Christine Dieker wants the attention to go to the right place.
On Saturday evening at the Keizer Quality Suites, the Keizer Chamber of Commerce is putting on the 55th annual Keizer First Citizen and Awards Banquet. The event starts with a 6 p.m. social hour and dinner at 7, followed by the awards. Individual tickets are $45 while tables of eight are available for $360.
Dieker, the executive director of the chamber since 1998, has announced her resignation. Her replacement is expected to be named in early February.
As such, it might be natural to assume Dieker will be the center of attention on the state come Saturday night.
Not if she has her way.
“This is not about me,” Dieker said this week. “This is our community night.”
There are some changes this year, including the list of nominees not being announced in advanced. The four awards are Keizer First Citizen, Merchant of the Year, President’s Award and Service to Education Award.
“It’s going to be a total surprise this year,” Dieker said. “It will be kind of neat. This selection committee said let’s make it a big surprise.”
Former Mayor Lore Christopher, now chair of the Keizer Public Arts Commission, won the First Citizen award last year. Joe Egli, a former Keizer City Councilor who works for R. Bauer Insurance, was Merchant of the Year. Dan Clem, who worked for the Keizer Chamber at the time and is now with the Salem Chamber, won the President’s Award. Power couple Chuck and Krina Lee won the Service to Education Award. Chuck is a longtime Salem-Keizer School Board member while Krina runs the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation.
Another new addition is the $60 Night Stay Addition Package, which includes a night of lodging at the Keizer Quality Suites.
“This is brand new,” Dieker said. “We were able to offer attendees something if they want to have a night stay. McNary Restaurant and Lounge is doing the transportation from the hotel to their place, where the after hours party will be. It’s just to keep the partygoers safe. They can enjoy the night and have a night in Keizer.”
A new addition last year was the Rising to the Occasion, which has morphed into Pairings of Excellence tables this year. Special couples, friends, cooperating organizations or partners that are stewards of the community will be honored and recognized at these tables.
“It’s being well received,” Dieker said. “We are reaching out to identify couples and partnerships doing excellent work in the community. It’s a nice place and nice time to give recognition because it is a community gathering.”
Dieker said the event won’t feel like a goodbye for her.
“It will just be different next year,” she said. “I remember 18 years ago I attended the banquet as a community volunteer. I have full intentions to go next year and the years beyond.”
Nathan Bauer is returning as event emcee, while Grand Jazz and Swing Band will provide the live music. Ticket information is available by calling the chamber office at 503-393-9111.
“We are looking forward to it,” Dieker said of the evening. “It should be another fantastic banquet.”
For Jaida Watson, June Muldoon is one of the most relatable characters she’s ever played.
“She’s really sarcastic and not afraid to express herself and I relate to that in a lot of ways,” said Watson, who plays June in the upcoming McNary High School production of Anatomy of Gray. “She’s the girl who sticks out from the others in the town because she thinks it is the most boring place in the world and she just wants to leave.”
Performances are slated Jan. 27-30. Curtain time is 7 p.m. each night and tickets are $5.
In the play, June’s father dies early on and sets the stage for much of what then unfolds. Not long after his passing, a doctor, Galen P. Gray played by Osvaldo Torres, blows into town on the winds of a tornado. Gray is welcomed as a healer, but soon the town is struck by a mysterious illness that even he is helpless to treat.
The play features a smallish cast on a mostly bare stage, but the script is lively and chock-full of believable character moments.
Senior Dorothy Woolford is enjoying playing June’s mother, Rebekah Muldoon.
“Of all the characters, she’s the most well-rounded because you see her grief, her love, and her fear. The play starts out at a fairly dark time in her life and she’s just trying to maintain everything for the sake of June,” Woolford said.
Morgan Hoag and Jesse White play the town’s elders, Belva and Crutch Collins.
Hoag said the townspeople provide lots of potential connection points for the audience.
“They all have their own stories. You might discover you know more about the Crutch than you do June, and they all click into place without the audience even realizing what is happening,” she said.
