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Day: August 21, 2015

No more Tightwad Tuesdays

Per usual, the parking lot at the Keizer Community Center was full Tuesday as groups took advantage of lower Community Day rates. The special Tuesday rates have been eliminated. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)
Per usual, the parking lot at the Keizer Community Center was full Tuesday as groups took advantage of lower Community Day rates. The special Tuesday rates have been eliminated. (KEIZERTIMES/Craig Murphy)

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

Say goodbye to Tuesday Community Days at Keizer Community Center.

When the new city hall opened in 2009, the city contracted with an outside company to manage the facility. Those duties were brought in-house the following year and a new rental rate structure was adopted in 2011.

The rates have been the same since then, but have drawn increased scrutiny during the last couple of budget seasons. Revising the rates became a high priority in the spring since about $90,000 a year in general fund money is being used to offset losses from facility rentals.

In particular, the Tuesday Community Day discount rate – sometimes referred to as Tightwad Tuesday – has come under fire. While the intent six years ago was to allow groups to rent space in the community center for an entire day at a flat rate, state agencies were the most common users, taking advantage of the lower rates and stacking up meetings or conferences on Tuesdays. By taking advantage of those rates, that meant less revenue for the city.

“The Community Day rate is not being utilized by Keizer groups,” city recorder Tracy Davis said.

That has now been changed. A resolution approved by Keizer City Councilors on Monday eliminates the Tuesday Community Day special rates. Small rooms (1,000 square feet) will now be $25 per hour, as opposed to $15 for two hours and $15 per additional hour in the past. On Community Day, the rate was a flat $15 per day.

Medium rooms (3,000 square feet) will now be $100 per hour (up from $90 per hour and $90 per day flat rate on Tuesdays), with a 25 percent rental discount for Keizer citizens not using the room for business and a 20 percent discount for government partners. The large ballroom rate is now $250 per hour, up from $220 per hour (or $220 per day on Tuesdays), with the same discounts for Keizer citizens and government partners.

Neighborhood associations, Keizer-based youth sports organizations and town hall or community forums sponsored by local government partners will continue to have free use of space. City Manager Chris Eppley said use of the “living room” lobby area will continue to be free as well.

Davis noted it’s difficult to get true cost comparisons to similar facilities because the community center doesn’t have in-house catering like other facilities often do.

JoAnne Beilke, events coordinator at the Keizer Heritage Center next door to city hall, said she meets weekly with Kristian Bouvier, events coordinator at the Keizer Community Center, on a weekly basis.

“The cooperation has been phenomenal between us and the city,” Beilke said. “We try to cooperate and refer business to one another. It has been really helpful. She gives us referrals when you’re booked here. Kristian has done wonderful things for you people with great backing from Tracy.”

Beilke had concerns about the smaller rooms being rented for $25 an hour, both since that wouldn’t be covering costs and because it would be competing with other facilities such as hers.

“We’ve heard we do compete,” councilor Kim Freeman said. “That’s not our goal. Staff is working well and JoAnne, thank you for working with Kristian and Tracy. I like seeing the parking lot full. From a budget standpoint, we won’t make money but we have to look at the cost of staff time.”

Councilors Brandon Smith and Roland Herrera both had concerns about a suggested three- or four-hour minimum time for rentals. Beilke noted the minimum time requirement is mainly for events like wedding showers.

Smith, who was first on the council when city hall was opened, noted the history provided by Davis was helpful.

“We’ve always said this is a work in progress and we would be modifying rates as we go along,” Smith said.

Clarifications were made that examples of personal use would include baby showers and wedding parties, while non-profits seeking a discounted rate would have to be a 501(c) 3 organization. It was also added that discounts would only apply to the medium and large spaces, not the smaller rooms.

“The small rooms compete with the Keizer Heritage Center in rates,” mayor Cathy Clark said. “The small rooms will not be discounted at all for anyone, since they are already low enough to be comparable with the non-profit next door.”

Smith rejected the proposed amendment to make a four-hour amendment.

“There will be times where there is no need for three or four hours,” he said.

Councilor Amy Ripp made a motion for reinstating the discount for the small rooms, but it died due to the lack of a second.

Haggen to close its Keizer store

The former Albertsons reopened as Haggen in late April, but will close soon. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)
The former Albertsons reopened as Haggen in late April, but will close soon. (KEIZERTIMES file/Craig Murphy)

 

 

By CRAIG MURPHY
Of the Keizertimes

It wasn’t that long ago Keizer had three grocery stores.

