More stories from February's issue of THE BEE!


Richard Kiely, 82nd Avenue Business Association, street tax
“82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association” President Richard Kiely says that the taxation plan his group came up with to pay for road repairs was shunned by City Hall. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Latest Portland “Street Tax” plan stalls

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

On January 15, Portland Mayor Charlie Hales announced he was “pulling the plug” on placing a planned “advisory vote” on the May ballot, regarding the raising of taxes for funding street repairs and transportation plans that has been in the works for well over a year. It’s a plan that he championed, along with Portland City Councilor Steve Novick.

The reason Hales gave for halting the tax vote was to allow the Oregon Legislature to consider transportation funding with an increase in the gas tax during their session.

“Over the past week, I have had conversations with Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and with Gov. John Kitzhaber,” Hales said in a press release. “They have each assured me that a statewide transportation package is a top priority for them this legislative session.”

One vocal opponent to the many successive versions of the Portland taxation plan was “82nd Avenue of Roses Business Association” President Richard Kiely, who actually proposed a tax plan of his own to the city to help find money for street repairs.

“We drew up a simple plan, based on numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, that would have had every business pay $12 and residences pay $8 each month,” Kiley told THE BEE. “This would raise $71 million annually – and provide enough funding to allow for exceptions to be granted for the very low income taxpayers and seniors.”

Shortly after that proposal was presented to Commissioner Novick’s office on June 6, Kiely said he got a terse reply. “It said that our ‘numbers were incorrect’. That’s where it ended.”

Asked about the Mayor’s reason to temporarily step away from the issue, Kiely replied, “I don’t think it is the State’s responsibility to take care of Portland’s streets.

“Speaking strictly for myself, and not for the association,” Kiely continued, “it looks to me like the Mayor wanted to use this as a potential re-election campaign issue. He campaigned originally that he’d have all the streets fixed for less than the current budget. Now that it’s not going well, he’s backing away.”

“Bottom-up makeover needed”
The Southeast Uplift neighborhood coalition’s President, and an Eastmoreland resident, Robert McCullough has been one of most vocal antagonists of the taxation plans.

McCullough says he agrees that Portland’s streets need repair. “But, this means fixing streets, which is what the Mayor promised to do if elected, not rolling in all kinds of other projects.”

Asked what he now advises the Portland City Council to do when they again take up the issue later this year, McCullough was quick to respond.

“First, it is time to ‘start at the bottom and work up’. This means they need to decide how much money is actually needed to repair our street infrastructure. That is the amount we need to finance; and, right now, interest rates are very low.

“Knowing the cost figures, we’ll know what is needed to pay for incremental repairs,” McCullough continued. “If [city officials] explain where the numbers come from, and explain the program proposed, it will likely get funded.

“This process is not romantic; it is simple. We need to solve a simple problem with simple solutions.”

McCullough revisited his publicized review of the City Business License database: “It is so full of errors. Many companies are not paying their fees at all – so send them a bill! Some businesses are grossly misclassified. It’s amusing, except when it comes to how we collect our taxes.”

When McCullough spoke with THE BEE on January 20, he confided, “We are settling out the lawsuit with the city this afternoon, for our ‘disrespectful attempt’ to get accurate [business license and other demographic] numbers.

“What we did was a victory, in that it saved the city a lot of money,” said McCullough. “Had it gone through, there would have been expensive litigation as they found their underlying assumptions were proven to be incorrect.”

As a side note, McCullough said, “I’m surprised that the city renewed the contract of the firm that made so many mistakes! To my knowledge, they have no background in public financing and large data analysis.”

Ending the conversation, McCullough said, “I’m ready for Street Fee 3.0 – or whatever the version next is. I’ll be glad to help promote a solid program. If we have a good proposal, I’ll stand with the Mayor to make it happen.”



Brooklyn School Park, backstop crushed, pine tree falls
Following removal of an uprooted pine tree at Brooklyn School Park, these youngsters explored the contours of the crushed baseball backstop now slated to be replaced by PP&R. (Photo by Rita A. Leonard)

Wind topples Brooklyn pine onto backstop at school park

By RITA A. LEONARD
for THE BEE

Following the powerful windstorm of December 11th, when trees and limbs fell all over town, Portland's Bureau of Parks & Recreation scrambled to clean up the damage. At Brooklyn School Park, one of three pines shading the baseball diamond at S.E. 16th Avenue at Center Street uprooted and toppled over, crushing the metal backstop there.

