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Month: September 2017

New law will attempt to curb distracted driving

Keizertimes Intern

Distracted driving contributed to the largest increase of traffic fatalities Oregon has seen in a decade, and on average eight people are hurt or killed by a distracted driver each day. Oregon legislators are hoping to curtail those trends with a new law.

On Oct. 1, Oregon House Bill 2597 takes effect making it illegal to drive while holding or using electronic devices such as cell phones and tablets, excluding hands-free or built-in devices. There are some exceptions, including the use of mobile devices while parked, but the bill asserts that it is not legal to use the device while at a stop light or stop sign.

According to the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), there were 917 crashes, 14 fatalities, and over 1,000 injuries caused by drivers using a cellphone from 2011-2015. Second offenders, or first offenders who contribute to a crash, can find themselves paying up to $2,500 in fines, and third offenders can be faced with up to $6,500 in fines or a year in jail.

The bill isn’t just increased fines and strict enforcement, however. Starting January 1, 2018, the bill will allow courts to offer first-time offenders the option to suspend their fine and instead take a distracted driving course.

House Bill 2597’s mandates are only one component in Oregon’s efforts to reduce distracted driving; ODOT’s DriveHealthy campaign hopes to incentivize drivers to practice safe habits with friendly competition. The campaign lets organizations and individuals use the LifeSaver app from Life Apps LLC to log cellphone use while driving and send scores to ODOT’s monthly leaderboard. Playing is easy: the less you use your phone while driving, the higher your score.

ODOT is confident in the campaign, as a similar one in Boston reduced distracted driving among participants by 47 percent.

“While technology helped create the problem,” said ODOT Director Matthew Garrett. “Technology can also help provide a solution to distracted driving.”

McNary alumni make directorial debut

Andrea Bean and Jeremy Clubb, two McNary High graduates, are directing Keizer Homegrown Theatre’s Dog Park, The Musical Oct. 6-8, 13-15, 20 and 21 at Chemeketa Community College. (Submitted)

Of the Keizertimes

Jeremy Clubb and Andrea Bean, two McNary High School graduates who haven’t stopped acting, building sets and playing music, are making their directorial debut with Keizer Homegrown Theatre’s Dog Park, The Musical.

The pair were both heavily involved in the drama department while students at McNary, Clubb as an actor and Bean as a violin player in the orchestra pit.

After high school, both acted in shows at Chemeketa Community College. From there, Clubb had a minor part in Keizer Homegrown’s first musical—I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change in 2014, then joined the theatre company’s board and has been involved in nearly every show since. Bean has played violin and conducted musicals for Pentacle Theatre in Salem.


Clubb and Bean were riding back from a show at the Gallery Theatre in McMinnville when the idea of directing Dog Park came up. Bean had been asked but didn’t want to go at it alone.

“I can sing fairly well but I don’t read music very well,” Clubb said. “I don’t play any instruments. I would not be any help in that regard.”

Bean turned out to be the perfect partner.

“Since I’m the musical side and he’s more of the technical side and the experienced on stage, putting us together is kind of a dream team because where I lack he’s got the knowledge and vice versa,” Bean said. “Our ideas just kind of meld. It’s been really good.”

Dog Park, which debuts in the Chemeketa Community College auditorium on Friday, Oct. 6 at 7 p.m., tells the story of Daisy, a sassy Westie played by Holly Beaman, who is encouraged by her owner to find love at the dog park. Daisy meets Champ the Collie, a charming but full of himself show dog played by Joshua Seitz, Itchy, a neurotic Jack Russell terrier played by Brandon Correa and Bogie, a mysterious loner lab mutt played by Dennis Fisher.

This unusual quartet make their way through the day’s scheduled events which include Singles With Friends, Agility Class, Speed Mating, Yappy Hour and Lovers with Leashes.

“Finding that person that you connect the best with, that’s what this is about,” Clubb said.

While Daisy does find her mate, everything doesn’t go as planned.

“Like every good show you have some misconception and plot twists,” Bean said.

The co-directors have added extra characters to the show in three purse dogs—Ginger, played by Hillary Hoover, Trix, played by Stacia Rice and Cookie, played by Amber Traver.

In the original production, the characters are played by the three males using puppets. But when only females showed up to the original auditions in January, Bean and Clubb had to be creative.

“We thought if we have people that want to be involved, let’s create that opportunity so we split out all the drag roles and created extra characters,” Bean said. “It’s adding a lot to the show because you can do more with those extra people. Having those three extra dogs, now you can do a lot more fun things with choreography that’s visual. It adds a different flair to it.”

