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Month: January 2018

School district presents case against OSAA

By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

Salem-Keizer won’t have to wait much longer to find out if five of its high school athletic teams will compete in a league with three Bend schools beginning this fall.

After listening to eight hours of testimony from the Salem-Keizer school district and the Oregon School Activities Association on Monday, Jan. 29, justice Michael Gillette said he would produce a written decision in 10 days to two weeks.

“I will try to do it as quickly as I possibly can,” said Gillette, a retired Oregon supreme court judge. “I’ve written over a thousand published legal opinions and this is not simple… I haven’t the foggiest idea. I will end up writing an opinion that comes out each way and then reading them both and find out which one makes the most sense to me.”

OSAA decided on Oct. 16 that McNary, South Salem, Sprague, West Salem and McKay would be placed in a league with Bend, Mountain View and Summit. Salem-Keizer then appealed the decision in November.

The school district went first at the appeal hearing, arguing that the OSAA did not stick to their criteria of safety, minimizing loss of instructional time, cost and school enrollment data, but instead placed McNary and four Salem schools with Bend because of “competitive balance.”

“We win or die on this case whether they followed the criteria,” said Paul Dakopolos, the school district’s lawyer, in his closing argument.

In his opening statement, Dakopolos said, “seeking competitive balance is impossible in Oregon.”

Alan Bushong, executive director of CCTV and a witness for the school district, noted Jesuit’s 63 state championships over the last 11 years.

“Maybe it’s noble, but it’s not happening,” Bushong said of competitive balance. “You can’t do it.”

Peter Weber, OSAA executive director, argued competitive balance fell under the criteria of school enrollment data. He noted that Oregon moved from a four to six-class system in 2006 due to competitive balance and that it wasn’t based on state championships but how teams do during the regular season.

“Being successful varies by school and community,” Weber said.

Frank Coburn, girls basketball coach and parent at McKay, argued that OSAA’s public meetings to look at classification were inconvenient, during the work day in Wilsonville. He also felt the OSAA wasn’t being transparent with its information, adding he couldn’t find it on their Website. Coburn gave testimony at the Oct. 14 meeting but said, “It felt like the room and board was full of people who had already made a decision.”

Answering questions from OSAA attorney Jonathan Radmacher, Weber testified that the Classification and Districting Committee’s first draft was released in October, 2016, a year before the executive board made its final decision, and had all six Salem-Keizer schools, including North Salem, in a league with Bend. The committee proposed 19 drafts over the year and all updates were emailed to every superintendent, athletic director and principal in the state. The drafts were also posted to the OSAA Website.

“We wanted people to get the information,” said Weber, who also noted that more than 200 people from all areas of the state at both small and big schools testified in person at one of the public hearings.

Salem-Keizer superintendent Christy Perry talked about the student poverty in the district and that extra travel would be another barrier for students to get a diploma. She pointed out that many student athletes struggle to pay any fees and don’t have access to private lessons. But Weber and Radmacher noted that schools with free and reduced lunch had the opportunity to move down a classification. North Salem did. McKay did not.

Perry argued that poverty wasn’t just a McKay issue, pointing to the 41 percent poverty level at McNary. She said athletics “keeps students in school and get them across the (graduation) stage.”

Salem-Keizer said that each of its schools would make around 58 trips to Bend each year. Using charter buses, due to the bus driver shortage, that would cost the district $2,000 per trip. The district is also estimating $14,280 per school for substitute teachers while coaches who also teach miss class time to travel with their teams.

To lessen the amount of trips, Weber showed a sample of creative scheduling the OSAA received from Bend athletic director Dave Williams. Under the example, sports like cross country, track and tennis that have a state qualifying meet at the end of the season wouldn’t play a league schedule. Williams estimated a total of 136 trips from Bend to Salem-Keizer for all three Bend schools.