Due to a full schedule involving both PP&R and the City Forester, the pine remained there for a month and a half.

A PP&R spokesman told THE BEE, “We can do part of the job, but the City Forester will be in charge of tree removal. They've certainly been busy the past few weeks.”

There was also some confusion as to who was responsible for replacing the baseball backstop. While the park behind Winterhaven School is called “Brooklyn School Park”, to distinguish it from “Brooklyn Park” on S.E. Milwaukie Avenue at Haig Street, it is actually under jurisdiction of PP&R, not the School District.

Following inquiries by THE BEE, the Parks Department’s Public Information Officer Mark Ross checked into the matter. 

“Urban Forestry crews removed the tree on January 6,” he told us, “But we’re still trying to determine who is responsible for fixing the backstop.” The crumpled structure, with its Dr.-Seuss-like angles and curves, was too much for youngsters to ignore, however – and by the next day, a flock of little boys was happily climbing it, sliding down the chain-link slope, and perching atop the highest level.

A spokesperson at Winterhaven School confirmed again to THE BEE on January 12 that the backstop was indeed located on PP&R park grounds, and was not a school district responsibility. And, on January 13th, PIO Mark Ross told us that the Parks Department had put in a work order to replace the backstop. “We need to do that quickly, before Little League season begins,” he said. “We hope to complete the work as soon as possible so as to not affect any games.”

The crushed structure is considered an attractive nuisance, and subsequently was cordoned off and covered with yellow tape. While it is finally on the schedule to be replaced, it did serve temporarily to stir the imaginations and adventurous spirit of a number of happy youngsters.



17-year-old Jovon Marcus Heath, Michael Antone Miller, teen robbers
17-year-old Jovon Marcus Heath, left, and 15-year-old Michael Antone Miller face multiple felony charges, and may be tried as adults. (MCDC booking photos)

Two teens charged in S.E. armed robbery spree

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

An evening’s binge of attempted armed robberies on December 26th included alleged attempted stick-ups in the Brentwood-Darlington, Lents, and Powellhurst-Gilbert neighborhoods.

East Precinct officers responded to a “pedestrian robbery with shots fired” call in the area of S.E. 80th Avenue and Flavel Street at 8:17 pm on the day after Christmas.

When THE BEE arrived, officers were canvassing residents along Flavel Street, from S.E. 76th to 79th Avenues to gather information.

Meantime, an officer was maintaining the crime scene, just west of S.E. 80th Avenue. There, on the north side Flavel Street, folded police business cards marked the location of shell casings next to a blue Ford F150 pickup truck with fresh bullet holes in its sheet metal.

“The 13-year-old and 16-year-old male victims told police that the suspects approached them and demanded money,” reported Portland Police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson. “As the victims ran away, one of the suspects fired several shots at them, but struck only a parked pickup truck.”

About two hours later, at 10:10 pm, officers were called to the Lents neighborhood, where a 20-year-old woman, a 20-year-old man, and a 19-year-old man said they were robbed, at gunpoint, of their wallets on Foster Road, near S.E. 97th Avenue.

“As officers were investigating the second robbery,” Simpson said, “an unknown person called 9-1-1 to report yet another robbery, but did not stay on the phone long enough to provide additional information.”

Then, at 12:35 am, officers responded to a fourth robbery report near S.E. 112th Avenue and Powell Boulevard.

“The 19-year-old male victim provided good suspect descriptions to 9-1-1, and officers quickly arrived in the area,” said Simpson.

“Officers located the suspects and took them into custody without incident,” added Simpson. “They recovered a handgun that is believed to be the gun used in the robberies.”

Later that morning, booked into the Donald E. Long Juvenile Detention Home on charges of Attempted Aggravated Murder, Robbery in the First Degree (six counts), and Robbery in the Second Degree (six counts), were 17-year-old Jovon Marcus Heath and 15-year-old Michael Antone Miller.

“East Precinct officers, gang enforcement team officers, and robbery detectives worked collaboratively to collect evidence, and to interview victims and witnesses in this robbery spree, resulting in these arrests and charges,” Simpson later remarked.

Heath and Miller were arraigned on January 29th in Multnomah County Juvenile Court.

Detectives are now asking that anyone with information about these robberies, or about any additional victims, contact them. Victims or witnesses may contact Detective John Russell at 503/823-0836, or e-mail him at: john.russell@portlandoregon.gov.



