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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Oregon Measure 49 and the Department of Envirnomental Quality pollution advisory

The future of the Williamette Valley (and other parts of Oregon) can be read in the pollution advisory issued today by the Department of Environmental Quality.

The advisory urges older adults and younger children throughout the entire Williamette Valley to limit their outdoor activities for a period that may last into next week (Happy Halloween).

Measure 37 would launch the state down the path of ever-diminishing air quality as wide-open development vastly expands particulate sources in Oregon’s vital agricultural areas.

The key point I want to make here is that farmers (and future farmers) have to be outdoors regardless of pollution advisories in order to work their land.

The DEQ advisory reads:

“According to the National Weather Service in Portland, the area is experiencing light winds and dry, cold air in combination with low overnight temperatures. These weather conditions create inversions that keep fine particles* from wood smoke and vehicle exhaust trapped at ground level, particularly during the evening and early morning hours. These microscopic particles can be inhaled deeply into lungs and damage delicate lung tissues.

“Higher than usual pollution levels may cause health problems for sensitive individuals. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children are at greatest risk from particulate pollution and should consider restricting their outdoor activities beginning early in the evening and through mid-morning until the weather changes. People with asthma or other breathing problems or heart conditions should follow their health care provider’s advice for taking care of themselves.

“DEQ expects to see highest levels of pollution in the evening when people are using wood stoves. These higher levels typically persist into the early morning hours.

“This type of wintertime air pollution comes mainly from wood smoke. Diesel engines, cars and trucks are also sources. To protect the health of those who are more sensitive to air pollution, DEQ is asking citizens in the affected areas to avoid using fireplaces and woodstoves unless absolutely necessary, refrain from outdoor burning, and limit driving and vehicle idling. The advisory will be in effect until stagnant weather conditions change.

“If burning wood is your only source of heat, burn hot fires using dry wood to lessen pollution.”
*Fine particulate air pollution consists of solid particles or liquid droplets that are less than 10 microns in diameter (PM10) or less than 2.5 microns in diameter (PM2.5). Particles in these size ranges are of great concern because they can be inhaled deeply into the lungs where they can remain for years. The health effects of particulate matter vary with the size, concentration, and chemical composition of the particles.

For more information about smoke pollution, visit the DEQ Web site at:

To see current pollution levels in Oregon, visit the DEQ Web site at

Friday, October 26, 2007

Portland: The Skanner publishes New Orleans feature

Portland, Oregon: The Skanner newspaper has published my article, titled “New Orleans—A Shell of a Once Great City” in its October 25 edition, along with a photograph of the Afro House Hair Clinic.
Read the feature here:

I recently visited New Orleans as part of a Habitat for Humanity contingent, and took more than a thousand photographs of what I could see in only three days’ time.

Here are some of the other Afro House Hair Clinic photos (click to enlarge):

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Further Reflections on Renaming Interstate Avenue

The committee seeking to honor Cesar Chavez in Portland has already won its victory, a point that appears to be lost in the brouhaha about renaming Interstate.

Try looking at it this way:

Three committee members walked into the Council Chamber of a major American city and convinced the Mayor and the City Council to vote unanimously in support of their concept, to honor their hero in a significant, permanent way.

That is a huge victory, and the list of people who have failed to achieve noble objectives like this is very long.

This Committee won the hearts and minds of five public officials to rename a major public thoroughfare after their hero, Cesar Chavez.

This alone is a remarkable accomplishment, and this is where the focus should be now as a next step, opening the stage for an open public process.

I am making this point to underscore the extent of the victory the Committee has won—there should be celebration and vivas, and yet there is bitterness.

Even for the winners the taste of victory is sour.

There are many Portlanders of good will, who have a genuine respect for the accomplishments and character of Cesar Chavez, who want to see him honored in Portland in a permanent, physical, public way, but who are saddened by this state of affairs.

These Portlanders come in all colors, shapes, sizes, racial and ethnic groups, and of all ages….

Many Portlanders would welcome a Cesar Chavez honoring in their own neighborhood, but have no place in this process.

