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

Month: November 2014

WKNA president pushes for more buffer around Keizer Rapids Park

Keizer Public Works director Bill Lawyer explains Keizer Rapids Park details at the Nov. 3 Keizer City Council meeting. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)
Keizer Public Works director Bill Lawyer explains Keizer Rapids Park details at the Nov. 3 Keizer City Council meeting.
(KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)

Of the Keizertimes

Even before Rhonda Rich spoke, there was confusion as to whether or not she could.

Rich, president of the West Keizer Neighborhood Association, came to Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting to talk about the recently altered buffer between Keizer Rapids Park and WKNA neighbors. Rich had previously hoped for a 75-foot buffer, but when councilors approved a revised KRP master plan on Nov. 3, the buffer stretching from the Willamette River to Chemawa Road was only 25 feet.

Last Saturday, Rich sent an e-mail to councilors encouraging them to look at the property and see why the bigger buffer was needed.

As Mayor Lore Christopher called Rich up during public comment at Monday’s meeting, the debate started as to whether or not comments could be made.

“The hearing on the Keizer Rapids Park master plan has been closed,” city attorney Shannon Johnson said. “It’s not a quasi-judicial process, so you’re allowed to talk among yourselves. But there’s always a concern that if testimony is taken, there would be a question of fairness.”

Christopher agreed.

“I would say I really feel when you open a public hearing, you allow someone an extra bite of the apple,” she said. “People would feel we’ve given you an unfair advantage.”

Councilor Dennis Koho saw both sides of the argument.

“She can and has e-mailed us,” Koho said. “Anyone else can do the same.”

Councilor Cathy Clark noted no more testimony could be taken following the previous meeting.

“My understanding is the hearing is closed,” Clark said. “We can’t take additional information without more hearings. I would love to hear information and ideas, but we’ve been given a lot of ideas.”

Councilor Kim Freeman opined “we’ve been given the testimony,” but council president Joe Egli had a different view.

“I believe we’ve directed staff to bring back a final order,” he said. “I would love to listen to the testimony. If it changes the direction, we would have to reopen the hearing.”

Councilors Marlene Quinn and Jim Taylor both wanted to hear from Rich.

“Rhonda has the right as a citizen to come up and testify,” Taylor said. “After the public hearing last time there were changes made, which is what she’s concerned about.”

Rich noted she was speaking for WKNA, since some people had commented on the buffer to her.

“I would welcome any discussion addressing a good neighbor buffer,” she said. “We didn’t have the opportunity to discuss the 25-foot buffer. “That’s what we did ask for, for the buffer to be the whole length. I’m not asking you to change that plan.”

Rich said a pathway was set several years ago, which set the buffer at 75 to 100 feet.

“If you do the pathway, the closest point to the fence is 50 feet, so it seems like 50 feet is the distance we’d like to see,” she said. “Maybe you could reconsider what you have already.”

In other business Monday:

• Jason Bruster, a member of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, noted he is mentoring the group that is looking to do improvements at Carlson Skate Park. The subject was brought up at the Nov. 6 Parks Board meeting and was in last week’s Keizertimes.

Bruster said cracking concrete is creating holes that trip skateboards. Local youth are partnering with Lincoln City-based Dreamland Skateparks LLC with the hopes of doing maintenance work at the park, in addition to doing some new parts. Repairs are estimated at $25,000. The Parks Board has a matching grant program this year, but approving the $12,000 requested for the project would wipe out all of the funding.

“My recommendation to them is to come back with a lower request to the Parks Board and to raise a little bit more money themselves,” Bruster said. “I am going to mentor the project. We’re setting up PayPal accounts for people to give money to.”

A Facebook page for the project has been created ( and PayPal donations can be made to [email protected] Checks are payable to Bruster’s PacWest non-profit charity, with either Project Life or Skate Park in the memo line and can be mailed to PO Box 20428 Keizer, OR 97307.

• New Christmas lights are being purchased by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce this year after all – but they aren’t being put up.

Last week chamber executive director Christine Dieker and city manager Chris Eppley said the $10,000 set aside for new lights would not be spent this year, citing health and timing issues with Dave Walery, who was making the request on behalf of the chamber. A story with that information appeared in the Keizertimes’ holiday guide, which was sent out to all Keizer homes this week.