Representative Carolyn Tomei
Outside her Milwaukie home, retired Oregon State Representative Carolyn Tomei reminisces about her service in public office, in a district that includes Inner Southeast Portland. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Retired Rep Carolyn Tomei reflects on a life in politics

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

After Oregon State Representative Carolyn Tomei (D), District 41, prepared to step back from her active role in politics, she reflected on her public life for THE BEE in mid-December. District 41 includes Inner Southeast Portland.

“My educational training is as a social worker,” Tomei began. “I received my Masters in Social Work from Portland State University. This background got me involved in personal and neighborhood issues.

“I never thought to myself, ‘Oh goody, I’m going to become a politician!’ That was never a goal of mine.”

Tomei turned her head to look out her large bay window at the Willamette River, and said, “That is Elk Rock Island. That got me started in politics, because I was trying to save the island; and I had to get the City of Portland involved.”

This led her to get involved in the Milwaukie Planning Commission...then to being elected to the Milwaukie City Council…and eventually to being the city’s mayor. “And so I started on that slippery slope of politics!”

She started out with the desire to be helping people, and through politics and the legislature – and ended up helping people, but in a different way than she’d originally anticipated, she said.

Recruited to run as a State Representative in 2000, Tomei came into office in 2001 after handily winning the election.

Tomei’s legacy
“I think my greatest legacy would be the ‘Indoor Clean Air Act’, stopping smoking in all public places. People’s lives are saved by this; this legislation is a legacy that will last for generations.

“Another is my work on child sex-trafficking issues,” Tomei said. “Others were involved in the legal aspects and punishment and prosecution of sex trafficking, which I support. But the question that remains is: What is to be done with these kids?  How do we help these young people who have been sexually abused, then trafficked and prostituted?  I’m very proud that we are now getting services for these young people.”

Having children early in her life helped Tomei to “channel my energy; get me thinking about children and families. In some ways it’s like all of my experience primed me to be a state legislator.

“I met some very nice people, and some very smart people, while in the state legislature.  I developed some very good relationships, and I appreciate that.  I got to meet and work with some very good people that I would never have met in any other way.”

She didn’t accomplish everything that she wanted to, though, Tomei reflected.

“One of them is ‘lottery addiction’.  I was beginning to get involved in this, in much the same way I took up other issues: Because of constituents bringing these issues to our offices. In this case, a constituent told me about her son, who is addicted to playing the [state] lottery. She told how not only did it destroy his life, but also destroyed his family’s life.” It’s a problem yet unsolved.

Tomei mentioned that she is excited about the new legislative session beginning, with Kathleen Taylor now representing District 41. Asked by THE BEE if she has advice for the newcomer, she thought for a moment before answering.

“My advice would be to learn all you can.  Listen more than you talk; there is so much to learn.  At the same time, don’t be afraid to take a position – and then, do something.” 

A closing thought important to her, she said, was, “We are lucky to have the great government that we have. Overall, Oregon has an honest, and honorable legislature. Even people with whom I disagree, they are there for good reasons, and are trying to represent the people who elected them.” 

Speaking directly to her constituents in Inner Southeast Portland, Tomei concluded, “It is very moving that people in this district selected me, and voted for me.  Not just once, but seven times. It was a great honor. I learned so much. And, I grew so much.

“Thank you, thank you so much for allowing me the honor to represent you, the 60,000 souls who live in this district.”



Windsor Court, house fire, Portland
Arriving firefighters found the house fire on S.E. Windsor Court already so intense they had to don breathing apparatus before entering the structure to search for anyone trapped inside. Happily, no people or pets were found in the home. (Photo courtesy of Greg Muhr, PF&R)

MULTIPLE FIRES IN INNER SOUTHEAST
House fire fought near Division Street

Portland Fire and Rescue crews responded to the report of a house on fire at 6232 S.E. Windsor Court, a block south of Division Street, on Thursday, January 22. The 9-1-1 call came in at 5:36 pm.

Arriving firefighters found “heavy fire” on the first floor, with black smoke pouring out the front door, and flames up the side. The finished attic of the home was also ablaze.

First-responders quickly searched the home and found no people or pets inside, and determined that there were no injuries associated with the fire.

Fire had burned down a live power line, which posed an additional hazard for the fire companies. The power company responded to deactivate the line.

Meantime, firefighters cut a hole in the roof to vent superheated gases and smoke, and to gain access to the fire in the attic. The blaze was soon extinguished, and fire crews proceeded to the “overhaul” – to remove live embers and smoldering debris from the house – and called in a fire investigator to determine the cause.

