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Day: April 14, 2017

Coach gives McNary experienced voice

By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

In his mid 60s, Bob Plantz was still giving lessons but thought he was probably done coaching baseball on a team when he got a call from a former player.

It was Larry Keeker at McNary. He needed a pitching coach and wanted to know if Plantz was interested. The two met at Applebee’s.

“It was a little bit of a surprise,” Plantz said. “I had to check with my wife and she said, ‘Get out of the house.’ It was real easy (to say yes). In all seriousness, Larry does a fantastic job. I would not be doing this with just anybody. He created as atmosphere for all the coaches.”

Plantz began coaching in 1967, leading the freshman team at Wilson High School in Tacoma, Wash., while student teaching at the University of Puget Sound. Plantz’s first teaching job was at Silverton, where he again coached freshmen. He then became the head junior varsity coach at Mt. Angel.

“I guess I knew from the time I was a sophomore in high school that I wanted to teach and coach,” Plantz said. “I grew up in California and I had teachers and coaches that really made an impression on me.”

After giving law school a try, Plantz got back into coaching at Whiteaker in 1974. One of his players was Keeker. They were also neighbors and Keeker served as Plantz’s classroom aid.

Plantz left Whiteaker in 1978 to become the first head baseball coach at McKay High School.

In 1983, Plantz’s team defeated Corvallis in the last game of the regular season to win the school’s first league championship in any sport.

“That was pretty special,” Plantz said. “It was really a great bunch of kids.”

On that McKay team was Deputy Chief of Keizer police Jeff Kuhns and Dave Brundage, who went on to become an All-American at Oregon State and made it to AAA with the Seattle Mariners. He now manages the San Francisco Giants AAA team—Sacramento River Cats.

“Dave had a quality you don’t coach,” Plantz said. “He seemed to have no fear of failure.”

After five years at McKay, Plantz went to Newberg, where he coached baseball and softball before retiring in 1998. He had a Grand Slam batting cage franchise in West Salem and then started doing lessons at the Courthouse.

Retirement didn’t stick and Plantz assisted Jerry Walker when he started the baseball program at Blanchet Catholic School. But when Walker left, so did Plantz.

But that retirement didn’t last either as Plantz joined Keeker at McNary five years ago.

“I guess I just love it,” Plantz said. “What I’m doing now, just being an assistant, it’s just pure coaching. I don’t have to do budgets. I don’t have to do fundraisers and all the field maintenance and all the head coach responsibilities. That’s Larry’s worry. I just go coach.”

Plantz biggest point of emphasis is teaching good mechanics to avoid injuries.

“We start by making sure they use their legs and their back muscles, try to take the strain off their arms,” Plantz said. “A lot of kids come in, they throw hard but they put terrible strain on their arm. We try to teach them safe mechanics.”

Plantz said he’s never been a yeller or screamer and stopped throwing batting practice years ago when “the buzzards were circling around my arm.”

He and Keeker call games together.

“When we get somebody out, it’s my idea. When a guy cracks one, it’s Larry’s fault,” Plantz joked. “We have a lot of fun with it.”

Two pitching performances stand out in Plantz’s time at McNary.

In 2014, the Celtics opened league play with a 1-0 win over South Salem as McNary junior Mickey Walker out-pitched Sam Tweedt, the reigning Pitcher of the Year, who went on to sign with Oregon State.

“That was amazing and so much fun,” Plantz said. “It was a remarkable accomplishment.”

The second came in 2015. Down in Arizona, with West Salem watching after playing the game before, McNary senior Nick LaFountaine threw 45 pitches and couldn’t get out of the first inning. But LaFountaine came back to defeat West Salem 8-3 later in the season.

“They were licking their chops and he beat them,” Plantz said. “It was just really satisfying for this kid to start out that way and battle and compete.”

Plantz had surgery for prostate cancer just before Christmas. His prognosis is optimistic but he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll keep coaching.

“I guess that’s probably made me appreciate it even a little more,” he said. “It’s just open ended.”

Keeker is happy to have Plantz on his staff as long as he wants to be there.

“He’s helped baseball players literally at all different levels so that experience alone is certainly valuable to our program,” Keeker said.

“He just has a good perspective on the game. He loves the game itself. It’s been a part of his life for a long, long time. Probably the most important thing is he’s just passionate about working with baseball players and specifically the kids here at McNary. He’s emotional just about every season at the end. He’s invested so much of himself that he gets emotional about it.”