OSAA said it took a 30,000 foot view with classification, doing what is best for the entire state. According to Dan Smith, who runs oregonprepsports.net, 10 leagues across the state would travel more than Salem-Keizer and the travel time for the entire state was less than a minute increase on an average trip of 1:15. 36 to 1:16:32 from the last four-year block.

Curt Schelley, superintendent of Grant school district in John Day and chair of the classification and districting committee, said his teams travel six hours one-way for league games and were able to maintain a balance of academics and athletics.

“We have high poverty and kids that live 40 miles from the school and haven’t been negatively impacted,” Schelley said. “We often look through lenses of our own school districts and we have blinders on because we want to benefit our own district.”

Dr. Julie Bingham, a clinical psychologist in Salem, whose daughters play soccer and run track at South Salem, spoke of the dangers of traveling to Bend on the Santiam Pass. In a letter she received from the Oregon Department of Transportation, she noted that there were 1,419 crashes on the pass from 2011-2016 and 33 fatalities.

Bingham also pointed to a letter from the Medford school district sent to the OSAA about the dangers of traveling to Bend but a graph showed only 926 incidents between 2013-17 and one fatality. She noted the driver of a tanker truck who crashed and died on the Santiam Pass in December.

Schelley, who coached basketball at Summit, countered by saying he valued the trips over the Santiam Pass to Salem more than trips south over highway 97 or through Mt. Hood because they were closer and the roads were better maintained.

Salem-Keizer also asked why OSAA chose a six-class system when the committee previously stated that a five-class system would have less traveling.

Schelley said while a five-class system did decrease travel for some schools, it increased it for others. When athletic directors from across the state met for a conference in Sun River, directors from 1A to 5A schools overwhelming wanted a six-class system while those in 6A chose a five-class system.

“No school or student should be given more priority than another school or student,” Schelley said. “Were’ trying to do the best we can to make sure this is the best system for the state or Oregon.”

Egli named Keizer First Citizen

Joe Egli makes his way to the stage after being named as Keizer’s First Citizen. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Whoever follows Joe Egli as Keizer’s First Citizen will have a high bar to clear.

Egli’s long list of community involvement includes the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club of Keizer, Keizer Iris Festival, McNary High School, the City of Keizer and the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation (SKEF).

Egli was honored as First Citizen on Saturday, Jan. 20, at an awards banquet sponsored by the Keizer Chamber and Bonaventure Senior Living. He was one of four annual award winners that included Merchant of the Year Larry Jackson, Service to Education Award winner Jason Flores and Matt Lawyer, who was selected for the President’s Award given out by the departing president of the Chamber of Commerce. All the winners were presented clocks provided by Boucher’s Jewelers representing the time they’ve given back to the community.

“(Joe’s) accomplishments are diverse and contribute almost daily to making Keizer a better place to live, work and play,” said Jim Trett, the previous winner of the First Citizen title. “Anyone who reaches out to him will find a listening ear and, more than that, a helping hand.”

Egli has served on most of the committees formed by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, is a former Keizer city councilor, a longtime, active Rotarian who leads that organization’s annual Golden Ticket fundraiser and currently serves as a board member for SKEF. Recently, Egli flew to California to pick up and drive back a mobile library for SKEF.

Egli thanked friends and family in accepting the award and recalled visiting Keizer before it was a city to eat at Fortune Cookie, a longtime restaurant serving Asian fare before it burned to the ground.

“I always thought is was a special thing and only found out later that my parents were Diner’s Club members and they offered 2-for-1,” Egli said.

After moving to the area, he said he found out quickly that the Keizer Way was “volunteer or move.”

“Keizer isn’t about a city or council or chamber, it’s about people,” Egli said.

Egli is an agent with R. Bauer Insurance.

Jackson, a third-generation owner of Jackson’s Body Shop, was introduced by Bob Shackelford, last year’s recipient of the Merchant of the Year Award.

Bob Shackelford congratulates Larry Jackson on his Merchant of the Year Award. (KEIZERTIMES/
Eric A. Howald)

Jackson is a seemingly constant presence at volunteer efforts in Keizer and Salem in addition to being a popular business owner, Shackelford said.

