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Author: Lyndon Zaitz

Keizer should join bag ban

The City of Keizer tends to follow the direction of its municipal neighbors. When an issue arises in our city the council invariably asks “What are other cities doing?”

We think the Keizer city council should follow other cities on the issue of plastic shopping bags. Ban them.

First consider the billions upon billions of plastic bags that have been used and disposed of, usually into landfills. Now consider how many plastic bags the average Keizer household uses. Once at home,  some of those bags serve double duty as garbage liners. But generally ,many are mistakenly put into the recycling bin (they should go into a garbage can because they clog up equipment at recycling centers). There are those who opt for reusable shopping bags. 

Economically, plastic bags are much cheaper to manufacture than the old-style paper bags. That’s why every grocer and most retailers utilize them. Our landfills and our oceans cannot continue to be the dump for billions of bags around the world.

Some reasons people might cite for not banning plastic bags include: personal freedom, too much governmental interference, let the market decide the issue, too costly for the public and retailers going without.

Society cannot continue to kick solvable problems down the road for the next generation to address. When humanity has the chance to do what is right for the environment we should not hesitate to act today.

Keizer should join Salem, Portalnd and Corvallis in banning plastic shopping bags. Consumers would have to purchase reusable shopping bags and remember to take them to the store. A ban of plastic shopping bags is not an ideological or economic issue, it is a conservative issue, period. Everyone is a steward of the globe we inhabit and thus we need to do what is necessary to care for our fragile environment.

Our municipal neighbors have led the brave campaign to rid their cities of plastic bags—Keizer follows its neighbors, let’s follow them on this issue.

Debating this issue should commence, but in the end wouldn’t everyone like to say they helped make their home a little neater and a little healthier?

It’s time now for the city staff and the city council to do their part.

—LAZ

What is growth?

Government officials speak of growth a lot. But what does that mean to the residents of Keizer? How are we to define growth?

Some say that growth means more jobs within our city borders. Some say growth means expanding our city limits and adding more housing and commercial hubs.

It is important that city leaders explain what they mean by growth specifically and assure that their constituents understand exactly what the push for growth is all about.

If the push for growth is mostly about attaining jobs for Keizer residents, what kind of jobs and where will they be? In an robust economic climate there are people working more than one job. Part-time work and service jobs, important to the overall economy, don’t support a family of three or more. In those cases, the spouse is forced to find employment to sustain the household which adds childcare costs to already overtaxed budgets.

It is nice to recruit eateries with their part-time shifts but if asked we suspect most Keizerites would rather see full-time jobs with good wages that can be reached by foot, bus or a short car trip. What are some fields that can be recruited? Topping the list is anything in the medical field—clinics, labortories, medical transcription office, to name a few. Those industries may not be as sexy as a popular restaurant or a gaming arcade, but they are the businesses whose future is assured.

Many will say there is no room in Keizer for such developments which  is why the Urban Growth Boundary needs to be expanded as soon as possible. There are plots of land that can be obtained. Much of Cherry Avenue is zoned commercial/industrial; using incentives such as lowering system development charges, the city can work with a developer and medical business to purchase land on Cherry, raze what’s there and build a sparkling new building. The caveat for any of that is dictating the types of jobs and wages offered.

There is land in Keizer Station and on land where a power plant was once considered. Though the city of Keizer doesn’t want to be in real estate business, it should consider the long-term benefits of buying land and then selling it to the types of industries that will bring the jobs we want.

Aside from jobs some may consider tangible growth, such as new subsdivisons and commercial buildings. Growth to them may mean gleaming new buildings including mixed used, multi-story developments along River Road.

When others think of growth they may be envisioning an expanded Urban Growth Boudary, annexed by Keizer followed by the construction of hundreds of new rooftops stretching from the Country Glen neighborhood to Perkins or Quinaby Road.

Before the discussion of Keizer’s growth gets along too far the city leaders need to figure out what growth means to the people who already live here. It would be a shame to get far down the development road only to realize people were talking about different types of growth.

—LAZ

Shop local and small

Where will you shop this holiday season? Will all of your purchases be made at a major retailer or online? Or, will you endeavor to do some of your holiday shopping at Keizer’s small businesses?

What is a small business? According the Small Business Administration, a small business is defined as having a maximum of 250 employees and are privately owned. More than 90 percent of all U.S. firms are small businesses.

With that definition, most of Keizer’s independently owned retail businesses are tiny.  Many employ less than 20 people, but most employ 10 or less.

The owners of very small businesses are the superstars of America. Family businesses carry on the mission of an ancestor who set the company in motion; businesses that were started with a dream, blood, sweat and tears  work to provide their customers with selection and customer service.

