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Month: November 2016

A sign of the times?

A play structure at Wallace House Park was blocked off after vandals struck. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)
A play structure at Wallace House Park was blocked off after vandals struck. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

Of the Keizertimes

A $3,500 expense in a city’s operating budget of more than $24 million might seem like a drop in the bucket. But you’re not Robert Johnson.

Johnson is Keizer’s parks and facilities department manager, and a recent act of vandalism has him pondering ramifications that go far beyond fixing a broken slide and bridge on the west Keizer play structure.

“It looks piddly on paper, $3,500 shouldn’t keep the problem from being fixed, but it is a huge hit to us. We have to ask ourselves if we can afford it,” Johnson said.

Johnson and the city’s only other full-time park employee, Don Shelton, had to block off portions of a play structure in Wallace House Park last week after a slat on a bridge broke and a slide was damaged.

It’s a temporary fix while Johnson figures out where to pull the money from to pay for repair, but it’s also a portent of what might be in the future of Keizer parks unless a stable funding source is secured.

Johnson originally estimated the cost to repair the structure at $2,000, but the number climbed up after getting exact prices on replacements and labor.

The damage to the slide is believed to have been an act of vandalism, but it’s harder to determine what happened to the bridge. The manufacturer agreed to cover the replacement slat under warranty, but not the slide. The total for part alone amounted to $1,574. Johnson also doesn’t want to void the remaining warranty on the play structure, which means a licensed installer has to perform the repair. Labor will cost another $1,900.

There is no excess within the parks budget. The general fund, which the city uses to pay for police and parks among other expenses, does have a contingency component but fixing a play structure using those reserves falls far down on the list of priorities.

Johnson could use money from a match grant fund for parks improvements, but that would pull money away from other potential projects that serve to engage residents in park ownership. A $5,000 match grant was awarded last year to rehabilitate Carlson Skate Park, but the project fell through. The money was rolled over into the matching grant fund this year and Johnson is loathe to use it for another purpose. City officials are hoping someone with a plan to fix the issues at the skate park comes forward.

“What it comes down to is operating funds and seasonal temporary hires. I watch my spending already, and I would have to go without something. It doesn’t hit me this second, but I have to prepare for what’s down the line,” Johnson said.

If he cuts back on hours for seasonal hires, it will mean he and Shelton have to scramble to make up the difference when park usage kicks into full gear next spring.

Another option is holding off on equipment purchases. He was hoping to get a new mower, blower and trimmer in June 2017 with any funds he managed to save during the rest of the year. Repairing the Wallace House Play structure would make that more unlikely.

“If one of our current machines blows up or goes out of service, we won’t have the tools to do the job,” Johnson said.

A wind storm that took down several trees in Keizer parks requiring a tree service to step in also took a chunk out of what he hoped to be saving toward the purchases.

As of Nov. 14, Johnson was still weighing his options and the play structure was still blocked off.

Crystal Apple winner goes the extra mile

Of the Keizertimes

Counselor Michelle Mills works with nearly 550 students at Gubser Elementary, making sure they all get what they need socially and emotionally.

But she also stays in contact with children once they leave the school.

When one student was diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, Mills came up with solutions to help him stay focused and on task both in the classroom but also at home. And when that student was accepted to a different school that could better meet his needs, Mills cleared her schedule to be there on his first day to help with the transition.

“Andre has been at a different school for almost three years and she still checks in to see how he’s doing, the boy’s mother, Allison Davis, wrote in a letter nominating Mills for a Crystal Apple. “I can honestly say Miss Mills is the best thing to happen to Andre and me. She was his friend when he felt like he had none. Miss Mills was there for his best days and was there and helped on his worst days. I am truly thankful for everything she has done. She gave me hope when I needed it the most.”

Michelle Mills at the Crystal Apple Award ceremony earlier this month. (Submitted)
Michelle Mills at the Crystal Apple Award ceremony earlier this month. (Submitted)

When a new student was having a tough time adjusting to Gubser and having behavioral problems, Mills would spend most of her day helping him cope with the stress of the school. And when the boy’s mom got him an appointment to see a local child psychiatrist, Mills went with them, even though snow and ice cancelled school and most of the district staff was off that day.