“I always hear people giving testimony about his business at Chamber gatherings,” said Shackelford. “(Larry) is always willing to be wherever there is an opportunity to help out.”

Jackson frequently assists with events planned by the Chamber’s Keizer Network of Women and Men of Action in Keizer as well as the Keizer Iris Festival and SKEF’s Crystal Apple Awards.

“I’m so blessed to be here. When you grow up in a city like Keizer, what else do you do? You volunteer, you show up when asked and when you don’t get asked,” said Jackson as he accepted the award.

Jason Flores, a longtime youth sports coach, booster and sponsor of local youth was honored with the Service to Education Award. It was presented by the daughters of Larry Smith, last year’s honoree who passed away two months after receiving it.

Jason Flores accepts the Service to Education Award. (KEIZERTIMES/
Eric A. Howald)

“Volunteers give their time, not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless. They don’t necessarily have the time, they have the heart,” said Amy Campbell in introduced Flores. “(Jason) has coached in the Keizer community for more than 15 years. In addition, his passion for youth sports has taken him out on the water for one of his greatest passions, wake boarding. Each year he and his wife provide their boat and time to Wake the World, an opportunity for foster children and parent families to have a carefree day of play.”

Flores, through his personal time and business sponsorships as owner of Celtic Homes, has had a part in maintaining Keizer Little League Park, installing the turf at McNary High School, refurbishing the football/soccer scoreboard and led the effort to get new dugouts put in on the Celtic softball fields.

“I really don’t even understand why I’m here. I give all grace and glory to God and I’m just here to serve,” said Flores in accepting the award.

In recognizing Lawyer with the President’s Award, outgoing Keizer Chamber President Nate Bauer said Lawyer’s attitude is never “what’s in it for me.”

“He asks, ‘How can we come together and make it better for everyone?’ He’s one of the first to show up to plant trees at a park and one of the last to leave after a long night serving community dinners at St. Edward Catholic Church,” said Bauer.

Lawyer is currently active on three of the city’s advisory committees, parks, planning and Claggett Creek Watershed Council, and, like Jackson, can be spotted at most other volunteer efforts in the two-city area.

Matt Lawyer accepts the Keizer Chamber of Commerce President’s Award. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

“He’s setting an example for his family and for all of us to be proud of,” said Bauer.

Lawyer was visibly surprised by the honor and his voice caught in his throat as he thanked his family for their support.

“I have so many mentors to thank, my adopted mom, Linda Baker, Mark Caillier, Bob Schackelford, Nigel Guissinger so many of you out there have made this possible. It’s about being the guy trying to help out,” Lawyer said.

Lawyer is a program coordinator at the Oregon Department of Aviation.

No change to field rates at KLL park

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By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

There will be no change to the field usage rates at Keizer Little League Park for 2018.

Keizer Little League President Brad Arnsmeier withdrew a request for an across-the-board $10 increase to the field rates via email before the Keizer City Council was slated to take up the issue at its meeting Tuesday, Jan. 16.

“After much consideration and discussion among the members of our board we feel that it is not the time to ask for an increase in fees,” Arnsmeier wrote in a message to City Manager Chris Eppley. “We are trying to be sensitive to other organizations in Keizer that also use the fields and recognize that better communication would lead to a better understanding of why the complex needs additional funds for the fields.”

Arnsmeier said KLL would “be mindful to include other stakeholders in the process when we approach the city about a change.”

Members of the city council talked with representatives of KLL and McNary Youth Baseball about the proposed fee increase at a council meeting in December, but the discussion quickly devolved as MYP leadership protested the increase in field rates.

The council cut the talks short and requested more budget information from both KLL and MYB before proceeding with an approval of the rates.

At the time, KLL had submitted a list of expenses associated with the park, but the only revenues it listed were fees collected from MYB.

