Author: Helen Caswell

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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Advocating for Peace in Salem

“Peace in the world would free up national resources – human as well as non-human – for investments in projects designed to improve the life of people,” says Pritam Rohila, Ph.D., founder of Oregonians For Peace. Rohila and other area peacemakers have organized a “34-Days for Peace” event again this year. A celebration and examination of peace, 34 Days for Peace began on September 21 – International Day of Peace – and ends on October 24, United Nations Day. Programs available to all, and usually at no charge, include peace vigils, a nonviolence book club, a meditation on Work...

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Poor, young Hispanic – and big winners

The true story of how four undocumented Mexican immigrant teenagers – given an opportunity and two amazing teachers – won First Place in a national robotics competition and bested teams from MIT and other major colleges – is not just a great tale, but one that many in Salem will soon know. Spare Parts, by Joshua Davis, is the first selection in an innovative community reading program sponsored by the Salem Public Library Foundation. In the short time since the Salem community was invited to read the book– readers have responded in droves. In the days following the title...

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Do new uniforms make Salem parking enforcement look more like police?

City of Salem’s parking enforcement officers have begun to sport a new uniform in recent months; navy blue shirts and tundra pants. When asked about it, a parking enforcer told Salem Weekly that the change was to make parking staff look less like police officers, to protect them against some possible hostility seen currently towards law enforcement in the country. But the reason was one of practicality, says Sheri Wahrgren, Downtown Revitalization Manager in the Urban Development Department for the City of Salem. “The company that the City contracts with for uniforms has a limited number of color choices,”...

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Reimagining Salem as a Strong Town

About the cover: A street that shows wealth from good planning in Detroit, MI When they were first conceived of, streets like Lancaster Boulevard in northeast Salem were projected to be a source of commerce and community wealth for all. Subdivisions in south Salem were designed to provide housing that would bring ongoing good to the city as healthy places to live and thrive. But because of the way they were designed, says Chuck Marohn, founder and President of Strong Towns, a non-profit organization working to support a better model of development, Salem’s decisions about downtown, its roads and neighborhoods,...

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360 degrees of love -Verona Studio

“At its heart, this is a story about deep love,” says Pamela Abernethy about The Year of Magical Thinking, the inaugural offering of Verona Studio’s fourth theater season. “It’s about the love between a husband and wife, and between a mother and her daughter. It’s a quintessentially human story.” The play is also, Abernethy says, “tender, joyful, funny and wry.” The Year of Magical Thinking was written by American novelist, screenwriter and literary journalist Joan Didion, based on her 2005 award-winning, best selling memoir of the same name. It is a work shaped by stories and revelations that were...

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Salem’s controversial $82 million police station: Is it too big? Or just right?

On September 23rd, two dynamic speakers – one in favor and one opposed to a ballot measure funding a controversial $82 Million police station – will present their cases at Salem City Club. The measure is ‘24-399,’ and will appear on the November 8 ballot. A “yes” vote means that the City should issue bonds for taxpayers to fund a 148,000 square foot police facility on the 700 Block of Commercial Street NE, in central Salem. A “no” vote means that the City of Salem should not do this. “The moment this police station opens, its doors will never...

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Surprise! Insecticides kill bees in Oregon

A study originating in Switzerland recently added to an abundance of data that suggests that two insecticides, thiamethoxam and clothianidin, are related to honey bee decline. Thiamethoxam and clothianidin are members of an insecticide group called neonicotinoids. Partially banned in Europe, they are currently used by agricultural, commercial and residential consumers in Oregon. Ongoing research, monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) and independent decisions by localities will determine the future use of these chemicals in our state. A worldwide decline of honeybees was suggested as early as the winter of 2006,...

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Judge strives to improve Salem court process

How does Salem municipal court handle people who face multiple charges and citations? How do its policies contribute to lost time and money for residents? How can different agencies collaborate with the court to create a better experience for all? Salem Municipal Judge Jane Aiken says that Salem can improve, both in the way it uses its own resources and in the way it produces outcomes for residents. She’s enthusiastic about procedural changes that have made the court more efficient in handling parking and traffic cases and that help expedite the criminal and civil matters that come before the...

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Ethics Commission responds to “dirt” complaint

On July 12, Oregon Government Ethics Commission investigator Diane Gould issued a preliminary review of the complaint by Todd White, a member of the Board of Directors of Silver Falls School District about topsoil trucked from Silverton High School to the home of a the President of the Board of the school district. The review recommended further investigation of possible violation of two state statutes. The Oregon Government Ethics Commission administers and enforces ethics law as it relates to government officials. The complaint originated on June 15 after White noticed that Tim Roth, President of the Board of the...

