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Month: November 2014

City’s holiday lights require lots of volunteer coordination

Chad Cripe and his son, Cooper, check lights on decorations destined for River Road during the holiday season. (KEIZERTIMES/Lyndon A. Zaitz)
Chad Cripe and his son, Cooper, check lights on decorations destined for River Road during the holiday season. (KEIZERTIMES/Lyndon A. Zaitz)

Of the Keizertimes

When Keizer wakes on the Sunday before Thanksgiving it finds that the decoration elves have completed their handiwork—more than 100 Christmas decorations line River Road and other streets.

Cities and towns across the country, no matter how big or small, have Christmas or holiday decorations. Keizer’s decorations date back many decades, hung each year by civic volunteers.

The current inventory of Christmas decorations date to the mid-1980s, after Keizer was incorporated. Then-Chamber of Commerce President Velma Tepper was instrumental in their purchase of the first ones.  All seven of them. River Road looked quite different in 1986 than it does now; there were many fewer utility poles on which to attach decorations.

In later years the city of Keizer purchased additional decorations, though they were cared for and stored by the Chamber. The Curry family, owners of Budget Rent-a-Space in south Keizer, donated the storage space.

Residents of Keizer who date back to the 1960s will remember the Santa decorations that were hung from poles on River Road. Those plastic units were hung by the Keizer Fire District for years before time took its toll. Eventually all of those were discarded.

Nowadays there are about 120 lighted Christmas decorations that are installed on utility poles along River Road, segments of Chemawa Road and Cherry Avenue. It takes a cadre of dedicated civic volunteers to assure the decorations are in good repair. They are led by Keizer’s Mr. Christmas himself, Dave Walery.

Walery, whose business, Walery’s Premium Pizza, was then located in Keizer (now in west Salem on Edgewater Drive), was called by local insurance agent and Chamber of Commerce board member Tom Bauer.

“He said ‘Come to my house tonight to drink beer and screw in light bulbs’ It sounded good to me,” said Walery. The original crew of Christmas decoration installers included Bauer, Randy Cook—who was key to the success of the project, Walery, and Jim Keller. It didn’t take the crew, a total of five people, to install the 21 decorations.

Back in the days before people thought of safety regulations, the crew hoisted themselves high off the ground, standing one a pallet on a forklift that was donated by Ben’s Rentals. In the name of safety, steel baskets were provided by Doug Gatchett of G&S Machines on Cherry Avenue, for the crew to stand in while installing the decorations more than 20 feet in the air.

In the 1980s, Portland General Electric added electrical boxes to the poles to allow for illumination; Salem Electric soon followed suit on their poles.

Christmas decorations, unfortunately, don’t last forever. They lose their luster, the garland starts to shed and the electrical wiring gets frayed and needs to be replaced. The only lasting element of the decorations is the steel frames.

It’s the need to repair and maintain the decorations that an army of volunteer kicks into high gear the weekend before Thanksgiving.

On a cold Saturday, Nov. 22 at Budget Rent-a-Space, Walery, Randy Cook and others hauled out the decorations and before loading onto trucks, checked and changed light bulbs as necessary, ready to be installed the following morning while most of Keizer was still asleep.

Joining the decorations, dating back almost 30 years, are some new LED-fitted ones the city of Keizer funded as the first of a five-year plan to replace all the old ones.

It now takes two crews to do their magic installing, one team starting in the south end, the other in the north end. This year the work was completed in record time—90 minutes. After the task was completed most members of the two crews repaired to the Elks Club for a celebratory breakfast.

Dave Walery and Randy Cook, the longest serving volunteers, were joined in the installation this year by: Tom Berkeland, Steve Clark, David Clarman, Brandon Cook, Chad Cripe, Cooper Cripe, Tasha Cripe, Heath Dedrick, Kim Freeman, Ron Freeman, Tony Newkirk, Larry Schmidgall, Marsha Stallings, Gordon Wentzel, Jennifer Wentzel and Rob Wood.

Utility box = art canvas?


Of the Keizertimes

Utility boxes aren’t usually known for their design.

Mayor Lore Christopher wants to change that in Keizer.

The outgoing mayor serves as chair of the new Keizer Arts Commission and has been putting together a plan for students to paint artwork on utility boxes along River Road.

