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

Month: July 2017

Fix skate park for a lot less than $500,000

By JERRY MCGEE

I sat in the audience at the last city council session and was deeply saddened as I listened to the Director of Public Works describe the condition of the Carlson Skateboard Park. He described it as unfit for use, even dangerous. He said that the experts recommended total replacement rather than to repair it. He said the cost would be between $350,000 and $500,000. This could consume much of the newparks assessment dollars. (incidentally I spoke in favor of a parks assessment)

I was saddened because I remembered the many hours that Charlene and Steve Carlson spent to make the skate park a reality. Charlene was the fund raiser and the political arm and Steve was the organizer of the work parties. Don’t tell me it wasn’t built right. Steve, through his organized labor connections, brought the top steel men from Portland, journeymen carpenters and concrete men from all over, all willingly donating their skills and time.

When the park was finished it was the jewel of the valley. It was designed and built to require little maintenance, but like any concrete structure, it would require some attention from time to time.

I decided to take one last look at this monument to volunteerism. So on Monday, July 24, at 3:30 p.m., on a very hot day, I drove over to Carlson Skate Park. I expected to see the park posted with danger signs or even fenced off. But what I saw were twenty (I counted them) young men ages from 11 to 17 on skate boards, scooters, and two were on bikes all having athletic fun. I talked to some of them. They said they came often to skate. They were aware of “bad” spots but they just avoided them.

In walking over the area I could see many cracks that could be repaired just as the Oregon Department of Transportation repairs the concrete on bridges (epoxies). Several areas would require more extensive repair. The entire area could be gunnited. The gunnite and smoothing would need to be done professionally. Filling the cracks with epoxy would be a good volunteer project.

I asked my new skating friends if they felt the skate park was obsolete compared to other such parks, a claim stated by the director of Public Works. They said they didn’t use any other skate park and that this one “is just fine.”

In my opinion the skate park is repairable and it can be done at a lot less than $350,000 to $500,000.

(Jerry McGee lives in Keizer.)

Rockier road to park fee passage

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

After lengthy deliberation, the Keizer City Council enacted a $4 monthly fee to pay for parks maintenance and improvements at its meeting Monday, July 17.

It was the second fee enacted in a single night to pay for city services. The other was a $4 monthly fee for police services (see related story above). Both will begin with the November 2017 billing cycle.

Where the police fee cruised to approval, the parks fee was met with opposition at almost every turn.

Two residents in attendance, Bill Quinn and Jerry McGee, suggested starting out with a $2 monthly rate. Jim Taylor, a member of the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, offered the only testimony in support of the fee.

“Parks and the police go hand-in-hand, with nice parks you have less crime. Two dollars gets us by but it doesn’t do the big ticket items, like the skate park,” Taylor said. “Four dollars will allow us to fix the skate park. If we don’t, it goes away.”

While plans are already in motion to repair cracks in Carlson Skate Park to keep it safe, it is in need of a much larger overhaul, said Bill Lawyer, Keizer Public Works director.

“To resurface it, they have to rebuild it, which means taking out components and reconfiguring them. Our preliminary estimates are between $500,000 and $600,000,” Lawyer said. He added that future wear-and-tear would be more minimal with new materials and a new design.

The city expects to collect about $626,000 annually with the $4 fee, which will more than double the amount available for maintenance and improvements. Discounted rates of $1.12 per month will be made available to seniors and low-income individuals.

Councilor Roland Herrera balked at the size of the increase, but City Manager Chris Eppley said that interpretation was misleading.

“There are two components to parks, the first is the people needed to maintain them, the other is the capital improvements,” Eppley said.

Lawyer said there was also a significant amount of deferred maintenance that needed to be completed.

“The funding has been minimal, and every year we fall behind,” Lawyer said.

Taylor, a former councilor himself, acknowledged the difficulty of choosing to enact a fee, but suggested the council persist.

“A decision like this has never been made in the history of Keizer, but it’s time to grow up,” Taylor said.