Before the meeting last week, MYB leaders had submitted a detailed budget including income and expenses for most of the past two years. It had a surplus of a little more than $2,000 as of September 2017.

KLL had not submitted further budget details that were included in the packet presented to members of the council before the meeting. MYB sent representatives to last week’s meeting of the council, but KLL did not.

The council approved maintaining the 2017 field usage rates unanimously.

Mayor Cathy Clark said she would still like to see the revenues and expenses from KLL in preparation for approving the field rates next year.

“I want to make sure we have an accounting of the volunteer hours and in-kind donations. Some people don’t want it recorded, but we need to know what actually gets invested,” Clark said.

Councilor Bruce Anderson thanked the MYB leadership for the submission of their budget and implored KLL to do the same without mentioning the group by name.

“The community needs to know what it takes to run this complex,” Anderson said.

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Smaller capacity, luxury seating planned

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By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Keizer’s new cinema is shaping up to be one of the hottest tickets in town.

While the theater will be smaller than some others in the area, designer James Blissett said it will have some of the most luxurious seating – recliner seats that will allow the audience to relax in a nearly prone position. Blissett is president of Seattle-based The Design Collective.

“It’s the latest thing for theaters, it means there are half as many seats per screen but attendance usually doubles,” Blissett said.

According to Blissett, the timeline for the project has construction beginning in March with an opening in November.

“Theaters usually try to hit one of two opening windows: either before the holiday movies come out or right before the summer season starts,” Blissett said.

The largest auditorium in the Keizer cinema will have a 48-foot screen with 147 recliners seats. Additional auditoriums will range between 40 and 96 seats and the smallest screens will be about 30 feet wide. There will be a total of 594 seats in the 23,700-square-foot house.

The three largest screens will have stadium-style risers while the smaller screens will have seating on six-inch risers.

There might be fewer seats, but there also won’t be any jockeying for the best ones or for a place in line when big movies hit the screen. Assigned seating will be selected at the time tickets are purchased.

“There’s no more showing up two hours ahead to get into a show, just leave enough time to get your popcorn,” Blissett said.

Contrary to what has been mentioned in previous discussions at the Keizer City Council level, the theater will not have a full menu available, Blissett said, but traditional concessions will be available.

“It would be possible to come back and retrofit the current design for alcohol sales, but right now it’s what you would generally expect,” Blissett said.

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A student of the game

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Gardelli comes to McNary from Italy

By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

Riccardo Gardelli had played basketball on a club team in Varese, Italy for 10 years.

But he had to start from scratch when he decided to come to McNary as an exchange student.

“It was like starting from zero,” said Gardelli, who came to America in August through Cultural Homestay International.

While Gardelli wanted to travel the world and meet new people, his main reason for coming to the U.S.  was to get better at basketball.

He didn’t know where in the country he would end up.

Riccardo Gardelli, an exchange student from Italy, has averaged eight points and 3.7 rebounds per game for McNary this season. (KEIZERTIMES/Derek Wiley)

“I was lucky because there are exchange students who go to America and go to a place where nobody is there,” Gardelli said. “Keizer is a good city with a big school. Right now I feel very good right here. McNary is a really good program and people.”

Gardelli began playing club basketball when he was 7 years old for Pallacanestro Varese, the professional team in his hometown.

Since Italy’s high schools don’t have athletic teams, the kids play on club teams. Gardelli’s club season lasted nine months.

“It was a little bit hard because it was like my second family,” Gardelli said of leaving his club.

College basketball also doesn’t exist in Italy.

“In America, you have the possibility to win a scholarship if you’re good. In Italy, that’s not possible, because you don’t have sports in college. So after under-18, you have to go to a pro team,” Gardelli said. “If you’re not good enough, you’re not going to make it. You’re career is going to stop there.

“My dream is to come back here (America) and play college basketball. It doesn’t really matter, Division II, Division I, community college, it doesn’t matter, just play four-year basketball.”

Gardelli’s exchange program ends on June 16.

After playing in college, Gardelli would like to return to Italy to play professionally.

