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March 2014 -- Vol. 108, No. 7

Memories of THE BEE's first 100 years!
In 2006, THE BEE celebrated its centennial of serving Southeast Portland!  A special four-page retrospective of Inner Southeast Portland's century, written by Eileen Fitzsimons, and drawn from the pages of THE BEE over the previous 100 years, appeared in our September, 2006, issue.
Click here to read this special retrospective!


The next issue will be our May 
issue, and it has a deadline of April 17.
(The June issue has an ad and copy deadline of May 22.)


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NOW -- subscribe securely, online -- by clicking

But, if you would rather not do it online, you can E-mail or telephone 503/968-6397. The 12-issue annual subscription rate is $14 per year for addresses located in Multnomah County, Oregon; and $24 for anywhere else in the U.S.(it's based on the differential postage rates for our class of postage). For international rates, enquire via that e-mail address just above!

Daily news!  The all-new daily PORTLAND TRIBUNE website  is updated throughout the day, every day, when news breaks out.  Click the banner at left to keep up to date on the banner news throughout the Rose City!

THE BEE has a second website -- it's searchable for past stories.  The content for the current month is similar to this one, presented in a different format.  To visit the other website, click the banner at right!

ATM machine. blowtorch, bulletproof underwear
A suspect had expected to get rich quickly by burning his way into this ATM machine. It didn’t work. Now he’s in jail. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

“Blow-torch Bandit” busted


32-year-old Mark George Fischer probably won’t go down in the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) annals as a “criminal genius”.

Central Precinct officers became better acquainted with Fischer after a citizen reported that he was “trying to burn a U.S. Bank ATM” on S.E. 36th Place, just south of Powell Boulevard, on March 2nd at 2:59 am.

While on their way to the location, officers were informed that Fischer had tried using a torch to cut into the ATM – but failed, and had then turned and walked away, carrying a backpack.

“As an officer approached the suspect, he turned and sprayed a liquid towards the officer, but missed him,” recounted PPB Public Information Officer Sgt. Pete Simpson. “The suspect dropped his backpack, which contained an acetylene torch and a stun gun, and took off running.”

Mark George Fischer
32-year-old Mark George Fischer is back behind bars after his unsuccessful attempt to burn his way into a US Bank ATM near Powell Boulevard. (MCDC booking photo)

After a brief foot chase, Fischer gave up. But, when officers searched him, they found he’d come to the caper well equipped.

“He was wearing two ballistic vests – and had multiple ballistic panels sewn into his undergarments, providing him with ballistic covering down his arms, legs, buttocks, and crotch area,” described Simpson.

Fischer was also armed with a large knife. The liquid he’d sprayed at the officer turned out to be pepper spray.

Fischer was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center on charges of Felon in Possession of Body Armor, Attempted Aggravated Theft in the First Degree, Attempted Assault on a Police Officer, Attempted Escape in the Third Degree, Interfering with a Peace Officer, Menacing, and Possession of Burglary Tools.

In lieu of $10,000 bail, Fischer remains in custody at the Multnomah County Inverness Jail.

cottonwood removal, McLoughlin Boulevard
The removal of 45 hazardous trees caused some highway traffic congestion along northbound S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard in March. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

McLoughlin operation fells 45 trees


For many days in the month of March, traffic on northbound S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard (Oregon Highway 99E) was restricted to one lane between the Bybee Bridge and S.E. 17th Avenue, to allow highway workers to perform as lumberjacks.

“The [tree removal] work we’re doing there goes back to the winter storm in February,” explained Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) Portland/Metro Public Information Officer Don Hamilton.

“During the windstorms, two cottonwood trees came down along McLoughlin Boulevard, within about 20 minutes of each other,” Hamilton told THE BEE. “One of the trees was in the northbound lanes; the other, in the southbound lanes, struck a car.”

Especially when two trees come down, in the same area and at the same time, it is ODOT’s policy to examine other trees in the immediate area.

“A prompt inspection by an ODOT forester determined that eight nearby cottonwood trees were rotten and needed to be removed right away, as soon as the windstorms abated,” explained Hamilton.

These aren’t the larger old trees that provide the green leafy canopy over the highway during the summer, he added. “Our arborists say cottonwoods are the ‘weeds of trees’. They’re a hazard because they get top-heavy, and the root system cannot support the weight of the trees.”

As work progressed during the project, arborists took a closer look at the stand of trees. “Further inspection showed that even more trees needed to be removed – along a quarter-mile stretch on the east side of McLoughlin, south of S.E. Harold Street,” Hamilton said.

In all, about 45 trees were felled during the project.

Westmoreland Park Casting Pond, Milk Carton Boat Races
The Westmoreland Park Casting Pond, drained for spring maintenance, may indeed be refilled by June – but current construction work has cancelled the Portland Rose Festival Milk Carton Boat Races this year. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Westmoreland Park work sinks Milk Carton Boat Races


With few dry days this winter, the completion date for the Crystal Springs Restoration Project in Westmoreland Park continues to slip later and later.

