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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Oregonian offers public opportunity to toughen laws on towing

Portland, Oregon—

“What if tow operators (and drivers) were licensed to improve consumer protection? Why not ban commissions as a form of compensation for tow truck drivers?....”

In today’s newspaper (December 30, 2008), The Oregonian poses these questions, offered by reader Kevin Johnson of NE Portland.

Read and comment here:

http://blog.oregonlive.com/myoregon/2008/12/license_tow_truck_operators_ba.html

My comment on Mr. Johnson’s suggestions were:

The predatory patrol towing practices of certain Oregon towers (notoriously, Sergeant's and Retriever Towing) were dealt with in broad strokes by the 2007 legislature.

Senate Bills 116 and 431 were passed unanimously by both the House and Senate, indicating the strong public sentiment for towing reforms.

These bills empower the Attorney General and local governments to regulate involuntary towing, INCLUDING THE PRICE THEREOF, but little action has been taken to enforce the new laws.

The business model these predators employ is the basis for most of the towing abuses, but it is important to note that the property owners are complicit, by authorizing towers to delegate decision-making to drivers working on commission.

As State Senator Avel Gordly's Chief of Staff, I led the workgroup that drafted her Senate Bill 431.

It is important to note that 100% of the complaints that Senator Gordly's office received were related to patrol towing, and not to other towing activities, and that all of these incidents drew in police resources, resulting in public expense.

Towed or not, all Oregon citizens have a stake in this issue. Your taxes pay for this extra burden on police time and resources.

Mr. Johnson's suggestions are right on point. There is still work for the 2009 legislature to do regarding towing.

Senator Gordly strongly supports legislation that would mirror California's ban on predatory patrol towing, requiring the property owner to be present at the time of the tow and sign the invoice.

That action would end the majority of towing abuses in a stroke.

Contact your legislator(s) and request that action be taken. You would be surprised at how many will be happy you called.

--Sean Cruz

Contact your legislators here, both House and Senate:

www.leg.state.or.us

File towing complaints with the Attorney General’s Office here:

http://www.doj.state.or.us/finfraud/towing.shtml

==========================

On predators towing vehicles displaying disability placards:

The commission-based compensation system towing predators use is the root of the evil, the sole motivating force behind Retriever and Sergeants drivers towing vehicles belonging to persons with disabilities, often stranding people in wheelchairs.

They do this far, far too frequently…every chance they get, actually….

Most of these tows would have never taken place without property owners agreeing to defer on-the-spot decision-making to drivers working on commission.

Patrol towing companies in Oregon provide their “services” to the property owners for free in exchange for the right to tow at their drivers’ discretion.

Both property owners and patrol towers take it for granted that towing disagreements would involve police and other public resources at taxpayer expense.

The 2009 Oregon legislature needs to address the particular issue of vehicles displaying disability placards, providing an alternative to towing the vehicle away, and a policy of returning towed vehicles to their owners.

Adopting California’s standard, requiring property owners to be present at the time of the tow and sign the invoice, would go far in eliminating these issues.

====================

Sean Cruz writes:

Blogolitical Sean, political commentary here:

www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com

Aaron’s Law, regarding child abduction prevention and resolution here:

www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com

Jim Pepper House, dedicated to the legacy of the late, great Jim Pepper here:

www.jimpepperhouse.blogspot.com

Portland's #1 Predatory Towing Horror Story, regarding predatory patrol towing practices here:

www.patroltowing.blogspot.com

Chicano Hero Cesar Chavez, dedicated to the Mexican-American giant.

http://chicanoherocesarchavez.blogspot.com/

Monday, December 29, 2008

"The Legend of Jim Pepper" coming to a Multnomah County Library near you!

Spoken-word artist Lynn Darroch will perform his new Jazz Stories repertoire, including The Legend of Jim Pepper, at several Portland library locations in early 2009.

Titled Lynn Darroch's Jazz Stories '09 – Local Heroes and Other American Originals”, these performances will feature Randy Porter on piano and David Evans on tenor sax.

The one-hour shows are free, all-ages and open to the public.

Mr. Darroch’s new Jazz Stories include:

The Legend of Jim Pepper:
the life of Betty Carter and the death of Chet Baker;
how Glen Moore met William Faulkner's widow and Warren Bracken found peace in Portland;
lessons from George Page and Clare Fischer about standing up and losing; and,
One Woman Confronts the Crows of Autumn.


January 11, 2009 — 2:00 p.m.
Woodstock Library (6008 S.E. 49th Ave.)
Free

January 18, 2009 — 2:00 p.m.
Sellwood-Moreland Library (7860 S.E. 13th Ave.)
Free

January 25, 2009 — 2:00 p.m.
St. Johns Library (7510 N. Charleston Ave.)
Free

February 11, 2009 — 6:30 p.m.
Northwest Library (2300 N.W. Thurman St.)
Free

Link to the website: Lynn Darroch, “Where the stories are always musical:”

http://www.lynndarroch.com/

Sean Cruz writes Jim Pepper House, here: www.jimpepperhouse.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 21, 2008

About Columbia Ultimate Vancouver Mormon Kory Wright, kidnapping bastard!

Portland, Oregon--The last thing I ever expected to see displayed on my monitor was probably a photograph of Kory Wright, one of the core group of kidnappers who caused my four children to disappear from their homes in Aloha and Hillsboro in Washington County in February, 1996.

My children had a home in Hillsboro with their mother and her third husband (who were divorcing), and a home a bike ride away in Aloha, with me and my mother, Olive Cruz.

I was my mother’s sole caregiver at the time. She was frail, elderly and had been housebound for years. We had a three-generation household. Our home was the most stable part of my children’s lives; especially with their mother in mid-divorce and on her way to yet another failed marriage (#4).

But that was another life, other lives, in a faraway place and time.

Back to the present….

On a hunch, expand the search from Utah, Google….

And there it was….the face of the Devil himself, aka Beelzebub, Old Stinky, Diabolus…Kory Wright.

http://www.columbiaultimate.com/about/management.aspx

A resident of Utah at the time my children disappeared, this kidnapping bastard Kory Wright had moved back to the original scene of the crime.

I never thought he would ever want to leave Utah, much less move to the Kidnap Zone, where the crime began.

Some people think, apparently, that once the statute of limitations runs and no criminal prosecution is possible, the crime is forgotten.

But kidnappings stretch out into infinity, take my word for it….

Kory Wright arranged for the housing in Utah used to conceal my children, executing a plan that had been in the making for some months, acting in his capacity as a Mormon church official, and later committed perjury in the misdirection campaign the abduction team ran to shield themselves from criminal prosecution.

One crime begets another…and another…and another….

This plan also required the assistance of two of Kory Wright’s associates, whose part in the crime was to help get the kids out of school and on the road: David Holiday and Evelyn Taylor, both of Washington County, both officials of the Mormon Church, both acting in their official capacities to knowingly violate valid joint custody orders.

Three weeks after they disappeared, I still had no information about my children.

But Kory Wright, Evelyn Taylor, David Holliday and their associates knew exactly where they were.

Months went by. My children’s former schools in the Hillsboro School District received no requests for records from anywhere….

They were moving my children from place to place. This is the chaotic life that kidnapped children live.

Later, I received a copy of Kory Wright’s sworn affidavit, dated March 2, 1996, which states in part:

“I, Kory Wright declare under penalty of perjury of the laws of the State of Utah that the following statements are true and correct….

“In the short period they have lived here the children have increased their circle of friends, been involved in numerous activities and made a home for themselves. The schools they children attend are among the best in the state of Utah…. Clearly, the move here has been a tremendous benefit to both Gina and her children.

“If Shaun (sic) is truly seeking that which is best for his children, then let them live where they are the happiest. The economic boom in Utah would afford Shaun (sic) ample opportunity to provide for him as well as his support obligations. Since he currently has no employment restrictions keeping him in the Northwest, a relocation would not be difficult for him.”

That last paragraph has always had me wondering. I was fired from my job at Vic Alfonso Cadillac two weeks after my children disappeared, a week before Kory Wright wrote this statement.

….And at that moment, 800 miles away, in the mountains east of Ogden, Kory Wright contemplates my employment opportunities in Utah, extends an invitation via the Clark County Courthouse.

My employer was very explicit about the reason for terminating me: I didn’t have my mind on my job.

No doubt about that point; no argument at all. My mind was on nothing but my missing children and how to care for my mother. My job was definitely not in the top two.

Meanwhile, all of my children’s mail was secretly being forwarded to Evelyn Taylor in Washington County, mere blocks away from the abduction site, instead of wherever they were holding my children.

They tried to think of everything. Months of planning, secret meetings, budgeting….

Here’s what Oregon statute has to say about it, in the language of criminal law:


163.245 Custodial interference in the second degree. (1) A person commits the crime of custodial interference in the second degree if, knowing or having reason to know that the person has no legal right to do so, the person takes, entices or keeps another person from the other person’s lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order with intent to hold the other person permanently or for a protracted period.
(2) Expenses incurred by a lawful custodial parent or a parent enforcing a valid joint custody order in locating and regaining physical custody of the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of this section are “economic damages” for purposes of restitution under ORS 137.103 to 137.109.
(3) Custodial interference in the second degree is a Class C felony.

