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January 2019 -- Vol. 113, No. 5
Scroll down to read this issue!

Memories of THE BEE's first 100 years!
In 2006, THE BEE celebrated its centennial of serving Southeast Portland!  A special four-page retrospective of Inner Southeast Portland's century, written by Eileen Fitzsimons, and drawn from the pages of THE BEE over the previous 100 years, appeared in our September, 2006, issue.
Click here to read this special retrospective!


The next BEE is our February
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Janet  Do, Milken Family Foundation, teacher award, Whitman Elementary School, Portland, Oregon
Milken Family Foundation Senior Vice President Dr. Jane Foley congratulates Whitman Elementary School first grade teacher Janet Do, on being the only Oregon teacher chosen this year for their $25,000 award for excellence in teaching. (Photo by David F. Ashton)
Janet  Do, Milken Family Foundation, teacher award, Whitman Elementary School, Portland, Oregon
Whitman Elementary School first grade teacher Janet Do – shown at the moment she realized that SHE’s the teacher being presented a $25,000 Milken Educator Award. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

SE teacher surprised: National award – and cash


Apparently everyone involved managed to keep the secret about the purpose of the special assembly on the morning of December 3rd at Brentwood-Darlington’s Whitman Elementary School – because the first grade teacher who was about to be honored with a $25,000 Milken Educator Award in front of the entire school body, clearly didn’t have a clue she’d been selected for the national honor, as she sat in the assembly with her class.

After rows of dignitaries and officials were seated facing the students, the school’s fourth grade classes arose to sing the Woody Guthrie folk song, “This Land Is Your Land”.

Numerous introductions followed. Then, the central part of the program was handled by Milken Family Foundation’s Senior Vice President, Dr. Jane Foley, who explained that the foundation was established in 1987 to “honor and award outstanding teachers across the nation”.

Foley invited several students to come up front to participate in a “game show” type of presentation – in which they eventually revealed the amount of money that goes with the award that the selected teacher would be receiving.

Foley explained that these awards provide public recognition, as well as individual financial rewards, to elementary and secondary school teachers, Principals, and specialists from around the country. Those honored are furthering excellence in education, Foley explained. The foundation chooses teachers who are in their early to mid-careers -- based upon their achievements, and also upon the promise they show of what they will accomplish.

“And, the teacher we’ll be honoring this morning is one of up to forty across the nation – and is the only teacher selected from Oregon!” Foley teased.

Then came the reveal. When her name was announced, emotions of genuine puzzlement, followed by surprise, astonishment, and then unbridled joy, were reflected in the face of Whitman teacher Janet Do.

Ms. Do hid her face as she brushed back tears, making her way to the front, there to be recognized by Portland Public School (PPS) District Superintendent Guadalupe Guerrero and Deputy Director of the Oregon Department of Education Carmen Xiomara Urbina.

As the adults seated in the front of the cafetorium introduced themselves, Do discovered most of them were past Milken Educator Award recipients.

She struggled for words to express her gratitude for being awarded – and, after participating in group photos, Do spoke with reporters.

“I came here today thinking about this assembly. . . But I had no idea it would turn out like this!” she said, adding that she’s in her sixth year of teaching first grade students in the Portland Public Schools, which is also the school system in which she herself was educated.

“I love building the community of the students and their families through teaching; I try to honor where they are in their life and in education.

“And, I really like seeing that my students are meeting their goals every day. I teach them to set goals, and, it’s great to see them help teach one another in collaboration, so they can all meet their goals.”

She paused for a moment, then added, “It’s only been six years. Unbelievable!”

The school’s interim Principal, Helen Nolen, commented to THE BEE, “It’s incredible that a teacher at our school has been singled out to receive this national award. I’m so thankful that this organization recognizes the value of teachers and what they put into our kids throughout their lifetime.

“Our amazing teachers are building the foundation for the children’s continuing education, and hopefully for their lifelong learning.”

Year-end update: Eastmoreland ‘Historic District’ still stalled


While efforts for a Laurelhurst National Historic District nomination appear to be on track to be submitted to the National Parks Service (NPS) early in 2019, progress for a similar Eastmoreland nomination remains stalled.

Eastmoreland neighbors, both for and against the proposed designation, say they’ve waited for months for some kind of notification from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department (OPRD) Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), but none has been forthcoming.

The project’s webpage hasn’t been updated, and with no word from the SHPO about the progress of Eastmoreland’s nomination since last June, THE BEE checked in with the Bureau to learn where the project stands.

After contacting all state officials and workers involved with this nomination, OPRD Associate Director Chris Havel replied to our inquiry on November 29:

“Staff in the State Historic Preservation Office are reviewing documents related to the Eastmoreland National Historic District nomination, to prepare it for eventual resubmission to the National Park Service.

“The nomination was returned by the NPS to the Oregon SHPO to ascertain ownership using a combination of federal rules and guidelines, Oregon law, and Oregon Department of Justice guidance. At the moment, staff work is focused on researching and resolving any issues related to objections provided by owners within the district boundary.