That kid has also moved on but Mills stayed in touch.

“When kids leave here that doesn’t mean that’s the end of my time with them, especially when it’s not that they just graduated and moved on,” Mills said. “You spend the most time with the kids that have the most needs so I get to know them the best. They wiggle their way into your heart. I like to keep in touch with them.”

Mills received one of 13 Crystal Apples out of 47 nominees at a ceremony on Thursday, Nov. 4 at Salem’s Historic Elsinore Theater.

“Just the nomination itself was amazing,” Mills said. “It was just nice to know that the work I do day in and day out was recognized by other people.”

Mills, who grew up in Forest Grove, has been the school counselor at Gubser for 16 years.

“A lot of my friends growing up came from divorced families or in crisis families and I didn’t have that and I always felt really lucky to come from a family that wasn’t a broken home and just was always fascinated with helping and supporting people that needed that help,” Mills said. “I wanted to work with kids and I just really liked the school setting where you got to work with all the kids instead of just select ones.”

Along with doing exercises in problem solving and anger management for all the students at Gubser, Mills also runs small groups for kids who need additional help and works with children one-on-one.

She brought Pennies for Patients to both Gubser and Cummings, where she also worked for three years during budget cuts.

Gubser alone has raised $15,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“I just wanted our school to do a community service project,” Mills said.

Mills also coordinates a memorial fund, named after former Parent Teacher Club Treasure Cathy Short, who lost her battle with cancer. Each year, Gubser uses $400 from the club’s budget to help its students in need with basics like clothing, tooth brushes, sleeping bags, glasses and even paid the electric bill for a family last year.

“She stretches every dollar and finds ways to make the biggest impact with the Memorial Fund money,” said Vickie Jackson, the club’s bookkeeper. “Cathy Short would be so proud.”

Mills noted she gets a lot of help from the Gubser staff.

“I love everything about this school,” she said. “Our staff is not just a staff, it’s a family and most people refer to it as our work family, our Gubser family. People don’t usually leave from here unless they’re retiring so we’ve all gotten to know each other really well and when things are rough, we’re there to support each other. It’s not my kids and your kids. It’s our kids so everyone is willing to always step up and help others and when people are in need and struggling, whether it’s personal or at school, everyone’s got each other’s back for that as well. We look out for each other.”

Planning commission backs UGB expansion


Of the Keizertimes

The urban growth boundary (UGB) that contains sprawl in the Salem-Keizer area might be expanding, but not in a way that many in Keizer have pushed for.

The Keizer Planning Commission recommended approving an expansion of UGB to accommodate a new bridge across the Willamette River, known as the Salem River Crossing, at its meeting Wednesday, Nov. 9.

Planning commissioners forwarded a recommendation to approve the UGB expansion with a 6-1 vote. Commissioner Michael DeBlasi opposed.

If the plan gains approval from Salem, Keizer, Marion County and Polk County, the new bridge would span the Willamette River at Hickory and Pine streets in north Salem. The plans call for the annexation of 32 acres into the UGB to make way for the bridge and other connecting roads on the west side of the Willamette River.

In discussing the issue at the Keizer Planning Commission level, commissioners advocated for a long-term view of growth in the area.

“You’re building a bridge for infrastructure needed 20 years from now,” said Commissioner Hersch Sangster. “It’s not so much personal travel or commuters, it’s truck traffic.”

The bridge would create a pathway for traffic to travel across the River with relative ease from the Salem-Keizer Parkway.

Commissioners and the Keizer City Council attended a special meeting last month that brought together all of the affected jurisdictions and invited public comment. More than 60 people testified during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

Commissioner Jim Jacks said that while there was lots of testimony regarding the impact of the bridge construction, the issue at hand was the UGB expansion.

“If we recommend that the UGB be expanded tonight, it will probably be 10, 20 or even 30 years before (a bridge) gets funded. If we don’t do something now, it’s going to be 40 or 50 years from now,” Jacks said.

