Author: Helen Caswell

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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What statistics say about the special election

On May 16, Salem voters elected three new Salem-Keizer School Board members and approved a $61 million police facility. Marion County Clerk, Bill Burgess, who is well used to running the numbers on elections, has reviewed preliminary figures and notes some differences between this and previous elections. “Overall, we had a good turnout for a district election,” Burgess says, “and a lot of that has to do with bond measures. When there’s money on the ballot, it does tend to move people to vote.” Jefferson voters gave a 41% turnout to reject a $14 million bond to construct and...

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Marion County Commissioner Carlson responds to accusations

Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson says the task force she helped create was productive and proper and resulted in a road map that will mean significantly better results for regional efforts to address homelessness. Following Salem Weekly’s article about a KMUZ Willamette Wake-Up radio program’s criticisms of the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative task force (MWHI) Carlson agreed to speak with us about the work and procedures of the 1-year+ entity that existed between January 2016 and February 2017. She says that the conduct of those on the task force was appropriate and expresses belief that its work will have a...

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Virginia Woolf cast already treading the boards

A month before the May 26th opening night of Pentacle Theatre’s Leading Ladies, the cast of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? the Edward Albee masterpiece that comes to the Pentacle in early July, had already begun to prepare for performance. “Rehearsals began with table work in mid-April,” says the play’s director Ed Schoaps, “progressing to blocking and running scenes.” Schoaps, a popular actor and director at Pentacle since 1976, believes that attention to detail is essential for a work of this stature. “People think they know Edward Albee’s ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ because they dimly remember seeing or...

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Is the City wrongly attempting to influence police bond vote?

Citizens currently visiting the City of Salem website are greeted with an artist’s rendering of an attractive new police facility and the text, “May 2017 Police Facility Bond Frequently Asked Questions.” There is an invitation to click on a button to learn more. Some locals object to the advocacy they perceive on the site, as well as to the $50,000 the City is spending to educate voters about the bond. “The City should be ashamed of how they have acted in such a brazenly political manner during this election campaign,” says Salem political activist, Alex Kohan. The first image...

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Quick guide to a Salem city council vote against the 3rd bridge

On April 24, Salem city council took a vote considered a victory for community members who oppose efforts to build a 3rd bridge across the Willamette. On that night, council voted 5-4 against approving an interagency agreement between the city and the State of Oregon’s Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) that would have advanced the project. How did it begin? The vote followed a December 5, 2016 decision, when city council approved an ordinance, Bill 14-16, which expanded the Urban Growth Boundary (UGB), amended the Salem Area Comprehensive Plan and the Salem Transportation System Plan, and took an...

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Salem city attorney ribs citizen advocates

Citizens who have written an appeal to a Salem city council vote, among others, say a comment made by City Attorney Dan Atchison about their work was unprofessional. Atchison says that his remark was light hearted and not intended to offend anyone. On December 6, 2016, Salem city council voted to enact an ordinance (#14-16) that would expand the city’s urban growth boundary (UGB) by about 35 acres. The vote was made in support of an effort to add another bridge across the Willamette River between Salem and West Salem. In addition to an appeal of the vote by...

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