Soon, there could be just one.

In late April, the Albertsons at 5450 River Road North became a Haggen. Washington-based Haggen went from 18 stores mainly in Washington to 164 around the West Coast in a short amount of time, taking advantage of conditions from a Albertsons-Safeway merger.

Worries at the time about such fast growth proved well founded, as the company sent out a press release Aug. 14 announcing the closure of 27 stores. The closure list had five Oregon locations listed, including the one in Keizer.

The news came just a few weeks after a Los Angeles Times story reported Albertsons was suing Haggen for $41 million, with Albertsons claiming Haggen failed to pay for inventory that was part of the changeover at 38 of the acquired stores.

Deborah Pleva of Weinstein PR, speaking on behalf of Haggen, said closures or a review to evaluate how new stores were doing was not in the company’s original plans.

“We expected to operate all 164 stores when we agreed to the acquisition, and it was a great opportunity to introduce the Haggen experience to more shoppers,” Pleva said on Tuesday. “Haggen will continue to evaluate its operations to identify opportunities to strengthen its overall business. While the decision to close a store is always difficult – given the impact on associates and customers – it is guided by what is best for the company’s future success.”

Last week’s announcement and store closure list indicated stores would be closing “over the next 60 days.” An exact closure date was not listed for any of the stores, including the Keizer one.

“The store will continue operating and will wind down its business and close within 60 days,” Pleva said on Monday. “The fate of the building is up to the building owner from whom we leased.”

With the acquisitions in the spring, Haggen went from 2,000 employees to more than 10,000. A filing with the state indicated the five closures in Oregon would affect 331 employees.

Keizer Haggen store manager Darren Dye referred questions to corporate headquarters, while Pleva declined to say how many employees the Keizer location has.

“Haggen is currently focused on working through this transition with store teams and leadership so, out of respect for the process and employees, no additional information or details about the number of employees impacted will be shared at this time,” Pleva said.

While she didn’t give timelines, Pleva on Tuesday gave a bit of a picture into how the news was announced to employees.

“In the Pacific Northwest, a meeting with store managers and department heads was conducted personally by members of Operations and (Human Resources),” Pleva said. “Some other associates attended. The date (of closures) will be determined when a number of factors become clear. We’ll be letting our associates know first.”

Mayor Cathy Clark mentioned the closure news at the end of Monday’s Keizer City Council meeting.

“We’re sorry to see them close,” Clark said. “We wish the best to our residents to get new jobs and take care of their families.”

City Councilor Amy Ripp noted she, like everyone else, was surprised by the news.

“I’m disappointed for the loss of jobs and the loss of competition,” Ripp told the Keizertimes following Monday’s meeting. “Competition is good. It didn’t feel like Haggen brought their ‘A’ game to Keizer. I was looking forward to the opportunity to buy Haggen products. They did an excellent job cleaning up the store and the service was excellent, but there was not the Haggen product level we were all looking forward to.”

Last week’s announcement noted most of the 27 stores being closed were ones recently acquired. There was also a line which seemed to give the impression stores being closed were underperforming.

“Haggen’s original stores continue to perform well,” one line in the announcement stated.

Ripp wondered if more effort could have led to better performance in Keizer.

“They could have been more successful if they had done more of a higher product level,” Ripp said. “I was very surprised by this. I hadn’t heard any rumblings about it. It was a shock to the whole community.”

Almost immediately, there was speculation and questions about whether another grocery store might open in Keizer. Not surprisingly, the two most popular names were Roth’s Fresh Markets and Winco Foods. Roth’s closed its Keizer location at Chemawa Road and River Road in June 2012, while Idaho-based Winco has a large distribution center just north of Keizer in Woodburn.

On the day of Haggen’s announcement, a “Bring Roth’s Back to Keizer” group was formed on Facebook. By Tuesday afternoon, the group had nearly 400 members.

Michael Roth, president of the company started by his father Orville in 1962, said on Monday no decision had been made yet.

“Keizer is a wonderful city,” Roth said. “We are honored by the Facebook page. We only found about this new opportunity when it was announced last Friday, so we cannot give a definitive yes or no now.”

Messages left for leaders at Winco were not returned. However, several residents posted on Winco’s Facebook page and asked if the company was coming to Keizer.

“We love the area and while we do not have stores scheduled for Keizer yet, we will gladly let our team know that our friends would love a store closer than Salem,” read one response from the company. Another response noted that “we can’t guarantee a yes” and pointed out there are many factors that go into location decisions.