As THE BEE went to press, neither a cause nor a damage estimate were available, but the damage to the home appeared to be fairly severe.


No harm to fowl, in Brooklyn chicken coop fire

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

The two chickens who lived there successfully “flew their coop”, and gathered at the far end of their pen to escape the flames, when a fire broke out behind a Brooklyn neighborhood home at 6:30 am on the morning of Monday, January 15.

Westmoreland’s Fire Engine 20 quickly arrived at 938 S.E. Mall Street, and doused the blazing coop that was up against the house.

“After the crew extinguished the fire, they made sure there were no injuries to humans or their fine feathered friends,” reported PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Damon Simmons.

“This fire started when a heating lamp short-circuited in the coop,” Simmons explained. “If you have chickens too, check their electrical equipment for signs of damage.”

Seizing the opportunity to educate, he added, “Additionally, like these birds, you should have an escape plan in place with your family, so you can quickly find a way out in case of fire, and know where to gather when there’s an emergency!”


Creston-Kenilworth rubbish fire chars garage

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

What was intended as a trash fire, in the back yard of a Creston-Kenilworth home, was reported as getting out of control at 10:40 pm on January 13 – and went on to do an estimated $40,000 worth of damage to the home’s garage.

When the crews of Woodstock Fire Station 25’s Truck and Engine companies rolled up to the house, near the intersection of S.E. 51st Avenue and Cora Street, they reported seeing flames from behind the house.

As crews started hooking up water lines and checking for victims, units from Lents Station 11 and Hawthorne Station 9 arrived.

“Firefighters were able to contain, and then extinguish, the rubbish container fire in the back yard,” PF&R Public Information Officer Lt. Damon Simmons told THE BEE.

“The fire burned a fence, and part of the house’s garage,” Simmons said. “There were no injuries.”



Brooklyn, elevated footbridge, Union Pacific, Brooklyn Yard
The crane operator guides the bridge span across the tracks. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

New Brooklyn footbridge hoisted over Union Pacific trainyard

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

The old wooden foot bridge, built in the early 1940s, that has linked the Brooklyn neighborhood across the Union Pacific Brooklyn Railyard, was demolished last July, and will likely not be fondly remembered by those who climbed the rough wooden steps and made their way across what felt uncomfortably like a very rickety structure.

“The new all-steel span, here at S.E. Rhine and Lafayette streets, replaces the old wooden bridge,” affirmed TriMet Capital Projects Manager Sydney Nguyen, looking at the worksite from the west side of the tracks.

“We started working on this last fall; and we finally got all the permits,” Nguyen told THE BEE.

The new bridge span was partially constructed off-site in three pieces, and then assembled in a space along S.E. 18th Avenue, between Rhone and Lafayette Streets.

So, on the morning of December 23, the 70-ton, 184-foot span was ready to be hoisted over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Project engineers at the scene said the single crane hooked up for the lift could easily do the job – with a lifting capacity of 100 tons.

Minutes, then hours, passed. The crane was prepared to lift the bridge span of the place, only to have yet another train come through the area. Finally, after a fifth train had gone by, the ironworkers and crane operators got the “all clear” from Union Pacific.

The mighty crane fired up, and deftly hoisted the massive steel structure into the air.

The crane pivoted counterclockwise, and the operator deftly delivered the payload between the steel upright girders and lowered it on to the bearings. 

Over the next several months, Lorenz Bruun Construction, headquartered immediately adjacent to the bridge’s east landing, is continuing construction on the bridge deck, stairs, and elevators. The bridge is scheduled for completion this summer.

The new bridge, with an elevator on each end, will provide pedestrian and bicycle connections to Cleveland High School and Fred Meyer headquarters, in addition to the new MAX Orange Line Light Rail station at S.E. 17th Avenue and Rhine Street.

Westmoreland, Reed, and Reed College are still waiting for a similar pedestrian bridge over McLoughlin and the U.P. tracks at Reedway Street, which would make the long-planned “Harold Street MAX Station” possible there.



FIRST Robotics Team 1432
FRC Team 1432 “Metal Beavers” Team Captain Ian Mittlesteadt shows and demonstrates the robot the team built for last year’s season of FIRST Robotics competition. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Plucky robotics club raises both funds and awareness at dinner

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

After seven years of meeting in Franklin High’s otherwise-disused auto shop, Portland’s original high school robotics club, FIRST Robotic Competition (FRC) Team 1432, the “Metal Beavers”, was ushered off the premises for reasons still unclear, in 2010.