Despite opposing the plan, DeBlasi said he understood the need for a bridge, but that the other costs associated with it needed to be considered.

“We’re going to allow people to drive as much as they want and externalize the cost in terms of cost of roads, climate change, accidents and then costs of loss of revenue on lands to accommodate the cars,” he said. “Why not look at ways to squeeze all the efficiency out of the use of the land before we decide to approve the expansion and then build a bridge?”

He also took issue with a Keizer city staff report, which sugested that the bridge would improve employment prospects and livability in the local area.

“That seems like a giant leap,” DeBlasi said.

“The staff comment was intended to convey that a far-reaching discussion had taken place, more than editorializing,” said Nate Brown, Keizer’s community development director, and preparer of the staff report.

Commissioner Jerry Crane, a local caterer, said he plans for extra time whenever he has to cross the existing Marion Street bridge for a job, which was one factor in his support of the plan. However, he said he was most moved by testimony from a west Salem resident during the special meeting last month.

“He told us that his daughter had severe asthma and she could die if there was a problem at the existing bridge,” Crane said.

The commissioners’ recommendation will now go to the Keizer City Council, which will make the final decision regarding the city’s support on the matter.

Coburn gets 400th win

Whiteaker Middle School head volleyball coach Scott Coburn won his 400th career game on Monday, Oct. 24. (KEIZERTIMES/Derek Wiley)
Whiteaker Middle School head volleyball coach Scott Coburn won his 400th career game on Monday, Oct. 24. (KEIZERTIMES/Derek Wiley)

Of the Keizertimes

More than 25 years ago, Kennedy High School in Mt. Angel was looking for a volleyball coach.

Scott Coburn, who was coaching the boys basketball team at the time, said if the school could get him in contact with Chemeketa volleyball coach Terry McLaughlin, he would give it a try.

More than 400 wins later, the rest is history.

“I learned a lot from Terry,” Coburn said. “He helped me the first few years and came out and did some clinics with my kids and I learned more and more.”

In 1991, Coburn’s volleyball team made it to the state championship game, falling to Vale.

“We weren’t even rated going into the state tournament and we upset several teams along the way,” Coburn said. “To get to the finals was an amazing accomplishment. That’s one of the game I’ll always remember.”

After four seasons at Kennedy, Coburn began coaching at Whiteaker Middle School in 1993 and he’s been there ever since.

“My kids were at the age where I was always gone coaching and I was missing some of their lives,” Coburn said. “They were young kids and my wife and I made the decision if I move to middle school, I can be more a part of what they’re doing and then I just decided I enjoyed the middle school level. The kids can learn and grow so much that it’s fun to watch them. You can take them and really develop some skills that I can pass on to the high school.”

Coburn won his 400th game on Monday, Oct. 24, defeating Walker 3-2 at home.

“When I retire sometime, it’s nice to know what I did,” Coburn said.

“It feels good for me but it’s really fun that I’ve had the opportunity over the past 20-something years to do this and work with such great kids. I see it as an accomplishment for them also. There’s kids all over town, that aren’t kids any more, that are a part of it. To me it’s a bigger thing than just me winning games.”

Coburn said kids always ask if they are his favorites but it’s difficult to top the two teams his daughters, Sarah and Katie, played on in the late 90s.

“They were both on very good teams,” Coburn said. “They didn’t lose any games while they were here and having all those kids at my house as friends made them special teams to be around.”

Coburn’s team went undefeated in league play this season, which has become a common occurrence at Whiteaker.

Coburn, who turns 60 this month, doesn’t know how much longer he’ll coach.

“I take every year one at a time,” he said. “I know I have a few more years of teaching and as long as I’m teaching, I’ll be coaching. It’s been a good ride though. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I feel very fortunate to be in the city I’m in because I get great kids and great families to work with. The city of Keizer is something special.”

“Even though we’re in a big school district, we’re our own little town and we kind of like it that way.”

Hazel McVay

H. McVay
H. McVay

Our beloved Mom, grandma and great grandma “GG,”passed peacefully in her sleep on November 2, 2016.