“This matter may be affected by two lawsuits against the State regarding this nomination:  Blum v. Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, Marion County Circuit Court #18CV25307; and Tom Brown v. Parks and Recreation Department, Oregon Court of Appeals #A165691.

“Because of uncertainty created by the lawsuits, staff are unable to estimate a timeframe for resubmitting the nomination to the National Park Service, but may be able to do so as the suits proceed further.”

Reacting to this information, Derek Blum of “Historic Eastmoreland Achieving Results Together” wrote THE BEE, The SHPO and the larger Oregon Parks & Rec Department have mismanaged the Eastmoreland Historic District nomination from the beginning. More than two years into this process, we still seem very far from having a clear resolution on the matter.” Blum favors the Historic District plan.

The main issue of concern to HEART, Blum said, is the state allowing “objections from 5,000 fabricated trusts from only five individuals. It’s clear that without these manufactured objections, Eastmoreland would have our Historic District designation from the National Park Service. We look forward to SHPO reconsidering its decision to allow these highly irregular objections that undercut the National Register program.”

Tom Brown, of “Keep Eastmoreland Free”, which opposes the Historic District, told us, “With two pending court cases, it won’t be appropriate for SHPO to send it back to the National Parks Service until these cases are settled.”

Brown said he went to an Oregon Court of Appeals Hearing on October 30. “From the questions the three judges asked, they obviously knew a great deal about the case; and, when they listened to our replies, I felt like the judges were really listening. We’re just waiting to see what the courts decide.”

Don’t hold your breath.

Precision Castparts, air pollution, D E Q, Johnson Creek Boulevard, Portland, Oregon
Oregon Health Authority public health toxicologist Susanna Wegner spoke at the public meeting held at Lane Middle School. (Photo by David F. Ashton)

OHA explains Precision Castparts ‘safe’ analysis


As reported in the December issue of THE BEE, the Oregon Health Authority released its draft “Health Assessment” resulting from its study of the area surrounding the Precision Castparts Structural Large Parts Campus (PCS) along Johnson Creek Boulevard.

The facility, established six decades ago on S.E. Harney Road, situated between the Brentwood-Darlington and Ardenwald-Johnson Creek neighborhoods, has been suspected by neighbors in recent years of polluting the air and soil nearby, and Johnson Creek, with heavy metals. The draft report found no evidence of that.

Following up the release of the Health Assessment draft report, OHA staff, joined by others from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (ODEQ) held several meetings in the area, the first of which was in the Lane Middle School library on November 29.

“The community asked if we should be concerned about the health risks; and the South Portland Air Quality group made an official request to OHA to look into this and to help understand any health risks,” OHA public health toxicologist Susanna Wegner, Ph.D. said, recalling how the project began.

Public Health Assessment evaluates risks
“Our response was to perform this ‘Public Health Assessment’ which is the type of tool we have to help answer such questions,” Wegner told THE BEE.

She said that part of this project included a Community Advisory Committee made up of neighbors that live in close proximity to the plant.

“We looked at environmental monitoring data; information air monitoring from 2016 and 2017 done by the Oregon DEQ; and also soil monitoring, and monitoring the sediment water and crayfish in Johnson Creek nearby,” Wegner summarized. “From that monitoring data we’re looking for chemicals in the environment – and also, considering the toxicity of those chemicals and then evaluating the health risks.”

The conclusions were based on that information concerning the levels of metals in the air in 2016 and 2017. “I wouldn’t say that our findings are ‘below background’ – there is a distinction between ‘background levels’ and the level that we think is going to harm health, Wegner explained. “They’re definitely above background levels, for some metals. So I would say that these metals are ‘detectable’, but not at levels that would harm health.

“Recently, we got information that we incorporated into this draft concerning levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and metals in crayfish that are living in Johnson Creek.

“After hearing that some community members fish for, and eat, crayfish in the Johnson Creek, we did calculations; and, based on how much we detected in the crayfish tissue, we can calculate people can safely eat up to five meals of crayfish each month – each 30 days – without be concerned about health risks.”

Looking for comments
OHA and ODEQ scheduled the follow-up meetings to hear about the public’s concerns about the process, the conclusions, or assumptions that were made.

“We encourage those who are interested to read the report, then e-mail, write, or call us to let us know that there are ways we can improve the report and make it more accurate and useful for them,” Wegner suggested.

The most useful comments, she said, will help her team identify inappropriate assumptions, information that they didn’t consider that could make the report stronger, errors in the report – or any other information that they might have missed.

“There is a limit to what we can change; we have to stay within the scope of what the project is,” Wegner added.

Pamela Hodge said she’s a long-term resident of Brentwood-Darlington, living about a half-mile from the plant. “I am the ‘poster girl’ for a person living in the area; in that I was born in the neighborhood, in the year that Precision Castparts started their operations.”

Having intermittent exposure over the decades, and now caring for her 93-year-old mother, led her to serve on the project’s Citizens Advisory Committee.

“This assessment was based on seven months of monitoring data; with one month of monitoring data before the company put in their bag houses to reduce the level of omissions – and then six months of monitoring data afterwards,” Hodge pointed out. “The biggest concern is for people who are long-term residents like me, is about the cumulative effects to exposure to pollutants – this report says nothing about the cumulative, historic exposure.