Clubb added, “For as much trouble as we had with casting, I’m so happy with the cast that we have right now. They are very talented people.”

For choreography, Clubb called in a favor from a former classmate at Chemeketa, Nathaniel Pierce, who now teaches in New York City at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and worked on the Tony Award winning musical Dear Evan Hansen.

At no charge, Pierce flew out from NYC to start the choreography before Clubb and Bean finished it.

“We were watching things that Nate was doing and we did a bunch of research on Youtube and I really think it’s well put together,” Clubb said. “We built right off of it.”

Louise Biffle made the costumes, which includes wigs, ears, collars and painted noses. But no tails.

“She’s doing an amazing job of taking what we had as ideas,” Bean said. “Turning humans into dogs, you have to decide the level that you want to go with that. We’re not doing Cats. We’re not Wilfred the dog. We’re somewhere in a happy medium. There’s some fur aspects in their costumes but then they still have the human side of it.”

Clubb and Bean have worked to get the community and audiences more involved. Along with face painting in the lobby, Clyde’s Confections, a bakery in Salem, is making doggie treats, to be eaten by humans, for sale.

Additional shows are Oct. 7, 13, 14, 20, 21 at 7 p.m. and 8 and 15 at 2 p.m. with doors opening 30 minutes before the musical. Those in attendance for the Oct. 7 and 14 shows will get a special treat as The Joys of Living Assistance Dogs will be doing tricks with some of its dogs during intermission.

“We’re trying things that haven’t been done with Keizer Homegrown before,” Clubb said.

Willamette Valley Animal Hospital is one of the sponsors the show. McNary thespians have been invited to sell concessions during the opening weekend, Oct. 6-8, with Keizer Homegrown donating a $1 to the MHS drama department for every ticket sold at the door.

Tickets are $15 and are also available online through Brown Paper Tickets at

The auditorium is located in Building 6 at Chemeketa Community College on 4000 Lancaster Dr. NE. Closest parking is in the purple lot at the college, easiest to find by entering campus off of 45th street and following the signs to the auditorium.

Murder conviction overturned

Of the Keizertimes

The Appeals Court of Oregon has overturned the 2013 murder conviction of Peter Zielinski who was charged with the shooting death of his wife, Lisa, in January 2011.

L. Zielinksi

The court issued the opinion on Wednesday, Sept. 20. Peter Zielinski pleaded guilty to shooting and killing his wife in 2013 and was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years, but his plea included the right to appeal.

In the opinion issued by the court, Judge P.J. Armstong wrote that the facts of the case were undisputed. However, by not allowing expert testimony that would have cast Zielinski as being affected extreme emotional disturbance and suffering from anxiety disorder, the lower court had overstepped the intent of the law.

“(The) defendant’s anxiety disorder, as explained in this case, bears a closer resemblance to physical illness or disability than it does to non-clinical personality traits like ill temperament, dishonesty, or stubbornness,” Armstrong wrote.

In the weeks leading up to the murder:

• Peter and Lisa Zielinski’s martial problems begin ratcheting up.

• Lisa tells Peter she
wants a divorce.

• Peter discovers hundreds of text messages between Lisa and a co-worker, including at least one that contradicts a prior claim.

• The Zielinskis attend a marriage counseling session. When the counselor asks Lisa what she hopes to achieve, Lisa responds, “Nothing.”

Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011
Peter discovers email exchanges between Lisa and the co-worker. When confronted, Lisa admits to an affair and says she wants to leave Peter and plan a future with the new love interest. Peter calls the wife of the co-worker and forwards one of the emails to Lisa’s boss and co-workers.

Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011
After a fight, Lisa leaves the couple’s home and Peter claims to have put his gun to his head intending to commit suicide. He says he stopped himself because he didn’t want the couple’s daughter to discover his body.

Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011
(Day of the murder) Peter told the court he was “at his wits end.” Lisa shook her head in disgust when Peter tried to hug her.
He went to get a glass of water and instead went to his closet and pulled out a .40-caliber gun. He found Lisa in the bathroom and shot her in the head. Peter takes the couple’s daughter to her carpool and arrives outside the Keizer Police Department where he uses an emergency phone to contact police
at 7:12 a.m claiming his “wife needed an ambulance.”

Monday, Jan. 31, 2011
Peter is indicted for
the murder of his wife.