She lived an adventuresome life filled with friends and family.

Her family homesteaded at Triangle Lake,OR. Hazel was born on May 8, 1914. She had four brothers and one sister. She met her husband Millard “Babe” McVay; they married in 1934. Babes family also homesteaded in the Triangle Lake area. They made their living with their own logging company and in her 50s Hazel decided to go to beauty school. She continued cutting hair, doing sets and giving perms into her 90s.

She drove herself to and from Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs until she was 95. In 2010 she moved in with grandson Brian, and wife April, McVay in Keizer and made many friends in her time with us. She loved to walk our dog, Bella, daily and taking care of the neighbors, our family and friends. She loved to knit and won numerous awards for her it. She loved glitter polish, the color teal and a good hand of gin rummy (she never lost). She moved into assisted living and lived her life to the fullest every day. Her favorite saying was, “It could be worse!”  Words to live by.

She will be missed and we are extremely grateful for the friends and family who supported her, welcomed her as their own and will remember her smiling face forever.

She was preceded in death by husband Millard “Babe” McVay in 1992 and son Duane (Brian & Chad’s dad) in 1983. She is survived by son Terry McVay (Sandy), grandkids Brian McVay (April), Kris McVay and husband Eric Winters, Kyle McVay (Stephanie), Chad McVay(Michelle), Ryan McVay (Lisa). Stepson Robbie and Marlean. Seven great-grandkids.

A Dessert gathering will be held at Triangle Lake Grange December 10, 2016 at 1pm.

Malheur Refuge standoff taught us about a few things

Ammon Bundy, quoted on his acquittal of charges in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge armed occupation, expressed amazement that anyone could fail to take the side of the “people” instead of the government. Ideally, government is of the people, by the people, and for the people.  I am both people and part of the government.

I also own a share of the Malheur NWR equal to Ammon Bundy’s. I spend a lot of time at wildlife refuges and have traveled to spend time at Malheur. Teddy Roosevelt’s generation understood the value of protecting habitat for wildlife and bird migration. We owe them a debt of gratitude and a sense of responsibility in leaving it be.  We ought to share the same commitment to our children.

Much of the land in the West was either purchased or taken by the United States for expansion and then turned over to states and individuals in land grants and homesteading provisions.  Free use of much of the unclaimed land was allowed by the U.S. government.  Much of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land is now leased for cattle grazing, mineral and oil extraction. A fair portion of the revenue gained from these leases is returned to the states involved. It is estimated that granting local control to the states encompassing these federal lands would increase administrative costs without solving the questions of usage.

The Ashanti Tribe of Ghana has a saying: “Land belongs to a vast family of whom many are dead, a few are living and a countless host are still unborn.”  That seems a nice recognition that Earth is a common heritage.

It looks like a road to ruin to see land as only a vehicle for increasing revenue or territorial domain.  Personal ownership of land is actually a fairly recent concept in human history and even then has enough restrictions so that it is more accurate to say that I have rights to the land on which I live than to say I own it.  I don’t have absolute freedom to use my small piece as I see fit.  I am subject to zoning law, must pay taxes, am liable for lawsuits brought against the property and must abide by restrictions agreed on by the community in which I live, not to mention the state’s right of eminent domain.     

I had nothing to do with the creation of the land on which I live, no say in what happened here 50 years ago, and 50 years from now no one will remember my claim to ownership.  Wildlife conservation pioneer Aldo Leopold said, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us.  When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect”

At our current rate of setting aside about 10 percent of land for wildlife habitat we stand to lose about half of all species in the near future.  Still,  that 10 percent is in jeopardy from the Ammon Bundy mindset.  If control of federal lands is handed to those who live nearest to it will they decide in favor of reducing operating costs over giving migratory birds a place to feed and rest?  Your answer is found in the ongoing decline of species.  Author Paul Brooks was more blunt: “In America today you can murder land for private profit. You can leave the corpse for all to see, and nobody calls the cops.”

If only that were an exaggeration.