163.257 Custodial interference in the first degree. (1) A person commits the crime of custodial interference in the first degree if the person violates ORS 163.245 and:
(a) Causes the person taken, enticed or kept from the lawful custodian or in violation of a valid joint custody order to be removed from the state; or
(b) Exposes that person to a substantial risk of illness or physical injury.
(2) Expenses incurred by a lawful custodial parent or a parent enforcing a valid joint custody order in locating and regaining physical custody of the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of this section are “economic damages” for purposes of restitution under ORS 137.103 to 137.109.
(3) Custodial interference in the first degree is a Class B felony.

It boils down to this:

A. Take, entice or keep a child in violation of a valid joint custody order: Class “C” felony.
B. Take the child out of the state of Oregon OR expose that child to a substantial risk of illness of physical injury: Class “B” felony.

Guilty on both counts, guilty as Sin itself, each of them.

To this day, I have no information as to how long Kory Wright and his associates kept my children out of school.

I do know that my children never recovered academically from the abduction, and I learned in 2007 that both of my sons had dropped out of high school several years after arriving in Utah, both with academic grade point averages that had fallen to 0.0.

Kory Wright identifies himself in the affidavit as functioning in the capacity of a counselor or mediator, using both words to suggest to the Court some form of professional capacity or relationship.

But according to the Columbia Ultimate website, the company’s mainstay is “collecting money.”

http://www.columbiaultimate.com/about/press/112106.aspx

More on this later.

Count on it.

=================

Sean Cruz writes Blogolitical Sean: www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com

And Aaron’s Law:

www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com

Dedicated to ending child abduction and finding justice for the abduction of the Cruz children.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Oregon's Aaron's Law appears on iReports.com; CNN feeder site

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—Each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 100,000 American children experience the trauma of abduction by a parent, a family member or other persons known to the victim.

Some children are abducted back and forth repeatedly, others disappear forever.

Existing state and federal laws have proven to be inadequate to deal with the problem, as the staggering numbers attest.

In all cases, the harm to the child victim is so severe that the best strategy is to prevent the abduction from taking place in the first place.

Aaron’s Law, passed by the Oregon legislature in 2005, is designed to achieve two goals: (1) discourage child abduction by providing financial sanctions against the perpetrators and requiring them to attend counseling sessions to better understand the harm they are inflicting; and, (2) provide relief to the victims with court-appointed mental health and legal professionals assigned to protect the child.

Aaron’s Law authorizes the court to assess the costs of the professional services to the perpetrators, which ought to serve as an additional deterrance.

Had Aaron’s Law been in effect in 1996, the Cruz children would have never been abducted, and Aaron Cruz would still be alive.

Senate Bill 1041 creates a civil cause of action for the crime of child abduction, applying if the child is removed from the state of Oregon.

Oregon is the first state in the union to take this approach, which is independent of either criminal or traditional family court processes.

See the iReport posting here: http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-165264

The full text of Aaron’s Law is here: www.aaronslaw.blogspot.com

and here:

www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What is a Chicano, and what does this have to do with Cesar Chavez?

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—Sometimes, Portland strikes me as The Land that Time Forgot: isolated geographically from most of the nation, historically hostile to racial and ethnic minorities, and uniquely ignorant of the complexities that define and separate the panoply of Hispanic and Latino cultures and communities.

Nothing has brought this last point to the fore so much as the efforts by the Committee-Once-Bent-on-Renaming-Interstate-Avenue to rename a street somewhere, anywhere in Portland after the great Mexican-American Chicano hero Cesar Chavez, without actually identifying him as such.

The vast majority of Oregonians, it appears, cannot tell one from another, and for the most part can’t imagine that it makes a difference: Latino, Hispanic, Mexican-American, Chicano….

The terms are most definitely NOT interchangeable

Before you read more about what I have to say, at the bottom of this post, please read through these sources; it will do you no harm:

1. Encyclopedia.com:

Chicanos

“Chicanos (USA) Originally the descendants of Mexicans living in the area of the USA occupied in the Mexican–American War of 1846–8. In the 1950s the name was gradually adopted by Mexican Americans, who as the country's second largest minority group began to develop a distinctive consciousness.

“Chicano cultural organizations were formed, while successful trade union activity led by Cesar Chavez led to some improvements in pay and working conditions in the 1960s and 1970s. Meanwhile, the 1970s brought some educational advances with the establishment of bilingual and bicultural courses….”

© A Dictionary of Contemporary World History 2004, originally published by Oxford University Press 2004.

http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O46-Chicanos.html

2. From The Chicano Chronicles:

“There are other theories and explanations (for the origin of “Chicano”), but it doesn't really matter because the meaning of the term drastically changed in the 1960's when it was picked up by Mexican-American activists.

“Along with the farm workers' strikes led by Cesar Chavez, politicians and Mexican-American universities started a movement to better the social position of Mexican-Americans in the United States. Not only that, but to also reclaim our past and rediscover who we truly are and where we came from.

“The 'Chicano Movement' came about, and was very successful in giving a voice to people traditionally ignored.

“Since then, the label 'Chicano' means 'Mexican-American', but it has a political charge to it: Pro-Raza. . “'Chicano' is synonymous with 'Brown Pride'

http://www.chicanochronicles.com/cultura/definitionofachicano/

3. The Free Dictionary:

“Usage Note: Chicano is used only of Mexican Americans, not of Mexicans living in Mexico. It was originally an informal term in English (as in Spanish), and the spelling of the first recorded instance in an American publication followed the Spanish custom of lowercasing nouns of national or ethnic origin. However, the literary and political movements of the 1960s and 1970s among Mexican Americans established Chicano as a term of ethnic pride, and it is properly written today with a capital.

“While Chicano is a term of pride for many Mexican Americans, it remains a word with strong political associations. Since these politics are not necessarily espoused by all Mexican Americans, and since usage and acceptance of this word can vary from one region to another, an outsider who is unfamiliar with his or her audience may do well to use Mexican American instead.”

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Chicano

4. Dr. Ricardo Sanchez on The meaning of “Chicano”:

“Hispanic means someone who is Spanish or of Peninsular culture, but Chicanos are mestizos whose bloodlines are much more índio than español….

Rubén Salazar, a broadcast and print reporter in California, wrote about the human and social condition(s) of Chicanos.

“He wrote of a people that had become veritable ‘strangers in their own land,’ yet he stressed that Chicano meant looking at oneself through one's ‘own’ eyes and not through Anglo bifocals.

“Those words were a godsend to many of us, for those words of simplicity and rationality were spiritually and intellectually liberating.

“Salazar was killed by the Los Angeles Police Department, and the speculation persists that he was assassinated for his stands on behalf of a voiceless people….”

http://www.dr-ricardo-sanchez.com/4express-news-05-29-88.html

5. Wikipedia on Ruben Salazar:

Rubén Salazar (March 3, 1928 - August 29, 1970) was a Mexican-American news reporter killed by the sheriffs during the National Chicano Moratorium March against the Vietnam War on August 29, 1970 in East Los Angeles, California. During the 1970s, his killing was often cited as a symbol of unjust treatment of Latinos by law enforcement.

“Salazar was a reporter and columnist for the Los Angeles Times between 1959 - 1970[1]. He was also news director for the Spanish language television station KMEX in Los Angeles.

“On August 29, 1970 he was covering the National Chicano Moratorium March, organized to protest the disproportionate number of Chicanos killed in the Vietnam War.

“The peaceful march ended with a rally that was broken up by the Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department using tear gas. This resulted in rioting, during which Salazar was shot in the head at short range with a tear gas projectile while seated in The Silver Dollar Cafe. A coroner's inquest ruled the shooting a homicide, but the police officer involved, Tom Wilson, was never prosecuted. At the time many believed the homicide was a premeditated assassination of a very vocal member of the Los Angeles Chicano community.

“The story of Salazar's killing gained nationwide notoriety with the release of Strange Rumblings in Aztlan, an article written for Rolling Stone magazine by noted gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson and released on April 29, 1971 in Rolling Stone #81.

Ruben Salazar Honors

“In 1971 he was posthumously awarded a special Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and after the controversy of his death had subsided, Laguna Park - the site of the 1970 rally and subsequent police action - was renamed Salazar Park in his honour.

“His death was commemorated in a corrido by Lalo Guerrero entitled "El 29 de Agosto".

“At Sonoma State University, the former library, now an administration and classroom building, is named for Ruben Salazar, in memory of his work in Sonoma County as a reporter for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. As well, a classroom building at California State University, Los Angeles is named for him. On October 12, 2006, the hall was rededicated with the unveiling of his portrait by John Martin.