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A dedication to health and safety

Matt Ausec, Senior Policy Analyst with the Office of the State Chief Information Officer will become Ward 5 city councilor in January 2017. Among the issues he emphasized in his primary run this spring, were the particular challenges his ward faces for safe streets and reliable bus service. We spoke with Matt recently to see what was on his mind. SW: How does it feel to be Salem’s next Ward 5 councilor? Ausec: I am honored at being chosen by the people of Ward 5 to represent them, and I am excited about bringing a voice to the issues...

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Field trip to a Salem indoor “grow”

Good things are happening inside a nondescript industrial building in Salem. There, Don, his family and fellow growers are cultivating healthy cannabis. Most of us haven’t seen a cannabis “grow,” so Salem Weekly sent this reporter to check out Don’s, which does business under the name, Herbal Evolution Gardening. The building has many rooms; some for growers doing paperwork and some for storing garden supplies, but one door opens to a brightly lit, noisy room full of strong, robust plants, cooled by fans and entertained by music. “Our system is a hybrid hydro system that works like soil does...

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Waterfalls of Salem

From its beginnings, the city of Salem was built above and among waterways that originated in the foothills of the Cascades and flowed through town to the Willamette River. When they first enter city limits, these waters are still more than 200 feet about sea level; by the time they discharge into the Willamette River, they are less than 115 feet above sea level. The story of Salem’s ‘waterfalls’ is the record of how human beings have channeled that approximately 90’ drop in elevation to manage flooding, allow commerce and create power. Before it even reaches town, Mill Creek...

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Salem may not know until 2017 if Willamette fish are safe

On July 19, the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality announced it found elevated levels of dioxins in sediment in the Willamette Slough. These levels exceeded DEQ’s human health and ecological screening levels and caused the agency to warn that eating fish from the slough might be unsafe. The slough is posted while DEQ continues to investigate. Dioxins are carcinogenic industrial contaminates which break down very slowly. They are found at low levels from natural processes like forest fires, but are dangerous at higher levels. The screening level for dioxins is 0.001 parts per trillion. Recent testing of slough sludge...

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The economics of Salem Hospital, Measuring “community benefits”

Non-profit hospitals like Salem Health* receive significant financial breaks that most corporations, such as “for-profit” hospitals, do not. Historically, these benefits are provided in exchange for the good the hospital does in the community, such as charity care. But the medical economic landscape was rocked by the Affordable Care Act, and not just in Salem but also across the nation. Exempt from many federal, state, and local taxes, relieved from having to support Salem police and fire departments or parks, Salem Hospital now experiences windfall profits, pays its CEO more than twice the salary of the President of the...

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City steps back from regulating dispensaries, expands “grows”

Two code changes now under consideration by Salem City Council could radically alter the way the City treats cannabis businesses. The first would have the city stop regulating cannabis businesses such as dispensaries—requiring them only to be licensed, and the second would allow pot to be grown in more places in city limits. Among other effects of the first ordinance, Bill 12-16, would be to abolish the city’s requirement that pot dispensaries keep a 1,000-foot distance between each other. Oregon allows cities to set their own cannabis rules. At the June 27, 2016 council meeting, when council was conducting...

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Devastating insights

Alone in the consulting room of Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna, a woman comes to terms with a life in the shadows. It is 1925, the woman is Marry “Mabbie” Burlingame – and she is the granddaughter of Louis Tiffany. The play is Maresflied Gardens, a world premier coming to Theatre 33 on the Willamette University campus. “Her life to me was both tragic and compelling,” says Susan Coromel, Professor of Theatre at Willamette University and Artistic Director of Theatre 33. Coromel wrote and performs the play. “This young girl, who came from powerful families on both sides, would grow...

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Does Salem’s crime rate match its proposed police facility?

Crime statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a 2015 study suggest that the large police station being advanced by the City of Salem is based on flawed projections. On June 27, Salem City Council voted to submit a bond measure to voters in the November 8, 2016 General Election. The measure would ask residents to pay to build a new 148,000 SF facility that would house Salem’s police, crime lab and 9-1-1 center for three or four decades. Currently, these combined services occupy about a third of the proposed space, 48,000 SF. The estimated cost for the...

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To be the leader that others see in House District 22

Teresa Alonso Leon says that growing up in the city of Woodburn has given her “the unique advantage of knowing firsthand the obstacles that families in our communities are facing.” The daughter of immigrant farmworkers, Alonso Leon adds, “I know we need better investment in our schools, because school was my pathway out of poverty. I know families need living wage jobs, because I saw my parents having to choose between putting food on the table and paying the bills.” Alonso Leon is one of two candidates vying to represent HD District 22 – a narrow district that runs...

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