But, with space provided by the Ivanhoe Lodge of Knights of Pythias in the Lents neighborhood, and with the Southeast Portland Rotary Club becoming their fiscal sponsor, the team didn’t disband. They’re still there – building robots, changing lives, and competing.

“It remains a challenge for our club to raise enough money to be able to buy the parts needed – and especially, to pay for the competition registration and entry fees,” explained longtime team mentor Rebecca LohKamp.

At their latest fundraising event, held on December 19 in the Reed neighborhood, folks came from miles around to enjoy a three-course dinner, featuring three varieties of LohKamp’s lasagna.

Friends and supporters sat at large tables, meeting members of this year’s Metal Beavers team personally, while they enjoyed a satisfying meal and learned more about the team’s mission. 

After dessert, guests heard a brief presentation about FRC Team 1432. Several student members told how participating has helped them advance their education, as they learn to work together as a team.

To cap off the evening, several colorful and unique gift baskets were auctioned off to help raise money for their club.

“Because we’re not affiliated with a school or large organization,” LohKamp said, “we rely on support from our community. A donation of even a few dollars really helps these students realize their dreams and ambitions.”

You can help by donating online; visit their website: http://www.team1432.org.



Ardenwald stoplight
New sidewalk and fencing have been installed along Johnson Creek Boulevard for the new Ardenwald traffic-light-controlled three-way intersection, but when this photo was taken in mid-January, the bike lane still needed work. (Photo by Rita A. Leonard)

Ardenwald’s new stoplight at S.E. 32nd is advancing

By RITA A. LEONARD
for THE BEE

With more traffic expected on Johnson Creek Boulevard from those in Milwaukie, Ardenwald, and Brentwood-Darlington seeking to use the Park-and-Ride station for the MAX Tacoma Street Station, a new stoplight was indicated for the busy intersection of S.E. 32nd and Johnson Creek Boulevard. Until now, the intersection has only had a flashing red light to control traffic.

Not only are stoplights being installed there now, but the intersection is being widened and improved. There will additionally be an upgraded turn lane to help streamline traffic going to the new Park-and-Ride lot.

Trees near the Springwater overpass were removed last year in preparation for sidewalk ramp installation; last summer the flashing overhead stoplight was removed. Then, fill was added to the north edge of Johnson Creek Boulevard just east of the intersection to shore up the steep hillside overlooking the Springwater Corridor Trail below.

More fill and a low cement retaining wall were installed to temporarily close part of the north sidewalk and bike lane. Jennifer Koozer, TriMet’s Community Affairs Representative for the new light rail line, advised THE BEE, “The TriMet number 75 line bus stop on westbound S.E. Johnson Creek Boulevard was relocated to southbound S.E. 32nd Avenue near Furat Court.”

By mid-January, the sidewalk, a fence, and most of the bike lane along the north edge of Johnson Creek Boulevard had been completed, and installation of stanchions for three traffic light poles was underway at the intersection.

Koozer added, “Toward the end of January, work shifted to the south side [of Johnson Creek Boulevard], continuing through February.” Any questions about the project can be directed to Koozer at 503/962-2116.



At a recent Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division event, outgoing East Precinct, Central Precinct, Commander Sara Westbrook
At a recent Portland Police Bureau Sunshine Division event, outgoing East Precinct Commander Sara Westbrook spoke to THE BEE about her year in that precinct. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

East Precinct’s commander returns downtown

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

Portland Police Bureau (PPB) East Precinct Commander Sara Westbrook settled into her outer East Portland office only about a year ago. But after PPB Chief Mike Reese recently revealed his retirement, incoming Portland Chief of Police Larry O'Dea announced that Westbrook would be moving back downtown to become Central Precinct Commander.

East Precinct serves Inner Southeast, including Woodstock, west to Chavez Boulevard (S.E. 39th Avenue); Central Precinct provides police services from that street west to the Willamette River in Southeast Portland – as well as to downtown Portland.

During a brief break while helping out at a Sunshine Division event, Westbrook talked with us about her stint at East Precinct.

“I've really discovered, and I'm ashamed to admit I did not realize earlier, how under-served much of East Precinct is by all government entities,” Westbrook began.

“There are many roads that are not paved – even west of 82nd Avenue. I’m not trying to ‘throw anyone under the bus’ here – but people in the Mid-County area are under-served. Maybe it’s because there are fewer people who vote – but the area doesn’t seem to get the attention of lawmakers.”