“On October 5, 2007, the United States Postal Service announced that it would honor five journalists of the 20th century times with first-class rate postage stamps, to be issued on Tuesday, April 22, 2008: Martha Gellhorn, John Hersey, George Polk, Ruben Salazar, and Eric Sevareid.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruben_Salazar

6. Wikipedia on Chicano:

Definition: Chicano (feminine Chicana) is a word for a Mexican American (in the sense of U.S.-born Americans of Mexican ancestry, as opposed to Mexican natives living in the United States). The terms Chicano and Chicana (also spelled Xicano) were originally used by and regarding U.S. citizens of Mexican descent.

Political identity:

According to the Handbook of Texas:

Inspired by the courage of the farmworkers, by the California strikes led by César Chávez, and by the Anglo-American youth revolt of the period, many Mexican-American university students came to participate in a crusade for social betterment that was known as the Chicano movement.

They used Chicano to denote their rediscovered heritage, their youthful assertiveness, and their militant agenda. Though these students and their supporters used Chicano to refer to the entire Mexican-American population, they understood it to have a more direct application to the politically active parts of the Tejano community.

At certain points in the 1970s, Chicano was the preferred, politically correct term to use in reference to Mexican-Americans, particularly in the scholarly literature. However, as the term became politicized, its use fell out of favor as a means of referring to the entire population. Since then, Chicano has tended to refer to politicized Mexican-Americans…. Chicano is considered to be a positive term of honor by many.

Political aspects:

Many currents came together to produce the revived Chicano political movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Early struggles were against school segregation, but the Mexican American cause, or La Causa as it was called, soon came under the banner of the United Farm Workers and César Chávez.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicano

7. BlogoliticalSean:

“Chicanos are the warrior class. Not everyone likes to hear that.” –Sean Cruz

About Sean: Sean Cruz was born Mexican-American in California. He became a Chicano in 1970 while studying political science at Sonoma State University, protesting the Viet Nam war, and supporting Cesar Chavez’ United Farm Workers, the same year Ruben Salazar was killed. Sonoma State’s former library building was renamed in honor of Ruben Salazar.

Sean Cruz writes Blogolitical Sean: www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Sergeant's towing scam targeted wheelchair users, vehicles with legal disability placards

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--With all of the well-deserved attention Retriever Towing and its owner, Gary Coe, is getting these days, it is probably easy to overlook Oregon’s other patrol towing predators, and the fact that it is the business model itself that creates the problems experienced by so many Oregonians.

It is worth noting that patrol towing has been banned in many other states. In California, for example, with some common-sense exceptions, the property owner must be present at the time of the tow and sign the invoice. Not complicated at all.

This basic change in Oregon towing policy would eliminate the vast majority of towing-related issues in the state at a stroke, and free up a mountain of police time and resources.

It is reasonably safe to assert that every predatory towing incident in Oregon results in an expenditure of taxpayer funds, that the police get pulled into it....

Retriever has towed my vehicle out of my own driveway three times, breaking the transmission in the process. Sergeant’s later added a fourth time, towing my van, broken transmission and all, right out of my own driveway. You can bet I called the police!

These tows occurred as a result of the towers’ contracts with Hacienda CDC, owner of the small parking lot adjacent to my home.

Note that it is not the towers that pay for these police services, nor is it the owners of the properties they patrol. These costs are born by you, Oregon taxpayer, and it is a fundamental part of the predatory patrol towers’ business model.

You have to ask yourself if you want your hard-earned tax money spent this way.

Oregon’s chief predatory patrollers, Retriever and Sergeant’s, hire and employ a platoon of thugs, arm them with tow trucks specially designed to grab and go in seconds, and pay them on a commission basis to skulk about in the dark.

It sounds like the scenario for a video game to me: Tow-Jacker!...Devil with a Hook!...Your car or your life!....

You can bet that Retriever's and Sergeant's commission schedules are designed inducements for ratcheting up the aggression quotient. Their attitude towards the public is that they are "stealing parking" and should be treated as any other kinds of thieves. Does this surprise you...?

These drivers function as the patrollers' sales agents as much as anything else they do; the towers receive no income from the property owners; the towing invoices are more like orders, with the salesmen empowered to write their own....

On the other side of the deal, Sergeant’s and Retriever’s contracts with property owners allow them to delegate on-the-spot towing authority to the aforementioned commission-paid thugs; thugs whose job is to find people "stealing" parking.

The conflict of interest is built into the business model, and that also needs to change.

Senator Gordly’s Senate Bill 431 and the Attorney General’s Senate Bill 116, both passed in 2007 on unanimous votes, give the state and local governments broad authority to regulate involuntary towing, but those new laws have yet to be implemented to any appreciable degree.

For more than a year, Sergeant’s Towing ran an illegal towing scam on public property in front of the former McCall’s Restaurant at Waterfront Park.

The notorious predatory patrol towing company heisted vehicles from the City-owned parking lot with no contract or authority from the City of Portland to do so.

The City of Portland determined in September that a Portland man, whose wheelchair-enabled van was towed from the McCalls lot by a Sergeant’s towing varlet, will at long last get his money back and just his money back.

Nothing for the inconvenience, the frustration, the time lost, the insulting attitude of Sergeant’s Towing, nothing for the real out-of-pocket expense that this company cost an innocent person…just the money that they had no legal right to at any point in the story….

Sergeant’s driver took the vehicle knowing he was leaving someone in a wheelchair without his vehicle! This is the kind of commission-driven thinking that characterizes the businesses burden on the public.

What is so singularly egregious about this particular towing scam is that it targeted people in wheelchairs!

The McCall’s lot contains several spaces reserved for vehicles marked with disabled placards, and a small forest of Sergeant’s signs that appear to be posted deliberately to confuse the public.

Some of the Sergeant’s signs posted throughout the lot state that a disability placard AND a McCall’s Restaurant permit must both be visible on the vehicle.

But McCall’s Restaurant had been closed for more than a year! There WERE no permits and there ARE no McCall’s Restaurant permits!

This predatory patrol towing victim parked in the lot on a Sunday afternoon intending to take a brisk wheel around the park. He parked his van in a space where the sign states that both the disability placard AND a McCall’s permit must be displayed.

But McCall’s was an empty building! It was a Sunday! He’s been in a wheelchair for more than 15 years! The placard is there! The van has a wheelchair lift! Towed anyway! And the attitude from Sergeant’s that followed!

The reason that none of these facts were a deterrent to the tow driver was because he was hooking up precisely the sort of “customer” the scam is designed to snare!

Sergeant’s commission-paid thugs patrolled McCall’s 24-7, placard or not, pure gravy to them.

Sergeant’s had no contract or authority to post its signs or tow vehicles from that parking lot.

Sergeant’s sent the towing victim a nasty letter in response to his complaint, stating that he should have called them on that Sunday afternoon to obtain a McCall’s permit, if he didn’t want to get his van towed….

There was no signage on the property that described how to get a McCall’s permit which, again, did not exist…..

This is a measure of the arrogance one finds rampant among patrol towers.

Anyone whose vehicle was towed from McCall’s in the past year or so should contact the City about getting your money back.

One wonders where else they are pulling these scams….

Many thanks to Tim Barrett for bulldogging this case to a successful conclusion.

Oregonians (and visitors to the state) owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Barrett for providing Senator Gordly’s office with his research on patrol towing in other states prior to the 2007 Legislative Session.

That information, which included the 9th U.S. Circuit Court’s ruling upholding California’s ban on patrol towing, gave us the legal foundation for Senate Bill 431 and Senate Bill 116. Both bills passed on unanimous votes.

The Circuit’s Court’s language is now embodied in Oregon Statute as Section 1 of Senate Bill 116 (2007).

As you can see, there remains some legislative work yet to be done regarding predatory patrol towing.

That work obviously needs to address the issue of towing vehicles that display disability placards, on both state and local levels.

It is completely unreasonable to require persons with disabilities to have to travel to the predators’ lots to recover their vehicles.

Oregon’s public policy needs to be clarified, set and enforced regarding vehicles bearing disability placards. This is a local issue only to the extent that the state fails to act.

This policy must at minimum accomplish two things: 1. Provide an alternative to towing the vehicle away in the first place (which should include a quick phone call to the property owner); and, 2. In the event of actual towing, facilitate the speedy, efficient return of the vehicle to its owner.

The simple solution to this problem is to require the property owner or manager to be present at the time of the tow and sign the invoice.

That is how it is done in other states; this is not rocket science….

Not one of the tows that have made the news recently, and most of those that did not, would have happened if the conflict-of-interest issue in the business model was dealt with.

Photos of the McCall’s parking lot taken the day after the wheelchair-enabled van was towed are here:

http://blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com/2008/09/urgent-portland-predatory-towing-alert.html

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Retriever Towing re-victimizes injured woman, Gary Coe offers insults

Portland, Oregon--

A Retriever Towing driver re-victimized an injured woman in an emergency situation, as reported in the Oregonian here:
http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/12/wilsonville_assault_victim_mad.html

KATU-TV television news coverage of the incident showed Retriever's owner, Gary Coe, alleging that the victim "smelled of alcohol and had no business driving a car", according to the report.

The link to the report is here: http://www.katu.com/news/35896334.html

Coe was not present at the scene and had no basis to make such a judgment, which was NOT echoed by the police officers who actually were there.

