Author: Helen Caswell

LOCAL THEATRE MAKES GOOD

One highlight of the recent Salem Theatre Network’s Cherry Blossom Theatre Festival – a three-day extravaganza of performances, workshops, music and food – was the One Act play competition sponsored by The American Association of Community Theatres (AACT) a national organization whose goal is to promote community theatres across the country. Over the course of Saturday March 18, the state competition featured three Oregon troupes; Gallery Theatre of McMinville, Beaverton Civic Theatre and Salem’s Pentacle Theatre, each presenting a one act play in less than one hour, with each performance followed by a critique by theatre professionals. Pentacle Theatre...

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KMUZ team says documents implicate Marion County commissioner; Marion County says their facts are faulty

In a January 17 broadcast, reporters on KMUZ radio reviewed letters and emails obtained by a public records request that suggest that Marion County Commissioner Janet Carlson and other officials in the Mid-Willamette Homeless Initiative Task Force (“Task Force”) acted improperly last year. Carlson and the county say the broadcast presented factually inaccurate information, and that they look forward to a chance to respond. The show was KMUZ’s Tuesday morning Willamette Wake Up (WWU), a public affairs program that features Michael Livingston, Sara Cromwell and Sarah Rohrs. This Tuesday group had previously broadcast numerous shows on area homelessness and...

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Trump tries to tromp youth by undermining landmark climate lawsuit

The Trump administration filed a motion on March 7 to appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on a federal judge’s order in Juliana v. United States. Juliana v. United States is an historic case brought by 21 young plaintiffs who argue that their constitutional and public trust rights are being violated by the government’s creation of climate danger. The Trump administration also filed a motion to delay trial preparation until after its appeal is considered. It also asked for expedited review of both motions, arguing that the young plaintiffs’ January 2017 letter requesting that the government retain...

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City of Salem “not considering tolling”? ­True or false?

A February 10 Facebook post on the City of Salem website highlights an ongoing dispute over who may be expected to pay for a possible 3rd Bridge across the Willamette. The post states that “the city of Salem is not considering tolling any of Salem’s bridges.” But community observers say the Facebook post is disingenuous, because at the same time the post denies that tolling will be considered, it specifically states that tolling may be considered after an environmental impact review is completed and the process moves forward. They also claim the wording is deliberately misleading. In the post,...

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Where is Salem invested? Voices call on city to divest from pipeline

With the news that the City of Seattle and the City of Davis, California, are cutting ties with Wells Fargo Bank because of its investment in the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), many in Salem are asking about our own city’s connection with DAPL and other fossil fuel investments. The City of Salem’s bank is U.S Bank, just as the City of Seattle’s bank has been Wells Fargo. US Bank is among several that are providing financing to Sunoco Logistics and Energy Transfer Partners, two of the companies that intend to build and operate DAPL. US Bank has already...

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Arta-potties makes a movement

Salem’s Arta-pottie project, a local endeavor to provide clean portable restrooms for the homeless in downtown locations– is evolving.  Organizers say that a restructuring this year will bring more resources, more opportunities and more potties to address health and sanitation for the city. Potties have vanished from parking lots and alleys, but behind the scenes, the project has transformed into a nonprofit organization. It has also received a $4,000 grant from the City of Salem that requires reimbursement. A new “Pottie” alliance has been formed to marshal the effort. Members include the Partnership in Community Living (PCL), an organization...

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Salem Councilor ousted by left wing conspiracy?

Two Salem talk show hosts say that a coordinated  conspiracy by the local Left resulted in the removal of Ward 6’s Daniel Benjamin, a sitting city councilor. They insist Benjamin’s ouster was part of a deliberate process of replacing him with a pre-selected progressive candidate. The assertions were made on January 19th and 20th on Gator’s Radio Experience, a weekday conservative talk show broadcast on 1430 KYKN and hosted by Gator Gaynor and Denise Nanke. “The progressives went on a witch hunt over Thanksgiving,” Gaynor said, “and ousted Daniel Benjamin from that seat… in an unbelievable, unfair, unethical, wrong...