White said he anticipates the show’s finale most.
“I want people to be amazed when they finally figure out how all the pieces fit together,” he said.
Torres, who plays the titular Gray, said he was hesitant at first when deciding if he wanted a role in the play at all.
“I was feeling kind of burned out at the time, but I’ve been blessed enough to be trusted to undertake something like this and I’ve fallen in love with the character more each day. He’s a human being in ways both good and bad,” Torres said.
Both Woolford and Torres found themselves touched by the origin of the script, written by Jim Leonard, Jr.
“It was written in response to the AIDS epidemic and the prejudice that people went through while suffering from that disease,” said Woolford. “Even though it’s not as prevalent in what the story became, I want people to be able to look back on the experience of seeing it and find those messages there.”
The beauty of the writing itself was what led Torres to seeing past his early misgivings about taking on a role.
“I feel like this play came out of a beautiful place. Not as a commentary, but as an author’s need to express and write,” Torres said. “It’s not meant to shame anybody and that gives it a beautiful shape. I know I would be disappointed if I was not a part of this.”
It ended with the Kuhn family leaving their longtime McNary Estates home in August and filing a lawsuit against the McNary Estates Homeowners Association.
This marks the second time in less than five years the McNary Estates HOA has been sued over a Fair Housing Act complaint. A judge ruled against the HOA in the previous case, as mentioned in an August 2011 Keizertimes article.
Gary and Renee Kuhn sold their home as a result of what transpired over a four month period and moved, along with their 33-year-old special needs daughter Khrizma, to Woodburn in the fall.
In addition to the overall McNary Estates HOA, the Fountains HOA – one of five subgroups within the neighborhood – is also named, as well as McNary Estates HOA president Teresa Girod and former Fountains HOA president Richard LeDoux, who lived next door to the Kuhn family.
The Kuhn family moved to McNary Estates in 2005, describing LeDoux and his wife as close friends. Khrizma, who has numerous disabilities and depends on her parents for full-time care, moved into the home on a full-time basis in 2010. Among other things, Khrizma suffers from Down Syndrome, autism and suffers from severe bladder and bowel incontinence. The bowel issues increased in severity in 2014, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court, requiring Khrizma to be close to a toilet at all times.
Since Khrizma also needed access to a shower in case of uncontrollable diarrhea accidents, the Kuhn family met with doctors last March. The decision was made for the family to purchase a motorhome so that Khrizma could have the proximity to both a toilet and shower.
The next month, the Kuhns submitted a request for accommodation to the McNary Estates HOA, seeking permission to park a motorhome in their driveway.
“We very innocently made the request,” Gary told the Keizertimes.
Renee said a thorough packet was given to the HOA, including a description of Khrizma’s medical conditions, a letter from a doctor and pictures of RVs they were looking at.
“We lived there for 10 years and never asked for any help or exceptions,” Renee said. “This was the first time we needed our neighbors.”
At the May McNary Estates HOA meeting, the topic was brought up and Kevin Harker, the HOA’s lawyer, sat next to the Kuhn family. A few days later he called Renee.
According to Renee, Harker asked two questions.
“His first question was can you park (the RV) off-site at a storage facility,” Renee said. “I told him this is a daily driver. She has to go everywhere in the RV, so it has to be parked in the driveway. This isn’t some vehicle we only take to go camping, this is a medical transport RV. His next question was about putting a porta-potty in a van. Many times, just having a toilet is not enough. I said we won’t be backed into a corner.”
Harker told the Keizertimes the HOA board was trying to accommodate the family.
“I feel the board went out of its way to resolve this and to come up with a resolution,” Harker said. “The board found a smaller Sprinter van with a toilet and even looked up how many RV storage areas there are nearby. The first time I talked to the Kuhns, I was asked to talk about alternatives. They wouldn’t even listen to it. The second time, I said let’s have a mediator to come to a resolution. They said no so I canceled. The third time, the board said let’s submit to binding arbitration. Whatever the arbitrator said, both sides would agree. The board would have accepted the outcome. They said no thanks.”