As confirmed by Portland Parks & Recreation Project Manager Sandra Burtzos, the project can only progress “at the speed nature will allow”, because the north end of the park has now successfully been returned to a natural wetland.

Rainy weather has delayed the construction of the Nature Play Area, and now Dairy Farmers of Oregon Communications Manager Carissa Sauer revealed to THE BEE on March 12 that this year’s Milk Carton Boat Races, which their sponsorship revived in 2009, will have to be cancelled this year.

“It was a decision we made with Portland Parks,” said Sauer. “There will still be construction around the park; we want to be prudent for the sake of public safety.”

Portland Parks & Recreation Public Information Officer Mark Ross confirmed that the regatta, held at the historic Westmoreland Casting Pond, has been cancelled for 2014.

“Because of the continuing Westmoreland Park renovations in partnership with the Bureau of Environmental Services and U.S. Army Corps of engineers, there will a construction zone and construction fencing right next to the casting pond on two sides, for the next few months,” Ross said.

“The [construction] work will need an additional staging area for equipment. And, there are lots of logistics to consider with the Milk Carton races [to accommodate] the 2,500-odd people it typically attracts.”

In late February, Ross said Oregon Dairy Council’s Kurt Vetsch met with Portland Parks officials at the Casting Pond. “We all shared the same concerns about event logistics. Race organizers would be faced with accommodating a large number of people, gathered in a limited space between construction fences; and with limited parking, and no place to load/unload equipment for bands, stages, and vendors.”

The event, revived in 2009 after seven-year hiatus, has again become one of their most popular family events, commented Portland Rose Festival Foundation Public Relations Manager Rich Jarvis. “There is strong grass-roots support for it in Southeast Portland; in fact, it draws a large crowd from all over the region.

“We’re disappointed,” Jarvis told THE BEE. “But, the Portland Rose Festival Foundation looks forward to seeing the Milk Carton Boat Races return, stronger than ever, in 2015.”

TriMet, bus service cuts, bus 31, 32, 33, 99
Portland Bureau of Transportation’s April Bertelsen, and TriMet Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project Community Affairs Representative Jennifer Koozer, listen as a neighbor comments on proposed cuts to bus service in Inner Southeast. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

TriMet pitches bus cuts for Brooklyn, Sellwood, Westmoreland


By the time the formal meeting got underway on February 25th at Brooklyn’s Sacred Heart Villa, some 40 people had arrived to find out more about TriMet’s plan to reduce bus service once MAX light rail service begins. Similar meetings have been held lately elsewhere in Inner Southeast, including in Sellwood and Westmoreland.

Before the formal presentation began, maps showing current and proposed bus lines were laid out on tables; architectural drawings of new light rail stations lined the room.

“Tonight, we are talking about potential bus service changes, when the light rail service begins in 2015,” explained TriMet Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Project Community Affairs Representative Jennifer Koozer, herself a resident of Sellwood.

Asked to define “changes” affecting the area of the MAX “Orange Line”, Koozer replied, “We are looking at ways to increase [MAX] ridership. We want to have riders take advantage of the new light rail service.”

These changes are based on the assumption, Koozer told THE BEE, that buses 31, 32, 33, and 99, which currently serve S.E. McLoughlin Boulevard north of downtown Milwaukie, would duplicate light rail service and would no longer run north of Milwaukie.

“Another major starting assumption is that bus lines that currently use the Ross Island Bridge would start using the new Transit Bridge instead,” Koozer said. “This would take those buses out a lot of traffic congestion on the Ross Island Bridge.”

TriMet Service Planning Manager Kerry Ayres Palanuk facilitated this, their first Inner Southeast public meeting at which members of the community had heard about the proposed bus service changes.

As the formal meeting began, a ten-year Brooklyn resident (and formerly of Sellwood, she said) was surprised by the proposal. “This is the first time I heard that bus service would be discontinued along McLaughlin. Had I known this, I would not have been an early supporter of the project.”

Many participants appeared dismayed when it was revealed that no bus service would be restored along S.E. Tacoma Street in Sellwood.  Bus 40 was discontinued across the bridge when the weight limit was imposed on the old bridge; riders had assumed that with a new and stronger Sellwood Bridge that service would be restored. Apparently it will not.

TriMet representatives asserted that most people are willing to walk up to a quarter-mile to a bus stop and a half-mile to a light rail stop.  Many – although not most – walk much further, they said.

And, one of their assumptions shows, officials said, that “most people walk or bike to transit. Less than 5% of current TriMet riders access the system from Park & Ride lots”.

Another Brooklyn resident asked, “If no bus lines use the Ross Island Bridge, how will areas near the bridge be served?”

It will be almost a year before the final plan is set, Koozer said. “We will come with a full proposal in the spring, and ask for more feedback. And again, we will ask for more feedback during the summer, before we finalize the plans at the end of this year.”