Such is the character of the man in charge of Oregon's largest predatory towing empire....

The Oregonian's Maxine Bernstein’s recently described how another Retriever patrol towing incident escalated rapidly to include an angry crowd, an attempt to set fire to the tow truck, and the vehicle owner under arrest:

http://www.oregonlive.com/news/index.ssf/2008/09/woman_accused_of_torching_a_to.html

KATU also reported on an incident where a driver for Sergeant's tow-jacked the car of a woman in labor, here: http://www.katu.com/news/local/33599024.html

These incidents underscore the point that patrol towing is hazardous to the health of the general public, the legal foundation for California’s ban on the practice.

Oregon is the only state on the west coast that allows patrol towing.

The 2007 Oregon Legislature, under the leadership of Senator Avel Gordly, imposed regulations on patrol towing that have yet to be fully implemented, particularly by local governments.

The towing bills passed that year were Senate Bill 116 and Senate Bill 431.

I led the SB 431 workgroup, which focused on private property impounds, to deal with situations such as these, and participated in the SB 116 workgroup, which addressed the broad scope of towing in the state of Oregon.

Prior to the passage of these bills, towing practices in Oregon were largely unregulated, with state and local jurisdictions having little explicit authority to put a dent in abusive and predatory towing.

SB 116 laid out the public policy goal: “(a) Statutes that assist members of the public in avoiding involuntary loss of use of motor vehicles and in expediting recovery of motor vehicles and the personal property in the motor vehicles promote the safety and welfare of members of the public.”

SB 116 establishes the authority of the Oregon Attorney General to receive complaints and to adopt and implement rules to promote the safety and welfare of members of the public. This legislation classifies many abusive towing practices under Oregon's Unfair Trade Practices statutes, which greatly increases the State's power to put the hammer down....

SB 116 also establishes the authority of local governments to regulate patrol towing within their respective jurisdictions, but none seem to have taken any action since the legislation was enacted.

SB 431 addresses private property impounds or patrol towing, the cause of the vast majority of towing complaints.

The legislation also gave state and local governments the authority to regulate the prices towers may charge for heisting your vehicle, but there has been little, if any, action taken.

This is where a conflict of interest exists within municipal governments: as much as they may dislike the practice, they need the revenue generated by patrol towing operations to fund city and county services.

Placing a cap on the amount of ransom a tower can charge the victim for release of the victim’s vehicle is an obvious next step, but no elected official has stepped up to take that one on: the pushback will come not only from the towing companies, the heaviest political pressure will come from the commercial interests that authorize the patrol towing practices on their properties.

The property owners pay nothing for the patrol towing “services”, and they want to keep it that way.

The tow company owners pay their drivers on bonus or commission schedules, which explains the drivers’ motivation for aggressive behavior and need for speed.

Some of these drivers carry weapons.

As the patrol towers’ costs increase, they will increase their ransom demands at points of contact with the public.

In both cases, the driver verbally demanded approximately $150-180 in cash for release of the vehicle.

How likely is the average apartment dweller to have that much cash on hand without prior notice?

Some are more likely to have a handgun, a rifle or a shotgun at home than a wallet full of cash.

A section of Senate Bill 116 explicitly requires tow truck drivers to provide their prospective victims with a printed rate sheet so that there is no confusion about the amount of ransom demanded. Failure to do so is an unfair trade practice under the new law, and it is highly important that the public contacts Oregon's Attorney General whenever these incidents occur.

Believe me, there are lawyers in the AG's office who really want to take the predators on a perp walk.

Other states and the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals have recognized the broad range of hazards to the general public and to the drivers themselves that patrol towing creates. Oregon has yet to step up and resolve the main issues.

The towers’ fee demands are often confiscatory in effect. Loss of vehicle is a penalty far beyond what is just for the “offense” that may or may not have been committed by the vehicle owner.

The patrol towers are hired to do one thing: remove a vehicle from the property.

If you are present at the scene, then you can remove the vehicle yourself. No need for a tow truck.

But that leaves the driver with an investment of time and emotion, and no money forthcoming from his employer, so he must get what he can from you, the vehicle owner.

California’s ban on predatory patrol towing is simple and straightforward, requiring the property owner to be present at the time of the tow and to sign the authorization form.

Commercial property interests and the patrol towers, led by the owners of Retriever and Sergeant’s Towing, were able to prevent the inclusion of this language in the 2007 legislation, over Senator Gordly’s objections.

This is the most important towing reform legislative work yet to be completed, but I am unaware of any legislative office that is working on the issue (Senator Gordly is retiring prior to the 2009 session).

Here are some important links regarding patrol towing:

Link to description of key towing bills (“Towing reform bills moving”):

http://www.leg.state.or.us/gordly/newsletter_042007.htm

Link to Senate Bill 116 (2007):

http://www.leg.state.or.us/07reg/measpdf/sb0100.dir/sb0116.en.pdf


Link to Senate Bill 431 (2007):

http://www.leg.state.or.us/07reg/measpdf/sb0400.dir/sb0431.en.pdf

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Oregon's Aaron's Law designed to prevent child abduction, provide relief to victims

By Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon—Each year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, more than 100,000 American children experience the trauma of abduction by a parent, a family member or other persons known to the victim.

Some children are abducted back and forth repeatedly, others disappear forever.

Existing state and federal laws have proven to be inadequate to deal with the problem, as the staggering numbers attest.

In all cases, the harm to the child victim is so severe that the best strategy is to prevent the abduction from taking place in the first place.

Aaron’s Law, passed by the Oregon legislature in 2005, is designed to achieve two goals: (1) discourage child abduction by providing financial sanctions against the perpetrators and requiring them to attend counseling sessions to better understand the harm they are inflicting; and, (2) provide relief to the victims with court-appointed mental health and legal professionals assigned to protect the child.

Aaron’s Law authorizes the court to assess the costs of the professional services to the perpetrators, which ought to serve as an additional discouragement.

Oregon is the first state in the union to take this approach, which is independent of either the criminal or the traditional family court processes.

The full text of Aaron’s Law follows:


Senate Bill 1041 (2005) AARON’S LAW (for Aaron Cruz)
Sponsored by Senator Avel Gordly

CHAPTER 841 Oregon Revised statutes

AN ACT Relating to custodial interference; and declaring an emergency.

Be It Enacted by the People of the State of Oregon:

SECTION 1. (1) Any of the following persons may bring a civil action to secure damages against any and all persons whose actions are unlawful under ORS 163.257 (1)(a):

(a) A person who is 18 years of age or older and who has been taken, enticed or kept in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a); or
(b) A person whose custodial rights have been interfered with if, by reason of the interference:

(A) The person has reasonably and in good faith reported a person missing to any city, county or state police agency; or
(B) A defendant in the action has been charged with a violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a).

(2) An entry of judgment or a certified copy of a judgment against the defendant for a violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a) is prima facie evidence of liability if the plaintiff was injured by the defendant’s unlawful action under the conviction.

(3)(a) For purposes of this section, a public or private entity that provides counseling and shelter services to victims of domestic violence is not considered to have violated ORS 163.257 (1)(a) if the entity provides counseling or shelter services to a person who violates ORS 163.257 (1)(a).
(b) As used in this subsection, “victim of domestic violence” means an individual against whom domestic violence, as defined in ORS 135.230, 181.610, 411.117 or 657.176, has been committed.

(4) Bringing an action under this section does not prevent the prosecution of any criminal action under ORS 163.257.

(5) A person bringing an action under this section must establish by a preponderance of the evidence that a violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a) has occurred.

(6) It is an affirmative defense to civil liability for an action under this section that the defendant reasonably and in good faith believed that the defendant’s violation of ORS 163.257(1)(a) was necessary to preserve the physical safety of: (a) The defendant; (b) The person who was taken, enticed or kept in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a); or (c) The parent or guardian of the person who was taken, enticed or kept in violation of
ORS 163.257 (1)(a).

(7)(a) If the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a) is under 18 years of age at the time an action is brought under this section, the court may:

(A) Appoint an attorney who is licensed to practice law in Oregon to act as guardian ad litem for the person; and

(B) Appoint one of the following persons to provide counseling services to the person:

(i) A psychiatrist.
(ii) A psychologist licensed under ORS 675.010 to 675.150.
(iii) A clinical social worker licensed under ORS 675.510 to 675.600.
(iv) A professional counselor or marriage and family therapist licensed under ORS 675.715.

(b) The court may assess against the parties all costs of the attorney or person providing counseling services appointed under this subsection.

(8) If an action is brought under this section by a person described under subsection (1)(b) of this section and a party shows good cause that it is appropriate to do so, the court may order the parties to obtain counseling directed toward educating the parties on the impact that the parties’ conflict has on the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a). The court may assess against the parties all costs of obtaining counseling ordered under this subsection.

(9) Upon prevailing in an action under this section, the plaintiff may recover: (a) Special and general damages, including damages for emotional distress; and (b) Punitive damages.

(10) The court may award reasonable attorney fees to the prevailing party in an action under this section.

