad.

Reagan was aiming at the dismal Carter years. But he understood for all times that economic strength at home sends a powerful signal for international security overseas.

When Reagan went to Reykjavik to meet with Gorbachev, he believed the resurgent American economy would hammer the nails in the coffin of Soviet communism. And he explained to Gorbachev that if the Soviets didn’t come to the negotiating table with nuclear weapons, the U.S. would out-produce them on nukes and with technological superiority. Similarly, Reagan would not give up his vision for strategic missile defense.

And in both cases—building nukes and SDI—Reagan knew the American economy had the resources capable of achieving these goals, while the sinking Soviet economy couldn’t match us.

In the end, the Soviet system imploded in one of the greatest reversals in world history. Freedom won. Communism lost.

Now, circumstances are somewhat different today. But the horrible Malaysia Airlines crash in Ukraine highlights some worrisome facts about American-Russian relations. Mitt Romney was right. Russia is our biggest threat.

We know that the Malaysian plane was brought down by a ground-to-air missile fired from Russian-made SA-11 weapons run by pro-Russian Ukrainian rebel terrorists. We also know that Russia is fighting a proxy war with the U.S. in Ukraine, and that Russian special forces are leading the terrorist movement in Ukraine. We can add to this the proxy war fought by Russia in the Middle East, with its main ally Iran, and the fact that Russia is engaging in state-sponsored terrorism.

Whether President Obama understands all this, I don’t know. His policies have been alternatively passive (Libya, Egypt), incoherent (Russian reset) and feckless (Syria). But the fact that the current U.S. economic recovery is the slowest in post-WWII history—spanning 70 years—is surely a key factor in Vladimir Putin’s adventurism.

This brings us back to Reagan’s link. Putin may recognize that Russia’s economy is a thin deck of cards. But he surely doesn’t fear the weak American economic position. Ditto for the broken economic dictatorships in North Korea, Iran and Venezuela, and the rising economic dictatorship in China. They don’t fear us.

In fact, America’s economic weakness is so worrisome, one suspects our friends are losing respect for us, too. Whether in Europe, Asia, Latin America or Israel, our allies know that America has been the backstop for freedom. If not us, who?

But can they say that now?

As I testified  this week before the congressional Joint Economic Committee, at 2.1 percent average real growth, the U.S. is lagging far behind the 4.1 percent average recovery pace of the post-war business cycles. The Reagan recovery averaged 5 percent annual growth at the same point as the Obama recovery.

Obama’s stock market from the depth of the meltdown does beat Reagan’s market and the post-war average for equities. But here’s a very worrisome trend. Over the entire post-war period, average yearly growth has been 3.2 percent. And in the 1980s and ‘90s, growth was 3.7 percent. Since 2001, however, under Republican and Democratic presidents and congresses, as the dollar lost over a third of its value, growth has dropped to only 1.8 percent annually. Something has clearly gone very wrong.

For payrolls, Obama’s five-year recovery has averaged annual job growth of 1.2 percent (7.9 million jobs). Reagan’s was 3.1 percent (14.6 million jobs). Even with the recent jobs improvement, record numbers of Americans have dropped out of the labor force, part-time employment is replacing full-time, wages are abnormally low and middle-class real incomes are falling.

The massive federal spending stimulus of 2009-2010 did not work. There were no so-called fiscal multipliers. The fed’s near-$3.5 trillion of balance-sheet creation also failed, with money multipliers and velocity rates collapsing. Obamacare has thrown a wet blanket over business hiring, hours worked and full-time jobs. Business investment and housing have not really recovered.

Overregulation has stifled Main Street businesses and start-ups. The highest corporate tax rate among developed countries is forcing American businesses to flee to lower-tax nations, taking their cash and jobs with them. Tax hikes on personal income, capital gains, dividends and payrolls are reducing growth incentives.

Ronald Reagan’s free-enterprise growth model of easier taxes, limited government, lighter regulation and sound money strengthened America both at home and abroad. Barack Obama’s model of heavy-handed government, income redistribution, punishing success and cheap money has diminished us at home and weakened us around the world.

Caveat emptor, voters. It’s truly time for change.

(Creators Syndicate)