Enacting the fee required two approvals, first an ordinance and then a resolution setting the amount. Council deliberation on both was wide-ranging.

“Just because a person is not using a community service doesn’t mean it isn’t essential to the community. It’s for the good the community and everybody benefits from it,” said Councilor Laura Reid.

Councilor Bruce Anderson took issue with an $8 cap in the ordinance. He suggested that the cap might be seen as an incentive for future councils to push the amount higher more rapidly.

“I would rather focus on reviewing (the rate) annually,” Anderson said.

Reid countered that any cap was a double-edged sword.

“Any time we impose a specific cap, we invite trouble from an economic standpoint. Twenty years down the line $8 might seem miniscule. It could cause problems because people go there too fast or it’s not enough,” she said.

Anderson suggested a friendly amendment to remove the cap, but it died for lack of a second. He then pushed for an amendment to remove the cap and it died in a 4-3 vote. Anderson, Herrera and Marlene Parsons supported removing the cap.

Despite the disagreement, the ordinance to impose the fee passed unanimously with the addition of the council and Budget Advisory Committee reviewing the rate annually.

When discussing the fee amount, Parsons implied that she was going to push for a $2 amount, but that Taylor’s comments had swayed her.

“I wasn’t sure what I wanted to agree to, but we have to take care of that skate park. If we repair it and we don’t need that ($4 later) we can go down with the annual review,” Parsons said.

The skate park was also a factor for Councilor Kim Freeman.

“If those kids didn’t have the park, they would be at our businesses,” Freeman said.

As councilors weighed the $2 and $4 options, even City Manager Chris Eppley chimed in on the discussion, but said he was speaking only as a resident of the city who will also be paying the fee.

“I’m afraid that at the $2 rate people will only remember we imposed a fee, they won’t see anything of substance in the parks. I think there will be more discontent,” Eppley said.

Anderson said it was the first time the council was hearing about the larger projects that needed to get done in parks even though the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board has been working through the issues for more than a year. Anderson was also present on a tour of parks last year that included a visit to the skate park and where matters of deferred maintenance, and increased costs, were discussed.

Anderson said he would have preferred more discussion of the “nexus” where the money would go, à la the way the police defined positions to be filled with the approval of a fee. He said he supported the fee but would be more comfortable at the $2 amount.

Mayor Cathy Clark had the final word on the matter before the vote.

“Sometimes being fiscally responsible means we pay for things responsibly,” Clark said. “The longer we wait the more likely it is we move from repair to replace. We have things in our parks that have to be rebuilt. Let’s not let another one get that far behind. To me, this is about being responsible and handing off our parks to our children and our future in better shape than they are now.”

The $4 rate was approved 5-2. Herrera and Anderson voted in opposition.

Police fee approved without dissent

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

With a unanimous vote, the Keizer City Council approved the city’s first-ever fee for a city service other than a utility, $4 a month to create a dedicated fund for police staffing.

The council addressed the matter in two parts, the first was an ordinance imposing the fee, the second was a resolution setting the amount.

The fee will be added to monthly bills for sewer and water services, but the bills themselves might be getting a name change to something akin to a “city services bill.” Since utilities are billed bimonthly, the charge will appear itemized as $8 for police services beginning in November 2017.

The $4 rate will be discounted for some segments of the population and businesses. Multi-family dwelling units will be charged $3.45 per month to account for vacancies. Senior living residential facilities will pay a flat $4 fee for the entire facility. Seniors and low-income households can qualify for a $1.12 per month rate provided they notify the city and show documentation. Copies of the documentation will not be kept by the city. Delinquent accounts will be charged a $37 fee after 14 days, but no residents will have their water cut off for failure to pay the fee.

In a document provided by Keizer Finance Director Tim Wood, the city expects to collect approximately $626,000 annually for police services. The fee, at least initially, is expected to pay for the addition of five new officers: two officers would be added to the night patrol shifts, and one officer each would be added to the Community Response Unit, the detective unit and the traffic unit. However, councilors refrained from limiting the funds for solely those expenses.