Harker said there “absolutely” could have been a compromise worked out if the Kuhns had more dialogue with the board.
The Kuhns, however, bristled at that notion.
“We did dialogue,” Renee said. “Kevin conveniently forgets that conversation. It was the next week after the meeting. I just didn’t give them the answers they wanted.”
Gary said the HOA scheduled mediation and the family was under no obligation legally to interact with the HOA.
“But I did interact,” Renee said. “We disclosed all of the needed information. It didn’t matter. I didn’t give (Harker) the answers he wanted. He keeps saying there was no dialogue, but we had the dialogue.”
As the process evolved, the Kuhns learned about the Fair Housing Act. They also learned the McNary Estates HOA had lost the 2011 case for violating FHA rules. They also discovered the Fountains HOA had been violating its own bylaws and state laws for 10 years. Gary said he brought up the topic with LeDoux while at the mailbox area last May.
According to the lawsuit, LeDoux pushed Gary twice, clinched his fist and said he wanted to punch Gary in the nose before saying, “Don’t talk to me and I don’t want to talk to your wife, either.”
The incident happened shortly after the Kuhns made the medical waiver request, plus right after the questions arose about the legality of the board LeDoux was president of.
“He shoved me twice,” Gary said. “I didn’t react.”
Renee said it was surprising their “dear friend” reacted like that.
“It was just a nightmare,” she said.
In July, the Kuhns bought their RV. In accordance to a letter from the FHA, they parked it in the driveway, even though they had concerns about how neighbors would react.
Harker said there was sympathy towards the family’s plight, but said there was no legal standing.
“There’s no connection between the RV and being allowed to use it at the dwelling,” Harker said. “I get that there’s a need, but it doesn’t fall under the criteria of the Fair Housing Act.”
Dennis Steinman, the attorney representing the Kuhn family, has a different take.
“It was discouraging to know the HOA was not learning from its prior experience from the (2011) case and did not take the Fair Housing Act issues more seriously,” Steinman said. “The advice from Mr. Harker was not appropriate or legally accurate. His arguments are simply not supported by the law. I was disappointed.”
According to the lawsuit, in August Girod and LeDoux sent a letter to Fountain Court Drive homeowners that the McNary Estates HOA had not voted to allow the medical waiver exemption and was taking appropriate action to defend the provisions of the HOA’s Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R). The letter also stated the HOA would be offering binding arbitration and if the Kuhns didn’t accept the offer, action should be filed in court to require compliance with the CC&Rs.
The Kuhns said the following week Kathie Stevens, the former Fountains HOA president who lived across the street from them, had begun sitting in her open garage, monitoring the family’s actions.
“She had a chair and a notepad and did it for days,” Gary said. “She was trying to log our behavior.”
Shortly after, the Kuhn family decided to sell their home. They eventually found a home in Woodburn, but had to live in a hotel for a month in between, putting a large stress on the entire family – but especially Khrizma.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Renee said. “It’s hard to meet Khrizma’s needs, even in a home environment. It was very difficult for 30 days to not have a home base.”
The family had to sell a car, meaning the RV is Renee’s daily driver while Gary still has his car to drive to work at Chemeketa Community College.
Renee said their new HOA in Woodburn is completely different.
“You go 15 miles down the road and it’s a totally different thing,” Renee said. “We’re so thankful to be here. It’s proof what we were fighting for (in Keizer) could happen. People can run boards fairly. Those people (in McNary Estates HOA) have problems. It was never our goal to do any of this.”
A neighborhood nuisance on Marino Drive is no more.
Around 5 a.m. Tuesday, officers from various agencies served a search warrant at 555 Marino Drive North in Keizer and arrested Alexandria and Donnie Carpenter, Yvonne Connors and Rudy Sobremonte.
Officers then spent the rest of the day processing the theft ring scene.
And what a scene it was.
There were cars, utility trailers, ATVs, quads and various wheels, compressors and construction tools galore.
That was just the stuff found outside and in the garage.