Monday, Nov. 18, 2013
After previously pleading not guilty to the crime, Peter changes his plea to guilty with the stipulation that he can appeal.

Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2013
Judge Dale Penn sentences Peter to life in prison with the possibility of parole after 25 years.

Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017
The Oregon Court of Appeals overturns the conviction – saying the court erred when it did not allow expert testimony about Peter’s mental state during the crime – and sends it back to Marion County Circuit Court.

Armstrong suggests that the lower court judge, Judge Dale Penn, erroneously conflated personality traits (like stubbornness, dishonesty, etc.) with mental disorder and that the exclusion of expert testimony on that basis was unfounded.

After his arrest, Zielinski was examined by Dr. Richard Hulteng, a Portland psychologist. Hulteng diagnosed Zielinski with adjustment disorder with depressed mood, anxiety disorder and alcohol abuse along with narcissistic personality traits.

Hulteng stopped short of diagnosing Zielinski with combat-related post traumatic stress disorder, stemming from Zielinski’s experiences in the first Gulf War, and opined that there was no indication that Zielinski was “inherently incapable of controlling himself.”

A second psychologist largely concurred with Hulteng’s evaluation, writing that, at the time of the alleged murder, Zielinski “was experiencing heightened stress, increased despair, and hopeless, catastrophic, and rigid thinking.”

The second psychologist diagnosed Zielinski with anxiety disorder and, alcohol abuse and obsessive-compulsive personality traits.

The state filed a motion to prevent the psychologists from testifying regarding Zielinski’s anxiety, its source and how it manifests. The defense argued that such testimony critical to understanding Zielinski’s situation. It would have provided the opportunity to argue that Zielinski was operating under extreme emotional disturbance (EED), a determination which is left to juries under Oregon law. Judge Dale Penn sided with state attorneys.

In 2013, Zielinski changed his plea from not guilty to guilty with the condition that he could appeal the judge’s decision on the psychological testimony.

Leaving the door open to the EED defense could reduce the crime of murder to first-degree manslaughter. The two carry different minimum sentences under Oregon law. The minimum penalty for murder is 25 years and the minimum for first-degree manslaughter is 10 years.

In addition to conflating issues of disability and personality, Armstrong, the appeals court judge, contended that nothing in Oregon law states that a person’s situation is limited to the events and circumstances leading up to a homicide and that removing the evidence of an anxiety disorder diagnosis “eliminates the objective component of the EED defense.”

Zielinski’s case will now come back to the Marion County Circuit Court. No dates have yet been set for new court appearances. Zielinski remains in prison at Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem.

What happens next?

In 2013, Peter Zielinski pleaded guilty to killing his wife in their Keizer home.

Now that the Appeals Court of Oregon has overturned the verdict, Zielinski can withdraw his plea, said Amy Queen, a spokesperson for the Marion County District Attorney Office.

Zielinski remains in prison while the courts assign a new judge and set dates for the next steps in the process. As of press time Wednesday, Sept. 27, no actions had been scheduled. Queen was unable to speak about case specifics because it has been reopened.

The appellate opinion states that Judge Dale Penn erred when not allowing testimony about Zielinski’s diagnosis with anxiety disorder. Doing so would have permitted a jury to determine whether Zielinski was operating under extreme emotional disturbance. If a jury had found Zielinski to be suffering from EED, it could have considered a conviction for first-degree manslaughter rather than murder.

Under Oregon law, the minimum penalty for murder is a 25-year sentence while the minimum penalty for first-degree manslaughter is 10 years. Zielinski was originally sentenced to life in prison with a possibility for parole after 25 years.

McNary football goes to Forest Grove

Of the Keizertimes

McNary (3-1) will go to Forest Grove (1-3) Friday, Sept. 29 with one of its leaders on both sides of the ball standing on the sideline.

Lucas Garvey, the Celtics leading rusher and top cornerback, suffered a broken collarbone running the ball in the first quarter of a 21-7 win at McKay on Friday, Sept. 22.

McNary head coach Jeff Auvinen expects Garvey to be out six weeks and in the meantime he’ll help the Celtics as an assistant coach.

In Garvey’s absence, Junior Walling rushed for 171 yards on 29 carries at McKay. Freddy Jimna had 31 yards on eight touches and Robert Benson added 37 yards on nine attempts.

“All the running backs did a nice job,” Auvinen said. “We’ll continue to use all three of them.”