Monday’s council meeting happened after the guide went to press and included updated information on the topic. Keizer’s Mr. Christmas – aka Walery – was present and talked about the lights.

“I want to purchase the decorations, but I don’t want to put them up this year,” Walery said. “We’re not going to be able to get them done.”

• A liquor license application for Salsa Rica at 3844 River Road North was approved 5-2. New owners and applicants Dina Fuentes and Elsa Fernandez were not present; as such and following past practice, Taylor and Koho voted against the application.

The recommendation is being forwarded to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission for final approval.

Eye on the big picture

Melissa Frank teaches her fourth/fifth grade blended class at Gubser Elementary on Monday. Frank won a Crystal Apple award on Nov. 13. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
Melissa Frank teaches her fourth/fifth grade blended class at Gubser Elementary on Monday. Frank won a Crystal Apple award on Nov. 13.
(KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

Curriculums and academic goalposts at times seem to change with the wind, but Gubser Elementary School teacher Melissa Frank keeps her sights set on a bigger picture.

“The biggest thing is just instilling confidence in working at a task. If you can instill that confidence and sense of pride, students strive harder, they work harder and they’re more successful,” said Frank, who is in her ninth year as a Gator teacher.

Frank was one of a dozen teachers and educators honored for their work with a Salem-Keizer Education Foundation Crystal Apple at a ceremony Thursday, Nov. 13. Frank was the only nominee from a Keizer school to walk away with the “Academy Award” of Salem-Keizer School District education.

In her tenure as a fourth grade teacher – she now teaches a fourth/fifth blended class – students have arrived in Frank’s classroom from all walks of life and every possible mix of preparation.

“There are students that excel, those that struggle and those lacking the intrinsic motivation to work at school, but I love catching a struggling reader and working some magic to get them where they need to be,” Frank said.

The magic she talks about isn’t so much a trick as it is focused hard work. One year, a student arrived in her class who had fallen nearly three years behind in reading.

“He had completely flatlined the year before. He hadn’t grown at all,” she said.

Frank took it upon herself to help him break down the wall that had erupted between his abilities and his belief in them.

“We sat down each day and read together. In his year with me, he grew two full grade levels and he had more of a sense of pride and accomplishment,” Frank said. “We were a team. We couldn’t do it without him working hard and he couldn’t do it without me believing in him. That was the important piece.”

Her sense of teamwork, she hopes, extends beyond the classroom and to the families of her students.

“Mostly, I need them to believe in me like I believe in their children. Students and parents can get frustrated with things like a reading log every night, it can seem mundane. It’s all for a reason, though, and it works out if we’re a unit. We all need to be thinking of that student’s future together,” she said.

Frank was thinking about her own future long before she ever set up shop at the head of her own classroom. Her mother liked to brag that Frank had “the smartest stuffed animals” in town because she spent so much time teaching them the things she’d learned in school. Once she had her own class at Gubser, one of her goals was to have her name read alongside those honored with the Crystal Apple award.

“I was humbled and honored to be standing up there alongside so many other people who had amazing stories of their own,” she said.

Then, as now, she’s played the long game in education and has no intention of giving it up any time soon.

“The look on a student’s face when they grow a reading level or pass a math test, the cute little homemade gift they bring in or the hugs they give … they fill my up,” she said. “I want them to remember me and be inspired by me when they think of me in 10 years and know I would be proud of them.”

Mother-daughter pair tackle team injuries

McNary student athletic trainer Jasmine Ernest talks with Parker Janssen after Janssen suffered a broken leg in the varsity football game between McNary and Sprague high schools. (Photo courtesy of J&H Photo)
McNary student athletic trainer Jasmine Ernest talks with Parker Janssen after Janssen suffered a broken leg in the varsity football game between McNary and Sprague high schools.
(Photo courtesy of J&H Photo)

Of the Keizertimes

In the McNary High School varsity football team’s game with Sprague High School, junior kicker Parker Janssen took hit as he made a point-after attempt.

With one tackler in front of him and another coming over his back, Parker ended up on the ground and, within a couple of minutes, McNary’s physical trainer Jill Pallin and the physical trainer from Sprague were beginning treatments for shock. Janssen’s leg had been badly fractured.