“There was a whole bunch of stolen property,” said Jeff Kuhns, deputy chief with the Keizer Police Department. “This is a serious theft ring. It sounds like maybe these people were going to new construction sites and ripping off doors and new appliances, anything not secured down. This is a really extensive ring.”
Lt. Andrew Copeland used a highly technical term to describe the scene.
“This is a really huge cluster,” Copeland said.
KPD had its large command post trailer on site, with Sgt. Bob Trump running the show.
“Six victims have recovered property so far,” Trump said in the afternoon as large items still filled the driveway and front yard. “They took new appliances and doors from new home sites all around Salem-Keizer.”
Brad Whittenburg was one of the victims recovering stolen property on Tuesday.
“My stuff was taken from a job site here in Keizer,” Whittenburg said. “They stole my trailer with all kinds of tools inside on Sept. 24. It was about $20,000 worth of stuff.”
Whittenburg’s trailer was covered by insurance but not all of the tools were. While a large amount of his stuff was found, not everything was accounted for.
“I figured I would never see the items again,” he said. “I’m glad to see it, or at least part of it. I’m angered every day, whenever I go for a tool and it’s not there. I’m just glad to see no one else will lose their stuff.”
Sgt. Darsy Olafson with the KPD noted four trailers were found in the backyard of the house and expected it to take a couple of days to process the whole scene.
“Keizer Public Works helped us drag out things from the backyard,” Olafson said. “This is just the stuff that was outside. We haven’t gone inside the house yet.”
Four adults have been arrested so far, but authorities are still investigating to see if more people are involved or if more items are elsewhere.
“This is definitely in the top few we’ve seen in terms of how much stuff was taken,” Trump said. “We’re trying to identify victims by serial numbers and markings.”
In addition to the stolen items, Trump said three pistols were also recovered. There were also charges of possession and delivery of methamphetamine.
Neighbors called police with complaints. That got the Community Response Unit – run by Trump – involved.
“The neighbors were fed up,” Trump said. “These people were up all day and night, running ATVs all night. They weren’t working, so far as we can tell. It was a real neighborhood problem. It was absolutely a livability issue. This house certainly stands out for all the bad reasons.”
The stock market is having its worst January ever. Oil and gas prices are the lowest they have been in almost 10 years. Inflation is, for all purposes, in check. Unemployment is down to 5 percent as millions of jobs have been added in recent years. The economy as been in recovery for more than six years. One would think that things are looking. They are, but not for everyone.
A recently released report, commissioned by Rutgers University, uses current data in a new way to identify those who are struggling financially and why.The report, in part, covers each county of the Pacific Northwest states.
The study is titled ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed; it shows that more than 40 percent of Marion County residents live above the federal poverty line but do not earn enough to afford the area’s cost of living and are one unexpected disaster away from finanical calamity.
Forty-three percent of Keizer’s 13,500 households fall into the ALICE and poverty income levels. According to the study a household in Marion County with two adults, one infant and one preschooler needs to gross a bit more than $51,000 annually to afford the bare minimums. That might sound like a nice income, but it is for a family of four. The average monthly expenditures for a family that size is more than $4,000.
Any of us should be able to understand the vicarious of that situation; we have all lived through the Great Recession, many losing jobs and many more losing their homes to foreclosure.
Every family can tell their unique story of how the recession affected them, regardless of income. The recession increased reliance on government programs (SNAP and unemployment benefts, for two). People say the recent economic conditions laid bare the reality of income inequality, which will be one of the main issues of this year’s presidential campaigns.
Protests such as the Occupy encampments allowed people to rail against the so-called 1 percent and demand more equal income which led to calls for an increase in the minimum wage across the country. In Oregon that demand is fostering fierce debate, pitting big cities against rural communities,progressives against conservatives and business against workers.
At $9.25 per hour, Oregon has the second highest minimum wage in the nation (behind Washington); the federal minimum hourly wage is $7.25. Gov. Kate Brown is proposing a two-tier minimum wage (one for the Portland and one of the rest of the state.That is unfair; there should be one wage state-wide. Will an increase in the minimum wage help every household in the ALICE category? Probably not. Households at the ALICE level unfortunately are not eligible for most government programs that require a income maximum for assistance.