On defense, Devyn Schurr got snaps at cornerback. Nigel Harris will also get a shot there.

“It might be by committee. It might be who rises to the top,” Auvinen said. “I thought that everyone that went in for him (Garvey) did a great job, both offensively and defensively.”

Some good news on the injury front—Jonny Williams, who missed the McKay game after tweaking his quadricep, was back at practice on Monday, Sept. 25 and could also help the Celtics at cornerback.

Lineman Tim Kiser, who suffered a concussion against Sprague, is also expected back soon.

“There’s certain steps you take on the way to coming back, maybe make it back this week,” Auvinen said of Kiser. “We’ll see where he’s at. I’d say for sure, next week he’s available.”

McNary has owned Forest Grove since the Vikings entered the Greater Valley Conference in 2014, winning all three match ups by a combined score of 107-38.

“They haven’t been great but they play hard,” Auvinen said.

“They’ve just made too many mistakes but if they clean all of those up, they could make a game of it. If they don’t, we’ll take advantage of fumbles and miscues.”

Forest Grove snapped an 11-game losing streak with a 13-6 win over North Salem on Sept. 8. The Vikings have been blown out by West Albany, McKay and West Salem.

“They beat North and North ended up beating West Albany so anything can happen in this league,” Auvinen said. “We just need to concentrate on ourselves and get better every week.”

For McNary, that includes penalties. The Celtics had 14 for 105 yards at McKay.

“I think that we need to get better at every facet,” Auvinen said. “There have been times when our offense has been really good and times when our defense has looked really good and times when our special teams looked special. I don’t think we’ve combined all three in a game yet. We need to find a game where they’re all clicking and I think that would really help us in this second half of the season.”

Distractions in the face of tragedy

While millions of American citizens suffer without power and communication, millions of other American citizens are debating protests by players, coaches and owners of National Football League teams.

As Puerto Rico’s 3 million people cope with the devastation that Hurricane Maria visited upon the island last week, President Trump attacks people—who play a game for a living—for being unpatriotic by taking a knee during the National Anthem played before football games. The president said he would visit Puerto Rico next week.

Why is the suffering that Puerto Ricans are going through any different than what Texans or Floridians or Louisanders suffered after Harvey and Irma? The country opened its wallets for those states, held telethons that raised millions of dollars, yet, our territory in the Caribbean is left twisting in the wind.

Many things have gone topsy turvy in America over the past 18 months. It’s no wonder that we latch onto a secondary story as if it were a matter of life and country. Football players protesting in the way they see best is not on the same scale as millions of Americans suffering from a natural disaster or the fact that in the face of a rising ecnomy, many American still feel unsettled and uncertain of their future.

This is especially true when the United States is conducting a war of words with North Korea.  Does turning a protest by a sports team  into a major controversy seem paramount compared to threats that our planes might be blown out of the sky even if it is only near North Korean air space? Who wants to get on a plan heading to Asia now?

Americans have been rocked and jostled by events from the Great Recession, to home foreclosures, health care expenses, a constant war in Afghanistan, fears of terrorism, a divisive presidential election and Tweets from the victor. We want a break from wave after wave of bad news we can do nothing about—it is only natural we will respond to the things we can understand.

Some think that football players who  take a knee during the Anthem are protesting America. In reality, the protests began as a response to police shootings of African-Americans. The president tweeted that they were protesting the American flag and should be fired. That’s how situations become full blown controversies.

All this comes down to two words: respect and dignity. All citizens should respect our nation’s  flag. The flag represents the freedom to protest what we disagree with. We should all strive to maintain the dignity of all other people. A person who does not share your beliefs is not the enemy, they are a person worthy of respect and dignity who does not agree with you.

Americans are free to protest the protest, but what could really show that we are all part of one nation, indivisible, is to reach out to our fellow Americans. Puerto Ricans deserve the respect of their fellow Americans more than that they need financial and infrastructure help.

Turn the energy of trivial protests to helping people in dire need. We would do nothing less for Americans in our own backyard.


Bills already circling capitol

Every few months, all the legislators and lobbyists come back to the Capitol and participate in what is called Legislative Days.We have committee hearings which mostly are informational—we hear from agencies on how they are doing on implementing bills, and sometimes discuss ideas for bills to introduce in the next session.

This week the Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee met. We heard from the state forester on how the department did during the recent fire season. The information was incredible to hear and I am so proud of our forestry department. They did a tremendous job fighting the hundreds of fires scattered across our state. From the report, it looks like the fires were managed well on state and private lands, but the ones on the federal lands were the ones that went crazy.