Saturday, Nov. 24, is Small Business Day in America. Though it was instigated by large credit card company, the motive behind it is pure small town: spend some of your money with a small business in your town: it helps the business, it helps the businesses’ employees, it puts money into the community.

During the holidays many choose to go the route of convenience and ease and shop at gigantic stores or buy gifts online from the comfort of their home. For those most driven by  comfort and convenience those shopping choices make sense. For those who want to give gifts to loved ones with meaning and heart, choosing to shop at a local small business is a good choice.

Small businesses make any community more vibrant and alive. They may not have billion-dollar market research to rely on, they do something just as good: they listen to the needs of their customers. Small retailers will do what it takes to satisfy a customer including ordering an item not regularly carried.

A small business can make decisions on the spot that would take a large businesses days or weeks to sort out. Generally, when you talk to an employee of a small business you are talking to the boss.

We hope that every small business in our community is putting their best face on and preparing their stores and inventories for what customers desire. Customer service is a warm, sincere greeting to a customer and an offer to assist in finding just the right thing.

Small businesses can not compete on price against gigantic stores or cyberretailers, but they can compete where it really matters: human to human contact. Small businesses put the humanity into shopping.

We think it is important for holiday shoppers to give serious consideration to purchasing some of the items on their gift list locally and small. That would be good for the sustainability of our small business community

Small Business Day is Saturday, Nov. 24, but everyday should be Small Business Day, shouldn’t it?

  —LAZ

We recommend Smith

The Keizertimes recommends Elizabeth Smith for position #5 on the Keizer City Council.

A longtime resident of Keizer, Smith, the mother of two grown daughters, has been involved with her community for years. She played a role in the opening of Weddle Elementary School, was a PTA president and has been a member of both the Rotary Club of Keizer and the Keizer Chamber of Commerce.

It is her work as a mortgage broker and knowledge of the housing and commecial markets that give her a leg up over her opponent Shawn Lapof. Smith says she is passionate about her hometown and is excited at the prospect of being involved with the future of Keizer’s growth.

Though Smith has no prior government experience (most first time council candidates don’t) we feel it is her background and personal experience that will make her a hardworking city couniclor.

Elizabeth Smith has never been shy about stating her views. It is that kind of thinking that will be a shot in the arm for the Keizer City Council. She will vote her conscience; if elected to the council, we hope she will always stay true to her vision and vote accordingly. We think she will.

A candidate who is a mother, is involved with the community and has a strong background in business is a bonus for Keizer. Vote for Elizabeth Smith for Keizer City Council position #5.

  -—LAZ

Take a moment and vote

Voting turnout is generally much lower during midterm elections than during years with a presidential election. It is not a cliche that every vote counts. There have been very close elections at every level of government.

Members of the public who claim that it doesn’t make a difference who wins, so there is no need to vote, are not paying attention. Elections do have consequences—Gov. Kate Brown operates with a Democratic state legislature, President Trump rules with a like-minded Republican majority in both houses of Congress. We have seen what one-party rule is like locally and nationally.

It is understandable why many people decry politics and choose to tune out and sit out the election rather than be a member of our democracy and exercise their right to vote. It is understandable but it is not accepted.

In Oregon, our vote-by-mail system makes it easy to vote, a vote-by-internet system would not necessarily increase participation. In this year’s general election, registered voters will receive their ballots this week, there are important races at every level. Keizerites will vote on two contested city council races and a state House and a state Senate race.

They will elect their Congressman for District 5 and decided between Kate Brown and Knute Buehler for governor. There are state-wide measures on the ballot, all of which affect Keizer. The two hottest  measures are 103 which would prohibit taxes on groceries and 105 which some call the sanctuary measure.

We want every voter to take the time to go over their ballot, make their choice and return the ballot. Every vote counts and all elections have consequences. —LAZ

We recommend Kohler

The general election ballot will show an unusually rich slate of candidates for city offices. Mayor Cathy Clark is unopposed as she seeks her third term. Also unopposed is Roland Herrera as he seeks his second term in Position #4.

For Position #6 two qualified candidates will face each other: Michael De Blasi and Dan Kohler. De Blasi serves on the Planning Commission and the Transportation/Safety/Bikeways/Pedestrian Committee.  Kohler has been a community volunteer but is primarily known for his stewardship of the resurfacing project at The Big Toy at Keizer Rapids Park.

Kohler is the business candidate. He has been endorsed by the Keizer Chamber of Commerce, a present and a past mayor of Keizer and all the sitting city councilors. This is support that can be envied.

De Blasi doesn’t have a long list of bold name endorsers, but he is sure of himself and of his views.