(11)(a) Notwithstanding ORS 12.110, 12.115, 12.117 or 12.160, an action under this section must be commenced within six years after the violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a). An action under this section accruing while the person who is entitled to bring the action is under 18 years of age must be commenced not more than six years after that person attains 18 years of age.

(b) The period of limitation does not run during any time when the person taken, enticed or kept in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a) is removed from this state as a result of the defendants actions in violation of ORS 163.257 (1)(a).

SECTION 2. Section 1 of this 2005 Act applies to causes of action arising on or after the effective date of this 2005 Act.

SECTION 3. This 2005 Act being necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health and safety, an emergency is declared to exist, and this 2005 Act takes effect on its passage.

Passed by Senate August 1, 2005
Passed by House August 3, 2005
Approved by Governor: October 13, 2005
Filed in Office of Secretary of State:

Aaron’s Law may apply to any Oregon child abduction occurring after the date the Governor signed the bill into law.

Aaron Cruz was kidnapped along with his brother and two sisters on February 12, 1996 and concealed in various locations in Oregon, Washington and Utah.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Jim Pepper House updated

Now that my time serving in the Oregon State Senate is at an end with the retirement of Senator Avel Gordly, I am focusing myself on a project very close to my heart: Jim Pepper.

Although I never met this Great Soul personally, I was transfixed by his performance/presence at a Larry Coryell concert in San Rafael, California in the early 1970's. The name of the venue was, appropriately enough, Pepperland!

I left the concert without knowing his name, but more than thirty years later, I can still see him standing at the front of the stage, "Jim" baseball cap and lumberjack shirt, torrents and cascades of notes and pure emotion pouring out of that silver saxophone. He reached deep down inside of me that evening, and I've never forgotten the experience.

I learned his name in 2002, shortly after I bought my home, which was the Pepper family home for many years. Jim had passed on several years before I moved to Portland.

I saw the Remembrance Band perform at the 2005 Portland Jazz Festival, the first time I heard Jim's music as a body of work, and he reached up there (I was in the balcony) and grabbed me again.

I spoke to Senator Gordly about the experience the next day as we rode to the Capitol together, and she assigned me to draft what would become a Senate Joint Resolution (SJR 31, 2005) honoring the life and achievements of the Flying Eagle.

Later, motivated by the need to hear the Remembrance Band again, I promoted two performances at Portland's Blue Monk.

In 2007, the Pepper family asked me to speak for them at the National Museum of the American Indian on the occasion of the dedication of Jim's saxophone and other memorabilia to the NMAI permanent collection. This is one of the singular honors and moments of my life....

This event gave me the opportunity to meet and hear the musicians of Yellowhammer, and to understand in greater depth Jim's place in the world, and in the history of American music.

Now, as the Nation faces grave economic times, I am convinced that the world needs Jim Pepper more than ever, and I am dedicating myself to organizing the first annual Jim Pepper Festival of the Arts, to be held in Portland Oregon in 2009.

I invite all comments, from near and far, from those also touched by the Flying Eagle, for one thing we know for certain is that Pepper Lives!

see www.jimpepperhouse.blogspot.com


--Sean Cruz, December 6, 2008

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The decline and fall of the American empire (a poem)

(Portland, Oregon)

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire (a poem)


Some future historian will update Gibbon’s chronicle of Rome

Portraits of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney on the cover

Rumsfeld, Wolfowicz, Halliburton, Rove skulk throughout its fourteen volumes
Which generation shall write it, the only question

More bad news to follow, the likely response


---Sean Cruz, April 2008

=======================

...and the essay:


As the Bush/Cheney administration pushed the nation to the brink of catastrophe, General Eric Shinseki, Army Chief of Staff, testified before Congress that the Iraq operation would require several hundred thousand troops....

The General’s advice was ignored, as the White House ideologues dreamed of parades in Baghdad, Medals of Freedom on their chests, and the books they would write with “Triumph” in the title, all gained with a war fought on the cheap....

General Colin Powell warned, “If you break it you own it,” as the nation sat on its hands, assuaged by the comforting notion that Iraq’s own oil revenues would pay the damages, soothed by the certain knowledge that the blood sacrifices would be borne by people they did not know….

Even a cursory reading of the history of the Middle East shows that the region has been a broken bowl throughout all of recorded time, Iraq itself a notion bred by long-dead British and French diplomats, lines drawn in the sand and dust in a world where permanent political boundaries do not exist….

A calculated risk certainly, bolstered by the knowledge that Americans by and large are not prone to deep thought or historical reflection. The nation has carved out its current glory in the fields of spectator sports, obesity and shopping; no one can touch our heroes here; we are, with absolute calorie-laden certainty, clad in our world-class running shoes and emblematic sports apparel, Number One with a bullet, no one can beat an American for sitting in a chair with a sandwich….

Inheriting a vast budget surplus, the Bush-Cheney Frankenstein monster squandered all, hyper-concentrated wealth in the hands of the few, plundered the hopes of generations to follow, fractured the economic fabric in ways that mere bombs cannot touch, sacked the Nation Unconscious unconscious….

Today, middle-class Americans stand in bread lines of increasing length, manufacturing jobs spun overseas, their Nikes no longer so damn relevant….

In the future, shoes will be merely that; the prudent might learn how to make their own; “Just Tool It!!!” the nation’s new motto, printed on the gift cards we exchange for our beans and rice….

Too shrewd by half, the Nation has invested half a billion dollars into its unready Baghdad embassy as half-finished condo/office towers dominate American skylines, the barrage balloons of this World War, not worth blowing up….

Have you seen New Orleans lately? The Gulf Coast sinks to the bottom of the list, joining the veterans of all wars there, last among the least priority, the focus is on everything economic now….

Finding ever more Americans too obese to serve in the military and too few willing to enlist, the Nation’s armed forces lower enlistment standards to accommodate borderline criminals, a story foretold in Gibbons’ Rome, now here generations deep; try recovering from THAT any time soon….

The last polar bear will walk in the wild before the last backyard pool is dug in the desert; before Las Vegas tones it down a notch; before the last bogus environmentalist jets off on holiday splurge….

The point of decline of a nation, the tipping point of a civilization, becomes apparent when one generation cannot expect to achieve a quality of life equal to its predecessor, when its inheritance arrives pissed-on, pre-mortgaged and omni-leveraged beyond the horizon, the Mother of All Turds-in-the-Pocket, and good luck to you….

See Volume 6: “America before Bush, and After”….

Barack Obama campaign-spoke of “the fierce urgency of now”, these words just coming into bitter November focus for so many, sleepwalking as they were with the legacy of Ronald Reagan, patron saint of the selfish and short-sighted, a nation of individuals fixed on self-interest; now look at where we are, all but the wealthy and privileged fly ham-packed commercial….

Americans need no foreign enemy to wreak havoc among us; the model of righteous self-reliance, we can do it ourselves; this is where listening to talk radio will get you, the professional wrestling of topical discourse….

The laws and habits of the Nation require Change to wait until late January, no matter the dire straits, the urgent ferocity of Catastrophe, the now-ocity of crisis facing us; utter incompetence ticks time away, wastes away the clock, like the last eight years….

The Bush Administration retains its Constitutional right to be woefully wrong for two more endless months, vaporizing American jobs, Absolute Dead Weight, still damage to do before slouching off into exile….

In a parliamentary system, they would be gone already (note to students of American democracy—room for improvement here), the power levers switched over, a new puppy in the White House, no Lame Duck in the oven….

The system requires patience, the problems demand patience, sufficient to bridge to January 20, and then the patience to endure real hardship while change courses through the pond in gravitational waves, rocking the petals….

Somewhere, a foreclosed homeowner sits in the dark with a gun, waiting for the unlucky soul whose job it is to walk through that front door with a packing box, who will pluck out that Last Straw….

Moose-fed Sara Palin stands poised to take the helm in 2012, ready as she will ever be. The mere thought brings cheer to millions; guffaws and foot-stamping warm the most threadbare spots in the soul, protect against winter’s chill, a place for her towards the end of the book, splayed unpunctuated against the tide of reason….

What, me worry…?

--Sean Cruz, November 2008



====================

"Trajan was ambitious of fame; and as long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of the most exalted characters." –Edward Gibbons, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Chapter 1

“War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied….War is a grave matter; one is apprehensive lest men embark upon it without due reflection.” –Sun Tzu, The Art of War

“If you invade an oil-producing nation on the other side of the world, it will cost you.” --Sean Cruz, www.Blogoliticalsean

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Oregonian prints Blogolitical "White Tide" Op Ed on Oregon Legislature

The Oregonian has published my op ed on the legislature in its November 13th issue.

I shared the page (equal ink!)with the great Thomas Friedman!

Here's the link:

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2008/11/a_blue_election_tide_or_a_whit.html



A longer version of the piece, titled "Blue tide--not white--sweeps Oregon House! The Senate is next!!" is posted on BlogoliticalSean here:

http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=30929496&postID=1123465582980233978

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Saluting my sons on Veterans Day






Saluting my sons on Veterans Day
By Sean Cruz

Both of my sons, Aaron and Tyler Cruz, enlisted in the Army National Guard in 2000, joining an engineering battalion in southern Utah.