For much of that time, McNary senior Jasmine Ernest was right next to Janssen talking him through the pain and trying to keep his focus off his leg.

“We’ve had similar situations with significant injury and the athletes have almost gone into shock. I wanted to keep him calm and focused on breathing. It was easier because we’re friends and it helped me keep his attention,” Ernest said.

In a situation that could send many adults running for cover or at least averting their eyes, Ernest projected intense focus and a sense of calm rivaling that of a Hindu cow.

“I’ve always thought it is important to have a relationship with a student before he or she gets injured, but Jasmine is like my proof of that. She knows a lot of the athletes and has an easier time engaging them,” Pallin said.

It helped that it wasn’t her first rodeo. Ernest has been assisting her mother, Pallin, since she was in seventh grade.

“It’s amazing. She reads my mind sometimes. She’s been around sports her whole life so she understands the need to hurry up and get people ready. She can also sense the timing of when she needs to get out of the coach’s way and when she can jump in,” said Pallin.

Ernest started out tagging along during her middle school years when she was completing coursework online and scheduling her own hours.

“It was really just a hobby, but now I’m thinking I might major in sports medicine, athletic training or physical therapy in college,” Ernest said.

She progressed from doling out water and picking up tips at her mother’s elbow, to taking sports medicine courses offered at McKay High School in her junior year. She and Pallin can now tag-team a minor injury.

Not long after Janssen’s injury, Celt Tanner Walker was helped to the sideline with an injured ankle. After setting him up on a table, Pallin performed the pre-wrap for a spatting, which includes taping an ankle around the outside of a cleat, and Ernest was waiting in the wing to finish the job.

“When I first started it was more like being a shadow, but then I was able to work on some of the more familiar injuries. I can grab what we need and then I can step in after she gets to an endpoint,” Ernest said.

Pallin said she’s like a second set of eyes, ears and hands that can free her up to work with other injuries as they arise.

The job has paid off in other ways, too. Ernest is appreciative of the time she gets to spend around coaches she might not otherwise encounter in her daily activities.

“When Coach (Isaac) Parker coming in, he was really receptive to the student athletic trainers and I get to watch the coaching staff interact with athletes. I like (Parker’s) tone and the way he encourages them to take things out of it that they can take away for the rest of life,” she said.

Pallin will, of course, miss her daughter when she graduates next year, but Ernest was just the first of cadre of student athletic trainers she works with each year. But, blood will always be thicker than water, and having Ernest at her side provides a window into mom’s world.

“It’s like coaching your own child and they get to understand why I like it and why I’m passionate about it, which is helping someone else get back to doing what they want to do,” Pallin said.

That’s something else Ernest has had a part in more than once, but one particular instance stands out among the rest.

“Cody Bond was one of the first athletes I got to know from his freshman year through graduation,” Ernest said. “He got hurt in the first game of his senior year with a bad ankle injury. It became this process that took the whole year and specific treatment all the way through track and field because he wanted to walk on to the Brigham Young University football team. We weren’t sure that it was going to be possible but, this year, he did it. It feels good to be part of something like that.”

The right Day to give


Of the Keizertimes

Rick Day wants to help out Keizer.

Day, owner of Advantage Precast at 1302 Candlewood Drive North in Keizer, gave a list of items he’s willing to donate to help out parks in Keizer during this month’s Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board meeting.

New dugouts at Keizer Little League Park? Check.

A pedestrian bridge? Check.

Patio slabs and fire pits for the amphitheater at Keizer Rapids Park? Again, check.

Day, a former Parks Board member, explained why he’s willing to help out.

“I’m here to ask the Parks Board to look at the donation of a number of items I see that are needed for parks in Keizer,” Day said. “These are things I’m offering to Keizer parks, free of charge.”

Day showed drawings of what the items look like and started with the precast concrete dugout.

“This would be multiple sections,” he said. “We make them about seven-feet tall, in eight-feet modules. These are good for 100 years with zero maintenance. You can string a bunch of them together if needed. We can also do drainage and electrical outlets.”

The second item was a concrete pedestrian bridge with optional hand rails.