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

A needed inspirational message

To the Editor:

I am sharing this message from a friend, Bret Oldham, with all my Facebook friends. This is precisely what I had in mind to inform to the citizens of America.

I used to coach basketball and was very successful at it. One of the reasons for that success was due to the absolute team mindset that I instigated. Everything was accomplished as a team with each individual doing their part. There was no fighting between the team members. Everyone wanted the same thing; they wanted the team to be successful. This simple analogy is a small example of what is needed now in this country.

We are all Americans. Like it or not we must all be on the same team. Not any political team; the American team. We must stop antagonizing the division that is rampant across this great nation. Stop boasting if your side won in the election. Stop being bitter if your side didn’t win. Stop bashing each other. Stop the hate. We need unity among all citizens at this delicate time in our country’s history. No matter what your political beliefs are, your religious beliefs are, your race, your sexuality, or your financial status, at the end of the day we are all still Americans. Our diversity is what has made this country the most powerful nation on earth. Please remember, united we stand, divided we fall. It’s not always easy but let’s all try a little harder to accept each other’s differences. Let’s get back on the right path and start making a concerted effort to be kind to each other. It all starts with you.

Bret Oldham

Veterans Day 2016

To the Editor:

I sit here looking out the window at the American flag, with tremendous pride. It is impossible not to have a heavy heart over watching rioters burn that same flag. Watching protesters vandalize buildings, cars, and blocking traffic, preventing working people from getting to or from home, to work, to pick up the kids. All under the guise  of “their rights.”

In 1944, 18-year-olds stormed Normandy. Many gave their lives to protect a free world, to give us the freedoms we have today.  Today we have 18-year-olds staging “cry-ins” on colleges campuses because they didn’t get their way. Therapy dogs being brought in to help them grieve, college professors weeping over a lost election, making exams “optional” while students grieve.

Should it be any surprise that high school students walk out in protest given the brain washing they have experienced from teachers like this?

Some parents have been complaining for years, about a leftist agenda that has been in control of our public schools. No surprise at the increases in enrollment in private schools. Look at the proliferation of private/church schools in the valley.

Have we become a society that teaches our youth “you have the right to have anything you want whether earned it or not?”

G.I. Wilson

A triumphant GOP, mired in crisis


The Republican Party is everywhere triumphant—House and Senate, executive and legislative, national and state—and yet faces a series of crises.

There is a crisis of identity. Trump now leads a coalition including the Republican establishment—and people who despise the Republican establishment. The insurgent president-elect—lacking relevant experience, adequate personnel and actual policy proposals—cannot exercise power without the help of those he ridiculed.

Trump has chosen to incorporate this conflict into the structure of the West Wing. His chief of staff, Reince Priebus, was the sponsor of the 2013 Republican autopsy report, which called on the party to accommodate America’s multicultural future. Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, has made a career out of resisting that future. This is less a team of rivals than an ideological cage fight.

Every good presidential transition should involve betraying a few of your friends. Not everyone who helps a president to become president is fit to help him govern. Bannon—whose Breitbart News invited the alt-right into the conservative mainstream and who has made a business model out of spreading conspiratorial nonsense —belongs in this category, along with Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, Corey Lewandowski and the rest of the distracting campaign sideshow.

For the Republican Party, this is also a governing crisis. Trump won office promising to undo globalization, bring back manufacturing jobs and fulfill “every dream you ever dreamed.” So expectations are pretty high. But Trumpism, for the most part, consists of cultural signals and symbolic goals, not a set of developed proposals.

Many Republican members of Congress are frankly confused. Are they supposed to follow Trump’s lead or supply his agenda? He has embraced massive infrastructure investment, but there is no favored bill or detailed plan. Obamacare must go, but what approach to “replace” does Trump prefer? Speaker Paul Ryan is pushing for tax reform. Does the president-elect have any interest in the topic at all? The biggest frustration reported by Republicans who have met with Trump is his inability to focus for any period of time. He is impatient with facts and charts and he changes the subject every few minutes. Republican leaders need policy leadership, or permission to provide it themselves.