The choice is Interstate or nothing. Bitterness either way.

Those who would want to see this great man honored in their neighborhood are lumped in equally with those who say “not in my neighborhood.”

That is completely unfair.

The question of renaming Interstate has become a litmus test for some, as to whether you are a good person or a bad person, loyal or disloyal, respectful or disrespectful, bigoted or not.

Where is the spirit of Cesar Chavez in that? How does it feed one hungry child?

Honestly, my mind is on other things these days, my priorities elsewhere.

I have just returned from several days in New Orleans, shocked at the extent of human suffering there, the vast emptiness of the city, the loneliness of the people struggling to achieve a tiny slice of what we all take for granted marks every square foot of what you see.

Those people down there feel forgotten by the rest of us, and the truth is exactly that: we have mostly moved on to other things.

The other thing on my mind is the occupation of Iraq, going on five years now for me and my family, four years since my sons were ordered to deploy the first time.

I’d like to see a small portion of the outrage that the Interstate renaming issue has generated directed instead to the news that 1000 more soldiers from the Northwest were just notified that they need to prepare for another deployment to continue the occupation of Iraq.

The key words here are another deployment. I’d like to see some concern, some outrage about the justice of that, sending the same people over and over again.

I share this sentiment with much of the rest of the small fraction of Americans who have to personally worry about IEDs and amputations, PTSD and Traumatic Brain Injury, the signature injury of this war.

For us, these worries run 24-7, extend to infinity, financial ruin and inadequate health care in the foreseeable future.

I tell you, my heart hurts.

I feel regrets for my earlier statement as to this seriously flawed process. I have friends who are disappointed in me, and this disturbs my sleep. I wish that I had communicated my earlier message differently, more clearly, less personally, and with a different tone.

These are honest regrets, but at the same time I do not believe it would have made much difference, there is so much polarization.

For the record, I am not new to finding ways to honor Cesar Chavez.

Shortly after moving into Portland in 1996, I wrote a series of articles regarding the work of Cesar Chavez and in support of Oregon farm workers. I drove to PCUN in Woodburn to hear Dolores Huerta speak and wrote about that, too.

These articles were published in The Portland Observador and El Pulso Hispano in 1996 and 1997. Si se puede!

During my term on the KBOO 90.7 FM Board of Directors, where I also served on the Programming Committee, we made significant changes to the station’s schedule, creating a six-hour block of Latino radio that is still running today, keeping the spirit of Cesar Chavez on the air. Si se puede!

Eight years ago, in 1999, the KBOO Board of Directors unanimously approved my motion declaring March 31, Cesar Chavez’ birthday, a national holiday. Si se puede!

With a unanimous vote, the same year that Texas declared Cesar’s birthday an official state holiday, KBOO was leading the honoring in Portland.

That was community radio at its best, and I am double-underscoring the word “community.” The community came together on that day. A great moment in Portland history, still sadly underappreciated.

In 2003, I helped draft a Senate bill that would give Oregon farm workers the right to meal and rest breaks, the same meal and rest breaks that everyone takes for granted. Si se puede!

The bill didn’t receive a hearing, died in Senate committee. However, Si se puede!

We then worked with the workgroup created by Bureau of Labor and Industries Commissioner Dan Gardner through the 2003 interim to achieve this goal by administrative action. Si se puede!

In February 2004, Commissioner Gardner issued the rule, Si se puede!, and Oregon’s farm workers now and forever have the right to meal and rest breaks, just like everyone else out there.

I was also present in the chamber on March 31, 2005, the anniversary of Cesar Chavez’ birthday, when the Oregon Senate passed Senate Resolution 1, “Encouraging Oregonians to undertake a day of voluntary service to honor Cesar Chavez.”

SR1 was co-authored by Senate President Peter Courtney, Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown and Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli.

It would be helpful, I believe, at this point, for all interested parties to take a moment and read this brief but powerful document.

Here’s the link:

That is what the spirit of Cesar Chavez looks like to me.

Still, some are angry with me….Interstate or nothing, cabron.

