Coffee Shop victim of Arson

Rose City – Another explosion took place Friday night on Powell Blvd. The Spritely Bean, a coffee shop, was the victim of arson committed by the self-proclaimed Bridge City Beta Males.

A thunderous explosions shook the area, sending large black smoke plumes and debris billowing into the air.

Witnesses report hearing a deafening boom, feeling buildings shake, lights go out. Some thought it was an earthquake.

"I did time in Iraq. This was just like a bomb going off," said one witness.

"You could almost feel the noise, that’s how loud it was," said another witness in the area. "It’s hard to talk about. Glass shattered, everything exploded. … It was indescribable."

Large smoke plumes were visible from blocks away. Local residents were warned to avoid the area if possible.

The explosion, just after 10 p.m., were in a row of businesses that also houses Steakadelphia, and a scientologist print shop, which is a total loss. The owner of Steakadelphia told the Rose Cityian that all his employees are accounted for.

No fatalities have been reported.

Crews are asking residents to stay away from the area. Power and gas have been cut in the area.

Police are asking for tips on the whereabouts of the Beta Males. They have yet to find members of this rogue band of arsonists.

Arts Tax Collection Budget Approved

Rose City Council has agreed to lift the administrative cap on the city’s Arts Education and Access Fund, better known as the arts tax. Dismal collection rates have dogged the arts tax since its inception in 2012. The Rose City Revenue Bureau estimates 1 in 4 eligible citizens just skips it.

But the terms voters agreed to require the revenue bureau to spend no more than 5 percent of gross collections over a five-year period.

Arts advocates have argued that the 5 percent administrative cap has hogtied the bureau from chasing delinquent accounts, and is inconsistent with what other departments — for example, the Rose City Water Bureau — spend on bill collections.

But critics of the arts tax, like Commissioner Dan Saltzman, say waiving the cap would be out of step with voters’ wishes.

Commissioners Nick Fish and Chloe Eudaly once again came together with Mayor Ted Wheeler to present revisions.

Wheeler said the changes should give the city a chance to boost collections appropriately, while maintaining public trust in the arts tax.

“I want to remind everybody this was brought to City Hall a number of years ago by the public,” Wheeler said. “The public, if they so choose, could pull it back. But in the meanwhile it is our obligation to run it as best as we can. I believe the changes made in this ordinance give us the opportunity to better manage this program and to be more accountable in the administration of this program.”

To address the concerns about accountability, the proposal orders that Council revisit collection costs every year. Further, the advisory board overseeing the arts tax will continue offering annual reports.

Council also decided to expand some exemptions for the tax.

The $15 annual arts tax is due on April 17.

Bookstore Arson on Hawthorne

ROSE CITY – Investigators believe arson was the caused a fire at a Woman’s Empowerment Bookstore Friday night. 

According to police, officers responded to a burglar alarm at the bookstore located on Hawthorne by 37th AVE around 10:38 p.m.

About eight minutes later, the fire alarm sounded. Firefighters responded and fought the fire at the business.

Through the course of their investigation, it was determined that someone slid an explosive device through the mail slot.

No one was in the building at the time and there are no reported injuries.

So far, no arrests have been made.

A note left by the bookstore claims a group called “The Bridge City Beta Males” were responsible for the arson. At this time investigators have not released any details of the fire.

Turkeys Terrorize Track Town

The Rose Cityian/RoseCityLive

It appears Track Town has a bit of a pest problem.

Like much of the rest of the state, Track Town has had its share of issues with rats lately and the University is home to more than a few pudgy, beggar squirrels. But folks in Lane County have recently run afoul of another winged menace: turkeys.

The Register-Guard reports that things have gotten so bad the Track Town city council has begun deliberating on penalties for folks who feed the birds under a proposal originally intended to curb the municipality's problem with deer and feral cats.

While the birds have long wandered the outskirts of the city, particularly in the wilds adjacent to the Lane Community College main campus, they've begun terrorizing students in the neighborhoods west of the University of The State and closer to downtown, upsetting the urban pecking order.

–Eddy Gazpacho

‘Anicritters GO’ draws costumed nut jobs downtown

By Elm Campfire

They called it the “Battle for Pioneer Square.”