Their unit was put on alert, ordered to pack and stand by for deployment for Iraq early in the war, when President George W. Bush’s team began to realize that they didn’t have enough troops, although they would never admit this fact publicly. National Guard troops were activated far earlier than the public has ever realized, or cared to know about.

Their unit stood packed and ready, poised to leave for Ft. Carson, Colorado on 24 hours notice, throughout 2003. All of their equipment, vehicles and weapons were shipped for staging to Iraq.

Tyler was married and living in Utah.

Aaron was also living in Utah, but wanted to come back home to Portland and live with me. We had to obtain permission for him to come out here. I was able to bring him home in August 2003, and have written about this part of our lives in earlier posts.

The main thing was discovering the gravity and severity of Aaron’s physical and mental condition. He had not had adequate or competent medical care in all the years he had been living in Utah. Now he was facing life-threatening illness.

We came to learn that the reason their unit was held back on alert for so long was because their mission involved entering Iraq from the north, through Turkey, and that nation was not allowing U.S. forces through its territory at the time.

In November, 2003, their mission was changed, and my sons were ordered to report.

Aaron came downstairs to give me the news. He was going to join his unit and his brother. Nothing was going to stop him. Not even the warning from his doctor that his seizure disorder could put him into a coma from which he would not recover. He was going to Iraq.

I watched him pack on Thanksgiving day. He was gone the next day, sick as he was, clad in his dress uniform, driving to Utah.

I promised him his room would be exactly as he left it when he returned home, although I could feel in my heart that I would not see him alive again.

He called several days later to tell me that he had passed the Army physical, that he was cleared for deployment and combat. I couldn’t believe it was possible!

He had not disclosed any part of his true medical condition to the doctors, and they were happy to take everyone they could.

Eventually, the Army would decide to hold Aaron back in Utah for medical evaluation, but sent his brother Tyler on to Iraq, where he would serve as a .50 caliber machine gunner, escorting convoys across central Iraq for the next year.

The Army held Aaron in Utah for medical review. He could not leave the state. He received no pay and no medical care from Army doctors while he was there, and he died in April 2005, as predicted, after he suffered a seizure and fell into a coma.

I went broke supporting my son between the time the Army ordered him to report for deployment and his death.

I suspect that he was out of his anti-seizure meds.

Although Aaron is not a veteran of the Iraq war, that is through no fault of his own. He did all he could to get there, even attempting to transfer to other Iraq-bound units, if only the Army could overlook his medical condition, he hoped.

And he died a death common to veterans of this and other wars: alone, sick, broke, unemployed and homeless (his home was here in Portland).

His unit, back from Iraq, turned out in full dress for his memorial service, presented him with a flag; President Bush sent me a certificate, posted here:

http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=30929496&postID=5621767990810215403

Eight hours after we buried his brother, Tyler was on his way back to complete training for his second tour, a year spent in Ramadi, in combat every day and night.

I have had no information about Tyler in more than a year.

How I miss my boys.

To you both, on Veterans Day 2008.

Love, Dad

Photos of Tyler in Iraq:

The United States of America honors the memory of Aaron A. Cruz


Saluting my father, my hero, on Veterans Day


John Paul Cruz was my dad. He was born in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. His parents emigrated to the U.S. in the wake of the Mexican revolution, doing agricultural work in California fields and orchards, when he was an infant, just 4 months old. My grandfather also worked as a laborer on the Southern Pacific railroad.

There were hard times on both sides of the border: The oppression of colonial Mexico; the bloody chaos of the Revolution; struggle and poverty; obtaining permission to cross the border;travel as Mexicans in the United States; American bigotry; distances of class, language and culture; the Great Depression and then World War II.

My dad spoke much about going to war and coming home from war, but little about the war itself. My brother and I learned about WWII from reading the many books on the subject that dad brought home. I developed my love of history through reading the books he collected.

They settled in Fairfield, California, where my grandparents lived out the rest of their days, where my father, first-born, led his two brothers and three sisters through the immigrants' maze so that each graduated from high school in this new land.

My dad, a citizen of Mexico, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1943. He went ashore at Omaha Beach with the third wave of troops, fought through the hedgerows of Normandy, earned a commendation for his service under General George S. Patton during the Battle of the Bulge.

He would talk about the hedgerows. These might have been my first geography lessons. How the hedgerows came to be built, where they were located, why they were significant, how difficult they were to fight through....

He came home after the war, met and married the lady who would become my mother, became a naturalized citizen of the U.S. When I was a child, he became a patrol officer with the Solano County Sheriff's Office, where he would serve for 15 years.

An on-duty collision in the patrol car took his kneecap and ended his career. The damage to his chest would lead to heart problems that ended his life in 1975 at the age of 52. Heart surgery was in its infancy in those days. Procedures common today would probably have extended his life, and he might be alive today.

He is alive in my heart and that of my brother Dana. Every day. One could not ask for a better father figure than John Cruz, or for more perfect love than that he gave for his country and his family.

This photo was taken in Liege, Belgium, in 1944.

Monday, November 10, 2008

OHDC whistleblower letter #1

The first of three whistleblowing letters regarding the Oregon Human Development Corporation (OHDC) appears below.

I have taken some criticism for not following the chain of command, for going outside of the organization with these letters, but in actual fact I did so, much of that documented in internal emails to the OHDC Central Office.

The problem is that the OHDC chain of command goes no further than Fernando Guttierrez in the Central Office. This has been the case for many years, according to current and former OHDC employees.

Fernando insulates staff from Executive Director Ron Hauge and from OHDC's Board of Directors. OHDC provides no information to its employees regarding Mr. Hauge's activities or thinking, but rumors abound that he is rarely in his office, despite the charm of its 5th-floor views in Tigard. There is no evidence of any visioning by Mr. Hauge in either the short or long terms, and field staff have no information as to the future and direction of their employer.

Fernando also insulates staff from any information regarding the OHDC Board of Directors, its membership, meeting times and locations (if any) and agendas (if any).

The news that the economy is in crisis and unemployment rates soaring does not appear to have reached either Mr. Guttierrez or Mr. Hauge. More on this later.

As an Employment Specialist, my job was to find employment for clients seeking work, to monitor the status of employed clients over a period of time, and to submit signed reports to the Central Office. The most important reports are the quarterly status reports, which the Central Office uses to support its claims to the U.S. Department of Labor.

My employment began as the 2nd quarter 2008 reports were coming due, and there was intense pressure from the Central Office to get the forms filled out, signed and delivered.

I could see right away that the OHDC information system was a mess, because it didn't work. I learned from staff that no one knew how to make it work and that it had always been that way, which is why the organization functions on paper via fax and UPS.

I also saw that the status of many clients could not be confirmed, that many had not been seen or heard from in months. Fernando brushed that all aside, telling me to focus on a handful of current clients only, to ignore all the others.

It was easy to see that we would encounter the same problem when the next quarterly reports were due at the end of September.

I knew that I was not going to sign any document attesting that clients were being contacted by OHDC or were receiving services when I could find no evidence that this was the case.

Over the course of the summer, I received much pressure from the Central Office to remove from my case notes anything that did not support whatever claims OHDC was making to the feds. I refused to alter my notes. I will have more to say about this later in the series of posts.

Here's the 1st letter:

July 10, 2008

To Whom It May Concern:

Since entering employment at OHDC as Employment Specialist in the Gresham office on June 3, 2008, I have observed or become aware of a number of troubling issues, many long-term or endemic in the organization, that I have reason to believe are detrimental to its ability to fulfill its mission.

My observations are informed by my prior System Analyst experience in business computer systems, my family history as the son and grandson of Mexican farm workers, and by my position as Oregon State Senator Avel Gordly’s Chief of Staff. I have staffed Senator Gordly during her service on several Joint Ways and Means budget committees and on the Emergency Board since 2003.

Since many of the problems are related to OHDC’s computer and workflow systems, I will begin my comments in that area:

1. Observations re Information Services

There is no central file server in the OHDC system, and no backups in the field offices. Paper files are the only backup system in use.

All data is at perpetual risk of loss. All client files in the Gresham office reside on a single staff member’s computer, and I assume each office is configured the same way.

No two OHDC offices organize electronic files in the same way. The central office is currently attempting to standardize paper files, but no like effort is underway regarding electronic files.

Despite the ample provision of computer hardware in all of the offices, the OHDC information “system” ultimately operates via printouts sent (and often re-sent and re-sent again) between the central and field offices by fax and UPS. The organization essentially uses the computers as typewriters.

Nearly every management report pertaining to the requirements of the FJTP/WIA grant monies are keyed in by at least two employees, one in the central office and one in the field.

The OHDC electronic file system is chaotic, lacks any organizational concept or structure, and OHDC procedures require both field and central office employees to repeatedly re-enter data with no confidence that the result will be satisfactory in either the short or long term.

Paperwork errors in the central office and the workflow system itself creates unnecessary and unreasonable delays in clients’ receipt of reimbursement or other support funds and contributes to high levels of employee frustration.