“In my second term (on the Parks Board) I saw a wood bridge in a park that seems to be having issues,” said Day, who served through the end of 2013 and is currently on the Keizer Arts Commission.

Day then talked about various sizes of patio slabs, ranging from 48 inches by 50 inches to 58 inches by 97 inches.

“The patio slabs can be used anywhere,” he said. “I happen to have a bunch in stock in my plant, so I’m happy to give them away to you guys.”

Then there were the two designs of fire pits.

“(Fire Chief Jeff) Cowan said if it has a chimney, that makes him happy,” Day said.

Day had drawings of other items as well, including trash cans, park benches and picnic tables. Day mentioned his company will have 60 employees in the summer and asked to be considered for the approved vendor list.

Brandon Smith, Parks Board chair until January when he rejoins the Keizer City Council, noted the need for dugouts at KLL Park.

“I know some work is needed down there,” Smith said.

Day estimated two of the dugout modules could be enough.

“We’re more than game to help out,” he said.

In regards to a concern about embers coming out the top of the fire pits, Day noted a mesh screen could be added to the top. Smith then asked Bill Lawyer, Public Works director, about city regulations for fires in parks.

“No,” Lawyer said. “No open fire. What is open? That is a good question. I have serious concerns about fire in the backyard by the amphitheater by August, period. Generally there are a lot of big trees. It’s a concern.”

When Roland Herrera – another Parks Board member joining council in January – asked if Day had particular places in mind for most of the items, Day shook his head.

“Anywhere you can use them, you’re welcome to use them,” Day replied.

In response to a question from Lawyer about whether dugouts needed to be anchored, Day referenced the weight.

“These sections weigh 15,700 pounds,” Day said. “They’re not going anywhere. Once they’re set in place, they’re never moving again unless you bring a crane back.”

That led to a question from Smith, in light of dugout vandalism last fall.

“So no fear of them being tipped over?” Smith asked.

Day had a simple way of explaining his answer.

“If they can pick it up, I’m not going to bother them,” Day said with a chuckle.

KPIC looks to celebrate Japanese celery farmer

The Keizer Points of Interest Committee is finally moving forward on a project to honor Japanese history in the Keizer area, with a main focus on celery farmer Roy Fukuda. (Submitted)
The Keizer Points of Interest Committee is finally moving forward on a project to honor Japanese history in the Keizer area, with a main focus on celery farmer Roy Fukuda. (Submitted)

Of the Keizertimes

After years of discussion, progress is finally being made on the Keizer Points of Interest Committee’s (KPIC) Japanese History Project.

The project, discussed again at Tuesday’s KPIC meeting, has been mentioned at most meetings the last couple of years, but mostly just in passing reference.

Much of the history revolves around Japanese farmer Roy Fukuda. According to a history report by Virginia Green, Fukuda settled near Lake Labish northeast of Keizer in 1905 and anticipated making his fortune before going back home.

However, he met his wife and decided to stay in the Keizer area.

According to Green’s document, Fukuda transformed the beaver marshes into profitable farmland, which led to more Japanese families coming to the area. At one point nearly 50 Japanese families were farming small plots around Lake Labish, expanding to farm in Keizer and Independence as well as owning businesses in Salem.

In 1920 The Statesman did a story on Fukuda and his successful celery growing business, an industry that had grown to $100,000 in output a year by that time.

According to the article, Fukuda started growing celery in 1909 with 10 rows, between 2,000 and 3,000 plants. By 1920 Fukuda had an estimated 400,000 plants.

Among other places, the quality of the crop was appreciated in Washington, D.C.

On Nov. 25, 1925, U.S. Senator Charles McNary – the namesake of McNary High School who served in the Senate from 1917 to 1944 and was a vice president nominee in 1940 – wrote a thank you letter to Fukuda.

“Your gift of celery arrived a day ago in the best of condition,” McNary wrote. “It was fresh and brittle and I distributed it among several of my senatorial friends, all of whom pronounced it the most delicious they had ever eaten. Of course, I took a genuine pride in their commendation of the celery and remarked that the old Labische at one time extended nearly to my farm and its outlet is one of the creeks passing through the ranch.

“Yesterday, while paying a visit to the President at the White House, he told me that the celery was wonderfully delicious,” McNary added. “This act of kindness, I shall always remember, and if, at any time, I can be of service to you in any capacity, feel free to call upon me.”