For the time being, Christopher is referring to the project as the Student Utility Box Project, though she emphasized at a recent Arts Commission meeting she is open to a more creative name. Christopher is hoping to work with Erik Jespersen, the new McNary High School principal, on setting up the project.

“I want to have McNary students adopt a utility box,” Christopher said. “I want to introduce the idea to students next September. If PGE (Portland General Electric) comes along, all the other utilities will come online as well.”

As envisioned by Christopher, interested students would choose a utility box from a list, check out paint supply kits put together by Arts Commission member Jill Hagen and apply their art to a utility box under the mentoring eye of an Arts Commission member.

“We would furnish the paint,” the mayor said. “We would have contracts for September. I want the budget committee to put money in for supplies. I might just say give us $1,000. I would be asking any McNary High School art student. We would need to have our prospectus lined up. I will take pictures of the utility boxes. We’ll number them and have the contracts all in place.”

Christopher went over how she sees the process working.

“A student says I want box No. 37 and here’s what I’m going to paint,” she said. “They submit a design, we approve the design, they tell us what they need paint wise and we check it out to them. We will establish a paint box, if you will. They say box No. 37 and we hand them the box. Someone would oversee it. You work with one student on one utility box until it is done. I think that’s a pretty reasonable task. Once they adopt a box, they will have 30 to 90 days to get it done.”

Arts Commission vice chair Rick Day liked the idea and noted commission members would act as mentors to the students.

Christopher noted she wasn’t sure when the first students would be wanting to get going.

“We may have a kid who wants to get on it right away,” she said. “Most likely it would be in May or June (2016) when school is getting out.”

Jill Hagen suggested getting students lined up sooner rather than later.

“If we get the prospectus over to the school now, there might be someone in September who is ready to go,” Hagen said.

Christopher is hoping to get an MHS arts teacher on the commission shortly, with the idea of that helping to develop the program.

“We wanted to start with something expressly done by students,” she said. “I think it would be good to say the students own it. The community will embrace it because it’s student art. It would be a really good thing for students, but I’m not opposed if there is not enough interest (from them) or if other people want to do it.”

Hagen suggested she could present the idea to art students at Chemeketa Community College, an idea met with favor.

Christopher suggested Hagen and Kathy Haney working together on the program, with Hagen specifying what should go in the paint boxes given to the students and Haney figuring out the finer details of the program. Hagen suggested she could talk with Sherwin-Williams about getting paint.

Hagen’s excitement about the project was pretty obvious.

“I want to do one of the boxes,” she exclaimed.

That led to a joking rebuke from Christopher.

“Will you guys give the kids a chance?” the mayor said with a laugh. “It’s going to be a fun project.”

Christopher noted she will go up and down River Road coming up with an inventory of the utility boxes, which counted 38 at one point several years ago.

“You write the program, I’ll inventory the utility boxes,” Christopher said. “I’ll walk it and map it. The boxes are in different sizes.”

Wrong-way drunk driver arrested after hitting car, killing passenger Tuesday

A. Bliven
A. Bliven

A driver going the wrong way on Interstate 5 struck a car near Brooks early Tuesday morning, killing a passenger.

At approximately 2:50 a.m. Nov. 25, the Oregon State Police (OSP) received a call reporting a wrong-way driver on I-5 near Brooks. About one minute later, OSP received a second call of a head-on crash on I-5 near milepost 266.5. The Marion County Sheriff’s Office and Keizer Police Department responded to the scene to assist until OSP troopers arrived to conduct the investigation.

While the investigation is ongoing, preliminary information indicates a white 2003 Volkswagen Jetta driven by Audrey Bliven, 49, of Salem, was traveling northbound in the southbound lanes of travel. Near milepost 266.5 on I-5, the Jetta crashed head-on into a black BMW 320 which was southbound in the left lane of travel.

The female right front passenger in the BMW, identified as Deana DeLeon, 49, of Nyssa, was pronounced deceased at the scene. The adult male driver, identified as 37-year-old Juan Ledesma of Renton, Wash., and a juvenile female passenger whose name will be withheld, were injured and transported to the Salem Hospital.

The juvenile female was transferred from Salem Hospital to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland.

Bliven was transported to Salem Hospital for treatment. Upon her release from the hospital, Bliven was arrested by OSP for the crimes of manslaughter in the second degree, criminally negligent homicide, driving under the influence of intoxicants – alcohol, assault, recklessly endangering another person and reckless driving.