Some of the other issues being heard in the building this week are:

Carbon cap and trade; the Equifax data breach; moving election dates;  and, gubernatorial appointees.

Oregon is unique in many ways and one important thing we do that not every state does, is allow for citizens to repeal laws that the legislature has already passed, or put in place laws that the legislature refused to deal with. I think it’s indicative of the disconnect of this particular group of legislators that there are already 32 different petitions being circulated this fall. If you would like to see a full list, you can Google the Oregon Abigail Adams Voter Education Project.

A couple of the petitions garnering the most news coverage and speculation are the petition to repeal SB719 (sometimes called the extreme risk protection order), the petition to repeal a recently instituted tax on hospitals and a petition to prevent a sales tax on groceries. There are multiple petitions around vaccinations, getting big money out of elections and school access. If you have a few minutes, it’s fascinating to read about the issues that could be on our ballots in November, 2018.

Switching gears, I don’t know about you, but I am excited every time I drive by the Waremart by Winco building that’s under construction. I can’t wait to have more grocery shopping options in our community. I was honored to host a town hall on the lack of options and had conversations with the Winco team as well as Mayor Cathy Clark—and to the best of my knowledge it may open before the end of the year.

I always enjoy hearing from you, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line (900 Court St NE, Salem, OR 97310).

(Bill Post represents House Dis- trict 25. He can be reached at 503- 986-1425 or via email at [email protected])

Can we avoid a health care horror?


It is difficult to decide which is the worst aspect of the Republicans’ latest try at repealing Obamacare: the irresponsibility, the cruelty or the lies.

There is only one reason the Senate is even considering a vote this week on the catastrophically flawed proposal from Sens. Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy. The GOP base wants repeal. So never mind what happens to Americans with modest incomes who have cancer, diabetes or heart trouble. Politics matters more than giving serious thought to a bill that would upend one-sixth of our economy.

It has been two months since the last repeal bill was defeated. Did the GOP’s House and Senate majorities use the time to hold hearings on the bill that’s being considered? Did they bring in doctors, nurses and insurers to help craft something sensible?

Of course not. They scheduled a quickie, last minute hearing this week for show. Since this vote is all about appearances, who cares about expertise? President Trump and his party want “a win.” They’re willing to wreak havoc on the insurance markets, state governments and people’s lives to get it.

If they had engaged in any serious deliberative process, they would have had to grapple with the views of the bipartisan National Association of Medicaid Directors on Graham-Cassidy’s approach of marrying block grants to severe cuts. The association’s statement last week called the bill “the largest intergovernmental transfer of financial risk from the federal government to the states in our country’s history.”

“Any effort of this magnitude,” the Medicaid directors added, “needs thorough discussion, examination and analysis, and should not be rushed through without proper deliberation.” No kidding.

This was Sen. John McCain’s admirable rationale for voting against the last repeal bill. And even though Graham is his best friend in the Senate, he stuck to principle and announced Friday he was voting against this bill, too.

Here’s hoping he eased the path for other Republicans to oppose this legislative contraption whose cruelty is obvious. There has always been something deeply wrong about our country’s failure to provide health insurance for all our citizens, which every other wealthy industrialized nation does. It’s not OK for people to face bankruptcy simply because they are doing everything they can to stay alive. Obamacare was a cautious, market-friendly attempt to make the system a bit kinder.

Since the Republicans launched this year’s repeal offensive, many Americans who thought of the Affordable Care Act as a vague sort of failure have heard the compelling stories of those with pre-existing conditions and serious illnesses who are far better off today because of the law. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Friday showed Americans preferred Obamacare to Graham-Cassidy by 56 percent to 33 percent.

Many who believed Trump and other Republicans when they promised to pass something better than Obamacare now know that this pledge was a sham. What the GOP really wants is to spend a whole lot less government money helping people get health care. But they can’t admit it because it sounds heartless.

So instead, they lie outright about what their bill does. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie provided one of the best compendiums of falsehoods being offered on behalf of this bill. Jimmy Kimmel called out Cassidy for failing to live up to what the senator himself called the “the Jimmy Kimmel test.” Kimmel described this as a pledge that “no family should be denied medical care, emergency or otherwise, because they can’t afford it.” Cassidy, Kimmel charged last week, “lied right to my face.”