While there are not plans to raise the fee in the immediate future, the council and Budget Advisory Committee will review the fee at the beginning of each budget cycle to determine if changes are warranted.

“It’s going to lead to some tough decisions because the costs are going to escalate. I don’t know there’s any way to tell (by how much),” said City Manager Chris Eppley.

The city has had difficulty pulling the trigger on hiring new officers because of escalating PERS (public employee retirement system) costs that consume large chunks of new general fund revenue.

Councilor Amy Ryan suggested changing the name of the bill residents receive to clear up confusion about the addition of new fees (which will also include a $4 monthly fee for parks, see related story Page A1).

“There is a sense that by changing our verbiage we can clarify what we are doing and why,” agreed Mayor Cathy Clark.

Three residents spoke during time set aside for public testimony. Jerry McGee supported the police fee, but not a discounted rate for seniors who, he said, benefit equally from police services. Bill Quinn also voiced his support for the fee. Dave Bauer took issue with the whole process.

“The fee is a slippery slope and a dangerous way to earn money. What about new councilors who have a different ideas? There is precedent that is going to be set and I want you to understand that. It’s a way to get money, but I’m not sure it’s the right way,” Bauer said.

Master plan change pushes theater deal one step closer

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

A change to the Keizer Station Area B master plan, approved by the Keizer City Council Monday, July 17, inches the city closer to closing a deal for a movie theater.

The city is in talks with the owner of Cinemagic to lease a space in the area across from the Salem-Keizer Transit Center on Keizer Station Boulevard. The deal would be a first for the city, which has chosen to sell property like the one in question to developers. However, rather than a one-time injection of revenue, a lease deal creates a new revenue stream.

At the meeting Monday, councilors approved text changes that would allow one 24,000 square foot building to be constructed rather than an assortment of smaller ones.

“The city is currently in discussions about leasing that property to a theater, but could be anything appropriate in that zone. It doesn’t change any structure or restrictions, it’s just the aggregation of square footage,” said Nate Brown, Keizer community development director.

Brown added that one building on the site allows for more parking and other efficiencies.

The council heard from only two residents during public testimony, Joel and Cindy Taylor, who opposed the changes. The couple said they recently purchased a home in the vicinity without any knowledge of the possibility of commercial development.

“I have major concerns with traffic and property value also the drop off with Whiteaker (Middle School),” said Joel. He added that the master plan was approved in 2010 and the city has grown since then, and more traffic and congestion is likely on the way. “Now there’s going to be a Waremart down the street.”

“There is no compensation for the growth. What is going to happen later in the parking lot (after the theater is closed) behind my home? I wish I had known this when I bought it,” said Cindy.

Brown noted that development as a theater could be preferable to other types of businesses.

“The beauty of the theater is that their peak time is completely off normal peak (traffic) periods. That commercial area has been established since the city was formed. The reality is that some development will happen,” Brown said.

Issues regarding traffic, specifically as it relates to Whiteaker, were also planned for in the original master plan process.

The Taylors also took issue with the size of a wall meant to alleviate the impact of lights and noise on the neighboring homes. A seven-foot wall is planned, but many of the nearby houses are two-story.

City Manager Chris Eppley said the intent was only to shield neighbors from light and noise caused by vehicle traffic.

“Our intent is not to have any light source (meaning the bulbs themselves) visible from the homes,” Brown said.

Current plans for the theater include having marquee lights face Keizer Station Boulevard, Eppley said.

McNary D-II squad finishes summer at state tournament

By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

McNary’s run in the Division II state baseball tournament ended with two one-run losses.

After falling to North Eugene 6-5 on Thursday, July 13, the Celtics again came up short in an 8-7 loss to South Medford on Friday, July 14 at Thurston High School in Eugene.

