Author: Helen Caswell

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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SILVERTON SCHOOL BOARD CHASTISES ‘DIRT’ COMPLAINANT

At the July 11 meeting of the Silver Falls School Board, several board members expressed concern that member Todd White filed a complaint with the Oregon Ethics Commission without bringing the matter to a board meeting first. On June 15, two days after that month’s board meeting, White complained about the conveyance of 25 truckloads of dirt to the home of board chair, Tim Roth in the course of an artificial turf project on McGinnis Field in Silverton. (see All The Dirt – June 23,2016 ) All the Dirt: Silverton property transfer results in ethics complaint During the July...

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A commitment to be representative in Salem’s ward 1

On May 17, Cara Kaser won the seat to be Salem city councilor in Ward 1, an area that includes downtown and several neighborhoods, including parts of West Salem. Cara’s 4-year term begins in January 2017. We caught up with her to learn how her thinking may have evolved since the election. SW: How does it feel to know you will be Salem’s next Ward 1 councilor next year? CK: After several weeks post-election, it’s finally setting in that I’ll be the next Ward 1 City Councilor, and that I’ll be working to represent the interests of roughly 20,000...

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Marion County prepares for pot vote

What vote? I thought pot was legal! Measure 91 passed in November 2014 by more than 56% of Oregon voters. It legalized recreational marijuana for adults in the state. In some cities and counties, though, voters voted the measure down or approved it only marginally. A few months later the 2015 Oregon legislature passed HB3400, a bill that said that in locales where the measure failed by less than 55%, city or counties could “opt out” of the statewide recreational program. In Marion County, Measure 91 failed by 51.56%. This allowed commissioners Kevin Cameron, Janet Carlson and Sam Brentano,...

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All the Dirt: Silverton property transfer results in ethics complaint

A School Board member in Silverton has filed a complaint with the Oregon Government Ethics Commission over the transfer of 25 truckloads of dirt, arguably worth thousands of dollars, to the Chair of the School Board, Tim Roth. The Superintendant of the school district says the transfer was not improper and that Roth was doing the community a favor in taking it. Oregon’s Ethics Commission has regulatory jurisdiction of areas of public official conduct such as the use of public office for financial gain and conflict of interest. It considers cases involving ORS Chapter 244, Oregon Government Ethics law. The...

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Corporate oil spent big $ to defeat Clean Fuels in Oregon, study shows

A study released this spring suggests that corporate oil interests, many of them out-of-state, spent more than $2.2 million trying to kill 2015’s seminal Clean Fuels Legislation, known as SB324. The report, “Dirty Energy, Dirty Money” was authored by Common Cause Oregon, who did not endorse the legislation and was not involved in efforts to pass or defeat it. It outlines those who financed the effort to defeat the bill, names which legislators accepted funding from these sources and says that money in politics creates a deeply unlevel playing field for broad but underfunded citizen interests dedicated to the...

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Abortion under fire: movie showing in Salem

Q: Did the Roe v. Wade decision ensure the right to abortion in America? A: It was intended to, but is now under formidable assault. Since 2011, politicians have passed more than 280 abortion restrictions at the state level. Next week the Planned Parenthood Advocates of Oregon’s Marion-Polk Leadership & Advocacy Team will present the film, TRAPPED, 2016, an examination of the struggles to keep American abortion clinics safe, legal and open under this assault. It won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking at Sundance this year. “From 2011 to 2013,” says director Dawn Porter,...

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Cinema story: One shines, the other doesn’t

It all goes to show that art and entertainment is subjective that this viewer vastly prefers a less successful romantic comedy playing in Salem to a markedly more successful one. But the history of the two movies also suggests that indicators that don’t always predict quality may unduly influence critics and movie industry insiders. At this point Love and Friendship, 2016, a costume comedy based on an early Jane Austin novel and directed by Whit Stillman is doing a credible job as a small commercial art film. Meanwhile Maggie’s Plan, 2016, written and directed by Rebecca Miller is both...

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Salem Police Department aims for diversity

“In this career path, you have the opportunity to influence someone’s life for the better,” says Valeria Ramirez. “Whether it’s picking up a drunk driver off the street, where you’re perhaps preventing a car crash, or investigating a domestic violence situation, I have a passion for law enforcement.” Ramirez, whose parents were born in Mexico, is a teenage member of the Salem Police Department’s Cadet program, which trains young people to work in law enforcement. The Cadet program is one of many ways the SPD is extending itself to encourage interest in a policing career and to develop recruits...

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Don’t gather at your Salem city hall

A city rule clarification adopted in October 2015 formally limits public use of Salem’s City Hall “Atrium,” the wide covered courtyard inside the civic center. Also affected is public use of the breezeways adjacent to city offices. Now, officially, neither is available for public assembly. The policy to clarify city management of the space was introduced by City Attorney Dan Atchison last fall. Prior to the vote, councilors reviewed a staff report in support of the clarification. The report that said the Atrium, while open to the public and for visitors coming to the Civic Center Plaza for specific...

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