Get hopping

Egg hunts abound Saturday

Egg hunts arrive en force this weekend in celebration of Easter. Here are some of the locally available options.

• Kroc Center Egg Hunt – Saturday, April 15. Field opens at 9:30 a.m. Hunt starts at 10 a.m. Overflow parking down the street at Excel Photo 1750 Salem Industrial Drive N.E.

• Keizer Christian Church is hosting an Easter egg hunt Saturday, April 15, at 10 a.m.

• Easterpalooza is Saturday, April 15, at First Presbyterian Church, 770 Chemeketa Street, N.E., in Salem. Egg hunts (times for specific age groups available at www.salemfpc.org), pancake feeds, bounce houses and carnival games are all planned at this free event beginning at 10 a.m.

Bauman’s Farm his hosting a hunt where kids can collect 12 eggs and fill them with prizes they pick themselves, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., 12989 Howell Prairie Road in Gervais. $5 per person. Additional activities include bouncy houses, an obstacle course and the bug train will be available for $3.

• Egg hunt at Belcrest Memorial Park, 1295 Browning Avenue, in Salem. Saturday, April 15, at 10 a.m. For children 10 and under. The Easter Bunny and Volcanoes’ mascot Crater will be in attendance.

• Deepwood Museum & Garden egg hunt 1 to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 15. 1116 Mission St. SE. $5 and registration required. Call 503-363-1825 or visit deepwoodmuseum.org.

• Wooden Shoe Tulip Fest hosts Easter egg hunts Saturday, April 15, from 10 a.m. and noon, 33814 S Meridian Road. Free with festival admission, $5 ages 13 and above with a maximum car charge of $20 and free ages 12 and younger.

Daycare shut down by DHS

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The sign on the door claims Iris Valley Learning Center, 530 Dietz Avenue N.E., was closed by the Oregon Department of Human Services due to “paperwork issues.”

The truth is that the closure came after repeated violations of staffing and sanitation rules for child care facilities.

“Going back several years, we would find issues at the site related to staff or sanitation and we would add additional support and supervision. Things would improve for a while then go back to where they were when we stepped in,” said Dawn Woods, child care director for the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) early learning division.

In March, representatives of ODE notified owner Connie Williams they intended to revoke her license, but Williams did not respond. About two weeks ago, another complaint was received about the site and ODE officials made another visit to Iris Valley. After discovering that conditions had deteriorated again, the decision was made to shut it down.

Parents who planned to drop off their children Tuesday, April 4, found a note on the door notifying them of the closure and directing them to call 2-1-1 to find alternate care. The site is permitted to care for up to 115 children of varying ages.

“We want people to know that this is not a move we made lightly. We realize that shutting down a daycare of any size is an issue and this was a larger one,” Woods said.

DHS case workers respond to all complaints within three days of receiving them.

In addition to sanitation concerns, there were repeated violations of staffing rules. Daycare sites are required to have one staff member for every four infants, every five toddlers, every 10 preschoolers and every 15 school age kids. Citing just one example of  Iris Valley violations, Woods said representatives of DHS found one staff member in a room with eight infants.

“It’s not like we were there under cover of night, our staff lets everyone know when they are there,” said Richard Riggs, legal administrator for the ODE early learning division. “It becomes a situation where if this is happening while we are there, what is happening when we aren’t?”

Riggs noted that no action is being taken against Williams personally aside from the process to revoke her license. Williams has obtained an attorney and notified DHS of her intention to request a stay on her revocation, Riggs said.

There is no timeline for how long the proceedings might take.

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Support for Mark Bateman

To the Editor:

Mark Bateman is an excellent candidate for the Salem-Keizer School Board. I have observed him in public meetings which had complex issues, emotional overtones and multiple points of view.

He is respectful, a great listener and asks questions that go to the heart of the matter.  Further, he is analytical and clearly looks at the “big picture.”

I cannot think of a more important issue than the education of our children and grandchildren.

As the S-K School Board makes policy decisions, it needs members like Mark Bateman.

Dave Smedema
Keizer


To the Editor:

I write to encourage persons in the Keizer area to support Mark Bateman for the Salem-Keizer School Board.