Reta Kaye Griffin

R. Griffin
R. Griffin

Reta Kaye Griffin, 69, was born Reta Kaye Ream on Nov. 16, 1945 in Pasadena, Calif. to Byron and Emma Ream, who preceded her in death.

She is survived by daughter Amy Doerfler, (husband Michael Doerfler) and grandchildren Jacob and Ashley Doerfler. She lived a majority of her childhood in Salem, with some time spent in Iowa.

As a teen Reta was the main support for her family and worked at the Elsinore Theater and Big Eddy’s. In her 20s she traveled across the United States to Massachusetts where she met John B. Griffin and married in 1968. John had two daughters from a previous marriage, Nadine and Debbie. In 1973 Reta gave birth to her only daughter, Amy.

In 1975, Reta and Amy moved back to Oregon. There she received an associate’s degree in drafting and used her artistic gift to create manufacturing plans. In 1988 she changed careers and became a telephone operator for Pacific Northwest Bell, now known as CenturyLink. She was ecstatic when her grandchildren Jacob and Ashley were born in 2000 and 2001 respectively and loved them deeply.

Her capacity to love, creativity and excitement for life will be missed by everyone who knew her.

A memorial service will be on Aug. 24 at 4 p.m. with a reception to follow, held at Keizer Clear Lake United Methodist Church 7920 Wheatland Road NE in Keizer. Arrangements by Keizer Funeral Chapel.

How do we replace Haggen?

After a big announcement about its move into Keizer, then several days of remodeling, Haggen Food grocery opened its doors. The store went from stodgy to brighter and looser. Alas, it was not to last. Haggen’s Keizer store will close in October.

It wasn’t anything Keizer shoppers did or didn’t do—it all has to do with business in America today. The Keizer location was one of 146 former Safeway or Albertsons stores spun off by the equity firm that owns them.

With a good reputation in it home territory of northwest Washington state, Haggen management saw an opportunity to join the big guys and own stores throughout the west.  It seems safe to conclude that Haggen decided that not all 146 stores it bought were winners and made the quick decision to rid itself of 27 stores it did not want. That’s business.

Shoppers can bemoan Keizer being a one-store grocery store. In actuallity a majority of Keizer shoppers head to discount grocers such as Costco, Winco and Walmart. Neighborhood mom-and-pop markets gave way to grocery stores which gave way to discount mega-grocery stores. Business will always find a path to the consumer’s wallet—the grocery industry is no different. Food stores operate on thin margins so maximizing every dollar in sales is paramount, be it inside the store or by the whole operation, closing underperforming stores, locating stores in high income areas.

Social media was filled with comments about the closing of Haggen and desires for its successor. The stores people want to see replace Haggen at Creekside Shopping Center are unlikely to consider the site due mainly to its size.

If there is no immediate replacement come October there will be two major retail holes on River Road including the former Roth’s Fresh Market space at Schoolhouse Square. That’s two too many.

The nearly 40,000 residents of Keizer will have one grocery store to shop. This is certainly a perfect opportunity for the Keizer Economic Development Commission and the Keizer Chamber of Commerce to show their mettle and work tirelessly to recruit a grocery store to Creekside Shopping Center. That may not be such an easy task.

The consolidation of the industry has left fewer mid-market grocers. Unfortunately Keizer does not have the demographics that is attractive to a Whole Foods or a Zupan’s Market.  There is a cry for a discount grocer in Keizer; that’s why some people were so excited when it was thought Walmart would build at Keizer Station. Yet there is no discount grocery store on the horizon for Area C.

There are smaller grocery chains that can be a good fit for Keizer: Ray’s Food Place, a 43-store chain based in southern Oregon (they have a store in Sisters) or Chuck’s Produce and Street Market from Vancouver. The local organizations we look toward to maintain and increase Keizer’s economic vitality should leave no stone underturned in recruiting a second grocery store for Keizer.

It is not good for Keizer or its residents to have only one grocery store nor two large holes in our retail landscape.      —LAZ

A beautiful Blue day

Saturday, Aug. 22, will be a bright and sunny day. It will be beautiful not only weather-wise but because McNary High School will unveil its new artifical turf at Flesher Field during Blue Day.

This will be the fourth Blue Day staged by the McNary High School Athletic Booster Club. The club has planned and raised funds for the big project that will allow 10 times as many events to be held at the stadium.