I have wanted to see Killingsworth renamed to honor Cesar Chavez for years, and I’m saddened to see the opportunity pass by.

I see renaming Killingsworth as an important step in revitalizing neighborhoods across North, Northeast and Southeast Portland, linked by the #72 bus line.

I live out here, and I’m saying bienvenidos Cesar, to my neighborhood.

Granted, there may not be the votes for honoring Cesar Chavez in East Portland, and I’m willing to concede that, but there ought to be a place for alternate ideas in the process.

No one is going to win the gold medal for tolerance in this scrap, not this way.

The #72 could be a key factor in upgrading the neighborhoods where I spend most of my time, connecting the Clackamas Town Center, 82nd Avenue of Roses, Marshall High, Portland Community College Southeast Campus, the 82nd Avenue Max station, Madison High, Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard (currently Killingsworth), NE 42nd Avenue, the Alberta Arts District, Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, the intersection of MLK and CEC Boulevards (currently MLK and Killingsworth), back to Cesar E. Chavez Boulevard, Jefferson High, Portland Community College Cascade Campus, I-5, the Cesar E. Chavez/Interstate (currently Killingsworth) Max station, and deep into North Portland, all linked like jewels on a chain.

The unifying potential of the humble #72 line is enormous.

A lot of redevelopment money has gone into the Interstate corridor in recent years, and people on the East side are saying, “Hey, what about us?”

It would have been good to give people out here on the East side of Portland the opportunity to have a discussion, perhaps survey the people who live and work, attend class, own businesses or travel the route of the #72, the actual stakeholders in the community.

If you can get that group of people to buy in, then who is the loser?

Who knows? Maybe the East side community would want to compete for where this public honoring of a great American hero should take place, leveraging the public transportation and economic development aspects.

The Committee focused on renaming Interstate won support from the City Council, which really wants to help them, but this failure to recognize the victory won is contributing to the rancor, like getting your hand bitten.

Renaming Interstate won't cost me a nickle, just people I don't know. I get over there maybe twice a month, maybe less. I ride the #72, do business along the route much more often.

I’m going to put my attention towards New Orleans and the Gulf Coast for the next little while, try to make some kind of difference for someone there.

Right now, Cesar’s farm workers are facing real threats to their safety, their security, and their families on multiple fronts, and those issues are also on my mind.

Families are being broken up and separated by the nation’s broken immigration laws. Latino children who are American citizens by birth are forced to live in other countries.

Where is the outrage?

Farmers and other employers need a reliable work force. The experience of American farmers tells them that no one is more reliable than their immigrant workers.

What is more valuable to a farmer than an employee who finds no shame in working the soil, who is not demeaned by farm work?

Cesar Chavez understood the quiet dignity of farm work, the noble profile of a working man or woman standing in the field at dawn, the fulsome glory of a handful of black earth. Viva Cesar Chavez!

The farmer wants workers who value the land and what it can produce as much as he does.

The farmer does not want to risk her crop on people forced into her field by lack of opportunity in the city or as the result of a jail sentence, as some would suggest.

Nevertheless, neither workers nor employers are secure in the clamor, and I want to put some time and energy into this, leave honoring Cesar Chavez to someone else.

The American people need to figure out that those who work in the fields and the kitchens in this country are the same people who care for our elderly and infirm for us.

Sooner or later, they will probably be caring for you!

You want someone reliable and dependable for humble work like this. You also want to make sure that you have enough of them. Si se puede!

The anti-immigrant voices begrudge the foreign workers, the migrant agricultural labor force, their children, their families, their access to education, to health care and decent housing.

I’m going to take a stand in that fight over there.

Lastly, I’m going to wish that all I had to worry about was someone calling me or my son names, no IEDs, snipers or mass killings haunting my dreams any more.

To that, to the catcalls and name-calling, I say “Bring it on, hombre.” I won’t let it divert me from what really matters.

Like water rolling off a duck to me….

I’m a Mexican-American, a Chicano, proud of it, proud of my people, born and raised in a small Sacramento Valley farm community, and I say bienvenidos a Cesar Chavez, welcome to my neighborhood, to my East Portland neighborhood.