Though the candidates will not face off in a debate they have their differences on upcoming issues such as the third bridge (De Blasi is against it; he’d rather see tolls on the existing bridges).

For this election, Dan Kohler is the right choice for position #6. But we think that De Blasi needs to stay as involved as he is and not count out running for the council in two years.

De Blasi is younger and would be a different voice altogether on the council, which is needed, but there is time for him to add his voice later.

By voting in Kohler, the city still benefits because De Blasi’s voice will still play loud on the Planning Commission and the traffic committee. Kohler will bring a consensus view to the council and will not cause sparks to fly over certain issues.

We envision a city council in a few years in which both Kohler and De Blasi have seats and engage other councilors in robust discussions on such topics as the look of River Road, housing density and Urban Growth Boundary expansion.

Until that time, we recommend Dan Kohler for city council position #6.

Next week: Our recommendation for city council position #5.

—LAZ

Yes on KFD levy renewal

Safety first. That is rule number one for every business and every household. Safety first is always top of mind for our first responders, especially the Keizer Fire District’s firefighters and medical response teams.

The number of emergency calls have increased more than 16 percent but the Keizer Fire District responds to them with the same revenue as before the increase. That says mountains about the fiduciary mangement of the district.

That’s the best reason for voters to approve Measure 24-432. The measure renews the current 59¢ per $1,000 of assessed value for five years beginning in 2019. That means there is no tax increase for what will surely be increasing calls.

Some voters may decide to vote no on every measure on the ballot thinking they are voting against new taxes. It is important that voters look over their ballots carefully and read their voters pamphlet. A vote for Measure 24-432 is not a vote for higher taxes, it is a vote for superior service from our first responders.

The Keizer Fire District has consistently responded within six minutes more than 95 percent of the time, far exceeding response times for other fire departments and districts.

We are confident in the leadership of the Keizer Fire District to continue its great service to our community.

Vote yes on Measure 24-432.

—LAZ

Growth report a must read

By LYNDON ZAITZ

It doesn’t have sexy and compelling title like Fifty Shades of Gray, a best seller a few years ago, but its content is just as scintillating.

Keizer Growth Opportunities—Costs of Growth Memo is an intriguing report on what it will take to expand the Urban Growth Boundary to serve the city’s growth 30 years into the future. Everyone who will be involved in any expansion decisions or has the slightest interest in the look of a future Keizer should read this 34-page report from start to finish. The decisions that will need to be made before the UGB is pushed out are sobering and should make one seriously consider if it is good move.

To give context to discussion about an expansion of our urban growth boundary, the report cites three other Oregon cities—Woodburn, McMinnville and North Bethany—that have had their own UGB expansion journeys. The processes of those three cities are a lesson for Keizer as it turns its eyes toward the future.

Woodburn’s UGB expansion was a decade in coming and cost the city over $1 million in public funds. The sticking point for much of that decade was the city’s desire to add acreage for industrial uses on rich agriculutral land. Years of lawsuits, appeals and mediation finally resulted in an expansion that was less than half of what was desired.

In McMinnville the process was slowed through legal action and appeals. After courts remanded the decision to the Land Conservation Development Commmission (LCDC), McMinnville not to pursue the expansion any further. The key issue for McMinnville’s proposed UGB expansion was in choosing to exclude some land adjancent to its boundaries; it was the location/type of land that became the key issue.

North Bethany is an unincorporated area of Washington County yet part of the Portland Metropolitan Urban Growth Boundary.  Though the expansion of the UBG by 800 acres in North Bethany was approved in 2005 it remained undeveloped for years.

The report says that the critical lesson of the North Bethany expansion is just how costly growth can be.  The planning process revealed that infrastructure would cost approximately $100,000 for each house built. The average System Development Charge for single-family houses in the Portland Metro UGB expansion areas are $44,774—10 times the SDCs for a new home in Keizer’s current borders.

To pay for infrastructure in North Bethany, Washington County had to increase its SDC fees, used county-wide transportation funds and set higher property taxes for lots in the expanded areas. Keizer is not North Bethany but that Washington County area offers clues as to potential costs for us. The homes that were finally built in North Bethany are selling north of $500,000—that’s about $200,000 more than an average sale price in Keizer.

That begs the question of how much would infrastructure cost, how would the city pay for it, aside from passing costs to developers and who would buy expensive homes in Keizer expanded UGB?

It is key to remember than an expanded Urban Growth Boundary doesn’t mean an automatically expanded Keizer. Voters would have to approve any annexation of land in an expanded UGB into city limits and that is not a certainty. In a election a concentrated opposition could make viable reasons for not pushing Keizer northward.