“We weren’t able to score late in the game to win but I thought we pitched well,” McNary coach Jordan Keeker said of the first game. “We played pretty good defense. We just couldn’t get the situational hit.”

McNary’s team was made up of mostly rising sophomores and juniors who were on Keeker’s JV2 squad in the spring. The Celtics played 18 games during the summer, finishing 9-11 overall but 7-5 in league play.

“There’s a lot of opportunities in the summer, just because guys are busy doing other sports so the guys that come out and play in the summer get a lot of opportunities to get better and that was the goal,” Keeker said. “The goal was to improve and I think we did that.”

Sophomore Rennick Jeffries led McNary at the plate this summer, hitting .429 with nine RBIs and 12 runs scored. Junior Drew Bartlett hit .390 with 14 runs. Alex Simpson scored 20 runs and had 13 RBIs to go along with a .364 average. Andrew Brown hit .371 and added 14 runs and 12 RBIs. Nigel Harris scored 16 runs and had a .370 average. As a team, the Celtics hit .326.

Rennick and Jameson Martin pitched most of the innings for McNary.

Most importantly, Keeker saw mental growth from the club.

“This group has definitely mentally matured as baseball players,” Keeker said.

“It’s always fun to coach the freshmen and get an idea of what their mentality is and how they act, how they work.,” Keeker continued.

“I think they’ve made some big strides in how they conduct themselves, how they deal with adversity. That’s something big that we preach, how to deal with failure, and they’ve done that. I’m excited to see how they respond and how their season goes next year.”

McNary’s Division I squad went 9-4 and finished third in league play this summer.

The Celtics are participating in a state tournament July 20-23 at Western Oregon University.

Northwood, Holiday win swim meets

By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

Northwood Park Swim Club dominated relays to defeat Jan Ree 322-160 Thursday, July 13.

Sayje Castronovo, Kaitlyn Schaffer, Meili Skipper and Kylie Wells won the girls 9-10-year-old medley relay. Castronovo, Skipper, Wells and Kaitlyn Roop also placed first in the free relay as Northwood’s girls outscored Jan Ree 175-112.

Melia Wells, Brooke Junker, Ella Ditchen and Ainsleigh Pack had the fastest time in the 11-12 medley relay.

Wells, Pack, Ditchen and Molly Eisele won the 11-12 free relay.

Junker swam on the winning 13-14 free relay with Madie Trammell, Ellie Auvinen and Kailey Wilcke. Trammell, Auvinen, Wilcke and Isabella Walker took first in the 13-14 medley relay.

Grace Trammell, Rioanna Zeller, Alyssa Garvey and Ashley Hawley won the 15-18 medley relay.

Paris Boyd had the fastest times in the 13-14 individual medley, free and breaststroke. Wilcke won the 13-14 backstroke. Eisele placed first in the 9-10 IM and free. Roop won the 9-10 backstroke.

Zeller touched the wall first in the 15-18 IM and fly. Junker won the 11-12 backstroke.

Northwood’s boys won six relays to easily outscore Jan Ree 147-48.

Cameron Harrington, Jeffery Olsen, Caedmon Christensen and Grant Schaffer finished first in the 9-10 medley and free relays. Elijah Clendening, Riley Auvinen, Andrew Zeller and Conner Roop also swept the 11-12 medley and free relays.

Bryce Junker, Ethan Whalen, Jackson Alt and Riley Mahoney took first in the 15-18 medley relay. Whalen, Alt, Junker and Zachary Harrington then won the 15-18 free relay.

Individually, Alt placed first in the 11-12 fly, free and IM. Olsen won the 7-8 free and breaststroke. Schaffer had the fastest times in the 9-10 IM and backstroke. Zeller won the 9-10 free.

Whalen touched the wall first in the 13-14 free and breaststroke.

In the 11-12 division, Caleb Skipper won the backstroke and Zachary Harrington took first in the breaststroke. Junker won the 13-14 backstroke.