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North Campus historic buildings will come down

At a January 25 meeting, Chusal, LLC, the developers who bid last year to purchase the North Campus property in “as-is” condition, met with the State of Oregon to try to reach a purchase solution prior to the final demolition of five historic buildings. The meeting, described by an attending North Campus neighbor as “contentious,” did not result in an agreement. This outcome means that final demolition of the five buildings, all listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, will occur in the next few weeks. The Oregon State Department of Administrative Services (DAS) has owned the 47-acre...

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Past council’s rush to expanded growth boundaries for third bridge appealed

Two petitioners, including a local citizens group and a state agency, have appealed a December 5, 2016 Salem city council vote to allow an expansion of the city’s Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) to support a new, third Bridge across the Willamette River. The notices of appeals were made to the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA). A third group is protesting the same city council vote with a petition that seeks to get the matter placed on a public ballot. On December 5, Salem city council voted 5 – 2 to approve Ordinance 14-16. This ordinance modified the...

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Four candidates vie for vacant council seat

The city council seat for Ward 6, the ward located in the central eastern region of Salem, has been vacant since the November 2016 resignation of councilor Daniel Benjamin. That will soon change. At a December 5 meeting, city councilors voted to hold a special election this spring to determine who will fill Benjamin’s seat. The election will be held on March 14, 2017 and four candidates have declared they are running for a term that will end December 31, 2018. One is Jonathan Crow, who describes himself as “a married father of four sons who works full time, runs a small business and believes in service.” Crow’s top issue, he says, is to ensure that Ward 6 has a voice at City Hall. “Northeast Salem deserves the same focus as the rest of the wards in Salem,” he believes. He is also focused on transportation, believing the city should consider issues such as, “Uber, third bridge and 24/7 bus services.” Also running is business owner and chef Gregg Peterson. President of the Salem-Keizer NAACP for six  years and former member of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.  Peterson has also served on the Board of Directors of the United Way and the Salem Leadership Foundation. He says a vote for him is a vote for improved public transportation, affordable housing, job creation and living wages....

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Neighbors angered by loss of potential at North Campus

There is not comparable property in all of Salem. The former “North Campus” of the Oregon State Hospital is a 47-acre parcel between D and State Streets, 23rd Street and Park Avenue. It is flat with no floodplain; it sits in a developed neighborhood within one mile of two full-service grocers and 1 ½ miles of major Salem employers. The land boasts seven historic buildings and is about ½ open ground, covered with numerous trees, many of them 130-150 years old. Neighbors and community observers view active plans by the state of Oregon to demolish five of seven historic...

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Permission to Hate

“After a very mean-spirited and toxic election, certain individuals have felt emboldened to verbally and physically target communities of color,” said Andrea Williams, Executive Director of Causa, an Oregon immigrants rights organization, at the November 28 City Council Meeting that censured former Councilor Daniel Benjamin for offensive online postings. “This is happening at our schools between students; we have the calls to prove it.” The increase in hate crimes since the election has been documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which on November 29 listed 867 post-election reported hate incidents nationwide, including 33 in Oregon. It’s also being...

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Many Nations, One Voice -Standing with Standing Rock

They came from as far as Florida, Alaska, and Hawaii, “from the four directions,” says Geronimo Warren, holy man elder from the Apache Nation. They were called to action by a Facebook post from organizer Leslie Bradley, a Lakota Sioux and great-great granddaughter of Chief American Horse. Bradley, an Oregonian, wanted Oregon to show solidarity with native people’s resistance to the Dakota Access pipeline. She had hoped 40 people might attend her rally on November 12 at the Capitol Mall. Ten times that number showed up. Young and old, Osage and Burns Paiute, Siletz and Apache. As Bradley posted,...