While the accident was being investigated, Oregon Department of Transportation officials set up a detour that went through Woodburn and Keizer for southbound traffic.

All lanes of southbound I-5 were reopened shortly before 8 a.m.

As a criminal investigation, any further information will be released by the Marion County District Attorney’s Office; contact Amy Queen at (503) 804-6951 at the Marion County District Attorney’s Office.

In addition to the MCSO, KPD and ODOT, the OSP also received assistance from the Woodburn Fire Department.

Young at Art forced to look for a new home

Young at Art is a place for young artists on River Road but will have to move after a smoke shop opened next door earlier this month. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Young at Art is a place for young artists on River Road but will have to move after a smoke shop opened next door earlier this month. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

Of the Keizertimes

Like any first-year business owner, Mahssa Hashemi has come across obstacles.

The phone call she got on Oct. 10 was the biggest yet.

On that Friday, landlord Mike Smith informed Hashemi — the owner of Young at Art, which opened in January at 3924 River Road North — a smoke shop would be moving in next door.

Having a smoke shop move in next to Hashemi’s studio for young artists was tough enough; learning the smoke shop would be allowed to take over her space at the end of the year was crushing.

“It was kind of a shock,” Hashemi said. “My mouth just dropped. I told my landlord that is big news.”

Hashemi had suspected something might be going on, based on a conversation she had with her landlord, who did not return calls from the Keizertimes seeking comment.

“I had talked with them in September about renewing my lease,” Hashemi said. “He said let’s hold off. I thought that was kind of weird.”

Hashemi plans for her last day at the current location to be Dec. 23 and hopes to find a new place as soon as possible. Due to a lack of funds, she is turning to GoFundMe to raise $15,000 to go towards initial rent in a new building. When the page went active Nov. 20, $880 was raised in the first day. The giving has slowed since and stood at $1,290 as of Monday night.

Earlier this month, Badr Elnes opened One Stop Smoke Shop in the adjoining space next to Young at Art.

Elnes said he looked at the building nearly a year ago in the hopes of opening his smoke shop.

“I stopped by and talked with the landlords,” he said. “They said no at first. Then they said they would talk with their tenant first. About a month and a half ago, they offered me the space and they also offered me to take over the other part. The landlord said (Hashemi) would not be renewing her lease. The landlord offered me both spaces, because she wasn’t going to take both parts. I was told the lease was up at the end of December but she might be leaving earlier.”

Elnes isn’t sure what he’ll be putting in the space currently occupied by Young at Art.

“I have no idea what I want to do,” Elnes said. “My lifelong dream was to open a bistro, but I don’t know if that space will be big enough.”

Sam Kerr, an employee at One Stop Smoke Shop, likes having the studio next door.

“I really like what they’re doing over there,” he said.

However, that feeling has not been mutual.

“People make choices and that’s fine,” said Hashemi, who noted there are two other nearby smoke shops. “But I don’t want it to be my fault young kids who come here are asking what’s next door. That’s hard for me. It’s pretty hard to miss it, especially those bright neon signs when it’s getting darker earlier.”

Hashemi said it quickly became apparent while talking with Smith staying wouldn’t be an option.

“They are doubling our rent,” she said. “We can’t afford to double our rent. There’s no way we could double it.”

The current rent is being paid each month.

“Business has been building a lot,” Hashemi said. “People are so supportive. People keep coming back. Things are always changing here. We have something new all the time. We’ve been able to pay our rent and we’re doing better and better. There’s so much support for it because it meets a need for families.”

Hashemi is depending on that support to keep going.

“All of our savings went to first and last month and taking the carpet out of here,” she said. “The only way to truly continue is with the community’s support.”

Hashemi is spending Friday looking at potential buildings.

“I would open the day after Christmas if I could,” she said. “I would move earlier, but I can’t. The hope would be to reopen as soon as possible.”

Hashemi figured the one-year lease would give her a good taste for the future.

“I knew we had a year to prove ourselves,” she said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be pushed out. It was a big risk to open this, but I feel it is a concept that will work in this community. The kids love it here.”

Based on the unexpected detour, Hashemi has found herself debating if opening was the right call.