Payments to clients or on behalf of clients are routinely held back by central office for one reason or another, often related to the illogical computer and workflow system that absolutely no one anywhere in the organization is master of.

The company providing computer support services has repeatedly made recommendations to OHDC to address these and other related issues, to no avail.

The Gresham office has a new ten-station flat-panel computer lab with overhead projection system for ESL instruction that mostly sits unused. The Rosetta Stone software that accompanies the lab does not work properly (or we lack any staff member who knows how to use it).

The OHDC website is badly in need of updating throughout. Board members are not identified, and no meetings or minutes are posted.

There are no recent OHCD success stories, identifying either client or employer partner, posted on the website.

It is doubtful that OHDC’s MIS staff has installed any traffic-analysis software on the company website that would provide information, for example, on who accesses the website and how they got there.

The online staff directory is months out of date.http://www.ohdc.org/directory.html

It is unclear what the role of the OHDC “MIS Manager” is, given all of the above.

It is also unclear what role other central office employees have in “managing” the OHDC system, and whether they have the qualifications to do so competently.

Some central office staff titles do not seem to correspond to actual duties, which appear to include monkeying ad hoc with the computer and workflow systems.


2. Staffing issue observations:


There are serious employee safety issues in the Gresham office, which is located in an area notorious for high rates of criminal gang activity. There is no active partnership with law enforcement in Rockwood, no alarm system or panic button for staff, and emergency exits are blocked due to the fear of intrusion from the rear of the building. Women feel particularly vulnerable.

Field office employee turnover is excessive.

Employee morale is low.

Opportunities for advancement within the organization for field staff personnel appear to be limited to the field offices alone.

Apparently, 100% of OHDC field office personnel are Hispanic and bilingual, but only a minority (1) of those in the central office are Hispanic or bilingual.

There appears to be little or no history of field employees successfully transitioning to central office positions.

Perhaps 40% of field office staff have been employed less than 6 months.

One experienced field office employee estimated that paperwork took up 40-50% of the employee’s time. My observation is that much of that paperwork is fruitless and reduces the employee’s opportunities to interact with either clients or employers.

3. Observations re clients and services

Central office employees are isolated from our clients; it is field office staff that deal with clients as human beings, not as numbers in a report.

There are scant records of successful placements and no active partnerships with employers in the Gresham area. This may be the case in other offices.

Employment Specialists are required to test the English proficiency of all new clients upon entry into the program, but no client progress reports of any kind are required of ESL instructors.

There is no record or report required of either (a) subject matter covered or (b) competency attained through the ESL class. The only measure of a client’s participation in ESL is the daily attendance sheet.

The central office routinely requires our clients to come into the field office any number of times to sign or re-sign forms without consideration for the trouble and expense imposed on the client, and with no sense that time is important to either staff or client.

For example, many of our clients need assistance to pay for the gasoline they must burn in order to get to the interviews we send them on, or to get to the job we have found for them, but there is no telling how long it will take for the central office to cut a check. The paperwork and process that the central office is developing will likely cause the value of the staff time required to exceed by far the cash value of the help provided to the client.

Our clients face overt racism and anti-immigrant hostility like no other population that is competing for these jobs. I am seeing Help Wanted ads for landscapers requiring English proficiency to mow lawns and trim bushes.

I have learned that only 20% of OHDC’s $ 1.8 million budget projected for the coming FY is allocated to client support services, the rest eaten up by overhead.


Closing comments and recommendations:

I believe that OHDC has many strengths upon which to build, but that several drastic steps are in order.

I also believe that—since our clients live on the thin margin and face significantly more difficult obstacles to stable employment in the present economic climate—the issue is urgent and remedial action must be taken immediately.

There is a major disconnect between the central office and the people we serve, brought upon in large part by the physical isolation of central office staff from the field offices and of the communities we serve, and by the astonishing lack of Hispanic employees and cultural competence within the central office.

Recommendations:

1. Change in leadership
2. Resolve file server and system backup issues.
3. Close central office and co-locate central office staff with field office providing direct services to reduce overhead and bring all staff into alignment with community and client needs.
4. Change at board level


Sincerely,


Sean Cruz

Thursday, November 06, 2008

White tide--not blue--sweeps Oregon House! The Senate is next!!

(Portland, Oregon) While the rest of the nation celebrates a transformational election that could not have taken place without minorities in general and Barack Obama in particular gaining access to political power at the state level, the Oregon legislature is making ready to convene in 2009 as its least-diverse body in decades.

In Oregon, it is the irony of stepping backward to pre-civil rights times as President-Elect Obama prepares to take residence in the White House that rises to historical proportions….

Sal Esquivel, a moderate Republican from southern Oregon, hung on to re-election by his fingernails. He will be the House of Representatives’ sole non-white member for the 2009-2011 biennium.

The irony…the irony….

And as it has for the past three biennia, the Oregon Democratic Party will sift out all of its non-white candidates in its partisan primaries and send a completely Caucasian House delegation to Salem. With a single exception, the same for the Senate.

Some say race is not a factor….

Some say affirmative action is no longer relevant, that equality has been reached….

Some say that Oregon’s partisan primary system works as intended….

…I’m sure that last one is the case….

After all, it was created in a day when only white men could own property or vote in an Oregon election….

This fact was reflected in the many Measure 37 hearings I monitored over the past several years. Those hearing rooms were always filled with white people; the proceedings completely irrelevant to Oregon’s minority populations.

Measure 37 looked back, you see, to those days when a person of color could not own or purchase property outside of certain urban areas in the state.

To have a Measure 37 claim, you pretty much had to be white….

How quickly people forget….

As a candidate for Senate District 23, the most racially and ethnically diverse senate district in Oregon, every endorsement interview I attended was conducted by a panel of 100% white people, with a single exception….

American Federation of Teachers (AFT): all white
Carpenters Union: all white; the one minority present left mid-interview
Firefighters: all white
Sierra Club: all white
Oregon League of Conservation Voters (OLCV): all white
Stand for Children: all white
Basic Rights: all white
SEIU: the single exception—one person in the room was also a minority
AFSCME: all white and already in the tank (see AFSCME-gate post)
Building Trades: all white
Planned Parenthood: all white
Oregon Education Association (OEA): all white
Portland Association of Teachers: all white

The panels themselves mostly consisted of paid lobbyists and a handful or less of union members ranging from hard core to novices.

Few of these interview panelists were actually constituents of the district I was seeking to represent.

As a Mexican-American, a Chicano, I have a lifetime of experience reading white people’s facial and body language. Most of these panelists had never sent a person of color to the legislature before, and had probably never seen the inside of the state capitol.

Those are big hurdles to overcome in a 15-20 minute interview.

I didn’t ask any of them for their money….

They already knew what they were going to do….

The Democratic Party of Multnomah County itself played no role in the primary process itself; did not host a single public event, no forums or debates, staged nothing that might pose a threat to its incumbents' ambitions.

The publicly-funded Oregon League of Minority Voters (OLMV) spent the entire primary period ignoring minority candidates for the Oregon legislature, running and hiding, ducking and dodging, slippin' and slidin', stayed far away from the question of who would succeed Senator Avel Gordly in the Oregon Senate and who would serve in her old House seat.

Many of the OLMV members, you see, are secret members of the Committee-Once-Bent-on-Renaming-Interstate Avenue AND signed on to my opponent’s campaign, and you get the picture….

Did I mention that the OLMV is funded with your tax money?

But that was the past, and now we look to the future of the state, and how its legislature will reflect its citizenry….

That may be a couple of decades in the future….

The Senate has only two persons of color among its 30 members. Republican Senator Jackie Winters and Democratic Senator Margaret Carter are probably serving their last terms before retirement.

And then there will be none….

The clearest path to the Oregon Senate is through the House, but there is no place for people of color there, not for Democrats.

Individually, the Members are all good, hard-working, dedicated people….

But collectively, as a reflection of the state’s racial and ethnic makeup, issues and priorities, they fail to meet the rhetoric of inclusion and democracy.

They do make the case for open primaries and other electoral reform, though.

Oregon’s partisan primary system keeps us mired back in the era where decisions were made in smoke-filled rooms….

There was plenty of smoke in those endorsement interview rooms I was in….

You couldn’t see it, but you sure could smell it.


Sean Cruz
November 6, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mismanagement, waste, workplace hostility and fraud uncovered at Oregon Human Development Corporation (OHDC)!!!

by Sean Cruz

Portland, Oregon--

The Oregon Human Development Corporation, based in Tigard, recruited and hired me in early June of this year (2008) to fill their vacant Employment Specialist position in the Gresham office, located in the Rockwood neighborhood.

Although I was not looking for another job at the time, I jumped at the opportunity to work with OHDC’s clientele of largely Mexican farm workers. I am the son and grandson of Mexican farm workers, and OHDC was offering me an opportunity to return to my roots and help others transition from seasonal or migrant work to more stable employment.

Since OHDC has held a monopoly on the U.S. Department of Labor’s Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Oregon funds under the National Farmworker Jobs Program (NFJP) for the past 29 years, I assumed that they were doing a good job.