Holiday

Holiday Swim Club edged Cambridge 318-239 Thursday, thanks to another strong showing from its girls, who won all eight relays.

Emma Anderson, Ella Gerig, Alex Wilcoxen and Addison Castronovo took first in the 9-10 free relay. Anderson, Gerig, Wilcoxen and Emerly Love won the 9-10 medley relay.

Ashlynn Hughes, Evylyn Hales, Jaelynn Love and Maya Privratsky had the fastest time in the 11-12 free relay. Hughes, Privratsky, Erika Robinett and Kyra Norstrom won the 11-12 medley relay.

Norstrom, Tessa Talento, Kassy Winters and Abby Grossman placed first in the 13-14 free relay. Grossman, Winters, Bella Beard and Alex Beard won the 13-14 medley relay.

In the 15-18 division, Bella, Alex, Rosa Oliver and Kyle McCarty took first in the free relay. Talento, McCarty, Oliver and Delaney Rothmeyer won the medley relay.

Individually, Hales took first in the 7-8 backstroke. Wilcoxen won the 9-10 fly and free. Emerly Love touched the wall first in the 9-10 IM.

Norstrom won the 11-12 IM and free. Robinett took first in the 11-12 breaststroke. Jaelynn Love had the fastest time in the 11-12 fly. Privratsky won the 11-12 backstroke.

The Beards dominated the 13-14 division, with Alex winning the free and backstroke and Bella swimming the fastest times in the IM, fly and breaststroke.

McCarty won the 15-18 fly and free.

Jack McCarty led Holiday’s boys team, winning the 13-14 IM, fly and breaststroke. Tony Gonzalez took first in the 13-14 backstroke and free. McCarty and Gonzalez also teamed up with Ryan Bethers and Jackson Colyer to win the 13-14 free relay. McCarty, Gonzalez, Bethers and Landon Gerig had the fastest time in the medley relay.

Individually, Colyer won the 11-12 fly. Jacob Castronovo took first in the 7-8 fly and breaststroke. Jonah Strunk touched the wall first in the 7-8 backstroke.

Northview

Northview lost to a deep Madrona squad 427-228 Thursday.

Ana Kosiewicz won the 15-18 girls free and fly. She also swam on the winning 15-18 medley relay team with Hayley Guptill, Caraline Guptill and Sydney Epperly. Caraline also took first in the 15-18 backstroke.

Kiana Staley swam the fastest time in the 13-14 IM and fly as well as the 11-12 breaststroke.

Staley, Kat Kosiewicz, Anna Sponable and Sydney Smith won the 13-14 free relay. Hannah Halliday, Erin Seyfried, Miranda Guptill and Macy White took first in the 11-12 free relay.

Xzavier Parker led Northview’s boys team, winning the 7-8 fly and backstroke. Tyler Barker, Michael Halliday, Will Oglesby and Dylan Guptill took first in the 7-8 free relay.

In the 11-12 division, Luke Staley won the IM and Jeremy Becker placed first in the backstroke. Gavin Gasperini won the 13-14 fly.

Safeway gas gets council OK

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer City Council unanimously approved Safeway’s request to put in a fueling center at their River Road North location at its meeting Monday, July 17.

The decision is most noteworthy because the council permitted the grocer to construct a small 450-square-foot convenience store alongside the fueling center. Both city staff and the Keizer Planning Commission had opposed the inclusion of the accessory structure.

The specific action the council took was to modify an overlay zone that prevents automotive-related businesses from occupying an area around the intersection of Chemawa Road and River Road. The zone predates even Keizer’s development code and was put in place for reasons ranging from safety to aesthetics. The change approved allows gas stations as a conditional use.

In the final vote, Mayor Cathy Clark walked back her original position on the matter when she voted against even allowing a conversation about the change to happen. Clark had hoped to see more mixed use spaces, e.g. offices and retail, appear.