“I’d say 75 percent of me thinks this is the end of our business,” she said. “Maybe I could do something less stressful. But I’m going to try and keep going for the kids and the parents. That’s the only reason I’m doing this, because of their support.”

Cases highlight drug issues

Officers with the Keizer Police Department found numerous signs of drug use at the home of Jarrod and Erin Wells last week, including burned carpets and drug paraphernalia. For more information on that arrest, please see (Image Courtesy Keizer Police Department)
Officers with the Keizer Police Department found numerous signs of drug use at the home of Jarrod and Erin Wells last week, including burned carpets and drug paraphernalia. (Image Courtesy Keizer Police Department)

Of the Keizertimes

Twice in recent weeks, high-profile arrests in Keizer have involved drugs.

Early on Oct. 25, Keizer Police Department detectives arrested 23-year-old Niya Breann Sosa-Martinez on charges of second degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, endangering the welfare of a minor and second degree child neglect after her 4-year-old son died in an apartment fire the previous day.

It was revealed in court Sosa-Martinez had been doing drugs the day of the fire.

Last week, police arrested Erin Marie Wells at her Saundra Lee Way residence on several drug charges. Her husband, Jarrod Thomas Wells, also 37, was arrested on more charges a short time later as well as former beauty pageant winner Jamie Lynn France, 23 (see related story, pg. 12). Two young boys, ages 4 and 7, were at home at the time of their mom’s arrest (See previous article for more information).

“Heroin and methamphetamine were strewn throughout the home and were within easy reach of the two children,” Sgt. Bob Trump with the KPD said.

Jeff Kuhns, deputy chief with the KPD, acknowledged the incidents are alarming – and also just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to drugs.

“The sad thing is we know there are several more cases just like them,” Kuhns said. “We can’t always get into all of the homes. It’s a sad reflection on what’s occurring in society these days. It’s an epidemic problem.”

According to a State Medical Examiner’s drug-related deaths report, more than 200 people a year in Oregon are being killed by drugs. In six of the last seven years, more than 100 people a year in Oregon have died due to heroin, topped by 147 deaths in 2012 and 143 the year before. There were 111 heroin-related deaths in 2013, the lowest since 90 in 2010. Cocaine-related deaths totaled 12 in 2013, the lowest amount according to the report, which shows data going back to 2003.

However, methamphetamine-related deaths reached a new high in 2013 with 123, a 32 percent increase from the 93 recorded in 2012. There were 107 methamphetamine-related deaths in 2011 and 106 each in 2008 and 2010.

Overall, there have been 200 or more drug-related deaths in Oregon each year since 2006, plus 198 in 2004 and 197 in 2005.

Kuhns noted the trend in drug-related deaths. Keizer’s easy access to Interstate 5, while seen as an advantage to attracting businesses, has also long been pointed to as making the city a convenient place for drug dealers to do business.

“We’re truly one spoke in the wheel,” Kuhns said Nov. 21. “It’s a systemic problem. There’s not a meth rehab space for people. It all boils down to beds and treatment. In this particular case, one person (France) has already been released from jail. It’s hard to get treatment if you’re released after one day. When you go to the medical examiner’s report, you see that heroin is killing people. Heroin use has gone through the roof.”

During his 25-plus years with the Keizer Police Department, Kuhns has seen a drastic change in the typical heroin user.

“When I began my law enforcement career, heroin was a last resort drug,” Kuhns said. “It was people in their late 40s or early 50s, truly the last resort. Now times have changed. We’re seeing it as a drug of choice for teens and adults in their early 20s, as was the case here (with France).

“It’s an alarming problem,” he added. “Part of that is an availability issue. We haven’t shut off the pipeline to where drugs are coming from, primarily Mexico and South America. The cheap costs make it so easy for people to use it.”

Last week’s arrests came after months of observation by the KPD’s Community Response Unit (CRU) team, led by Trump.

A key part of investigations involve controlled buys, in which police have someone go into a suspected drug house and purchase drugs, then search the person and vehicle to see the amount of drugs. That evidence is eventually turned into a judge in asking for a search warrant for arrest.

“We can only work with people that are willing to work with us,” Kuhns said. “We work with our informants and get probable cause. You have to have X amount of a controlled buy. It’s an awful lot of work. You have to keep your eyes on these people. A lot of work goes into making the buys from dealers. We present an affidavit to the judge, telling why we believe more drugs would be found inside. That’s what happened in this case. The judge found probable cause we would find more drugs in the house, which we did.”