“I went to America because I wanted to improve my basketball and then come back to Italy more ready to play on a pro team,” he said.

While Italian students are taught basic English beginning in elementary school, Gardelli said he didn’t really begin to study the language until three months before he came to the U.S. in August.

Gardelli’s first introduction to American basketball came while playing for McNary in a fall league.
He barely got on the court in the Celtics first regular season game, entering for the first time in the second half of a 68-54 win over Grants Pass on Nov. 30.

But by the third game, Gardelli was starting.

“The main problem was the language and understanding the plays,” said Gardelli, who had never played zone defense before.

Gardelli handled the ball more in Italy and was usually one of his team’s top scorers. He’s played primarily forward at McNary and had to buy-in to the Celtics’ philosophy of playing unselfishly on offense and working hard on defense. There’s also more scouting of other teams.

“The program at McNary is very serious and I like that,” Gardelli said. “You feel more like a real basketball player. You start to understand how it works. (McNary) coach (Ryan) Kirch is a very good coach.”

Gardelli also realizes he’s new to the team while other players have been in the program for four years.

“They are more senior than me,” Gardelli said of fellow seniors Lucas Garvey, Chandler Cavell and Andrew Jones. “I’ve been here four months so I understand when people have more leadership than me. I’m learning a lot of new stuff. I feel that I’m improving, playing this kind of basketball with other people that I’ve never played before in this league.”

Gardelli has remained in the starting lineup, averaging eight points and 3.7 rebounds per game as McNary as opened the season 13-4.

“I love my teammates,” Gardelli said. “I don’t know, maybe this will be my best season of my life. We are doing pretty good right now and I think we can get better.”

Gardelli has also enjoyed playing in front of larger crowds. While in Italy a good game drew maybe 120 people, the gym was packed when the Celtics hosted rival West Salem on Jan. 5.

“That’s very cool,” Gardelli said. “I love that and the students and my friends coming to watch me. That’s so cool. That’s not happening in Italy.”

Gardelli is staying with a host family. Since the legal driving age is 18 in Italy, he doesn’t have his license. While he’s yet to witness his first college or NBA game, the family has taken him to see Silver Falls and Crater Lake. He misses his own family, Skyping with his parents every two weeks.

“Sometimes you want to see your dad watch your game but he can’t,” Gardelli said. “I miss that.”

While Christmas is big in Italy, Thanksgiving was new.

“I like being here because I learn knew stuff about America,” Gardelli said. “I had never actually ate a turkey before. It’s pretty good. American food (overall) is not that good. But I’m a guy that can adapt to things. You have to be very flexible with everything.”

While school has been more challenging due to the language, he likes the flexibility of picking his own classes. At Gardelli’s school in Italy, students stay in the same classroom for the entire day. The teachers move.

But Gardelli’s stay in America, however long it might be, always comes back to basketball.

“I don’t know what I can do without basketball,” Gardelli said. “Basketball is my life. I decided to come here for the basketball. The first thing was basketball.”

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Cinema deal first of its kind for Keizer

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By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Sometime in the next 13 months, Keizer is getting a new stream of revenue for its general fund.

Last week, the Keizer City Council signed a ground lease with a cinema developer for property Keizer owns on the west side of Keizer Station. Construction is expected to begin in March for a nine-screen theater across from the transit center on Keizer Station Boulevard. For Keizer City Manager Chris Eppley, the lease brought to fruition an idea he’d championed for most of his 18 years at city hall.

When the cinema owner wanted to purchase the property, Eppley presented an alternative in the ground lease.

“You can do three things with property: sit on it for a future sale, sell it or lease it. The advantage and disadvantage of selling are that you get a big pot of money all at once, and city councils tend to spend big pots of money the city gets all at once,” said Eppley.

Case in point: the property next to the cinema site on the corner of McLeod Lane Northeast and Lockhaven Drive Northeast. The city sold that parcel of land to Salem Radiology in 2011 for $1.4 million, then spent it acquiring property for the land that became Keizer Rapids Park.