Sean Cruz
October 21, 2007
Portland, Oregon

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Blogolitical Sean supports Governor Ted Kulongoski's dual driver's license proposal

This argument should be about nothing more than seeing that every person operating a motor vehicle in Oregon has a valid license to drive and the prerequisite safety instruction that goes with it.

This proposal will make the roads safer for all of us, safer for your children and your mother.

On a related homeland security note, the US Post Office in my Parkrose neighborhood turned me away at the counter when I wanted to rent a PO box.

The three pieces of photo ID I presented weren't good enough: My recently-renewed ODL, good until 2014, my State Capitol ID badge, and my Portland Police Bureau Crisis Response Team ID, which will get me into a crime scene.

The clerk said that there were plenty of mailboxes available. Small wonder.

I feel safer already.

Monday, October 08, 2007

A word on Cesar Chavez, renaming Interstate and more....

I am as eager as anyone to see Portland create a permanent, physical presence honoring Cesar Chavez, but I confess that I am confounded by the flawed process more than I am angered by the racist taunts.

Growing up Mexican-American in California, the son and grandson of farm workers, I learned early on that many Americans do not like foreigners, that many do not like Mexicans in particular and, lastly, that most do not distinguish whether your presence is legal or not.

They don’t like you either way, and they will make that point clear.

But I’m not going to give into the racism diversion in the public argument about renaming Interstate; it comes with the territory.

I want to speak to the flawed process on several points:

First, the Cesar Chavez Committee consists of some of my own local personal heroes, so far as I know, because even at this late stage I’ve never seen a list of committee members.

Marta, Jose, Sonny, Armando –you each have inspired me for more than a decade with your giant hearts for la comunidad, and I share your passion for Cesar…but I did not become aware of your effort until after you had already locked in on Interstate.

If I have left out any names among my local heroes who are serving on the Committee, it is because I do not know who all the members are.

Secondly, the residents of North Portland have felt left out and unheard for many years over a great many issues, and I can understand how the Interstate Max line and the development associated with it would arouse passions that have little to do with race.

Third, the Committee appears to have passed on considering renaming Killingsworth as an option, because the Committee felt it was named after a historical person.

To this point I would say that becoming deceased does not make a person “historical.”

Fourth, you must own the flaws in your process. It is not enough to point to another flawed process and demand the same. There is no moral leverage in that. Please do not compound the flaw by refusing to listen objectively, by refusing to be open to compromise.

You already have the victory, the Mayor and City Council have voted unanimously to honor Cesar Chavez in a significant, permanent way, but you do not own the moral high ground.

Fifth. to my thinking, Killingsworth would be an obvious choice for a broader public discussion, and I believe that you could probably get the 2,500 signatures that the City charter requires from people that live, work or frequently travel on that street itself.

Sixth, Killingsworth is full of low-hanging fruit:

Villa de Clara Vista, Hacienda Salon de Communidad, Aero Vista Apartmentos, Clara Vista Townhomes, Villa de Suenos, Multnomah County’s La Clinica de Buen Salud, the Baltazar Ortiz Community Center, the Villa de Clara Vista Oficina de Administracion, Villa de Suenos, Los Jardines de La Paz, Taqueria Mendoza, Trinity Lutheran Church (with its multiracial signage “Your Child Deserves the Best”), Villas de Mariposas North, Villa de Mariposas South, Portland Metropolitan Workforce Training Center….

Several retail establishments on the street sell Corona Extra openly.

At the corner of NE 42nd and Killingsworth, one finds banners hanging, reading “Color de la Comunidad” and “NE 42nd Business Community,” and several businesses: Ole Frijole Delicious Mexican Food, Taqueria Oaxaca, Novedades Santo Domingo.

Have you discussed the issue with the NE 42nd folks?

At 33rd and Killingsworth is the New Seasons store.

At 30th and Killingsworth are Milagros and Autentica Mexican Food.

The list goes on, the point is that there is much low-hanging fruit here and I wonder if the Committee actually ever contacted residents and businesses on the street. I have no idea, and that points again to the flawed process.