The Costs of Growth Memo demonstrates that if the city pursues an expansion of the UGB it would be a lengthy and costly process and the public may not be as eager as government officers and developers to see it happen. There are good reasons not to expand, primarily because it would gobble up prime agricultural land. There are good reasons to expand such as added jobs.

Reserach from the Portland State University’s Population Center shows that Keizer needs to add more than 4,000 housing units by 2030. Until any expansion of the Urban Growth Boundary and annexation into Keizer happens the city will have to focus on its infill progarm and zone for mixed used developments, two ways to house more people in Keizer. If you can’t move out as fast as one wishes, the only way is up.

For all the reasons listed in the report it is important that all the city councilors and all the members of the Keizer Planning Commission carefully read Keizer Growth Opportunities—Costs of Growth Memo. The future of Keizer depends on an engaged leadership.

(Lyndon Zaitz is publisher of the Keizertimes.)

Yes to intermodal transload facility

The Brooks-Hopmere area is one of the proposed sites in the Willamette Valley for an Intermodal Transloading Facility. Millersburg on the north side of Albany is another site close to our area.

Transloading is the process of transferring a shipment from one mode of transportation to another—in this case, from truck to rail, to be shipping to ports in Portland and in Washington state.

The Oregon Shipping Group is assisting with the Oregon Port of Willamette’s proposal for the facility.  That group represents 50 business stakeholders and is led by Kevin Mannix. The proposal to the Oregon Department of Transportation included supporting letters from a variety of area business organizations as well as the agriculture industry.

The rationale for transloading facilities in the Willamette Valley is to more efficiently move products to foreign markets. Currently farm products are shipped via truck to ports for shipment overseas. The freeways in and around the Portland area are experiencing increased traffic counts which results in higher shipping costs for producers whose goods are stuck in traffic.

It is more efficient for producers to bypass clogged roadways in the metropolitan area by utilizing a transloading facility here in the mid-Willamette Valley. If Brooks-Hopmere wins the nod from the state, which will hand down its decision in late September, it will be a win for ag business here in the northern valley but certainly also a win for ag business in the southern Willamette Valley; shipping to Brooks would be cheaper than going all the way to ports in Portland or points north.

The Oregon Shipping Ground has laid the groundwork with adjourning commercial and residential neighbors. They have solicited comments and ideas, particularly when it comes to the Brooks-Interstate 5 interchange.  If Brooks-Hopmere is chosen as the site for the mid-Willamette Valley site there certainly would be improvements at that interchange. One should not expect improvement on the level of the recent Woodburn re-do.

The proposed facility at Brooks-Hopmere is not designed to add lots of jobs. As currently design the facility would feature a handful of positions. Though it is not heavy with jobs there are other benefits—increased global trade for western Oregon growers, fewer big rig trucks on Portland area freeways (this is important because most Keizerites travel to Portland occasionally) and, eventually an improved interchange that many north Keizer residents use.

The proposed sites—one next to May Trucking Company on the west side of the freeway, the other north of Brooklake Road next to the NORPAC plant—will not adversely affect those who live or have businesses in the area.

Agriculture is Oregon’s primary business and anything that can make it more competitive is a good thing. We support the Mid-Willamette Valley Intermodal Transloading Facility whether it is approved for the west or the east side of the freeway at Brooks-Hopmere. —LAZ

Let’s end need for clean-up

We congratulate Richard Boyes on being named Volunteer of the Quarter by the Keizer City Council earlier this week.

Boyes was nominated by members of the West Keizer Neighborhood Association for his work over the past years collecting trash along Chemawa Road from River Road to Keizer Rapids Park. The volunteer works on his own to assure Keizer keeps up its neat and tidy look.

It is unfortunate that anyone has to clean trash from our roadways. After decades of anti-littering messages, especially from an owl (Give a Hoot, Don’t Pollute), one would think that private-sector street trash collectors would be a thing of the past. It is not, as evidenced by Mr. Boyes efforts and by those who adopt a street.

Each year volunteers help SOLVE clear tons of trash from Oregon beaches. If volunteers didn’t chip in and pick up wrappers, bottles, cans and other debris, our streets and beaches would look like a landfill.

We grew up hearing the ‘don’t pollute’ message. If we threw a can out the car window or along the curb, we were swiftly comforted. In other words, we were shamed into picking up our cast-off and disposing of it correctly.

We all need to be guardians of our planet, not to mention our neighborhoods and stand up to those who so cavalierly use public lands as their personal waste basket. There’s a place for everything.

We adults have to give a hoot and shame those, of any age, who choose to litter. Until the day comes when no one litters, we will rely upon the concerned volunteers like Richard Boyes.   —LAZ