Keizer purchased the Keizer Station land more than a dozen years ago in an effort to acquire the rights-of-way and bundle the property that became Keizer Station for sale to developers. In the intervening years, much of it has been sold to developers, but the city has retained ownership of the cinema site, a piece of land across the street, west of the Keizer Transit Center, and a third site on the triangle-shaped land bordered by Chemawa Road Northeast, Lockhaven and McLeod.

“The (Salem Radiology) sale was time sensitive,” Eppley said. “Buying the property for Keizer Rapids was kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I was opposed to it at the time, but it’s been a great park,” said Eppley. “The council saw an opportunity to bring in a big pot of money and something to do with it.”

Past city councils have opposed leasing property in favor of selling it for reasons connected to other priorities, like Keizer Rapids Park, and some that are more philosophical.

“The primary question has been whether the city should be in the business of entrepreneurship? That’s a good question, I said ‘yes,’ but other councils have said, ‘no,’” Eppley said.

The current city council was the first to offer its approval, which means the city expects to collect about $12,000 a month in rent for the foreseeable future with a 2 percent increase every year. The current lease contract is for 50 years with options to extend it up to 99 years.

Keizer will owe a broker 20 percent of the rent for the first 20 years, but it still amounts to nearly $120,000 annually. It’s not a huge sum, but it will take the sting out of the money the city is asked to pay into the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS), which comes out of the general fund. The only streams of revenue for the general fund are property taxes, franchise fees and monies the city receives from the state.

“It insulates us from negative impacts a little bit. When PERS comes up with a 22 percent increase, we have no way to absorb it right now,” Eppley said. “It alleviates the strain on a part of the budget that is typically inflexible.”

The crunch the city feels at such times doesn’t typically mean layoffs, but it might mean positions go unfilled for a lengthy period of time before new hires are brought it. That exact scenario was one of the culprits that left Keizer Police Department understaffed for the past several years.

“This helps us insulate us from swings in other places. I am going to try to perpetuate this with other property the city owns,” Eppley said.

He said the parcel across the street from the cinema could easily accommodate a 10,000-square-foot retail space.

While the steady revenue stream is a boon for the city, it is not without some risk. If the cinema owner defaults on the lease agreement before the building is fully constructed, he must return the property to its natural state. A default after construction is complete means Keizer would own the theater.

No one foresees a problem in meeting the obligations of the lease, but Keizer also has had issues in the past. When developer Chuck Sides defaulted on a $26 million in city-backed bonds in 2011, Keizer had to extend its Urban Renewal District to settle the debt, a situation that meant pleading with affected taxing agencies for approval. While the debt was settled more quickly than expected, the fiasco effectively killed all programs associated with improving River Road North.

Eppley isn’t sure what Keizer would do with the reins of a movie theater, but he’s hopeful it never comes to that.

“It’s not a traditional way of doing business for a city, but we are not a traditional city,” Eppley said.

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Forest Ridge students Kid Governor finalists

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By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

Jasmine Miller, 11, Keizer, closed her campaign video saying, “The best people to help children is children. Let’s do this together.”

Helping children is why she decided to run for Oregon’s first Kid Governor.

Miller and Cameron Vandecoevering, both fifth graders at Forest Ridge Elementary, were selected as two of eight finalists.

After an election, which included votes from more than 1,300 fifth graders from across the state, Dom Peters, of Willamette Valley Christian School in Brooks, was named the winner.

Forest Ridge fifth grader Cameron Vandecoevering, left, poses for a picture with Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. (Submitted)

Miller and Vandecoevering attended his inauguration at the state capitol on Jan. 8, which included a invocation, live rendition of the national anthem and a presentation of the colors by a local Boy Scouts.

Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who spoke at the inauguration, said “the purpose of the Kid Governor program is to teach fifth graders across our state about their state government. What we’ve found is by having fifth graders participate in this whole process they learn much more than if they were just receiving a lecture.”