But thanks to the continuing efforts of East Precinct officers and command staff, there have been public safety improvements in the area, Westbrook said.

“And, what’s cool is that we’ve been out meeting people,” Westbrook went on. “Often we’re the only interaction some people have with anyone ‘in government’, other than fire or emergency medical personnel.

“To be able to point people in crisis, or even in need, in the right direction to get help is good,” Westbrook said. “When we engage like that I think it helps residents here to gain access to services. At the same time, it helps build trust and regard for that what it is we are doing.”

To those who work at East Precinct, Westbrook had this to say: “I thank everyone here for all they do every day, from cadets and the reserves to our captain, lieutenants, and sergeants and officers. People here care deeply, and they're out there working to help people who live here every day. Several times officers have actually put their lives on the lines in the year and a half that I've been here. They save people’s lives – they are heroes.”

About former East Precinct Gang Enforcement Team Lieutenant Dave Hendrie, who was named her successor in East Precinct, Westbrook said, “He was the captain here with me for about a year, and he really knows East Precinct, and knows everyone here.

“My advice to him is to keep on doing what he was doing here,” Westbrook said. “People appreciate him and trust him already.”

Wrapping up, Westbrook commented, “It is a hard time to be a police officer right now.  To have a commander who supports and engages with his police officers and sergeants is key.  I am fully confident that Hendrie will do that.”



SMILE, Christmas Tree, Oaks Bottom Bluff
Neighbors gather to admire the SMILE Christmas tree, overlooking Oaks Bottom – and finally lit on December 16, for the just-past Holiday season. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

SMILE Christmas Tree finally lights up the Holidays

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

First it was high winds that kept Westmoreland and Sellwood neighbors from stringing lights on the tall SMILE Christmas Tree atop Oaks Bottom, preventing it from being lit on Thanksgiving weekend as usual. All that was placed there that day was the large star on top, which was lit with an extension cord plugged in at Wilhelm’s Portland Memorial next door. The rest of the colorful lights had to wait.

Then, the crane usually used for the decorating proved to be booked on subsequent weekends, and volunteers from the SMILE neighborhood association faced the challenge of finding another “cherry picker” tall and stable enough to hoist a volunteer high into the tree’s crown – and then to lift up to the volunteer the long strings of colored Holiday lights. Finding one wasn’t an easy assignment, as it turned out. 

Finally, with the help of a lift rig that D&R Masonry graciously brought in at no charge, volunteers were able to decorate the tree in time for Christmas.

Neighbors gathered on the evening of Tuesday, December 16th, to sing Christmas Carols, and to watch as the tree was illuminated for the season. After that, the tall evergreen on the Bybee Boulevard curve in Westmoreland was lit every evening well into January, keeping the Holiday cheer alive in the New Year.



Pin-in wreck, SE 82nd, Liebe Street
After extricating the accident victim from the car, paramedics begin to roll the patient on a gurney toward the waiting ambulance. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Fishtailing driver blamed for pin-in wreck on 82nd

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

New Year’s Eve Day afternoon traffic on S.E 82nd Avenue of Roses slowed for more than an hour, starting about 3 pm on December 31st, when a large pickup truck slammed into a small sedan at Liebe Street.

According to witness statements, a white Chevy Silverado pickup truck approached southbound on 82nd Avenue, preparing to turn east on S.E. Liebe Street, which is about two blocks north of Foster Road.

At the same time, two cars were in line, facing west on S.E. Liebe Street, waiting for traffic to clear so they could turn north on 82nd Avenue.

Apparently seeing a break in northbound traffic, the pickup truck’s driver suddenly turned and accelerated east onto Liebe Street – but careened into the driver’s side of second car, a Toyota four-door sedan, which was stopped and waiting to turn.

Portland Fire & Rescue Truck 11 from the Lents Station was first on-scene, and called for a Woodstock Station 25 response – primarily to make use of the Holmatro Rescue Tools on Truck 25 to help extricate the driver.

“The driver was pinned under the steering wheel,” a firefighter/paramedic told THE BEE. “In this situation, the person could be most safely extricated by removing the doors on the car.”

The as-yet unidentified driver of the pickup truck told a Portland Police Bureau East Precinct officer that that he was “going slowly, less than 10 mph” while completing the turn into Liebe Street – and that his rear tire had hit the curb, causing him to accidently accelerate left into the side of the car. 