Mark is one of the most perceptive individuals I have ever known.  His education, his life experience, his knowledge of the Salem-Keizer schools, his faith, his commitment as a parent with children in the school district—all qualify him as a person to bring insight, wisdom and character to major decisions facing our educational system in the upcoming decade.  A man of vision, he also has a clear understanding of fiscal issues and will seek ways to creatively fund the vital programs needed by our children in this global economy.

Persons with such a background often shun public service, but Mark is offering himself to serve and we need to see that he has that opportunity.  Vote for Mark Bateman!

Joe Scahill
Keizer

Budgetary frustrations

Keizer’s government is getting ready for budget committee meetings that will commence next month. The budget committee, comprised of all seven city councilors and seven citizens, will discuss and debate the budget as presented by the city manager and the finance director. After a series of public meetings the committee will vote on the budget recommendations they will forward to the city council for final approval in June.

Every year in recent times, the city’s budget has resulted in frustration all around from committee members to councilors to residents. By its very nature a budget will disappoint people—pet projects won’t be funded. For years now, additional and needed police officers have not been funded because the city’s PERS and health insurance financial obligations take precedence.

The same is true for the city’s 19 parks. Keizer’s parks receive a mere $300,000 out of the city’s budget each year. Park supporters are doing something about it; they just finished a citizen survey to see if homeowners would get behind a surcharge to their water/sewer bills to be used solely for parks. The results were released earlier this month; the council will schedule a special meeting to look at what the next steps might be. No decision will be made on adding a surcharge without lots of input from residents via public hearings.

Is this a route police supporters can travel as well? We think it would be heavy lifting to ask homeowners to be enthusiastic about adding a second surcharge to water bills to augment current budget levels for the Keizer Police Department.

We can all be frustrated that there is not enough money to pay for the things we want. Any serious, civic-minded government will always fund what is needed first before funding what is wanted.

It is no longer a matter of living within one’s means. The city’s means are constantly chipped away with yearly increases in PERS and health insurance expenses.

The decision was made decades ago to change the tax system in Oregon, that included freezing city tax rates where they were. Our city of 37,000 operates on $2.08 per every $1,000 of property valuation. It used to be a right of bragging that Keizer had the lowest tax rate of any full service in Oregon. No one’s bragging now.

No one likes taxes. But, at the same time no one likes potholes or overgrown parks or high crime. Our taxes pay for the services we depend upon.

The city of Ontario, at the far eastern end of the state, has its own financial problems. Leaders there are taking the extraordinary step of considering adding a sales tax. Desperate times call for desperate measures. A sales tax may be a bridge too far, but we must get creative.

It would be unfortunate if the only choice left to us was to lay off city employees or close city parks or  raise fees the city charges. Barring a change in the ability to raise the city’s tax rate, we’ll have to finance city operations the old fashioned way—levies and bonds.

  —LAZ

Advisers who have military ties

By DEBRA J. SAUNDERS

Before he was elected president, Donald Trump told biographer Michael D’Antonio that his attendance at a military boarding school gave him “more training militarily than a lot of guys that go into the military.”

As president, he has stacked his top echelon with guys who went into the military — and they are among those who advised the new president before he ordered 59 cruise missiles be launched into a Syrian air base.

When Trump compared his years at New York Military Academy to military service, some veterans were quick to point out that Trump received multiple draft deferments during the Vietnam War — as did former Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Dick Cheney. And yet Trump has an ardor for surrounding himself with former military men and appointing a considerable number of veterans to his Cabinet. One-third — or eight out of 24 — of Trump’s Cabinet-level picks have served in the military.

The list includes departments — Defense, Homeland Security, National Intelligence and CIA — where defense expertise would be expected. But Trump also has found veterans to head other agencies.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was a Navy SEAL. Energy Secretary Rick Perry flew C-130 cargo planes in the Air Force. Attorney General Jeff Sessions served in the Army Reserves. Trump’s would-be Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue — who along with Trump’s picks as labor secretary and U.S. trade representative has not been confirmed — was an Air Force captain.

“It’s huge,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars spokesman Joe Davis, who figures that 7 percent of the U.S. population — a fraction of Trump’s Cabinet — has worn the uniform. He added that four top-level advisers have close family members with strong ties to the service. The brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was a Navy SEAL. Small Business Association head Linda McMahon grew up on a military base. So did Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin — who happens to be the first VA secretary not to have served in the military.