Oregon is the second state to implement the program, which began in Connecticut in 2015.

In Oregon, 83 classrooms representing 54 schools participated.

“It was fun. We were on the senate floor and we got to see the Secretary of State’s office,” Vandecoevering said. “I learned all about the three branches of government.”

“It was pretty cool because we got to see how a real governor inauguration would work,” Miller added. “We also learned about the process of the election and the process if you were to be elected governor.”

The process began with five in-class civics lessons about Oregon’s three branches of government, the role of the governor and how and why elections are held.

Each candidate made a 1-3 minute video, introducing themselves and stating their platform. Twenty-one videos were submitted.

Jonathan Shay, video production instructor at the Career Technical Education Center in Salem, assisted the Forest Ridge students with their videos. Miller wanted to help kids in foster care.

“I feel like this is a very important topic that is not talked about enough,” Miller said in her video. “When children go into foster care, all they have is a bag full of randomly packed possessions if even that. In fact some children go with nothing but what they are wearing. Most of the time they don’t even have as little as a tooth brush.”

She then listed three simple steps to help with the issue: find support because nobody can tackle the problem alone; ask local foster homes what supplies they need and hold a supplies drive; and put together and deliver care packages.

“I wanted the opportunity to be able to help with issues that are in our community because kids don’t get much of an opportunity to help with big problems,” Miller said.

Vandecoevering, whose father is a firefighter in Hillsboro, chose emergency preparedness for his platform.

“If I am elected as your kid governor I will make it my mission that all homes and families are educated and prepared for any emergency,” Vandecoevering said.

His three-point plan was having a smoke detector in every room, an escape plan in case of an emergency and at least one fire extinguisher in the home.

Thomas Charboneau, principal at Forest Ridge, was proud of both Miller and Vandecoevering as well as all of his students that applied for the Kid Governor program.

“I think it was a great learning opportunity for the classes,” he said. “It gave them some definite real world experience with what they were learning in school and a way to get involved and see how the process goes.”

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Gubser neighborhood rakes in food, cash for Food Share

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The Gubser Miracle of Lights Christmas had a banner 2017 season resulting in a major donation to the Marion-polk Food Share at the Greater Gubser Neighborhood Association last week.

The 24-day run of the lights display yielded financial donations of $28,926.79 (an average of more than $1,000 per day) and record 27,180 pounds of donated food. Volunteers tending the donation booth also gave out a record 34,000 candy canes.

The cash donation is equivalent to more than 109,000 meals for local families in need, said Rick Guapo, president of the food share.

In the past five years, the Miracle of Light has generated more than 500,000 meals. The organizers were honored with the Oregon Food Bank Association’s Hunger Buster Award in 2017.

More than 80 percent of the homes along the display route participated in the 2017 display.

Sponsors this year included:   Dana Burk representing Keller Williams, Brenda Oleman representing Serenity Cleaning, Maps Credit Union, Lisa and Devin Campbell representing Print Specialties, Gerald Nichols representing McKinley Landscape, John representing JK Timber and Lisa Lathan representing HomeSmart Reality.

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Honoring multi-taskers

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The Keizer Chamber of Commerce held its annual First Citizen banquet last Saturday and they hit it out of the park with the four who won awards.

Joe Egli was announced as Keizer’s First Citizen Award to sustained applause. The creators seemed to have Egli in mind when they conceived of the award. Few First Citizens have had their fingerprints in so many different areas of Keizer life. His resume is dizzying.

A life-long Oregonian and a long-time Keizerite Egli has served in public capacities, committee member; he served one term as a Keizer City Councilor.

A born leader, Egli has served as president of both the Keizer Chamber of Commerce and the Keizer Rotary Club. But it is in his role as resident he has displayed his most far-reaching influence. Every major project in Keizer over the past two decades has had Egli as a cheerleader. His gift for rallying support and volunteers for projects as diverse as The Big Toy, the artificial turf at McNary High School, leadership of the Iris Festival and his the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation is legendary.