A PPB Traffic Division officer who arrived at the scene openly questioned the truck driver’s statement, after seeing the extensive damage to the car which his truck had hit.

“It looked to me like that truck driver really ‘gunned it’ to shoot through traffic,” eyewitness Willie Williams said.

“I saw it happen while I was waiting for the bus across the street at the ‘IHOP’,” Williams told THE BEE. It looked like the truck fish-tailed, and like the driver lost control for a second. Maybe his tire did hit the curb, but he was going pretty fast.”

Based on information on the scene, the crash victim was listed as a “discretionary entry” to the medical trauma system – meaning that he was simply being transported to the hospital for a more complete evaluation than could be made at the scene.

No information on any citations issued in the mishap has yet been made public.



Matt Clark, Johnson Creek Watershed Council, JCWC
Matt Clark as many will remember him – working with volunteers along the Springwater Trail in Southeast Portland. This photo was taken during the 2013 JCWC Watershed-Wide Clean Up event. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

JCWC Director pulls up stakes, heads for South America

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

After a little more than seven years as Johnson Creek Watershed Council (JCWC) Executive Director, Matt Clark elected to bid farewell to his staff last December 5th. The organization’s headquarters is located on Milport Street, just south of Sellwood.

Hundreds of volunteers and supporters did not allow him to slip away quietly, enroute to his next adventure. He was honored with a going-away party on December 11 at Cedarville Lodge in outer East Portland.

Clark reminded that, before he came to JCWC, he’d worked with Native American tribes, including the Umatilla in Pendleton, helping to restore salmon runs in the Walla Walla River.

“And, here, one of my goals was again restoring salmon runs, but this time in Johnson Creek,” Clark told THE BEE.

“Speaking of salmon, we’ve seen them coming back in increasing numbers, which is really exciting,” he added. “We have found native fresh-water mussels in the creek as well, thanks to several exciting projects.”

Projects he points to with pride – for the organization, not himself, he emphasized – was the restoration project at the mouth of Johnson Creek. “Also, the project in partnership with TriMet at the Tacoma Street MAX Light Rail Station. When I come back to visit this summer, it should be finished, and I look forward to strolling along the new boardwalk.”

Clark said he smiles when he thinks of all the projects and “creek clean-ups” that take place – from Johnson Creek’s confluence with the Willamette River, on back out to Gresham – thanks to many partnerships formed with other organizations.

“One that comes to mind is strengthening our partnership with ‘Friends of Johnson Creek Park’.”

And there are others. “An outer East Portland project that stands out in my mind,” Clark recalled, “was the Depave/Rain Garden project JCWC coordinated with Saint Mary Ethiopian Church on S.E. 92nd Avenue, in the Lents neighborhood. We also did some work with the Native American Wisdom of the Elders.”

The accomplishment for he’d like most to be remembered for, though, he said, is “changing the narrative about Johnson Creek.

“I clearly can’t take sole credit for that; this has been a real community effort,” Clark reflected. “Back then, people often thought of Johnson Creek as a neglected, trash-filled, periodically-flooding concrete trough. Now, it is becoming a community asset and amenity, something in which we feel pride, especially when we see the salmon returning.”

He thought about that, and added, “Yes, I hope people will think of my legacy as encouraging hundreds of people to volunteer thousands of hours, to turn a concrete gulley to a living stream.”

Clark concluded by saying, “To everyone who has been involved with JCWC, thank you for supporting the Watershed Council. It’s been very meaningful to me to be part of a community that is working together for the shared goal of restoring this great creek that is in our backyards.”

Far from retiring, Clark said that he and his family are now moving to Loja, Ecuador, in the southern Andes, to work with a tropical forest conservation organization called “Nature and Culture International”.

“Clark has made the job of being a participant or a member of the JCWC Board an enjoyable and easy job,” smiled Chairman of the Board of directors Russell Mantifel. “We wish him well; he’s leaving some ‘big shoes to fill’.

“We have a strong Board of Directors and we will carry on,” Mantifel added. “And, a lot of that is thanks to Matt Clark’s ability to build a stable organization that will carry on the mission very well.”

Learn more about the Johnson Creek Watershed Council online at: http://www.jcwc.org.



Burning bush
Firefighters examine the charred bush, and search for potential hot spots in the nearby barkdust. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

Burning bush singes Brentwood-Darlington home 

By DAVID F. ASHTON
for THE BEE

A large bush on fire in front of a home at 7517 S.E. 71st Avenue, caught the attention of shoppers in the parking lot of the Grocery Outlet Discount Market at about 4:30 pm on Wednesday afternoon, January 14, who called 9-1-1.