Such success, however, isn’t easy to come by.

“I would say we’re holding our own,” Kuhns said when asked if the KPD is making progress or falling behind in terms of finding drug dealers. “Chief (John) Teague has done a good thing by reinstituting the CRU team. That’s a step in the right direction. These guys have an endless supply of work. When you arrest one to three persons, you still have several others engaged in unlawful activity. We’ll keep working on it. The higher priority is when kids are in these residences, like we had here. It’s a tough task. Right now we have nobody working traffic on a motorcycle in Keizer. We have shifted those resources to battle this.”

Such concerns prompted Trump to include before-and-after photos of the three people arrested last week. The differences between France prior to drugs and her arrest photo attracted national interest.

“The Keizer Police Department would like to take this opportunity to caution against the use of illegal controlled substances because of the terrible long-term affects to the user, their families and our communities,” Trump said.

Against that backdrop Kuhns said the recently approved ballot Measure 91, which will legalize the use of recreational marijuana within certain limits next summer, was met with concern from the start.

“All of law enforcement is concerned,” Kuhns said. “With the ballot measure, not one chief of police in Oregon supported that ballot measure. In this case (last week), drugs were within reach of these children. We’re watching our law enforcement partners closely in Colorado and Washington and other states. We see what’s going on there and it’s concerning.”

Moving past Ferguson

The aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. last August has included riots, protests, punditry that spans the political spectrum and a grand jury that decided this week no criminal charges are warranted against police officer Darren Wilson.

The announcement of the grand jury’s decision by St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch Monday night set off riots in Ferguson and protests across the nation.

According to McCulloch the grand jury read thousands of pages of documents and listened to 60 witnesses over 70 hours from August to mid-November. It was an exhaustive amount of evidence for the 12-person body. In the end the grand jury said no crime was committed.

That was not what many in Ferguson wanted to hear. As Mr. McCulloch said, there were conflicting eyewitness account, witnesses who changed their story once faced with evidence. The only people who had access to all of the evidence were the people on the grand jury. After several days of deliberation they made their decision, but we don’t know what the final vote was—a grand jury’s decision does not have to be unanimous.

People can disagree with the jury’s decision, be angry and protest. Due to the prosector’s release of all the evidence everyone (who bothers to read it) can decide for themselves if the right decison was made.

It was the grand jury’s decision to make—it is the judicial system in which we Americans live. Some may say that justice was not done, but that is always said by the side that doesn’t get the outcome they desire.

This will most likely not be the end of the case. Those with a standing (i.e., the Brown family) could file a civil rights violation lawsuit against Officer Wilson and the Ferguson Police Department. That will prolong the Michael Brown case years into the future.

The shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer is hard for us in Keizer to understand. We’ve never had a police shooting resulting in the death of a suspect. Keizer doesn’t have a history of rogue cops with trigger fingers.

The men and women who serve in law enforcement have one of the most stressful occupations in the world. The horrible scenes they see, the lives destroyed by violent crime not to mention that they themselves could, at any time, fall victim to a criminal with a weapon.

We cannot tell Ferguson where to go from here, that is a decison they must make. A good start for that Missouri city—or any city—is to make a police force that mirrors the citizens it is charged to serve and  protect.

Community outreach here in Keizer, in Ferguson, anywhere in America is key to fostering positive community between the protectors and the protected.

You don’t fear what you are not afraid of.  —LAZ

Jesus missing in the Holiday Guide

To the Editor:

Just this morning I received the Keizertimes 2014 Holiday Gift and Event Guide in the mail. It was filled with loads of gift ideas and local events. You can buy diamonds, veterinary services, flowers, meals at McDonalds or Subway, and much, much more.  Even a holiday subscription to the Keizertimes!

There is no shortage of events to enjoy either. Holiday bazaars, tree lightings, light displays, and a number of parades. You can have tea with Mrs. Claus and Santa himself even helicopters into the Volcanoes’ Stadium.

In the guide you will learn some tips on entertaining, tackling holiday messes, transforming turkey leftovers and how to make the holidays easier.

There are some more altruistic offerings as well: toy drives, food collections for the needy, and of course Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol.