Two days later Edward Clark, secretary to President Calvin Coolidge, also wrote a note of thanks to Fukuda.

“The President has asked me to thank you, in his behalf, for the very generous remembrance which came with your compliments,” Clark wrote. “He appreciates the kind thought which prompted you to send to him this product from your state.”

According to Green’s document, everything changed after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In 1942 Fukuda and others were sent to an internment camp in Tulelake, Calif. Only a few returned to the area after World War II ended.

KPIC members have talked about erecting a kiosk with information about Japanese history in the area, much like the Marie Dorian kiosk at Pfc. Ryan J. Hill Memorial Park in Keizer Station.

Progress is finally being made on the project, with two price quotes secured. One, from GISI Marketing Group, was for $2,080 and includes a solid core sign with a matte exterior laminate, measuring 52 inches by 40 inches. A quote from FedEx at Keizer Station was much cheaper at around $150, but used laminated paper.

More bids are expected to be brought forward at the next KPIC meeting on Dec. 16. Jill Bonney-Hill and Sherrie Gottfried, chair and vice chair of KPIC, respectively, both missed Tuesday’s meeting and other committee members agreed a decision should be delayed until they are present.

“The GISI bid is more like what we have with Marie Dorian,” said Charlotte Clark, who led the meeting.

Debbie Lockhart, the deputy city recorder who has been at KPIC meetings since they started in 2007, agreed.

“I don’t think we want a bunch of laminated pieces of paper up there,” Lockhart said. “That stuff doesn’t last. Even though it is more expensive, I like (the GISI bid) better.”

Lockhart suggested KPIC members can try to secure funding from the Keizer Parks Foundation, Keizer Rotary, the Keizer Chamber of Commerce or the Keizer City Council.

Hohnbaum goes off on plans

Kevin Hohnbaum has protested plans for a Bonaventure retirement center and a Mountain West apartment complex in Keizer Station’s Area C. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)
Kevin Hohnbaum has protested plans for a Bonaventure retirement center and a Mountain West apartment complex in Keizer Station’s Area C. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)


Of the Keizertimes

The recently introduced plans for Area C of Keizer Station have been met by a familiar foe.

Kevin Hohnbaum, who has fought previous Area C proposal on behalf of the Keep Keizer Livable (KKL) neighborhood group, has filed a formal protest against the revised Area C plans.

Last month, officials from Mountain West Investment Corporation and Bonaventure Senior Living publicly introduced plans for apartments and a senior living center during a meeting with Area C neighbors.

Plans were originally scheduled to be brought to the Keizer City Council on Dec. 1. Nate Brown, director of Community Development, said last weekend that timeline has been pushed back to January. Part of the reason for having the topic come up in December was the current councilors have more familiarity with the history of Area C. Veteran councilors Jim Taylor and Joe Egli, in addition to mayor Lore Christopher, will not be on the council come January.

The plans are the first for the area since a previous proposal – which at one time included a large retail store believed to be Walmart before being downsized – stalled out two years ago. Those plans had been protested by KKL, as the organization took the case to the Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA).

Last week, Hohnbaum sent a letter of protest to Brown’s department. He sent the letter as an individual, not on behalf of KKL.

“We can’t call in LUBA until a decision has been made,” Hohnbaum said. “This is a formal protest. It addresses issues that we believe demonstrate this proposal violates the City of Keizer Development Code. If the issues are not adequately addressed, any decisions based on those violation becomes appealable to LUBA.”

The Nov. 10 letter quotes KDC 2.107.01 about the Mixed Use zone promoting development that combines differing uses in a single building or complex.

“This zone will allow increased development on busier streets without fostering a strip commercial appearance,” Hohnbaum quoted the KDC in part. “The zone encourages the formation of neighborhood ‘nodes’ of activity where residential and commercial uses mix in a harmonious manner. This development type will support transit use, provide a buffer between busy

People control

To the Editor:

It’s a shame that more people don’t realize that violent crimes are committed by people and not inanimate objects.  Knives, firearms, blunt objects, and motor vehicles do not commit violent acts. People commit violent acts.  Until this is understood and until society and our justice system deal effectively with the people who commit violent crime there will be little accomplished. The recent tragic murder of a Linfield College student is a glaring example.

