Author: Helen Caswell

The State of the Bee

For the last decade Oregon’s bees – both native bees and the introduced European honeybee used in agriculture – have been in decline. But researchers like Andony Melathopoulos of the Oregon Bee Project say there are many reasons to hope for a better bee future in the state. Commercial beekeepers have historically expected to lose members of their colonies (between 10 and 21%) each year. However, since 2006 numbers have been higher than average, and in August 2017, the Bee Informed Partnership, a collaboration between research labs and universities in agriculture, saw Oregon colony yearly losses at 32.32%. What...

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Another Oregon city bans the bag

This winter, the city of Manzanita became the fifth city in the state and the first on the Oregon Coast to ban single-use plastic carryout bags. The banning ordinance, passed by a unanimous vote of the Manzanita City Council, was an effort to reduce plastic debris on beaches and in the Pacific Ocean. In its September 5 vote, Manzanita followed Portland’s similar ban in 2011, Corvallis’s 2012 ban, Eugene’s ban in 2013 and McMinville’s ban in 2017. Speaking about the matter Linda Kozlowki, Manzanita City Council President said, “As the first coastal community in Oregon to ban single-use plastic...

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STATE TO SHOW SENSITIVITY BY ADJUSTING PROCEDURE

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) says that in the future it will alert local social service agencies prior to conducting “sweeps” of homeless camps. In January, in response to complaints from nearby retailers, ODOT personnel assisted by Oregon State Police disturbed a homeless encampment under a Highway 22 bridge. They asked people staying there to leave just days before the annual “Point in Time” (PIT) count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless people. The PIT count is mandated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to take place on a single day in January. Since 2003, HUD has required Continuums of Care – regional or local planning bodies that coordinate housing and services funding for the homeless – to conduct the count. Homeless advocates were concerned by the disruption, worrying that the homeless individuals who left the area ODOT cleared may not have been counted this year or that the disruption may have increased the difficulty for homeless service providers to complete an accurate count. ODOT spokesman Lou Torres says the agency had no idea the count was coming up. “If we had known,” Torres says, “we would not have done the homeless camp cleanup during the week of the count. Our district did not know it was happening.” In the future, Torres says ODOT will prevent anything similar from happening again. Torres has “provided a list...

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CITY SAYS 90% OF TEMPORARY SIGNS ARE ILLEGAL

In a statement released on February 2, the City of Salem said most temporary signs posted along the city’s public right-of-ways require a permit and estimated that, currently, “more than 90 percent of temporary signs that require a permit are in violation of City code.“ The City’s sign code was created, among other reasons, to improve the neat, orderly, and attractive appearance of the community and prevent proliferation of sign clutter, while being “consistent with state and federal constitutional limits on the regulation of speech,” according to SRC 900. Temporary signs that require a permit include banners, pennants and...

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The City of Salem’s Dangerous Double Standard

For years, the City of Salem has held private property owners to a higher standard than it imposes on itself. The issue is one of public safety and recently, a Salem woman paid the price. Traffic signals and traffic signs that are concealed by trees, shrubs and other foliage can lead to serious automobile accidents. In the case of Mona DeCamara, two crucial traffic lights could not be seen because they were obscured by the limbs of an oak tree growing on City of Salem-owned and maintained property. In Salem, if a private citizen’s tree makes it impossible for...

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Shattered, a Salem must-see

“The terrible reality is that the evils of WWII are not unique to Germany, Poland or France,” says Rabbi Eli Herb of Salem’s Temple Beth Sholom. “In the immense tragedy of the Shoah (the Holocaust), there are lessons for all of humanity to learn about what happens when we ignore our own humanity and that of others.” Herb is discussing the reasons the film documentary, Shattered tells a universal story that impacts all Salem people. The film will be presented with live comments by Salem’s Britta Franz, the subject of film, at Temple Beth Shalom in January. Shattered concerns Franz’s family and how it interacted with history. Her parents owned the Appelrath Cuepper store in Aachen, Germany, which in 1937 was a well-established, substantial company, known for quality clothing. But with the rise of Nazism, the Lions lost their beloved home, Britta and her sister were deprived of schooling and the store was sold off to another German family – all without compensation or apology, because the Lions were Jewish. The Lion family escaped Germany with very few possessions and journeyed to America to start over. At the same time, the Wehmeyer family took over the store under conditions that remain cloudy. Walter Wehmeyer, the director of the film, is the grandson of the man who assumed ownership of Appelrath Cuepper. The film – personal and universal, professional, nuanced...