“Cumulative health risks and effects should be identified; Precision Castparts has a duty to those in the local population to, in some way, remediate the adverse effects it may have had.”

Wegner said those who couldn’t get to a meeting are still invited to comment on the health assessment report – but do so before January 15th.

- Email comments to –
- Phone comments by calling 971/673-0475
- Mail written comments to:
       Environmental Public Health Assessment Program
       800 N.E. Oregon Street, Suite 640
       Portland, OR 97232

Northwest Natural Gas, gas main break, Southeast, Portland, Oregon
A NW Natural Gas worker begins jack-hammering up pavement at the intersection of S.E. 49th Avenue and Rhone Street, trying to locate the buried shut-off valve.

Paved-over valve slows repair of gas main break on 49th


When crews dig in the street, there’s always a chance an excavator or shovel will rupture an underground natural gas line.

One did on Monday afternoon, November 19 – along S.E. 49th Avenue, between Powell Boulevard and Rhone Street, in the Creston-Kenilworth neighborhood.

In this case, construction workers were digging in the street in front of newly-built – but not yet occupied – homes, when the bucket of an excavator struck and ruptured a buried NW Natural gas line just before 3 p.m. that afternoon.

Natural gas whistled loudly from the broken line in the street; workers pulled back from the area, and Portland Fire & Rescue firefighters from Woodstock Station 25 arrived – ready to go into action should the escaping gas erupt into flames.

Complicating matters, NW Natural Gas employees discovered that the shut-off valve for that line had been paved over when the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services replaced a 97-year-old sewer pipe, which had collapsed in December of 2016, leaving a 16-foot deep sinkhole.

With the rat-tat-tat of a jackhammer, NW Natural began digging up the street to find the valve.

“The gas leak occurred when a contractor, establishing service to new homes in the area, removed an abandoned service ‘T joint’ from a one inch line in the street,” explained NW Natural Gas spokesperson Stefanie Week.

“The gas was finally shut off by 4:30 p.m. that afternoon, and the full repair was made later that evening,” Week told THE BEE. No one was injured in the incident.

Holiday Express, steam train, SP 4449, locomotive, Oaks Bottom, Oaks Park, Sellwood, Southeast Portland, Oregon
Another ride on the “Holiday Express” comes to an end, as the antique steam train approaches Oaks Park Station after dark, its Holiday lights reflected in Oaks Bottom Lagoon below it, and the lights of Downtown Portland shining from across the Willamette River beyond it. (David F. Ashton)

Steam whistles on the wind herald the travels of the ‘Holiday Express’


Since steam locomotive enthusiasts started offering excursions along the Willamette River in 2005, it’s become a tradition for many families to take rides on the Christmas-decorated and well-heated “Holiday Express” train that clickety-clacks along the Oregon Pacific Railroad tracks near Oaks Park.

On some days and evenings, the nostalgic sound of the “Daylight Express” Southern Pacific 4449 locomotive’s steam whistle can be heard for miles.

Their first year, when building the Oregon Rail Heritage Center (ORHC) was still a lofty ambition, volunteers set up the northern “station” for the train in an empty field near the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. That’s where the completed rail museum now stands, regularly open to visitors.

“The next year, we established ‘Oaks Station’ here at Oaks Amusement Park where there’s plenty of free parking and utilities available,” recalled Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation (ORHF) Vice President Ed Immel, as the new season began – immediately after Thanksgiving Day, on Friday, November 23.

Last year, he remarked, they first tried opening the season a day early, on “Black Friday”, and found that all of the tickets quickly sold out – which was again the case this year.

Each 45-minute jaunt from Oaks Park north to the ORHC and back carries about 200 revelers, plus the volunteer train crew – and all that adds up to about 14,000 riders during the four-week “Holiday Express” season, Immel told THE BEE.

The daylight trips are ideal for families with smaller children, and give riders stunning views of the Oaks Bottom Wildlife Refuge from one side of the train, and the Willamette River on the other side, Immel pointed out.

“And, during our nighttime excursions, the cars feel more cozy, with Holiday lights strung up to illuminate the interiors – but not so much that you can’t see out the windows clearly,” Immel reflected.

“And, on many of the evenings – although we don’t coordinate with them – you can see the ‘Christmas Boats Parade’ on the river, or the Willamette Shore Trolley decorated and running along the west side of the river – as well as the city’s skyline.”

The tickets sold for the 70 excursions over four weekends support the ORHF, and pay for expenses – which include fueling up the huge Southern Pacific 4449 steam locomotive with 6,800 gallons of used motor oil that they buy from Jiffy Lube. “Interestingly, it doesn’t need to be refined; we just pump it into the tender!” mused Immel.

“It’s so much fun to see the eyes of little kids open wide when Santa comes by,” he said. “And, for adults, the ‘Holiday Express’ provides a unique experience, allowing one to step back in history.”

Just then, the conductor called “All Aboard”, and another group of revelers climbed on board for a ride on the “Holiday Express”.

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