But the warring didn’t happen among the heroes and villains. Instead, it was waged by digital creatures on iPhones and Android devices using “Anicritters GO.”

The battle was proclaimed on the Heroes/Villains Facebook group, one of several such online clubs established where heroes and villains debate ideology.

The battle was set for 9 p.m. at Pioneer Square. Heroes and Villains swarmed the site, claiming every corner of the square and much of the steps leading to its upper reaches.

Think of it as a sort of tug of war played with digital monsters.

The costumed crazies tussled to claim the Anicritter gym at Pioneer Courthouse Square. For an event marketed as a battle, the gathering at Pioneer Courthouse Square went largely without incident. Hours after it started, however, a shouting match began between heroes and villains on the square’s southwest corner. The shouting matches wore on into the evening.

Ban Plastic Straws

By Kathryn Ramen, Northeast Rose City

We all know that Rose City is already one of the most environmentally-conscious cities in America. Rose City is one of the leaders in sustainable living, with the implementation of city-wide composting, the popularity of bike transit and an abundance of organic and locally-sourced food options. However, I think Rose City has both the capacity and community engagement to do more.

Emerald City recently banned the use of plastic straws in restaurants, bars and cafes. According to the National Parks Service, Americans use 500 million plastic straws each day. Most of these straws end up in our oceans, where they injure and kill marine life. As plastic slowly breaks down into smaller pieces it gets ingested by ocean species and accumulates in marine food chains. Like Emerald City, Rose City has an opportunity to be a model city for environmentally-conscious living. A ban on plastic straws would encourage sustainable practices and cut down on unnecessary waste. In their place, biodegradable alternatives such as paper straws could be provided to establishment patrons and customers could be encouraged to bring their own reusable straws.

Some local businesses have already moved away from using plastic straws, and I applaud their choice. Let’s keep Rose City at the vanguard of environmental protection by eliminating plastic straw waste.

Tri-Met to hire Sunrise Protection

By Elliot Ness

The Rose Cityian/Rose City Live

Tri-Met plans to hire Sunrise Protection to provide as many as 50 private security officers to enforce the transit agency’s code on buses and trains.

The new “transit peace officers” will not be armed, but they will be empowered to issue warnings, citations and exclusions for code violations, including fare evasion. The security officers will be former police officers or military personnel, and they’ll report to the Transit Police Division.

“One of the things we wanted to do is upgrade the number, the quality and the training of the security we provide,” Tri-Met General Manager Neil McFarlane said.

Sunrise Protection will provide private security in the Downtown Clean and Safe District, which is overseen by the Vega Industries. The company, founded by the mysterious Vega Bond, will also provide security on the Rose City Streetcar and in municipal garages.

Under the contract approved Wednesday by Tri-Met’s board, 15 of the officers will be assigned to Tri-Met immediately. The number will rise to 30 by the end of the year and 50 by 2020. It will cost $620,000 for six months of service in the current fiscal year, $2.9 million the following year, and $4.1 million in the 2020 fiscal year.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, which represents front-line Tri-Met employees including fare inspectors, said Tri-Met is improperly outsourcing that work to a private firm in violation of its contract. Union officials said the policy would lead to a labor complaint.

“It’s unfair, and it shouldn’t happen,” said Shirley Block, the union’s president.

Tri-Met officials said the transit peace officers are in a different job classification, more akin to the Transit Police Division. Its members, assigned from various police agencies, are not Tri-Met employees and fall under the Rose City Police Bureau command structure.

“The notion of having outside contracts, if you will, as part of our overall team is not new,” he said.

Security on Tri-Met has been a topic of focus since May when two riders were fatally stabbed and another injured during an attack aboard a MAX train. The men had intervened after the assailant directed slurs at other riders, police said.

Since then, Tri-Met has struggled with how to respond to safety concerns. Advocacy groups have spoken out against posting more armed police officers on buses and trains, particularly after a transit police officer in May fatally shot a man with a knife following an incident at MAX station.

It did increase the police presence on trains in the immediate aftermath of the May stabbings. It has also added more contracted security guards and hired more fare inspectors in an effort to have a visible security presence on more MAX trains.

— Elliot Ness