Trump insisted in a tweet: “I would not sign Graham-Cassidy if it did not include coverage of pre-existing conditions. It does!” Actually, it lets states undermine this coverage.

Then there is the much-repeated lie that ACA repeal bills are about giving states and individuals more “choice” in health care. Right, and I have the “choice” of buying a fleet of Rolls-Royces. The bottom line: No money, no choice.

And if Obamacare is so bad, why are Republicans reportedly trying to buy the vote of Sen. Lisa Murkowski with a special provision that would, in effect, allow Alaska to keep the Affordable Care Act pretty much as is? Why not give every state this option by killing Graham-Cassidy altogether?

This week is a testing time. It’s a test of whether the movement that successfully defended the ACA this summer can rally once more. And it’s a test of a handful of Republicans who claim to take the health care issue seriously. No one who votes for this bill can ever make that claim again.

(Washington Post Writers Group)

Tax cuts won’t create booming economy


Americans of modest financial means may want to withhold their cheers over President Trump’s latest declaration, the one where he wants to reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 to 15 percent.  It’s an urban myth that a former U.S. president said, “What’s good for General Motor is good for America,” but it just as well be ascribed to President Trump as he, personally, and his wealthy pals, are those who enthusiastically greet this plan and will benefit from it.

But look at the facts in this latest of issues to hit the fan: Trump and company argue that the additional money going into the coffers of U.S. corporations would free up valuable cash for them. Then, these companies could use the money to increase their investments, increase employees’ pay and earnings, accelerate corporate hiring and move the economy into greater growth. Additionally, it’s argued by Trump, corporations that now deposit trillions overseas to keep from paying U.S. taxes would bring the money home and thereby compete better with rivals from countries with lower tax rates.

Meanwhile, American economists, tax experts and business owners believe that this tax adjustment is unlikely to doubtful to fulfill what Trump promises. Here are some reasons: (1) Preferring not to hire additional employees, companies may use much of their savings to buy back their stock or simply increase dividends to their wealthy investorsl. Many companies have already been able to borrow money at very low rates in order to grow but have not been inclined to add employees; and (2) Corporate tax cuts will provide small overall benefits because the general health of the current American economy is low unemployment at 4.4 percent and remains in a slow steady upward turn where big tax cuts would deliver nothing or next to it.

Two examples from recent corporate tax cuts serve to inform.  The state of Kansas, in 2012, exempted thousands of its businesses from corporate taxes and cut individual rates but then faced a devastating revenue shortfall with an anticipated growth that didn’t happen, all resulting in  public services, including education at all levels, realizing destructive consequences. The Bush administration provided a tax “holiday” in 2004 in hope of bringing profits back to America  but later discovered that tax revenues declined while U.S. companies stashed their cash overseas in wait to receive a tax discount.

Currently, those savvy in this matter, including the non-partisan Tax Policy Center, comments that what will happen regarding the Trump plan is that the federal deficit will swell like a bumblebee sting.  Those folks tell us that even if all tax breaks were eliminated, the corporate rate could not drop below 26 percent without sending the deficit further into the stratosphere.

Of course, one of Trump’s chief advisors is a guy who’s ensconced in the White House. Gary Cohn, very rich, argues for the big corporate tax reduction.  He says small businesses would especially benefit.  His point is that planned tax cuts on profits would “double” owners’ personal income and free them to hire more employees.  Full of misinformation, the Cohn doctrine assumes business owners want to increase their payroll rather than enjoy higher profits and personal income.

The ever-shrinking number of Americans still receiving their income from traditional “defined benefit” pensions do not, by the way, receive more money if the stock market rises. And, any argument that proposes corporate tax cuts are a path to benefit the American worker or retiree is now and has always been proven to be the sink hole of the “trickle-down” promise to every U.S. worker myth and the old lump of coal in what’s tried-to-be-sold as a Christmas bonus.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)

Council walking back previous decision on development fee

Of the Keizertimes

New information and additional public testimony have the Keizer City Council rethinking its stance on plans to enact a fee to create public amenities in association with new commercial development projects.

At a council meeting Monday, Sept. 12, councilors were preparing to act on amendments to the city development code that included requirements that: 1) any development or interior remodel worth more than $100,000 would require bringing landscaping up to code and 2) that any new development or remodel of a business of any amount would dedicate one percent of the total cost to creation of public amenities either on the site of the business or by paying the 1 percent into a fund for public art. (Editor’s note: Due to a reporter error, Keizertimes previously reported that the 1 percent fee would only kick in for projects worth more than $100,000. We apologize for the misinformation.)