“I love the dream of more mixed use, but the reality is the funding. One thing that has not happened is a business coming in and put down money to help achieve that. This is a long-established business in Keizer willing to invest and add a service that is clearly in demand,” Clark said.

The decision also went against the wishes of the Keizer Fire District whose officials were unhappy that a traffic study submitted with the plan did not take into account the location’s proximity to the Keizer Fire Station and impacts on emergency services. No one representing the fire district spoke at the meeting, but Fire Board President Joe Van Meter submitted a letter opposing the change. In an effort to allay some of the district’s concerns, the zoning changes approved include a mandate that Safeway representatives work with fire district officials to mitigate traffic problems.

“In particular, I know the amendment calls out working with the KFD and we look forward to working on that,” said Seth King, a land use attorney representing Safeway at the meeting.

The fueling station is expected to generate an additional 600 daily trips through the area, but those numbers did not take into account the arrival of a second grocery store, Waremart by Winco, sometime in the near future.

Todd Paradise, a real estate manager for Safeway-Albertsons, the “c-store” associated with the fueling center, would not be what most think of as the traditional convenience store.

“We see a big difference between a c-store and a traditional convenience store of 3,000-4,000 square feet. This will carry a small selection of drinks and other items, no beer or wine,” Paradise said.

Paradise also noted that one of the already-permitted uses for the space would be an actual convenience store.

“I also know that if I had to walk up to a vault and push payment through a thick window, I would be concerned about safety in the area,” Paradise said. “That would indicate potential crime problems.”

The council also heard from some residents on the matter.

Hersch Sangster, chair of the Keizer Planning Commission, said commissioners had some disagreement on making the changes to allow the gas station but had a united voice against allowing the auxiliary sales building.

Mike DeBlasi, another member of the planning commission spoke as simply a resident, saying, “We need to think about the adaptability of the building. A gas station can only ever be a gas station.  If you say yes you are saying no to good development. A no vote puts Keizer on a path for financial stability and a better quality of life.”

Jerry McGee, who was on the council when the original overlay zone was put in place, encouraged the council to revisit the reasons for creating it.

Developers may have to pony up for community beautification

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Imagine for a moment sitting atop one of the 100 largest private employers in the nation according to Forbes magazine. Last year, revenues for your company clocked in at $6.3 billion.

On a local level, fans of your company  launched social media campaigns hoping to court you to their city where only one other major competitor exists. When you make a decision and announce a new store opening it is – without hyperbole – the biggest story of the entire year for that town.

But, when the city’s community development director sits down with you to discuss the designs for a $2.3 million remodel of the building, you tell him that putting trees in the parking lot is a “dealbreaker.”

A similar conversation laid the groundwork for the most recent meeting of the Keizer Planning Commission. Along with city staff, the group spent almost two hours discussing the intricacies of the city’s landscaping codes as it relates to new and re-development.

“When you have Taco Bell gut their building, there was no requirement for them to bring the site up to (landscaping) compliance. When Waremart comes in, they are doing interior remodeling and there’s no requirement to do landscaping in the parking lot. Our intent is to say if you are doing a remodel, you need to address the landscaping requirements,” said Nate Brown, Keizer community development director.

The changes, which were approved in a 5-1 vote, will now go to the council. If approved there, developers – regardless of size – will pay an additional 1 percent of their costs into the city’s public art fund. That fund can be used for a wide variety of public amenities ranging from highly-visible major efforts like the Iris Festival Parade mural to more subtle additions like public benches. Developers would get to choose whether to invest the money somewhere in their own property or pay into the fund, which would allow the money to be used elsewhere in the city.

While there was some quibble over whether the charge was a tax or something else, the amount is somewhat negligible. On a $100,000 construction or remodeling project, the city would collect $1,000. Brown said a public bench like the ones currently along River Road costs $1,400.

He added that conversation about collecting the fee would also be a tool to prompt engagement on the part of the business community.