Egli and his wife Shelly comprise one of the most productive teams when it comes to their home. He does what is needed to be done without seeking the spotlight or credit. As he said himself as he accepted his award, it’s all about the people in Keizer. Yes, it certainly is, Mr. Egli.

The pattern to the awards seemed to be multi-tasking. The Merchant of the Year award was presented to Larry Jackson of Jackson’s Body Shop. When volunteers are called for, Jackson is one of the first in line. He serves on the board of directors for the Chamber and volunteers as one of the Men of Action in Keizer (MAK). Christmas displays? Does it. Iris Festival? Does it. Big Toy? Did it.

Larry Jackson was very deserving of the Merchant of the Year award and he will continue his good civic works and continue to inspire others to pitch in and help in his community. For that the community thanks you, Larry.

Another multi-tasker honored Saturday night was Jason Flores who was presented with the Service to Education Award. Over the years this award has been bestowed on teachers, administrators, coaches and boosters—all of whom have had a positive impact on Keizer’s school kids.

A residential builder (Celtic Homes, LLC), Flores devotes just as much time to Keizer kid’s sports as he does to his own business. For more than 15 years he has coached baseball, softball and football for youth teams. Along with coaching and mentoring he has also been deeply involved with projects such as the Keizer Little League fields, the turf, refurbished scoreboard and softball dugout projects at McNary High School.

Like all good volunteers he puts money where his heart is. He and his wife Keri sponsor students in their chosen sport through the McNary Athletic Booster Club’s Adopt-an-Athlete program.

Youth sports in Keizer are a success due in part to community volunteers like Jason Flores.

At their discretion, the Chamber of Commerce leaders present their President’s Award. The recipients of this award over the years have been a varied group who have made indelible impacts on the Chamber and the city.

Nathan Bauer, president of the Chamber’s board of directors, made an impassioned speech before announcing he was honoring Matthew Lawyer, who was stunned by the announcement.

Matthew Lawyer is the future of Keizer volunteering and leadership. A man who doesn’t know how to say no, can be found involved with community projects as well as projects that are his personal passion—he is a board member of Keizer Homegrown Theatre (he has quite the stage presence).

On the public side he serves on the Keizer Parks and Recreation Advisory Board where his passion for the city’s parks is evident at every meeting. He has a young family and his concerns mirror those of most Keizer households, which is important.

He is also a member of the Keizer Planning Commission, one of the most important bodies in the city. The commission is the first stop in the process for developers and contractors to get green lit by the city council for their projects. His sober, realistic views will be valuable when time comes to seriously discuss future growth in the guise of an Urban Growth Boundary expansion.

What does any of this have to do with the Keizer Chamber of Commerce? Everything…when you help make the city a great place to live and run a business, that’s the Chamber’s mission. Full stop.

Congratulations to all the recipients of this year’s awards.

  —LAZ

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No more soap

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Don Vowell, a long-time contributor to this page with his A Box of Soap column passed away on Dec. 15. His irreverant writing will be dearly missed.

Vowell, who retired as a carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, enjoyed mixing things up and making people think. His frequent columns certainly did that. His writings amused many but some of his writings also rose the ire of others. That’s what writing should do: elicit emotion.

In his retirement years he turned to natural photography. He had the patience of a saint, waited for hours to get just the right photograph. He posted many on his Facebook page. You would be hard pressed to tell the difference between a Don Vowell wildlife shot and a wildlife shot in a National Geographic magazine.

Don had a whimsical look on life and shared it widely. With tongue firmly planted in cheek he considered running for mayor back in the 1990s. He even had a campaign logo: Join the Vowell Movement. Needless to say, his political career never got off the ground.

We enjoyed his columns because we never knew what he was going to address. He covered a myrid of subjects over the dozens of columns that ran for more than 20 years.

Don Vowell’s voice will be missed, but his columns will live on in our archives and our hearts.

  —LAZ

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