Almost immediately after beginning employment at OHDC, however, I became aware of an alarming number of problems and issues within the organization that led me to act as a whistleblower, documenting my concerns in a series of three letters I sent to the U.S. Department of Labor and other parties in July.

Among the allegations documented in those three letters:

1. No one knows who the OHDC Board members are. They do not appear to meet. Any queries about the Board are met with resistance from OHDC Central Office management.

2. Many client files contain little information about the client. What is clear is a pattern: OHDC reports to its funders that clients receive frequent contact and that services are provided, but there is little or no evidence in the files to support those claims. As an Employment Specialist, I received constant pressure to provide positive reports regarding clients I had never seen nor spoken with.

3. OHDC’s workflow and computer systems may be the most dysfunctional in North America. God knows how they get away with this. The (appropriately titled) MIS Manager lives in another state, racking up frequent flyer miles at farm worker expense.

4. ESL classes are vital to client success, because lack of English skills are their greatest barrier to employment and advancement. Over a period of years, OHDC has represented that its Gresham clients receive ESL instruction, but the only record of such are attendance sheets. There is no requirement that the ESL instructor teach any specific curricula or meet any goals whatsoever other than to see that clients sign the attendance sheets. No one knows what—-if anything—-was taught in the class. The instructor was a personal friend of Fernando Guttierrez, who hired and re-hired her.

5. Despite the long monopoly of WIA grant funds across the entire state of Oregon, OHDC has no active employer partnerships, not even with the Hispanic Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce or any of its members. This is really hard to believe, trust me, but that speaks to the level of incompetence at Central Office management level and disinterest on the part of OHDC’s Board of Directors.

6. My recommendations were that change be implemented at both the Board and Central Office management levels, and that the Central Office be closed down, with its remaining positions co-located with field offices providing direct services.

None of this endeared me to the long-entrenched Central Office management, but I received a great deal of support and encouragement from both current and former OHDC employees, all of whom recognized that OHDC maintains a hostile work environment and has done so for years.

I never received a reply from the DOL or any of the other parties I had sent the letters to, but OHDC management sure came after me for contacting their funders.

OHDC’s management could not dispute much of what I had written because I had simply written out what any observer could see. Their anger was focused on the fact that I had contacted their long-time funders.

One of the distinctive characteristics of OHDC is the split between Central Office personnel and those employed around the state in its various field offices.

Central Office employees have generally been there for more than a decade, some since the beginning, and with a single exception are non-Hispanic and are not bilingual or bicultural, even though nearly 100% of OHDC clients are Spanish-speaking. Central Office employees view their positions as career-length, and plan to retire in place.

Field office employees are 100% bilingual and bicultural, and with a few exceptions, are either terminated or move on in less than a year. The turnover rate must rank among the highest in any industry, and OHDC clients rarely have the benefit of a long-term relationship with a case worker.

OHDC management suspended me with pay for a couple of weeks mid-summer, then brought me back under a Work Performance Plan that was actually impossible to meet. Some of its key deadlines had already passed; it required performance levels far greater than any historical OHDC achievements; and, the Central Office controlled the information necessary to carry out the plan, but due to its massive ineptitude was unable to provide it.

In my three July letters, I did not allege the commission of fraud in OHDC’s reporting, although I strongly suspected it was the case.

As weeks went by, however, it became very clear that OHDC Central Office management was cooking the books so far as describing service delivery was concerned.

The WIA grants require quarterly reports on all clients, and the deadlines for these reports generate much pressure from Central Office to submit reports that will be viewed as a “positive” rather than as a “negative.”

I can tell you that the Central Office is carrying on its books as clients people who haven’t been seen or located in months.

The Central Office pressures field staff to report that these clients are participating in the program regardless. My refusal to do so was among the last straws before my employment was terminated on October 20.

In one case in the Gresham office, OHDC has reported the client’s SSN incorrectly for more than a year. I discovered the error in the days before my firing. The client’s correct (and legal) number is in the file on the client’s tax return, but every OHDC document going back to mid-2007 shows an incorrect number.

OHDC Central Office management is scrambling right now, trying to figure out how to correct this and still look good to the funders, with backdating among the top strategies.

I am aware of another case in the Gresham office where the client’s SSN belongs to another person. OHDC Central Office has taken no action.

Recently, a number of Central Office and field office staff attended a national farmworker conference in Washington, D.C. No information about the conference has been shared with employees who did not attend, but what has been disclosed is that drunkenness and poor conference attendance were issues there, with some employees disciplined and others not for the same offense.

Lastly, for the purpose of this writing, I want to blow the whistle one more time!

At a meeting convened at the Central Office on October 2, Fernando Guttierrez, OHDC’s long time Workforce Development Manager disclosed that “Ron and Chris are running the OHDC WIA grant in Nevada privately. That’s their own thing.”

Ron Hauge is OHDC’s mostly-absent Executive Director and Chris Evans holds the title of Community Resource Program Manager, although he neither manages or is aware of any actual community resources, by his own admission.

The Nevada operation was shocking news; as I had been researching OHDC and WIA issues all summer and had not come upon a scintilla of information to tie OHDC and Nevada.

There is no mention of Nevada on OHDC’s website, or in any internal communication. There do not appear to be any Nevada offices, and a Google search comes up empty.

How does a farmworker in Nevada access OHDC’s services?

I have filed a harassment complaint against Fernando Guttierrez and Ron Hauge with the Bureau of Labor and Industries, and I am talking to an investigator from the Department of Justice.

I will also send this posting to the group that received my three June letters.

Maybe this time they will take it seriously enough to show up and look through the files themselves.

Viva Cesar Chavez!!!

Sean Cruz
October 22, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

NW Airedale Rescue names 2008 Rescue Poster Boy: Rex


Salem-based dog rescue organization honors blind pooch “for his guts and Airedale spirit.”

Read the story, in the words of the man who saved him, here:

http://www.nwairedalerescue.org/

Link to Rex’s Page:

http://www.rexspage.blogspot.com

Sean Cruz is Rex’s seeing-eye person:

http://www.blogoliticalsean.blogspot.com






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Sunday, October 19, 2008

AFSCME-Gate, Oregon Senate District 23 and a word about ethics and lobbyists

You be the judge!

You are a candidate for public office (Senate District 23); invited to appear before a powerful union endorsement panel for an interview (AFSCME).

You recognize that the union has endorsed your opponent (Jackie Dingfelder) in the past, but since you have worked successfully with the union’s professional lobbyists across a wide range of issues for the past several years, you have an expectation that you will be treated fairly and honestly.

Your opponent is a sitting legislator, chairs a powerful House committee, and has earned notoriety for being the hardest-charging full-time campaigner in Oregon history. You are a huge underdog, irrespective of the fact that you are well qualified for the job. What can she/they possibly be afraid of?

You learn a few days before the interview that your opponent’s spouse (Tom Gainer) is an AFSCME organizer. Given the different surnames of the couple, it is a relationship that few outsiders are aware of, most importantly the constituents of Senate District 23.

Here is the question: Does the powerful union endorsement panel have a duty to disclose the conflict of interest?

I believe that they do….

Going into the interview, which took place at the AFSCME offices on January 25, 2008, I pondered bringing up the question, but decided to give the interviewers the opportunity to act honestly and with integrity, a test which they failed miserably and with smiles on their faces.

The interview proceeded cordially and ended with a nice round of applause, but no disclosure.

I can tell you that my opinion of the AFSCME lobbyists changed dramatically at the conclusion of the interview, but I made no mention of it.

I never heard from them again.

Months later, during the Williamette Week interview, my opponent disclosed (somewhat uncomfortably) that her largest campaign contribution ($ 5,000) came from AFSCME and that her husband, Tom Gainer, was an AFSCME organizer.

The disclosure raised some eyebrows around the W Week table, but the paper failed to follow up the lead.

The AFSCME endorsement and cash contribution helped the Dingfelder/Gainer campaign garner other endorsements and contributions, including several thousand dollars’ worth of free wine, used to fuel still more fund-raising and glad-handing activities. Parrrr-ty!!!

All of the other union and special-interest organizations followed the AFSCME lead in this race, which explains how the unions locked up in support of Jackie Dingfelder.

She was able to raise a campaign war chest in excess of $ 100,000, more than ten times any other legislative race in the state, not to mention the large hoard of free alcohol.

On the surface, the endorsements seem to demonstrate broad support, that the AFSCME endorsement was decided on the merits of the respective candidates, and that is the illusion the Dingfelder/Gainer campaign has fought hard to create.

But the reality is that it was (and is) an inside job.

AFSCME gains a seat in the Oregon Senate.

What this means for the constituents of Senate District 23 and all Oregonians has yet to be seen.

Lots of campaign promises to be kept; legions of lobbyists to satisfy….

There still may be some free booze left….

If not, they know where to get more….

Vote yes on Measure 65, Open Primaries!!!

If you want to upset the applecart, and bring real change to the Oregon Legislature, write in Sean Cruz for Senate District 23.

--Sean Cruz, October 19, 2008