“Right now, we can’t go to them and tell them they need to think about how they are participating in the community or raising the level of livability,” Brown said. “Keizer is growing up and we are a significant city, and I honestly think we need to start paying more attention to our sense of place. This is a way to start moving that dial just slightly.”

While city staff recommended collecting the fee on projects only worth $100,000 or more, the recommendation from the commissioners would apply it to all projects.

Commissioner Hersch Sangster asked whether such a fee could be a financial dealbreaker for a business choosing between Keizer and a nearby city.

“Our SDCs (system development charges) are 50 percent less than neighboring jurisdictions. We are significantly less. This doesn’t even push us close to that territory,” Brown replied.

Commissioner Garry Whalen, who was the sole no vote, suggested that the fee would be seen as a negative in the business community, and wanted assurances the money wouldn’t sit and accumulate for years on end.

“If we are going to exact a 1 percent fee, there needs to be a commitment back from the city that it will be spent within X years. If it isn’t spent, don’t just rathole the money and have it not doing any good for anybody – give it back,” Whalen said.

The consensus was that placing a deadline on spending the money collected would limit the scope of public amenity projects that could be considered.

Commissioners also deliberated on where such amenities should be placed. Brown originally envisioned the majority of them being placed on the subject property, but it raised concerns about ownership, maintenance, and liability/safety, for some commissioners.

Commissioner Kyle Juran, who recently completed remodeling his own space on River Road North, suggested he would rather not have a public amenity placed on his property.

“I wouldn’t want a fountain or park bench that the public can use because of the tightness of the space,” Juran said.

The council will take up the recommendation at a future meeting.

Paying for Keizer’s livability

The Keizer City Council has passed new fees to support the police department and the city’s 19 parks. Each fee is $4 per month that is added to the water/sewer bills (the bi-monthly addition to invoices total will be $16).

The collection of the new fees will start in November. Instead of receiving a water bill, homeowners and business owners will receive a city services invoice which include the two new fees.

The approval of the two fees was not done in a vacuum; it was not done in the dark nor away from public scrutiny. The discussion of a parks fee has been in public arena for more than a year; both hearings and public forums have been held to unveil the current state of our parks as well as how much money is needed to maintain them.

Both the parks fee and the public safety fee will be dedicated—meaning revenues from each fee may only be used for parks or police and cannot be diverted to any other part of the city’s budget.

The city’s charter and state law allows the council to impose a service fee. It is the imposition of a tax that requires a vote of the people. Again, the council did not approve the two fees lightly. A detailed survey about parks was sent to every Keizer home earlier this year asking about everything from park amenities to frequency of use by members of the household. It gave options for a monthly fee and what each one would pay for. Interested persons could also fill out the survey online.

The state of Keizer parks and the impact of a fee were the topics at neighborhood meetings, parks board meetings and other gatherings.

There was no lack of transparency when it came to what why and how the parks fee would be. There was no survey regarding a public safety fee, but again there was transparency in the effort to add $4 a month to water/sewer bills to add the five people Police Chief John Teague says is needed to keep up with the needs of Keizer’s police department.

Early in the process Mayor Cathy Clark was on the record saying that it should not and must not be a choice between parks and police, that it was vital to fund both for the betterment of the city and its residents.

They say that freedom isn’t free, well, neither are city operations. Keizer has the lowest tax base of any full service city in Oregon; the rate was locked in with passage of several state-wide measures in the early 1990s. Keizer’s founding fathers were content with a rate of $2.08 per $1,000 of valuation. The city has lived with that rate for more than 30 years. Some in the private sector say that the city should live within its means. That’s a nice view but no one foresaw in 1982 (when Keizer was incorporated into a city) how PERS and health insurance would affect municipal budgets in 2017. The city is mandated to pay into PERS, an expenditure which increases every year. To be a preferred employer the city has to offer health insurance, and increases in that field are a given.

Some people wanted voters to have a say on the fees. There is no guarantee that voters would approve either fee; the city needs extra money now to fund two items that are crucial to the livability and marketability of Keizer. Those are the key points: homeowners need to feel secure that their investment will grow in value. That’s accomplished with keeping Keizer the most desired address in the Willamette Valley.