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International elections, American elections -An observer reflects

While many are still surprised  by the outcome of the United States’ General Election, and following suggestions by the Republican candidate that “rigging” might occur, Salem Weekly spoke with someone with considerable perspective on elections: Salem’s Les Margosian. Margosian has served as an international elections observer for 20 years. He has worked in more than 20 countries, largely with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) a treaty organization with 56 members—all European countries including former Eastern Bloc Countries. OSCE’s initial purpose was to monitor ceasefire agreements, particularly in former Yugoslavia, and prevent outbreaks of hostilities between...

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Oregon physicians oppose Marion County burning

Doctors and environmentalists oppose a proposal for Marion County to burn Portland garbage in local incinerators. They object to Metro, the regional government for people living in the Portland area, shipping 200,000 tons of waste each year to the Covanta Marion waste-to-energy facility in Brooks. 200,000 tons represents one-fifth of Metro’s yearly solid waste trash. Metro is considering a change because its contract to ship garbage to an eastern Oregon landfill expires at the end of 2019 and it is seeking new ways of addressing the problem. The Covinta facility says that if it took on the extra Metro...

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Pikas: Trapped at the Top

Described by scientists on Oregon Public Broadcasting’s Oregon Field Guide as  “the cutest mammal,” the American Pika is a tiny, rabbit-like animal with round, Mickey Mouse like ears, a thick, a furry coat and no tail.  The small creature has evolved in a singular way, to carve a niche in rocky alpine terrain, often above the tree line. Pikas have adapted to survive in frigid climates where most mammals can’t – but they can perish in as few as six hours of 77-degree temperatures. Because of the animal’s vulnerability to heat, the National Park Service says that the charismatic...

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Poverty simulation builds empathy

A highly-rated exercise that allows participants to ‘walk in the shoes’ of those in poverty, promoting empathy and sparking more useful, authentic responses to those living in need, returns to Salem this November. “I remember feeling the stress in the room when the simulation was occurring,” says Kristen Aubert, who helped organize SAIF Corporation’s participation in 2014 and 2015. “People were scrambling, confused, frustrated and sad. It was a very moving experience to witness, and I heard many coworkers discussing it days and weeks later.” SAIF, an Oregon workers compensation insurance provider, participated in the program because it knows...

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Preservation of treasured garden sought at Sunnyslope Community

A South Salem neighborhood hopes that the City of Salem will make an administrative change so that a jewel to the community can be preserved. They say the possible redesignation of a small, key property is consistent with city goals. The issue was raised when the city accepted an offer on a similar, adjacent parcel. The land in question is Sunnyslope Community Garden, an .86-acre property that has existed since 2012 on city-owned land in the middle third of a strip just west of Liberty St. SE, between Lockwood Lane S and Cunningham Lane S. The garden sits on...

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Nice guy conditioned by the hate machine

“My dad really was radicalized,” says filmmaker Jen Senko, director of, The Brainwashing of My Dad, a documentary coming to the Salem Progressive Film Series. “I don’t mean he went around blowing stuff up, I just mean he was a fanatic. He became evangelical about his beliefs. He lived and breathed them. They were the most important thing to him.” For instance, after his “radicalization,” when her father sent emails, they were “always a forward of an extreme political email. They were never anything personal. When company would visit, he’d have to bring up his political point of view...

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Transit Board votes to oppose 3rd Bridge action

At the September 22 meeting of the Cherriots board, members voted to oppose the City of Salem’s land use action to expand Salem’s urban growth boundary (UGB) to accommodate a ‘3rd Bridge’ across the Willamette. Citing lack of funding, lack of planning and apparent lack of inclusive transit options, among other issues, the vote was unanimous. Cherriots is Salem-Keizer Transit, the agency dedicated to providing public transportation and enhancing the quality of life for the Salem and Keizer area. The board helps guide the agency in finding transportation solutions that best serve the community of Marion and Polk counties....

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