Why should households that are doing economically well care about the ALICE report and the households at that level? Because those households are part of our community. A desirable place to live is only as strong as the neediest of our citizens.The trend of conservative states slashing public programs and assistance is troubling. It’s almost like the leaders of those states are saying “We’ve got ours, you get yours.”
A small percentage of recepients of assistance might gloat about being on the dole and not having to work, but we suspect most people who need to seek government help do so under duress. They seek a hand up, not a hand out.
The best answer for decreasing households at the ALICE level in our area is action not talk. This report from Rutgers should not be an invitation to our public officials to pile on with their own reports.
The best thing our public officials can do is focus on economic development—recruiting jobs whose wages can support a family; cut bureauracy and rules that impede the delivery of assistance; and, know the resources available. Again there are dozens of organizations in our area whose mission is to aid those less fortunate.
Let’s lessen the hand outs and extend a hand up. Every family is responsible for its own success but as the recession showed us, sometimes outside forces control our fates.
We have the information, let’s use it to give every household that wants the opportunity to do better, as long as they are part of the solution. —LAZ
The outbreak of hostilities between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz may not be edifying, but it is clarifying.
Cruz represents the arrival of tea party ideology at the presidential level. He espouses a “constitutionalism” that would disqualify much of modern government, and a belief that Republican elites are badly, even mainly, at fault for accommodating cultural and economic liberalism. Trump has adopted an ethno-nationalism in which the constraints of “political correctness” are lifted to express frankly nativist sentiments: that many illegal immigrants are criminals and rapists who threaten American jobs, and that Muslims are foreign, suspicious and potentially dangerous.
These approaches can overlap, but they are not identical. Cruz is attacking Trump as a “fake conservative” on gun and property rights and as a New York liberal on cultural matters. For his part, Trump defends those portions of the welfare state that benefit the working class, opposing cuts in Social Security and an increase in the retirement age. Cruz is the conservative true believer. Trump is the wrecking ball of political convention. They are not only two strong personalities; they demonstrate two different tendencies within the right.
Trump’s attacks on Cruz have begun drawing both blood and protests from ideological conservatives. “Either cut the crap,” warns radio host Mark Levin, “your accusations … that Cruz is Canadian, a criminal, owned by the banks, etc. … or you will lose lots and lots of conservatives.” Levin and others registered no protest when Trump denigrated women, minorities and the disabled. Attacking a favored conservative is evidently a different matter.
But this is Trump’s greatest political talent—exploiting weaknesses like a dentist probing and drilling the most sensitive spot. Trump’s questions about Cruz’s Canadian roots are not primarily about constitutional interpretation. The issue is simpler: Why would voters who support the forced expulsion of 11 million undocumented people want a president born north of the border? Trump’s mention of undisclosed Wall Street contributions highlights the contrast between Cruz’s outsider brand and insider resume. And Cruz’s seriously Denmark-like proposal for a value-added tax—as Marco Rubio pointed out in the recent Republican debate—may be disqualifying for many economic conservatives.
In a Trump-Cruz battle, I would not bet against Trump. Much of the Republican donor class is convinced that Cruz is the political equivalent of Barry Goldwater, in part because of his very conservative social views. A Trump-Clinton contest, however, is beginning to appear more winnable (particularly as Hillary Clinton appears more awkward and inept). “Donors,” one leading Republican figure told me, “are trying hard to get comfortable with Trump.” And Trump, without doubt, has improved his skills as a candidate.
But here is the problem. Donors, analysts and media are naturally drawn to the horse-race aspect of politics: establishment vs. anti-establishment, insider vs. outsider. But Trump is proposing a massive ideological and moral revision of the Republican Party. Re-created in his image, it would be the anti-immigrant party; the party that blows up the global trading order; the party that undermines the principle of religious liberty; the party that encourages an ethnic basis for American identity and gives strength and momentum to prejudice.