The former grass field was not always user friendly, especially in our wet weather in the fall and spring. The marching band could not practice on it because hundreds of tromping feet over time turned the field into a muddy, mushy mess.

Now the band can practice to its heart’s content on the field. The football, soccer and lacrosse teams will be able to practice and play without worry.

Blue Day is not only the unveiling of the new turf. It is an opportunity for the community to gather and support the many teams of the school, enjoy barbecue and celebrate what makes Keizer a good place to live: neighbors and friends joining together to make a vision become reality.

Blue Day will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Attendance is free but donations will eagerly be accepted by the Booster Club.

  —LAZ

Good feeling about Rep. Post

To the Editor:

Even though we’re registered in different parties, I came away with a good feeling about Rep. Bill Post (Post talks about first year in Capitol, Keizertimes, Aug. 14).

A couple of really positive things stood out. So, let me get one “partisan” issue out of the way. He stated: “Business will always make the right choice. We don’t need government to tell us.” Business is always right? Squinting on that one.  We do need some government, though less of it.

When Rep. Post said, “The majority party uses Sine Die as a tool. If there was a Republican majority and this happened, I’ll still stand up and say this is wrong,” my response was a loud yes. Sine Die is bad legislating, bad politics, and thanks to him for being willing to make such a pledge, and do it publicly to boot.

Last, this met me on several levels: “I was the first Republican to get a bill signed by the governor (Kate Brown),” Post said. “It was a pro-business bill to get rid of some restrictions. The governor and I have a unique relationship. She really likes me for some reason, even though we are opposites. She showed us freshmen around and took me by the arm. She said, ‘I know I can count on you for the transportation package, right?’ I said ‘No.’ She said, ‘That’s why I like you.’”

Genuineness, likeability, and integrity of both these individuals really showed through in this comment. Until I send in my next ballot I wish Bill Post all the best in his Capitol seat.

Ardith Oakes
Keizer

Hunting for a miracle on global warming

By MICHAEL GERSON  

In recognition that internet questionnaires get more eyeballs than earnest columns on energy policy, here is today’s quiz on obscure presidential history: When President George W. Bush met Bill Gates for the first time, the topic of discussion was (A) nuclear power, (B) rural internet access, (C) global health, or (D) all of those subjects, in considerable depth, in that order.

Those who find “D” surprising don’t get the concept of leading test questions, and don’t know much about either participant. As a fly on the wall at their lunch, I watched two men with a wonkish interest in energy policy talk over my head for 15 or 20 minutes about nuclear power plant design. (Gates has since become a major investor in one design that would utilize depleted uranium, essentially running on its own waste.)

One of Gates’ contributions as a public-minded billionaire—as opposed to turning the Republican presidential nomination process into a second-rate reality television show —is to bring a dose of reality to the achievement of large humanitarian goals. The (almost) end of polio. The vaccination of children on a global scale.

In the case of energy, rigor requires rethinking. Gates is ruthless (and not always politically correct) in pressing the assumptions of the environmental movement to their logical conclusion. If climate scientists are right about the pace of global warming, and about the total amount of CO2 that humans can emit in the future without potentially catastrophic consequences, then we currently do not have feasible policy responses that are adequate to the need, even if we had far greater political will.

By some estimates, the world must keep two-thirds of its carbon-based energy resources in the ground —at the same time that vast numbers of people in China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil and elsewhere move toward middle-class levels of energy consumption. Gates makes the point in another way. If the goal, as some scientists urge, is an 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, then it will be necessary “to reduce emissions from transportation and electrical production in participating countries down to zero.”

Behavior change—shutting off the lights, turning off the air conditioner —is useful, but not even in the ballpark of responding to this need. Neither are the subsidies that governments provide to renewables such as solar and wind power. The cost of meeting future energy requirements with existing green technologies would be “beyond astronomical,” Gates has argued.

There was no way to get to the moon by stacking ladders. That required an entirely different technology. Current environmental responses are the stacking of ladders. “We need breakthroughs,” says Gates.

It is sobering when your only sufficient policy response is the production of a miracle. But I’ll add a few more depressing political and economic factors. Human beings are fairly good at calculating costs into their decision-making (saving for a rainy day, buying car insurance) if the time horizon is a few months or a few years. They are not as good at assuming burdens, as in environmental policy, when the time horizon is a few decades or centuries. And they are terrible at shouldering burdens when future costs are paid disproportionately by other people—in this case by people living in poor countries that are more vulnerable to coastal flooding or drought.