The end result of discussions at the meeting was to continue the matter at the council’s October 2 meeting and reopen the public hearing.

City staff had already prepared an ordinance for the council to approve and the public comment period had already passed, but Jonathan Thompson, a board member of the Keizer Chamber of Commerce was granted the opportunity to speak on the issue.

“We are concerned with increasing regulation and another fee. Let’s get some folks around the table and try to do more with a carrot and less with the stick,” Thompson said.

After hearing from Thompson, the council asked if anyone else wanted to speak on the issue and Alan Roodhouse, one of the developers behind Keizer Station, took the mic. Roodhouse was in attendance to answer questions about another council action, but the new fee would affect a project of his in the works – a new dental office near Kaiser Permanente in Keizer Station.

Roodhouse compared the construction of Target when Keizer Station opened to the construction of the new dental building. Despite having a smaller footprint, the dental office will cost more to construct because it is a specialized facility. The final cost of the construction is expected to be in the range of $6 to $8 million, 1 percent of which is $60,000 to $80,000.

“(The fee) will have a much higher impact to smaller businesses with higher costs of entry,” Roodhouse said. “Maybe it could be addressed with some sort of total cap.”

To further complicate the matter, only three city councilors and the mayor were in attendance and not privy to the new information, which was one reason a final vote on the code amendments were tabled.

Community Development Director Nate Brown made one final pitch for the idea before the conversations started heading toward the delay.

“We have tried to make this non-punitive. We don’t want to put undue burden on small business, but that’s why the 1 percent is so low. It’s not a lot of money. It’s also extremely flexible. We will work with the developers and be creative in how we get the amenities oriented toward the community,” Brown said.

He later added that if the city is serious about an overall vision for River Road, or the community at large, the fee is one way to extract the money needed to pay for such projects.

Clark said Roodhouse’s testimony was the one that made her question her original stance on the fee.

“A medical office and a regular office will have dramatically different costs, and that’s not something I had considered,” Clark said.

Brown said they were looking for the fairest way to levy the fee and attaching it to the cost of development was the one thing the city has access to. Attaching it to profits generated at each site would require access to businesses’ tax returns.

Councilor Amy Ryan, who opposed the changes at earlier meetings, said, “It’s not businesses’ responsibility to invest more into the community when they are already choosing Keizer.”

The recommendation for the changes came through the Keizer Planning Commission, which includes present and former business owners. Councilor Laura Reid voiced concern about overriding their judgment.

“I am in favor of further discussion, but I want to respect the work the planning commission has done. There are costs of doing business and we have lower costs in many respects. I think public amenities are an important cost of doing business in Keizer,” Reid said.

Sign code changes draw scrutiny

Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Planning Commission continued wrestling with revisions to the city sign code at its meeting Wednesday, Sept. 13.

In addition to bringing the code in line with a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, city staff are looking to update other sections of the code dealing with the number of signs allowed per storefront, window shades and the frequency of change on electronic signs.

Content vs. Category

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling on the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert and it caused cities across the nation to re-evaluate their sign codes.

The case stemmed from the town of Gilbert, Ariz., in which a small church placed signs near various buildings where it held services; the church did not have a regular site where services were held. The church was cited twice for exceeding time limits for displaying signs and for failing to include the date of the event.

Supreme Court justices, with a majority opinion and three concurring ones, determined that the city’s sign code restricted free speech by requiring specific content and that sign codes needed to be content neutral.

Keizer’s current sign code places categorical restrictions on election and real estate signage and city staff are attempting to purge those designations and replace them with more neutral language.

“Having these types of definitions in our code means it’s not content neutral and opens us up for litigation,” said Nate Brown, Keizer community development director.

The current code permits election-related signs 45 days before an election and seven days after. The proposed changes include: allowing unlimited portable signs during a specific time period around elections, allowing a specific number of signs during that time period; creating a two-week special event permit; or making no change.

The real estate section of the Keizer sign code allows for temporary portable signs on residential properties and larger signs on commercial property. The options for changes were creating a renewable special event permit for the larger commercial signs or making no change.

City Attorney Shannon Johnson would like the city to eliminate any language referring to the content of a sign, even if it is used for a category.

Commissioner Jim Jacks took issue with the need to have such discussions at all.

“The category doesn’t limit the content,” Jacks said. “Some are going to say that anything during election is fine, but others will question which elections. What about the special elections, May primaries? I don’t know if anyone will bring all these issues up, but it could be the result.”