Gun control means different things to different people and many simply do not understand the laws in affect today.  Firearms cannot by bought online unless the transaction goes through a licensed dealer who conducts a background check. In Oregon all firearm sales at gun shows require a background check.  It is illegal for a private party to sell a firearm to another private party that does not reside in the same state.  It is illegal for a private party to sell a firearm to another private party if there is knowledge the buyer cannot legally poses a firearm.

No doubt the Oregon legislature will attempt to enact additional gun control legislation.  In my opinion this will accomplish little to reduce violent crime.  The only winner will be state government because a fee is collected every time a background check is conducted in Oregon.  Oregon will collect about $2 million dollars this year from people who purchase a firearm from a licensed dealer or at a gun show.

Private party sales in Oregon can also use the background check system.  Many do not because of the cost.  Background checks cost nothing in most other states because the check is conducted free by the federal government. Oregon chose to do it themselves and charge a fee.  Whether or not the legislature expands the requirement for background checks in Oregon it should remove the function from state government and let consumers use the no-cost system made available by the federal government.

But in the end, until we understand that crime is committed by people, not objects, little will be accomplished with more restrictions for lawful firearm owners.  Gun control laws don’t take guns away from criminals. It just makes it more difficult for law abiding citizens.  Hum… maybe that’s what the politicians want.

David McKane

Commission needs to be bold

The new Keizer Economic Development Commision (KEDC) held its first meeting earlier this month. Chaired by Mayor-elect Cathy Clark, the commission of nine is charged with devising ways to develop Keizer’s economy. That’s good but the first meeting was less than inspiring.

There was a lot of talk about an old project:  River Road Renaissance, the project that rebuilt segements of sidewalks along Keizer’s main thoroughfare. The result to date includes  a hopscotch pattern:  some segments rebuilt and others untouched. The project was meant to promote pedestrian traffic as well as a beautification of River Road.

But as commission member Sam Goesch said “River Road is not a pedestrian corridor.”  He should know, his office faces the road and he sees everyday the motor traffic (a lot) and the foot traffic (not so much).

Commissioner A.J. Nash hit the nail on the head when he said it would be helpful to know what goals, outcomes and financial resources the commission had to work with.

Commissioner Mardi Smith called for sprucing up River Road.

We’ve been here before. If the Economic Development Commission is just a successor to River Road Renaissance, then that should be stated right from the start. We have high hopes that the commission will do more than talk again about sidewalks on River Road.

The commission should be taking a much wider view of Keizer’s economy such as what and how to recruit the types of businesses we want in our town. We were told that the addition of medical facilities and a transit center at Keizer Station would open the floodgates.  Other wellness clinics and medical support business would come knocking on Keizer’s door, ready to built and create living wage jobs. That hasn’t happened yet. Recruiting those types of businesses should be one of the main duties of the commission.

This commission should be bold in its actions. Beautifying River Road will not in itself recruit new businesses to our city. It is a difficult task to recruit businesses if we don’t know what they want. Logic says that Keizer is good place to locate espeically for light industrial and office park-type businesses.

The commission needs to devise a system and seek money for marketing directly to the businesses we want here. In our digital age, Keizer should have a separate web presence aimed at extolling the virtues of our city as a place to set up shop.

We have easy access to Interstate 5. We are relatively close to a number of colleges and universities that allow for recruiting efforts. Keizer has a low tax rate. We are mere miles from an airport that can handle jets, both large and small. We are close to Portland.

We don’t need to revisit River Road Renaissance, we need to be working on the preliminary steps of expanding our urban growth boundary along the freeway north to Brooklake Road. A 1,000 foot-wide strip of land west of the freeway could be the home of office parks and light industrial businesses much like one sees in Tigard.

An expansion of the growth boundary could still be years off; an alternative is to look at existing land and entice developers to purchase, raze and construct new structures that can meet the needs of medical suppliers, processing centers, government offices and the like.

The Economic Development Commission will do best if it thinks really big, thinks globally and lets other groups such as the Chamber of Commerce’s EDGA Committee work on the details of projects that have been put on the backburner such as River Road Renaissance.