However, one thing was glaringly missing—nowhere in the entire guide did the name Jesus or Christ appear. Not once. Yes, Christmas or the politically-correct “holidays” were mentioned but seemingly all the emphasis was on everything except the person for whom the “holiday” (holy day) is supposedly honoring.

Even the article about St. Edward’s might lead the reader to believe Christmastime (“the most popular time of year”) is more about the décor of the new building (“We don’t want to distract from the altar and the crucifix.”) than celebrating the birth of the savior of mankind.

Maybe I have it all wrong, but I was under the impression Christ didn’t come to earth so we could all focus on ourselves and lavish each other with gifts. Jesus Christ was the gift, the Savior of the world, at least in the hearts of those who call themselves Christians. His gift was death on a cross to purchase mankind’s salvation without which Christmas and Christianity are meaningless. The whole focus of the Holiday Guide seems to have missed that minor detail.

Mark Manthey

Teachers are a constant in kid’s lives

To the Editor:

Sometimes I call parents’ homes in the evening to tell them how well their student is doing in class, or what an exceptional effort or improvement s/he is making. Almost invariably, the appreciative response will be something along the lines of, “How kind of you to call! I wish more teachers cared like that.” Here’s what I wish that they knew (and which I summarize for them):

They do care like that. High school teachers have, for example, in the realm of 180 students per day, and 47 minutes in which to grade their papers and plan the following day’s lessons. It’s clear that the average teacher takes home a whole lot of work.

Additionally, of that time, they are scaffolding, attending IEP meetings, filling in IEP feedback response forms, answering e-mails, entering scores, grading papers and a host of other tasks that require time that they don’t have.

I can’t imagine that anyone, ever, has gone into teaching for the money. In fact, with high school teachers’ being required to hold a minimum of a master’s degree, it will take most teachers years to recoup the monies that they invested on behalf of their students’ learning. We go into teaching, the vast majority of us, because we love kids. Period.

In fact, the kids are the good part of the job. As families continue to unravel, and drugs and alcohol wreak societal havoc, depriving children of their parents, their security, and their dreams, the teachers whom they count on to fill the gap are being pulled further and further away.

What will happen, I wonder, when the move toward tying teachers’ salaries to their students’ performance is locked in, as is the current push? Teachers, in order to feed their families, will have no choice but to prioritize papers over hearts, and the old game of You Can’t Win will again triumph. Teachers don’t care.

Carla Bell, PhD

(The writer is an English teacher at McNary High School.)

How to get past political impasses

A Box of Soap
by Don Vowell

A foundation of gratitude and hope supports all that happens between now and the New Year. As viewed against the national climate of calamity and dire prediction it’s an optimism hard to justify.  Where change is possible there can be hope.  Since change is the one constant in life there can always be optimism.

If the nation seems sour right now it is because change is dreaded instead of being welcomed. The economy is sound enough, more so for some than others.  The rate of employment continues to improve, though wages do not. Health care has been made available to millions more Americans, though the required profit-taking makes it the most expensive on the planet.These changes don’t seem so bad.

For these changes we have chosen to punish a president whose favorability ratings have fallen below 40 percent by handing a Congressional majority to a party whose favorability rating needs a stool to reach 10 percent.  Do we not remember January, 2009?

Senate Majority Leader-to-be  Mitch McConnell grumpily warned that if President Obama went ahead with executive action dealing with immigration it would “poison the well” of bi-partisan cooperation.  That would be a waste of good poison.  That well went dry in 2009 at the president’s inauguration and has only a little toxic sludge festering at the bottom. Sen. McConnell vowed at the time to do everything he could to make certain it was a one term presidency. Though he was not successful, he has held to that pledge.

It is not wrong to feel sour about change if you think it comes only from this cast of players: Democrats or Republicans, conservatives or liberals, Christians or pagans, the rich or the poor, whites or non-whites. Many hands make light work.  We have a lot to do and change can only be good if we are all invested.

I think we must begin with humility.  No matter what I think, it only matters a little. There will always be someone with education better than mine who has made more effort to know the issues, the history, and cause and effect who has reached different conclusions than I have. I could be wrong.  So could you.  That doesn’t excuse us from our obligations to work together.  Our only agreement is that change is needed—not all those changes will please you or me.  So be it.