Woodstock Fire Station 25 Truck and Engine companies responded – racing east on S.E. Flavel Street, and spotting the fire as they approached.

“It was a bush, near the front door, fully engulfed in flame,” recounted a firefighter at the scene.

After some of the smoke got into the house, crews stood by to provide power ventilation of the home.

Firefighters from Engine 25 didn’t need the nearby hydrant, because they used their “Booster Line” – a small-diameter fire hose rolled on a reel, always connected to a pump – which draws water from an on-board tank.

No fire investigator was on-scene at the time, but the firefighters concluded that the burning shrubbery was likely the result of improperly-discarded smoking materials – or perhaps negligently-discarded live fireplace ashes.


Drought elsewhere, but Portland remains wet

With the calendar year of 2014 over, we can take a look at the weather year in Inner Southeast Portland. And what we see looked pretty normal. As we’ve mentioned before, with the West in drought and the world experiencing weather disasters of various sorts, Portland remains a surprising island of stability.

THE BEE’s rain measurements are taken daily at 4 pm at our Westmoreland gauge. And when we tallied it all up, our rainfall for 2014 was 46.01”.  How does this compare?  Here are the annual totals we recorded for the past decade:

            2005 – 40.99”

            2006 – 46.38”

            2007 – 42.29”

            2008 – 36.42”

            2009 – 39.40”

            2010 – 56.04”

            2011 – 44.49”

            2012 – 59.29”

            2013 – 28.89”

            2014 – 46.01”

There were two anomalous years there – 2012 was apparently the second wettest year ever recorded in Inner Southeast Portland (behind only 1996, when Portland experienced floods, and the total at the airport was 63.20”); and 2013 was unusually (but not unprecedentedly) dry. 2014 got us back in our groove.

There were five days in Inner Southeast with over an inch of rain last year, all of them in the last quarter of the year:

            October 22 – 1.17”

            October 23 – 1.41”

            October 31 – 1.18”

            December 4 – 1.29”

            December 20 – 1.02”

6.07” of rain was recorded in Inner Southeast on those five days alone – 13% of the annual total! On October 31, the rain ended by 4 pm, so it didn’t interfere with the trick-or-treating.

Some of the notable weather last year in Inner Southeast included a day where we experienced far more rain than did the official Portland Airport weather station – .94 inch on May 28 here, while the airport received only .06 inch; it was a day of thunderstorms, and one went right over Inner Southeast, drenching us, while missing the airport.

On the other hand, exactly two months earlier, on March 28, in a similar situation, the airport recorded 1.69” for the day, making it the wettest day on record for the date – while in Inner Southeast we recorded only .98”.  Wet enough, but much less so than the official weather station on the Columbia River.

We did have one snow event last year, which started on February 6, when the low temperature was 17 degrees Fahrenheit. The snow started falling around noon, and the temperature here never broke 22 degrees that day; we got an inch and a half of dry powder. The following day, with the temperature ranging between 18 and 24 degrees, we had three quarters of an inch of wetter snow, and a second snowstorm. The day after that, the 8th, the temperature was in the mid-20’s – and we added another two inches of snow, and some freezing rain.

On the 9th, the temperature was just under 32 degrees all afternoon, but there was no further precipitation – and the weather event ended on February 10th, with a low of 28.7 degrees, then warming to above freezing – but with much snow remaining on the ground.

There were strong winds at times during the 2014, and two major wind events: On October 25, there were six hours of very gusty winds in the afternoon, reaching 49 MPH or more at the Portland Airport. And, on December 11, after a rainy morning, clearing weather brought severe gusty winds 3-10 pm, with a 62 MPH gust recorded at the airport at 4:17 pm. That was noted as the strongest gust since late 1995.

But there was more to come. Later in the day a gust of 67 MPH was recorded there, described as the highest gust since November 14, 1981, the day after one of the two epic windstorms of the Twentieth Century here.

And the year ended with another notable weather attainment: December 29-30, Portland set a new December high pressure record at 30.79 inches, breaking the old record of 30.75 recorded in 2011. That was also the second highest pressure reading ever made in Portland on any day of the year, since the start of weather records here.

In January of 2015, by the 18th we had already recorded two consecutive days with over an inch of rain, so the moist trend seems to be continuing. We’ll keep you posted.




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