Hayes is not the First Lady

To the Editor:

I have been following the Kitzhaber and Hayes episode. I notice one newspaper insists on addressing Miss Hayes as “First Lady.” During the election, she was referred to as Kitzhaber’s fiancee.

In past years a fiancee was one that approaching marraige age. The wife of the president or a governor carries the title of “First Lady.” Let’s not put the cart before the horse.

Etheldra Tjernagel

A pope’s human touch


Pope Francis’ American honeymoon is over (though the whole idea of a papal honeymoon smacks of Borgia-era excess).

At first, some political conservatives complained that Francis was showing insufficient respect for distinguished Catholic theologians such as Adam Smith and Milton Friedman. But now, more thoughtful Catholic writers wonder if the pope (who conspicuously marries cohabiting couples) is laying the groundwork for more substantive changes on the sacrament of marriage and access to the Eucharist for the divorced and remarried. This, argues Ross Douthat of The New York Times would “sow confusion among the church’s orthodox adherents” and raise the (undesired) prospect of “schism.”

The event occasioning these concerns was the recent Extraordinary Synod on the Family, which lived up to its billing. The pope invited participants to speak their mind “without fear,” which revealed a series of divisions between the theological left and right, as well as between the developed and the developing worlds. “Francis,” says journalist Christina Odone, “achieved miracles with his compassionate, off-the-cuff comments that detoxified the Catholic brand. He personifies optimism—but when he tries to turn this into policy he isn’t in command of the procedures or the details. The result is confusion.”

This seems to be the main concern of Catholic traditionalists: confusion. Francis is cultivating debate within the church about an essential social institution—and the value of relationships outside it—even as that institution is under assault by the world (at least in parts of the world where the sexual revolution continues its relentless march). In the middle of an important cultural conflict, Francis sounds an uncertain trumpet.

The pope himself seems unconcerned, continuing his unpredictable riff. He embraces the Big Bang. He appears in selfies. He criticizes euthanasia. He invites Patti Smith, the godmother of punk, to perform at the Vatican. He cashiers opponents. He calls the Kingdom of God “a party” (which is precisely how the founder of the Christian faith referred to it). He is a man, by his own account, with no patience for “sourpusses.”

As a Protestant, I have no particular insight into the internal theological debates of Catholicism. But the participants seem to inhabit different universes. One side (understandably) wants to shore up the certainties of an institution under siege. Francis begins from a different point: a pastoral passion to meet people where they are—to recognize some good, even in their brokenness, and to call them to something better. That something better is not membership in a stable institution, or even the comforts of ethical religion; it is a relationship with Jesus, from which all else follows.

Instead of being a participant in a cultural battle, Francis says, “I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” First you sew up the suffering (which, incidentally, includes all of us). “Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds.” The temptation, in his view, is to turn faith into ideology. “The faith passes,” he recently said, “through a distiller and becomes ideology. And ideology does not beckon [people]. In ideologies there is not Jesus; in his tenderness, his love, his meekness. And ideologies are rigid, always.The knowledge of Jesus is transformed into an ideological and also moralistic knowledge, because these close the door with many requirements.”

The message seems simple. It actually highlights a complexity at the heart of Christianity. Its founder coupled a call for ethical heroism (don’t even lust in your heart) with a disdain for institutional religion and self-righteous clericalism. And this has been disorienting to institutionalists from the start.

Francis has devoted serious attention to reforming the institutional expression—particularly the finances —of the Catholic Church. But he has chosen to emphasize the most subversive and challenging aspects of Christian faith. He really does view rigidity, clericalism and hypocrisy as just as (or more) damaging as sexual matters. Liberals want to incorporate this into their agenda. But the pope has his own, quite different agenda —which has nothing to do with our forgettable ideological debates. It is always revolutionary, and confusing to the faithful, when a religious leader believes that the Sabbath (including all the rules and institutions of religion) was made for man, and not the other way around.

Perhaps Francis is destined to be a divisive force within his church and an inspiration outside it (a theory that may be tested during his upcoming American visit). But I am inclined to defend his influence with all the zeal of a non-convert. While popes may or may not be infallible, this one is marvelously wise and human.

(Washington Post Writers Group)