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Report from Salem Tree City

Photo above: City of Salem tree crews crush roots, remove tons of irreplaceable biomatter from Englewood Park, May 23, 2017   When arborist Brian French visited Salem to present a workshop on tree care at the Englewood Forest Festival in July, he saw something that dismayed him. In the weeks prior, City of Salem tree crews had passed through Englewood Park, where the festival was held, and to provide public safety, had pruned every piece of dead wood on the Oregon white oak and Douglas fir in the park. The city says it took the measure to protect the crowd...

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Two theatres look at love

Its fall again, with colder, shorter days and the kick-off of crisp and sparkling new seasons from Salem’s dozen live theatres. Personnel at two important entities, Pentacle Theatre and The Verona Studio, have been engaged for months, doing the absorbing work of designing rich offerings to captivate audiences in 2017 – 2018. Live theatre is unique among the arts, says Pentacle Theatre’s Executive Director Lisa Joyce, because “no two performances are alike. The audience joins the actors and the crew for shared and unique experience, breathing the same air.” She cites research showing that live theater affects audiences more...

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Being the change they want to see

Five partners attempting a business both revolutionary and elementary; a for-profit pay-what-you-want (PWYW) restaurant in downtown Salem to offer locally-sourced, multi-cultural cuisine, say they are confidently pushing forward despite an investor’s withdrawal and a struggling online fundraising campaign. “We believe we have a bullet-proof business and sustainment plan,” says Michele Darr, board member of Food for Thought Café and Infoshop, as the Salem restaurant will be known. Darr says the team, which includes an accountant with 20 years experience as well as her own experience with a successful PWYW company and owning and operating an international fusion restaurant in...

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A tree is saved

In what Salem City Councilor Tom Andersen describes as “a real victory for the community” a historic Bigleaf maple at a much-viewed intersection has been saved from the ax. Many celebrate the rescue of the beloved monument. Jan Staszewski, Urban Forester for the City of Salem Public Works Department says it’s hard to know the exact age of the 80-foot maple on the southeast corner of Liberty St SE and Mission St SE but, “From [an] old aerial photo, it appears there was a small tree at this intersection about 150 years ago.” The tree is located in the...

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Can Salem disentangle from U.S. bank?

Locals concerned that the City of Salem does business with US Bank, which, despite statements that it no longer funds pipeline construction, still provides hundreds of millions to pipeline companies for general use, according to its 2017 Environmental Responsibility Policy – will have to wait for the City to part ways with the bank the way Seattle left Wells Fargo for similar reasons in February. U.S. Bank’s 2017 Environmental Responsibility Policy states its commitment to stop “project financing.” but it still provides corporate financing, including pipeline construction, to companies like Phillips 66, Energy Transfer Partners Cabot Oil and Gas...

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Land Use Board of Appeals says Salem City Council erred

On August 9, Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) sided with a group of citizen petitioners who said that Salem City Council’s action last December to expand the city’s urban growth boundary (UGB) to permit construction of a bridge over the Willamette River was not done properly. The matter was sent back to Salem City Council. After considering the written and oral arguments made in Deumling vs. City of Salem (2016-0126), LUBA affirmed three citizen objections. As a result, Salem’s UGB is not expanded, and the Salem City Council will now decide whether to try to expand it again or change course and pursue other options for addressing the peak hour auto congestion problems. “Perhaps the biggest irony is that the third bridge wouldn’t reduce traffic congestion,” says Robert Cortright, a co-petitioner and spokesperson.  “Yes, congestion is frustrating and it’s intuitive to think that adding another bridge will somehow ‘solve’ or significantly reduce the region’s traffic problems, but it’s just not true.” Cortright feels it important to put the $425 million price tag for a third bridge in perspective. “That’s as much as the region’s budget for all roadway expansion for the next 20 years,” he notes. “As for new funding, there’s no evidence of public support for the funding plan that calls for increased gas taxes and vehicle registration fees for all of Marion and Polk County...

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Master Recycler smarts

Those passionate about recycling are guaranteed to learn something new by taking Marion County’s wildly popular Master Recycler class. Classes are presented twice yearly, with a new class starting in a few weeks. Applications are due by September 11. The class is for anyone interested in reducing materials that wrongly enter the garbage stream as well as understanding the many ways recycled materials are handled after being dropped in the blue bin. Kirk Leonard, who has a long interest in recycling, gives the course high marks. “It was a lot of fun,” he says. “It was fantastic.” Leonard, who...