One area where the agenda is  unifying and well developed concerns the reversal of Obama-era executive orders. Republican lawyers have spent the last year and a half working in study groups on reversal language, in order to be ready on the first day of a GOP presidency. The action most likely to cause controversy would overturn President Obama’s limited amnesty for students brought illegally to America as children. Most Republicans think that executive order was illegal; but most Americans will probably find the victims of reversing the order to be sympathetic.

This hints at the long-term political crisis faced by the triumphant GOP. Trump won the presidency in a manner that undermines the GOP’s electoral future. He demonstrated that the “coalition of the ascendant”—including minorities, millennials, and the college-educated—is not yet ascendant. But in a nation where over half of babies under 5 years old are racial and ethnic minorities, it eventually will be. Trump was elected by a 70 percent white electorate. But that was about 2 percentage points lower than in the 2012 election—and that number has been dropping by about 2 points each presidential election for decades. Trump’s white turnout strategy is not the wave of the future; it is the last gasp of an old and disturbing electoral approach.

The final crisis faced by the GOP, and just about everyone else, relates to the quality of our political culture. Trump won office in a way that damaged our democracy. He fed resentment against minorities, promised to jail his opponent and turned shallow invective into an art form. If he governs as he campaigned, Trump will smash the unity of our country into a thousand shards of bitterness.

We should hope that the president-elect will be sobered by the responsibilities of high office and discovers hidden resources of charity (even though malice has been the habit of a lifetime). He deserves the space at least to try. But Republicans may end up depending on a younger generation of leaders —Paul Ryan, Ben Sasse, Nikki Haley, Tim Scott, Jeff Flake, Marco Rubio—to demonstrate the possibility of unifying aspiration and civil disagreement. And that would lay the foundation for a lasting and honorable victory.

(Washington Post Writers Group)

No to corporate taxes, yes to big salaries

Consider incongruous.  It’s a fancy word meaning something is not consistent with what is logical.

Further, consider the following information that was made available in the media a few days ago. The University of Oregon’s trustees last week approved a contract extension for men’s basketball coach Dana Altman that will pay him $18.45 million through April, 2023. Altman will earn a base salary of $1.8 million this season and is due a retention $850,000 bonus this spring at the end of the contract’s first year.  Altman’s the fifth highest paid coach in the Pac-12 while his new deal places him among the nation’s top 20 highest paid coaches.  The work he does manages a sports event named basketball, there’s no life or death involved.

Altman has taken Ducks basketball to play in the national tournament but did not finish as national champions.  Meanwhile, Ducks football head coach, Mark Helfrich was a winner for a couple of years but this year has been the coach of a team that has lost more than half of its games.  He’s already been paid millions of dollars for his coaching work; however, should he be fired due to lack of support for him due to this year’s dismal record,  he nevertheless will receive $11.6 million.

Altman and Helfrich are not unusual for the amounts of remuneration they receive along with perks that add up to tens of thousands of dollars every year.  All sports at UO, OSU, Portland State and other public institutions in the state are paid huge amounts for coaching games that are simply provided for entertainment’s sake.  Yet, these coaches salaries and perks, while advertised as being paid by generous alums and game revenues, student fees and tax dollars get manipulated to help with the huge coach salaries paid.

Then there’s the voting down of Measure 97.  Measure 97 would have required the many national corporations that do business in Oregon to pay a higher tax on the profits they make in our state.  When you think of what the revenue estimated to have been $6 billion over the next biennium, you begin to realize that since all that money would not have gone to life and death actions, much of it would as it was intended to help those without health insurance and the welfare of Oregon’s senior citizens and helped many more kids in school to graduate and provide much more vocational and technical courses of study and learning.

So, getting to the bottom line on this issue, collectively, we Oregonians are willing to pay coaches lavish salaries and perks only known to CEOs and executives in major corporations but we’re not willing to require those corporations that make the big bucks in our state to pay their fair share in taxes that mean so much more than watching young men and women get broken bones, concussions and life-long injuries.  It’s all very incongruous.

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