“My father was an Army psychiatrist, both grandfathers were Army veterans, and my paternal grandfather served as chief pharmacist at the VA hospital in Madison, Wisconsin. As a young doctor, I trained in VA hospitals,” Shulkin said in a statement.

“One thing we have found is that you don’t have to be a veteran to love veterans,” said Davis, “and that’s Dr. Shulkin.”

Vice President Mike Pence is not a veteran, but he is a Blue Star father; his son Michael is a Marine.

The ratio of veterans in the Trump administration represents a big bump from President Barack Obama’s first Cabinet, which included only two veterans — Defense Secretary Robert Gates and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki. Obama’s first Cabinet members were three times more likely to have graduated from law school than boot camp.

Veteran Legal Institute CEO Dwight Stirling believes demographics play a role. Obama is 55; Trump is 70. “I think the reason there were so few veterans in the Obama administration was largely generational. Between the end of the Vietnam War and the Gulf War in the ‘90s, very few white-collar professionals decided to serve in the military.”

The first cabinet of President George W. Bush claimed six veterans, seven after Bush named Tom Ridge as secretary of homeland security.

Stirling expects Trump to hire veterans who “have a viewpoint consistent with his ideology.”

There also could be a lifestyle match. Trump picked people who were highly successful in their fields — in the military or on Wall Street. Of Trump’s 24 advisers, nine, including Pence, have law degrees. Three of the eight Cabinet-level veterans also have law degrees. There are three doctors, including an acclaimed neurosurgeon and a veterinarian, nominated for Trump’s Cabinet.

“He’s surrounding himself with military people so he can be their commander in chief,” scoffed Bob Mulholland, California Democratic Party spokesman and a Vietnam vet.

“The president ran on a platform of supporting the military and supporting our veterans. It is very encouraging to see that he surrounded himself with career military veterans and one-term military veterans, and military family members,” countered Davis.

Zinke has said he believes his service in the Navy SEALs uniquely informs, for example, his take on coal.

“It is, from a SEAL perspective, it is better to make sure we’re not held hostage on our energy needs in this country. And like you, I don’t want my kids — sons and daughters — to have to fight a war for energy resources we have here,” Zinke said at a recent White House briefing.

“And look, the world is safer when America is stronger, and America stronger is not being dependent on foreign services for energy,” he said. “We can do it here right, and we will.”

(Creators Syndicate)

Don’t let Washington cut Medicare

By GENE H. McINTYRE

Any U.S. “senior” who’s been on Medicare long enough to use it, already knows how vital to saving one’s personal solvency it truly is.  What amazes is that there are actually persons elected to represent the American people in their respective districts who plan now to change Medicare so that it will increase its cost in premiums thousands of dollars per year, rendering its coverage unaffordable to many Americans who have already paid for it throughout their working lives.

House Speaker Paul Ryan’s plan would jeopardize the current guaranteed level of Medicare coverage.  In its place would be “vouchers” or “premium supports” which seniors could try to buy from the private sector, meaning from profit seekers who are known to care little to none about ability to pay. Further, Ryan and GOP leadership in Washington, D.C. argue —on behalf of what they want to accomplish—that Medicare is “going broke.”

Meanwhile, according to a Congressional Budget Office report, Medicare’s not going broke; in fact, the CBO report discloses that Medicare’s fiscal strength has improved in recent years while the Part A trust fund is fully funded for at least another eleven years.  Then, too, immediate revenues are projected to pay 87 percent of costs, declining to 79 percent by 2040.

President Trump campaigned on a promise not to “touch” the benefits seniors have earned, saying “I am going to protect and save your Social Security and Medicare” as “you made a deal a long time ago.”  Trump has not always stood by his statements while this one, if not observed, will direly, even devastatingly, impact millions of older Americans should he take back his promise and proceed to stand with Ryan and others.

As a “Blue Dog” or conservative Democrat, I don’t know where Kurt Schrader, our 5th District Congressman, stands on Medicare.  Handy to us, Congress is on a current two-week break and he’s got an office in Salem.  If Schrader votes with the Republicans against Medicare and those members of Congress have their way, every Medicare recipient in need of medical services will soon find himself in a world of financial hurt.  Readers who want Medicare preserved as is, may want to find the time to contact Schrader.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)