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Controversy continues over government notice

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has extended its deadline for public comment about impacts that a 3rd Bridge would have on three local natural areas, until August 11. However, the controversy surrounding the public notice itself continues. The stated purpose of the most recent public notice published on July 26, is for ODOT and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to learn what citizens feel about how the proposed “3rd Bridge” or Salem River Crossing would impact the three natural resources that are, Wallace Marine Park, Wallace Natural Area and the Willamette River Water Trail. Although the notice extends...

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FHWA and ODOT Public notices incomplete, misleading, critics say

In notices published on June 28 and July 12, the Federal Highway Administration and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) requested citizen feedback on potential impacts the proposed 3rd Bridge across the Willamette River would have on local natural areas. Critics describe the notices as “very flawed” and say they gravely misrepresent and under represent effects of the proposed Salem River Crossing (SRC) on the community’s natural environment. The second notice gave no detail on potential impacts at all; except for an accommodation for Spanish-speakers it provided no link to any resource that would provide citizens with even nominal understanding....

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LUBA case advances towards decision

Two lawsuits filed by citizens protesting a Salem City Council vote that would allow expansion of Salem’s urban growth boundary (UGB) to accommodate a 3rd bridge across the Willamette, are one step closer to resolution. On July 13, Oregon’s Land Use Board of Appeals heard oral arguments on petitions filed after Salem City Council voted 5-2 last December to approve an Ordinance that would modify the city’s UGB, amend the city’s transportation system plan and comprehensive plan and make exceptions to a Statewide Planning Goal written to protect the Willamette River Greenway from development. At the hearing, petitioners and...

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Tales from the ER

When Kelly Williams Brown was driven to Salem Hospital Emergency Room one cold night in January 2017, she expected to find relief from excruciating pain. The New York Times bestselling author and former Statesman Journal columnist was visiting Salem, and had woken up disoriented and confused, and with intense pain radiating from her arm. She had had a seizure, dislocated her shoulder and cracked her humerus nearly in half. But the emergency department staff at Salem Health only ordered an elbow x-ray and an ultrasound, and discharged her with a prescription for 600mg of Ibuprofen. They suggested she follow...

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They won’t get the lead out

On March 2, his first full day in office, Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke reversed an action taken by the Obama administration to phase out the use of lead ammunition and fishing tackle on national wildlife refuges by 2022. Zinke said hunters were being discouraged from experiencing national outdoors sites and that his move was to “expand access for outdoor enthusiasts and also make sure the community’s voice is heard.” Oregon has 18 national wildlife refuges and all 18 allow hunting. Lead is a neurotoxin; lead ammunition has been shown to be a significant source of toxic exposure in...

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Are the kids alright?

Those that have followed the historic lawsuit, Juliana v. United States – in which 21 plaintiffs who range in age from 9 to 21 years old, say that the United States government has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property by supporting greenhouse-gas emissions and fossil fuel industries – got big news on May 26. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) and the American Petroleum Institute (API), industry and trade associations, made the motions to withdraw. Whether or not they will be allowed to do so will be decided in...

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Politics on KMUZ: diverse and nuanced

KMUZ, the community radio station of Salem and its environs, is continually expanding both its range and its programming. Five years old this last December, the all-volunteer station heard at 100.7 and 88.5 FM offers shows on gardening, events, art, history, music, senior care and more. But what about politics? “I like to use the term ‘public affairs,’ says Melanie Zermer, founding board member and President in 2015 and 2016. “It seems less loaded and broader in scope.” KMUZ has a number of public affairs shows, but one airs five times a week, with different hosts each day.  That’s Willamette Wake Up (WWU), which is heard Monday through Friday from 8-9am. Most days the show starts with a nationally syndicated news segment called Democracy Now! Headline News – just to get a flavor of what’s happening nationally. The rest of the show is dedicated to local news maker interviews and announcements about community events – from a kids’ program happening at a library to a public hearing on a school district budget. Due to the variety of hosts and their interests, WWU covers diverse topics including Salem city news and local newsmakers and “legislative matters” which covers critical legislation in the state Capitol. There are also programs on local nonprofits, social justice issues, the natural environment, Polk county news, corrections and mental health issues. Zermer notes, “During election season,...

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