So how do we get technological miracles at a realistic social and economic cost? Only by dramatically increased investment in basic research and development. Gates (matching money to mouth) has pledged to increase his personal investments in green technologies by $1 billion over the next five years. But sufficient scale only comes from government. So he has also recommended that U.S. investments in basic energy technology be more than tripled — from about $5 billion to $16 billion a year.

Even at this level, energy research funding would lag well behind defense and health research. But the increase would allow some impressive scientists to fully explore a variety of speculative options: things like flying wind turbines that collect energy from the jet stream; or reverse engineering photosynthesis to produce usable energy; or batteries with dramatically increased storage capacity; or new nuclear designs that overcome the problem of radioactive waste.

This amounts to a series of informed bets. But all can be made at a relatively affordable cost, partially recovered by shifting funds from existing energy subsidies. Collectively, these kinds of bets may be our best shot at the miracle we require.

(Washington Post Writers Group)

2016 candidates rattle the war saber

A couple of weeks ago, syndicated columnist Austin Bay wrote about World War II in reference to the number of fanatics in Germany and Japan who brought about that awful conflict and whose end in Europe and finale in Asia came with the detonation of two atomic bombs.  There were efforts all around the planet during the 1930s to prevent it while the U.S. involvement got underway with an Imperial Japan attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941.

World War II’s cost in American lives exceeded 100,000 in the Pacific theatre alone. The death count in Vietnam of U.S. service men and women is recorded on the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington. There are 58,195 names on it. More recently the count of those Americans who perished in Iraq or died later has reached a total of 73,846 with many more every day succumbing to their wounds or committing suicide.  The number told us by the Bush administration is around 4,000 because those folks lied again by counting only those Americans who died with their boots on in Iraq; the real count is the higher 73,846.

Now who are the fanatics that want more war and thereby the deaths upon more deaths on the battlefield?  These will again be the children of families from all over America.  There will be, then, tens of thousands of families left to grieve with little or no benefit to the people of our nation; rather, those who gain from these deaths and ill-advised ventures are corporations like Halliburton that make fortunes on war material sales and manpower in behind-the-front-lines support positions.

President Obama has not kept his word on getting our troops out of the Middle East.  We find among the Republican candidates who seek to  replace Obama that they mainly have morphed into the party of war with Hillary Clinton as a hawk competing to outdo them.  Take, for example, Donald Trump. On entering the race he immediately trumped the competition that he is nothing less than a genius in military matters who will find a military leader like George Patton or Douglas MacArthur to place the U.S. military into the win column.  Regarding ISIS, he would “bomb the hell out of them and take back the oil.”

This plan would require a huge number of American military personnel whose numbers will have to be sacrificed. As Trump said: “You let Mobil (Oil) go in and you let our great oil companies go in. Once you take that oil, they (ISIS) have nothing left.”  This from a guy who has several grown children, none of which have served in uniform. Trump himself has never served in uniform.

Candidate Rick Santorum calls for 10,000 Americans to go into Iraq who was promptly trumped by Senator Lindsey Graham who saw Santorum’s 10,000 and wants an additional 10,000 sent into Syria.  Neither one has served in the American armed forces.   Jeb Bush comes across as one who doesn’t know whether the invasion and consequences in Iraq was a bad idea.  There are many Bush family members but only one has served with distinction in uniform and that was George H.W. Bush during World War II as a Navy pilot.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker once compared fighting ISIS to fighting the labor unions in his state. He says he would not only tear up the Iranian nuclear deal his first day in the White House but would start a war with Iran between his swearing-in ceremony and Inaugural ball that night.  In other words, he’s going to trump Trump.  Several others among the current 17 have made statements that go far beyond mere thoughts of glorious leadership as the commander-in-chief but have defined specific action measures certain to get us into World War III.

I believe Hillary Clinton is as war-inclined as most of the Republican candidates are. I’ve yet to hear such declarations of certain conflict ventures overseas by the man who stands at this time as possibly most popular among Democratic voters.  Where the others stand, including Lincoln Chafee, Martin O’Malley, and Jim Webb, is not known, resulting from the loss of air by Sen. Bernie Sanders and Trump.  I just wonder how many of these people, the fanatics in the U.S. like those who got the WWII underway, who want to lead us into war by using the youth of the nation as cannon fodder to accomplish huge profits for the nation’s largest corporations who’ve become a platoon of plutocrats.

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