Senior Planner Shane Witham asked the commissioners to determine if they wanted a limit on the number of signs in a yard or property and leave city staff to recommend dates.

Setting a limit on the number of signs didn’t sit well with Commissioner Hersch Sangster because the city has few resources with which to enforce such rules.

“You have to have the ability to enforce it, and we don’t and we won’t,” Sangster said. “The way it’s written now makes sense.”

After an hour of discussion, Commissioner Garry Whalen expressed frustration with the lack of progress in any direction.

“We’re fixing something that’s not broken. We’ve spent an hour on two things and we’re still shooting at ghosts,” he said.

The conversation on election and real estate signs ended with agreement between Jacks and Johnson to work on language that kept the categories without infringing on content.

The Window Loophole

Another major topic of discussion during the meeting was what restrictions, if any, to implement on window signage.

Generally, businesses in Keizer are allotted a certain amount of permanent signage, in square footage, based on the size of their frontage. However, many business windows are now covered in additional signage, known as advertising shades that serve a dual purpose – acting to reduce sunlight within a business and creating new advertising space on the exterior. City staff is proposing to limit advertising on windows to no more than 50 percent coverage.

Two commissioners, Mike DeBlasi and Whalen have talked with city staff regarding the development particularly as it relates to the two new businesses on River Road North – Jersey Mike’s and Casamigos. The windows facing River Road North are completely covered by the advertising shades.

“We have almost one big wall of billboards. I personally would like to see no more than 25 percent on streets or throughways,” DeBlasi said.

Whalen added that the shading material is available without the advertising on the other side and that it seems more like a workaround the sign code than a necessity.

“Shade protection is available without all that advertising,” Whalen said.

DeBlasi noted that the west side of the building, which gets the most sun during business hours, is completely unprotected.

There was some disagreement among the commissioners regarding propriety of such advertising.

“I don’t think that the windows look that bad as some that I have seen,” said Commissioner Kyle Juran. “I would rather see advertising than their piles of [trash].”

After some additional conversation, commissioners agreed with the staff recommendation of limiting advertising on shades to 50 percent. However, the Keizer City Council will have the final say.

New Life for

Electronic Signs

If electronic signs in Keizer seem static compared to other cities, there’s a reason for that. The current sign code only allows messages to change once every 15 minutes. For public entities, like the school and fire district, messages can only change once a day.

During the past two months of meetings, commissioners heard from numerous local business owners and managers about the desire to increase the frequency of message changes.

In addition to wanting to get more information out about their businesses, several touted the ability to help spread the word about community events.

“We do a lot of promotion for the high school and many of the fundraising dinners. I feel like we could do more of that,” said Jane Lowery, branch manager of Willamette Valley Bank.

Most advocated for increasing the message changes to every eight seconds, but some commissioners balked at that speed.

Staff did not suggest a specific time for message changes and looked to the commissioners for guidance.

“Fifteen minutes is inefficient and 8 seconds feels unsubstantiated. One of our challenges is to get a balance between safety and limiting distractions,” Whalen said.

Juran said eight seconds has not been found to be a safety issue and worked well when he purchased electronic billboard space for his business.

“Even at 15 seconds, that cascade of signs blinking and changing is an issue we have consider aesthetically,” DeBlasi said.

Brown, the community development director, said he would rather commissioners start with longer intervals and then reduce them later if warranted. Commissioners recommended changing message intervals to 60 seconds, but the city council will have the final say. xsw

A Little Extra for All

Restrictions on portable signs for all businesses could be eased if the city council approves a final recommendation from the planning commission.

Current rules restrict portable and temporary signs on commercial property to one per lot with a 50 foot separation and a 120-day limit. The rules cover A-frame signs, feather flags and banners. City staff are proposing to relax those restrictions by removing the time limit and allowing each storefront to put up a portable sign near public-right-of-way with a 10-foot separation.

The changes come at the request of business owners within shopping strips. The current rules can lead to conflict among neighboring businesses as to which one gets to put out signs on which days.

The change would likely lead to more portable signs along River Road, but Jacks cautioned against a 10-foot separation.

“Fifty (feet) is too much of a separation, but every 10 feet is going to look more like a circus or a state fair,” Jacks said.

Commissioners decided on a 25-foot separation as a medium. While such a change will relax the current restriction, business owners in the most tightly-packed shopping plazas might still find themselves vying for space.