Seventh, TriMet could play an important role here and participate in the discussion. The # 72, Portland’s busiest route, traverses the length of 82nd and much of Killingsworth, and I can see the appeal of putting some paint on those buses and promoting the 82nd Avenue of the Roses/Cesar Chavez Boulevard route.

Eighth, there is only one business on Killingsworth that uses the street name in its business name, indicating the low appeal to the business community.

My last point on this post is one of puzzlement:

Hacienda CDC owns much of the low hanging fruit on Killingsworth, and I both wonder why they haven’t championed renaming that street (why it isn’t already renamed). and why Bertha Ferran of the Hacienda CDC Board of Directors was at the Ockley Green meeting, supporting the renaming of Interstate and chiding local residents not to be so resistant to change.

I’d rather hear her say why she doesn’t support renaming Killingsworth. Sure beats me.

Viva Cesar Chavez!

Sean Cruz
October 8, 2007

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Oregon's Measure 50, President Bush, and the moral test of government

“The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the aged; and those who are in the shadows of life—the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
–Hubert Humphrey’s last speech, November 1, 1977

President George W. Bush’s veto of the SCHIP bill underscores the importance of the 2007 Oregon Legislature’s move to put Measure 50 on the November 6 ballot as a constitutional amendment.

Few legislators wanted to amend the Oregon Constitution to get to health insurance, but—faced with a moral choice—both chambers acted correctly in resolving to put the needs of Oregon’s citizens ahead of partisanship, ideology and plain mean-spiritedness.

Without Measure 50 on the near horizon, many thousands of uninsured and underinsured Oregonians with much to hope for but little to expect would face continued involuntary enrollment in President Bush’s Emergency-Room Late-Stage National Health Plan.

Meanwhile, President Bush’s monument for posterity, emblem of his failed presidency, the new United States Embassy in Iraq, largest and most expensive embassy in the world, is well behind schedule and over budget.

News broke today that the complex, originally budgeted for $ 592 million, will cost US taxpayers another $144 million to complete.

Those figures do not include the missile defense system it’s going to need, and it is important to keep in mind that no one is even guessing at what the embassy’s ongoing operating costs are going to be.

Think of the Wapato Jail, super-sized, visible from space, where everyone sprints when on foot, zigging and zagging, trying not to spill the coffee, and you have an image of what this project really is…an artifact already, a blueprint drawn up in those heady days after Shock and Awe, when Coalition troops entered the flower-strewn streets of Baghdad, and the Bush Administration and its neo-con hardliners fantasized a thousand-year legacy.

Oregon lawmakers and Oregon’s voters could never hope to cut a budget fine enough to put a dent in the massive outflow of national resources that President Bush pours down the toilet every minute of the day.

The silver-spoon President stated that he vetoed the SCHIP bill because he opposes “government-run health care.”

Uninsured Oregonians don’t care what it is called or who runs it as much as they care that they have access to it.

According to President Abraham Lincoln, the government Bush is referring to is “of the People, by the People, and for the People….”

Since he serves in the Party of Lincoln, that phrase ought to have some significance in the discussion.

If the government is “of the people, by the people, and for the people,” then government-run health care is actually run by the People.

Having never known a moment in life when his health insurance was not provided by either the oil industry, the State of Texas, the federal government or by his government-run Secret Service detail, President Bush is faced with a moral dilemma: To SCHIP or not.

He fails the moral test…but we already knew that was coming.

And the People of Oregon will make their moral choice known on November 6.