The city should not behave as it has received a big infusion of cash to play with; parks will get better, public safety will be more secure. Keizer has shown to be a good trustee of the taxpayer dollar, but city leaders must understand that their budget decisions in the coming years will be under the citizen’s microscope.

  —LAZ

Will Republicans break from Trump?

By E.J. DIONNE JR.

“Will he tell the president ‘no’?”

This question was at the heart of Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s opening statement at last week’s confirmation hearing for Christopher Wray, President Trump’s nominee as FBI director. Wray was there because the man who appointed him had fired James Comey for failing, as Feinstein put it, to “pledge his loyalty” to Trump and to soft-pedal inquiries involving Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign.

The test for Wray, Feinstein said, will be his “willingness to stand up in the face of political pressure.”

There is good reason to feel uneasy about having anyone appointed by Trump lead the FBI at this moment. It is obvious to all except the willfully blind that we now have a president who observes none of the norms, rules or expectations of his office and will pressure anyone at any time if doing so serves his personal interests.

We also know beyond doubt that this team will lie, and lie, and lie again whenever the matter of Russia’s exertions to elect Trump and defeat Hillary Clinton arises.

Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer connected to the Putin regime after he received an email from an intermediary promising “sensitive information” about Clinton that was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump.” His decision exploded the president’s claims that neither he nor his campaign had anything to do with Russia’s efforts to tilt our election his way.

The son’s response to the invitation, “I love it,” will become the iconic summation of the Trump apparat’s attitude toward the assistance the president received from Vladimir Putin’s regime.

Almost as instructive were the number of outright lies the Trump camp concocted to try to disguise the real motivation behind the encounter. Their story changed as New York Times reporters developed more information as to what happened. The White House initially seemed to think it could get everyone to buy its fiction that the conversation—which also involved Trump’s then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort, and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner—had focused on policy toward Russian adoptions.

Feinstein’s suggestion that telling this president “no” has become the true measure of patriotism applies far beyond Wray. So far, Republican politicians, with a precious few exceptions, are failing this ethics exam.

The revelations about Trump Jr. might have been the moment when Republican leaders at least started to grab their luggage in preparation for disembarking from the Trump train. After all, as Washington Post blogger Greg Sargent underscored, there is evidence that the president himself cooperated in putting out the original lies about his son’s meeting. This may prove to be the wedge that opens up a larger examination of the president’s determination to cover-up.

Yet the GOP is having trouble kicking its Trump habit.

While some Republican senators see the administration’s dysfunction as a barrier to their Obamacare repeal efforts, others are hoping the Trump Jr. distraction will lower the level of scrutiny of their forthcoming second draft of a health care bill. Could scandalous political behavior provide a shield for scandalous public policy?

Vice President Pence’s effort to stay loyal to Trump while tip-toeing away from the latest disclosures is another sign of chaos. Marc Lotter, Pence’s press secretary, attempted to draw a bright line, saying of the vice president: “He is not focused on stories about the campaign, particularly stories about the time before he joined the ticket.”

But there is no bright line. This statement should widen, rather than narrow, interest in Pence’s behavior because denying any relationship with Russia was central to the campaign that he was part of. It was also Pence who (in theory, at least) was in charge of vetting Michael Flynn, the national security adviser who had to resign after 24 days because of his own dissembling about Russian contacts. Pence publicly defended Flynn, and then pleaded ignorance as to what was going on.

Pence cannot be allowed to slink away from the administration whose cause he has advanced. If he’s starting to see reasons for breaking with Trump, he’ll have to do it outright and end his own collusion with one of the most disingenuous White Houses in our history.

The same applies to Republican leaders in Congress. When will they tell the president “no”? Feinstein’s question is the right one for Wray. It should haunt Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, too.

(Washington Post Writers Group)