If you missed the meeting, Koozer said they’ll be attending other neighborhood association meetings in the area. And, you can make online comments at:

St Agatha, St Patricks Day, parade
With St. Agatha Catholic School kids holding aloft the banner, the 16th Annual St. Patrick's Day Parade makes its way through Sellwood. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

St. Agatha scores a sunny St. Patty’s Day


As the Sellwood-Westmoreland 16th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival and Parade at St. Agatha Catholic School started, on March 15, event organizers couldn’t help believe they were blessed with the “luck o’ the Irish”, as years of rainy observances became a memory, and bright, spring-like sunshine warmed the parish campus.

For the second year, the day began with a “5K Fun Run” at 11 am, while families started queueing up for the parade.

At noon, the Clackamas Firefighters Pipes and Drum Corps played on the steps of St. Agatha Catholic Church, signaling the start of the St. Patrick's Day Parade. As in past years, the march traveled south on S.E. 15th Avenue, then west on Tacoma Street, turned north on S.E. 13th Avenue, and returned to the campus on Miller Street.

“Look at all the families coming out on this beautiful day to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day,” Publicity Chair Sherri Keepes told THE BEE. “It’s good fun for the whole family; there’s lots of stuff here for both kids and adults.”

The event is produced with “a lot” of volunteer help by the school’s “Parents in Partnership” organization, she said. “I’m glad so many people are helping out. With the beautiful weather today, I think we could see as many as 2,000 people come by during course of the day.”

Keepes and St. Agatha Catholic School Principal Jeff Delegato agreed that what they enjoyed most was watching the youngsters have fun at the carnival, inside the school gymnasium.

“While this is a major fundraiser for us,” Delegato remarked, “it’s really more about building community. Involving our neighbors and businesses in the Sellwood-Moreland community is our main goal.”

Throughout the afternoon it became clear one needn’t be Irish to enjoy the live bands, dancers, and entertainment put on by the talented students. Folks dined on authentic Irish corned beef and cabbage dinners, corned beef sandwiches, shepherd's pie, and Irish sausage rolls, while adults quaffed cold beers.

It certainly appeared that the school had again met its goal – the community did come together and had a great time.

Sellwood Bridge
With the Bent 6 piers now in place, workers prepare to pour the cross beam. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Sellwood Bridge update: Plugging leaky caissons


High water from winter runoff and heavy rain has created challenging conditions at the Sellwood Bridge project during the past few weeks.

Out at the end of east work bridge, near the center of the Willamette River at Bent 5, workers have lowered what was a “perched” (constructed above water, on pilings) box caisson into the river.

In simple terms, a caisson provides a relatively dry “hole in the water” in which workmen can safely perform construction work, pointed out Multnomah County’s project spokesman, Mike Pullen.

“Inside that caisson, they’ll build concrete forms and install rebar. Then, they will pour concrete that will support the steel arch spans of the bridge,” Pullen told THE BEE.

During our visit, the caisson looked like a corrugated steel box-shaped outline sticking up out of the water. Inside were steel rings containing rebar set on top of the pilings that had been driven into the rock below the river’s floor last summer.

“The high river water is a challenge for construction,” commented Multnomah County Inspectors Manager Mark Knieriem. “We have to work around it.  For example [construction] divers can’t work outside the caisson, because there is too great a current in the river.”

They’d just shut down massive water pumps for the day. “Every work day, we pump water out of the caisson,” explained Knieriem. “When it’s first lowered down into the water, it’s kind of like a leaky bathtub. Divers go down and find leaks, and plug it up.”

The reason they turn the pumps off and let the water fill it up near the end of the day is so that the pumps don’t run all night long. “It’s little quieter for neighbors.”

Knieriem also pointed to a crew assembling and welding what will be forms that will be used to pour the concrete cross beam on Bent 6 at the eastern shore of the Willamette River.

“They build the forms down here because it is much more efficient, and a lot safer,” Knieriem said. “A crane then hoists the forms into position on top of the pilings before concrete is poured.”

Walking back on land, Pullen said plans call for construction to begin on the east-side bridge approach. “They’re preparing to install the girders on the approach spans in early April.

“The pre-stress/pre-cast concrete girders have already been manufactured at the Knife River Corporation plant in Harrisburg,” Pullen continued. “When the bents are ready, they’ll use a crane to pick the girders off trucks, and set them in place.”

Keep up to date by checking the project’s website: And we’ll keep following the project each month here in THE BEE.

Deer, Sellwood Bridge, Jeff Rutz
DEER SPOTTED NEAR SELLWOOD BRIDGE. BEE reader Jeff Rutz took this photo – showing four deer grazing on the hillside above Highway 43, at the west end of the Sellwood Bridge construction – at about 6 pm on Tuesday, March 11. The excavation of the hillside to construct the large west-end exchange does not seem to have unduly inconvenienced the wildlife of the area, although it has created challenges for motorists.

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