Senator Avel Gordly endorses Sean Cruz for Senate District 23

Sean Cruz for Oregon State Senate District 23
October 7, 2007 campaign update

1. Oregon State Senator Avel Gordly leads endorsers

Among the community leaders joining the Sean Cruz for Senate District 23 team are:

State Senator Avel Gordly
State Representative Mike Schauffler
Louis Ornelas, Friends of Sean Cruz treasurer
Baruti Arthuree
Andre Baugh
Johnell Bell
Richard Brown
Michael Eagan
Dorothy Elmore
Kevin Finney
Lew Frederick
Sue Hagmeier
Pastor W.G. Hardy, Jr.
Ruby Haughton-Pitts
Isgow Mohammed
Jane Netboy
Anne O'Malley
Oregonian 37
Lupita Salazar
Mikal Shabazz
Bruce Watts
Tim Won
Denyse Peterson-Wickliff

2. Our campaign kickoff event will take place after the November 6 election.

I am asking my supporters to focus their political energy on passing Measure 49 and Measure 50 as a first priority.

There is plenty of time to campaign for the May Democratic primary.

Let’s provide some access to health care for our children with Measure 50, and take a stab at cleaning up the Measure 37 mess with Measure 49.

Kickoff event details TBA

--Sean Cruz

Monday, October 01, 2007

Measure 37 and the case for affirmative action

Among the many arguments swirling around Oregon's Measure 37, there is a gaping hole that would be apparent to any who observed the many legislative hearings held on the topic:

You pretty much have to be white to have a Measure 37 claim.

Those hearing rooms were always filled with white people. In fact, if the lobby area outside of a hearing room was packed with angry middle-aged white people, then the chances were it was about M 37.

The drafters of Measure 37 wanted to take Oregon back to yesteryear, those halcyon days when the state’s minority communities were effectively barred from owning real estate and obtaining the keys to wealth building that home ownership offers…

…and the argument M 37 proponents offer is “fairness.”

In those days, just a few decades ago, redlining was the norm.

Financial institutions wouldn’t have lent an African American citizen the money to buy property outside of certain areas in Portland, much less prime real estate in the Williamette valley.

But the issue is about fairness….

Oregon’s Japanese citizens were locked away into interment camps in the 1940’s, their properties unreimbursed losses. Many sold their property under extreme duress, a direct windfall to the white citizens who scooped them up.

The M 37 argument is about fairness….

Oregon’s Latino and Chinese communities were also effectively barred from the wealth-building opportunities that real property ownership affords.

Native Americans were continuing to suffer from overt racism and actual genocide, and few would argue today the absence of fairness in driving property owners to the brink of starvation in order to motivate unwilling sellers.

Much of the Indian land was parceled out for free, exclusively to whites.

Fairness, indeed, is the argument….

The fact is that M 37 claimants have already benefited from the institutional racism embedded in Oregon laws and the Oregon Constitution.

Measure 37 claimants benefited originally from the fact that they bought their properties at a time when Oregon’s racial and ethnic minorities were excluded from the marketplace and competition was stifled, keeping prices lower than they would have been had the market been truly free and fair.

The further one goes back into Oregon’s history, tracing property ownership, the closer one gets to the days when the land taken from the Indians at the point of a gun was redistributed for free—exclusively to white settlers.

This is not an argument, but a reading of the actual history of the state, and not so long ago.

It is difficult to argue persuasively with people who are unfamiliar with history, who take the present for granted.

One would think from watching the M 37 hearings that the desire to build a few homes for retirement or to pass on to family members is a whites-only phenomenon, embedded in the genetic code.

After all, one would think, if Oregon’s racial and ethnic minorities valued these goals, then they would have bought up the land when it was there for the taking….

But the Oregon Constitution itself barred racial and ethnic minorities from residing in the state and purchasing real property for more than 100 years.

Oregon’s founding fathers sure knew how to put a selective damper on immigration.

An overwhelming majority of voters removed the last of that racist, exclusionary language from the Oregon Constitution only seven years ago...

…but 300,000 Oregon citizens voted to keep the racist language in the Constitution; again, only seven years ago.

That is ancient history for a lot of folks, and looking back thirty or forty years in time just makes people impatient.

“If men could learn from history, what lessons it might teach us! But passion and party blind our eyes, and the light which experience gives is a lantern on the stern, which shines only on the waves behind us.” --T.Allsop 1831.

Fairness goes the M 37 argument, focus on the fairness…fairness, indeed.

Let’s focus on fairness.

I'm supporting Measure 49.

--Sean Cruz, October 1, 2007