We are already seeing the disturbing normalization of policies and arguments that recently seemed unacceptable, even unsayable. Trump proposes the forced expulsion of 11 million people, or a ban on Muslim immigration, and there are a few days of outrage from responsible Republican leaders. But the proposals still lie on the table, eventually seeming regular and acceptable.
But they are not acceptable. They are not normal. They are extreme and obscene and immoral. The Republican nominee—for the sake of his party and his conscience—must draw these boundaries clearly.
Ted Cruz is particularly ill-equipped to play this role. He is actually more of a demagogue than an ideologue. So he has changed his views on immigration to compete with Trump—and raised the ante by promising that none of the deported 11 million will ever be allowed back in the country. Instead of demonstrating the humane instincts of his Christian faith—a faith that motivated abolition and the struggle for civil rights—Cruz is presenting the crueler version of a pipe dream.
For Republicans, the only good outcome of Trump vs. Cruz is for both to lose. The future of the party as the carrier of a humane, inclusive conservatism now depends on some viable choice beyond them.
Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association represents a threat to public employee unions that continue now to represent more than one-third of all government workers. However, regarding all unions in the U.S., as determined in 2014, only 11 percent of the population still belong to unions.
The issue in this case is free-speech rights of non-union public employees. If the Supreme Court rules in Friedrichs’ favor it will rule that non-members can contribute nothing to the costs of representation. The anticipated result is that more workers can opt out of financing unions’ activities and become what are generally known as “free riders” with a drop in union membership and revenue.
A “free ride” means that those who pay nothing in support of what a union gains through its negotiations get something, often a lot, for which they must not pay a single dime. Those who want out and may get out argue that getting out means they do not any longer have to pay for union interests, like, for example, tenure, merit pay and class sizes. One of the justices from California, Anthony Kennedy, has been critical of mandatory union fees; he’s said that “the union basically is making the teachers ‘compelled riders.’”
A lawyer for the dissident teachers, Michael Carvin, has said that predictions of doom from the unions are overstated. He believes that gloom and doom are not real or provable in the real world. It is reported that there are 4.5 million union members nation-wide.
The present state of union dues comes from a 1977 Supreme Court decision that allowed public employee unions to collect so-called fair share fees from non-members. This money was based on the argument before the Supreme Court of the need by unions that the collected dues was to be used for the purpose of collective bargaining.
One issue that handicaps the Supreme Court is that not one of them has had personal experience as a public school teacher. As a result they know little to nothing about the social culture that exists in our schools. Teachers are typically persons of dedication who want to work with children and youth in a learning environment; meanwhile, they want to earn a decent living and be free from the oppression of overzealous principals and superintendents who are often much more about ambition to move up than the care and encouragement of kids.
Unions protect these people from some people who shouldn’t be in charge of administering schools. Those who don’t want to join a union (but want a union looking after their interests) are quite often those who want to be a principal or administrator themselves.
A union defends and protects those teachers who are good teachers but are not in the school to make the principal feel good. Without a union, the school becomes a horrible place to work unless you are a person who seeks constantly to snitch on others and pass along compliments to administrators who’ve not earned them.
The same environment in our schools applies also to many government jobs. In government workplaces, you also have the snitches and the brown-nosers. They too are a huge nuisance to providing services to the people of Oregon because many workers want to please managers who want to please their administrator while too many administrators want to please the governor. Again, our Supreme Court justices have limited knowledge of what’s going on in the real world of the public employee workplace.
Meanwhile, the only real counterweight to wealthy Republican super PACs is union money. Citizens United and other recent rulings by the Supreme Court have set in motion a tsunami of take-aways from public employees’ ability to defend themselves against those billionaires who want to rule America through their all too often “owned” politicians without interference from teachers and public employees of all stripe and kind. All those working folks in service to the nation’s youth and all Americans who merely want to maintain a defensive wall between themselves and a gathering dominance, known now as the American oligarchy.
(Gene H. McIntyre’s column appears weekly in the Keizertimes.)