Earlier in the year I wrote here about a study showing that a fair portion of what we believe is wrong.  The eye-opening part of that study noted that even after some participants were shown that they were factually in error, or had misremembered, they were unable to change their beliefs.  If you tell yourself something often enough it becomes your truth. Welcome to America.  If I ignore 10 facts to base my belief on one fact I am part of the problem.

Even though I’m an idiot and you’re an idiot we are left with only each other to drive any change.  I’m grateful for that.  I trust that you and I want the same for this country. I can’t abandon hope.

Change is good. This is our first Thanksgiving without our children.  We’ll load my eight-year-old car with too much food and dive into the I-5 bedlam for a visit with a newly retired sister out of Alaska, a sister long retired, and nieces and nephews with their new babies.  We are grateful that our Thanksgiving, thoroughly changed this year, offers new delight.  Life is good,

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

Action is not amnesty or citizenship

We now know that President Obama’s new immigration policy is not amnesty or a way for people to avoid deportation any more than it is automatic citizenship.  Rather, it is work authorization that will not provide social welfare benefits but will allow employers to continue to exploit immigrant labor.

It will build on the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, offering some undocumented youth temporary, renewable reprieve from deportation.  Meanwhile, protection of a similar nature will be granted to several million undocumented adults who have children with citizen or green card status and have five years of clean record status.  Then, too, more of these folks will gain relief by way of the original Deferred Action for more childhood arrivals along with permission to bring in more skilled tech-sector workers.

President Obama cannot bring about a total overhaul of the immigration system single-handedly.  Republicans are into their throwing verbal barbs mode again, threatening to derail the plan through procedural countermeasures or lawsuits while opponents of Obama pronouncements can rest easy because the majority of undocumented people will continue without papers and have no recourse to avoid deportation.

It’s true that while the news for millions is fairly good and promising of a future here, youth who were part of the 2012 reprieve, the DACA set, will realize their parents are excluded from the allowing measures.  The latest reforms deny undocumented parents of DACA recipients.  So, the youth who have campaigned for an expansion of their program will realize that their parents are among those millions left behind.

All of this reform stuff leaves many an issue airborne.  Republicans could propose an alternative reform bill that’s much more restrictive than the Obama declaration.  Then there’s Obama’s focus on border measures which declare an emphasis on “deporting felons, not families.”  All of the uncertain stuff leaves the undocumented dangling because what could come to pass are anti-immigrant dragnets that place the undocumented workers into more poverty and greater exploitation.

After Obama’s announcement,  Seattle-based activist Angelica Chazaro, said, “I am disturbed by reports that the President will continue to draw lines between deserving and undeserving immigrants that our movement long ago rejected.  I am concerned that the president’s announcement will focus ICE’s devastating power on the members of our community that we refuse to leave behind—immigrants without children, LGBTQ immigrants, and the young immigrant men of color most likely to be targeted for arrests and convictions that will disqualify them for relief.”

On the sunny side of all this, those who support Obama’s move see the door opening to a more long-term solution, including the possibility of legislative reforms that provide legal stability and social protections.  These changes in law could allow immigrants to live with full civil rights, labor rights and political equality or the essence of citizenship.

The beat goes on with immigration.  There are so many facets to it that one could spend volumes of written space debating its pros and cons. One of the many issues that concern this guest columnist has to do with the selective choice among the undocumented where five million of them are getting relief while another six million or so are not receiving it.  This is lousy psychology and sets up the nation for bad behavior on the part of those left behind with nothing to lose because they’ve already been assigned dispensable status and seriously threatens livability here.

The other issue that bothers me a lot is that Oregon is a state that does not offer a great abundance of employment opportunities to begin with and the fact that thousands have come here and delivered large families along the way but offer little or nothing for them by way of a livelihood other than following the crops.  Following the crops and other menial work that doesn’t require a formal education is apparently acceptable for the newcomers who are used to hard, toilsome, back- breaking work.  However, their offspring often want something better and that’s where the proverbial “rub” comes in as gang warfare, drug peddling, wide-ranging criminal activity and a multitude of anti-social behaviors find their disillusioned recruits, making Oregon no longer the generally safe place to reside that was true of it just four or so decades ago.

(Gene H. McIntyre’s column appears weekly in the Keizertimes.)