Bullets Through the Wall

Carla Hanson

The fresh bullet holes in my shop are a stark reminder that pretending we are not part of a greater community is both cruel and foolish.

By Carla "KC" Hanson of Portland, Oregon. KC is the Chair of the Multnoamh County Democratic Party, which has endorsed YES votes on all 3 PPS and Parkrose School Measures on the May 17 Ballot.

Pure coincidence lead me to a decision not to run by my SE Portland shop after a long day at work on Friday, April 22nd. Had I been there, one of the 3 bullets that ripped through the shop's west wall could have caught me at precisely the wrong time, and right at eye level. Sadly, another young Portlander was the target of gun violence and lay bleeding on the asphalt of the neighboring gas station.

Seeing the news, most Portlanders shake their heads, hope the police apprehend the shooters, and quickly move on. We don't necessarily stop to contemplate how our community got to this point of violence anywhere, anytime... much of it perpetrated by youth.

The greater question is not how to catch and punish the shooters, but how to address the paradigm that creates these young offenders. And if we have the courage to look under that surface, we will have to confront the question of whether to successfully fund our public schools and offer our kids both tools and opportunities, or throw up our hands and claim we are just too broke.

Over the past generation, skillful propaganda campaigns have promised "relief" from taxes while in fact "relieving" us of the institutions that make us a civilized community, including a functioning system of public schools. As schools were increasingly denied the resources to do the job we expect of them, increasing numbers of kids hit the streets instead of the books. Cynically, the campaign for 1990's Measure 5 claimed that it would "hold schools harmless", something it was clearly not designed to do.

Our school facilities are deteriorating; many programs that inspired our youth have been cut; teachers are challenged by increasing class loads and class sizes, and parents are asked to pay up for everything from participation in clubs and sports to crayons for kindergartners.

We offer our youth less and less positive support and attention, and then are shocked and amazed that they find fellowship in gangs, exhilaration by brandishing weapons, recognition from street-fighting and adventure in using drugs. We are horrified that teenagers become accomplished drug-business leaders as we close the doors to both educational and economic opportunity.

We have been duped by a calculated campaign to disinvest in our public institutions. While major money consistently backs campaigns to cap or reduce taxes, their polished and contrived emotional appeals work with voters who don't recognize what they must give up in return.

The fresh bullet holes in my shop are a stark reminder that pretending we are not part of a greater community is both cruel and foolish. Whether it's fair or not is immaterial right now; we are the only ones holding the life preservers. Arguing about who ran the ship aground will do little to address immediate needs.

It's up to us to make a loud and clear statement that we DO care about our kids, and vote for the School Measures on our ballots. Just maybe, one less stray bullet will tear through a business or home, and one less Portland kid will leave a mourning family behind.

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    Thank you Carla. Very well written and cuts to the almost invisible core of the issue. Or should I say issues, since many of the problems we face both locally and nationally are impacted by what your piece touches on?

    Oregon spends more general fund dollars on its prison system than on higher education and we are surprised by the outcomes which are underscored by the bullet holes in your shop?

    Someone the other day posted in a different thread, and animated clip of an excerpt form a speech by Sir Ken Robinson about shifting paradigms in education which, if you hear the full lecture he gave, echoes many of the points you brought up Carla.

    Good post.

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    Thank you, KC. Thoughtful reflection.

    And, glad you're OK, even if your wall isn't.

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    I wondered about you last week because as close as this was to my house, knew it was much closer to yours.

    Folks that don't know (and why would you?), I'm a neighbor of KC's out here in Lents. We were on the other side of the shooting so the bullets didn't tear through our house, though my wife was trying to mow the yard as the shots rang out last Friday. It hits close to home as I often see the victim -- his door directly across the street from mine.

    There's no good that will come of this shooting and fortunately the victim is okay. Tho I, like many residents of Lents, remain frustrated that PPS left our neighborhood behind when it announced it would shutter Marshall High School. I'm going to vote for the measures for similar reasons and because while we may dislike the basic PPS has to offer right now, cannot imagine it if these measures fail.

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      I don't know Jesse, I'm not seeing the logical connection. In fact, trying to get from gang shooting to "lets close the high school in the poor neighborhood spend money on Cleveland High School" is causing a lot of cognitive dissonance for me. PPS closed Marshall, a school that was making significant inroads in helping these kids feel safe, positive and respected. If they wanted to make a difference in he lives of our most vulnerable kids, they should have supported keeping Marshall open and improving the holistic functions of neighborhoods in and around 82nd. Telling a kid their neighborhood isn't worth investing in by closing their high school isn't the way you do that.

      And now, after taking Marshall away, they want to put additional economic stress on the families in the Lents neighborhood for the sake of remodeling schools in more affluent areas? Kids in East Portland - kids that went to Marshall are the kids that can least afford the economic stress. When your take home pay is 40K or less per year, a couple hundred dollars is a big deal - it's the difference between new shoes and no shoes, it pays for the bus fare to those extra tutoring sessions.

      I'm good with the operating levy, but I really can not justify voting for the construction bond. The manner in which the benefit is being distributed is inequitable, and that's a direct result of an inequitable high school redesign on PPS's part.

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        Given that I live in the most distressed economic area of Portland (St. Johns) and the bond will pay for replacing Roosevelt High School, I suggest that your view of the bond measure is about spending money in "affluent" areas over disadvantaged ones is little off the mark. The bond measure will be upgrading and/or replacing dangerously deteriorated and ill-equipped school facilitates in every area within Portland, not just "affluent" areas.

        As Carla put it well in her comment below, the divisive race to the bottom is not the way we should be moving forward.

        The reality is that the schools have to be upgraded (some of them replaced). We either pay for it now, or pay even more down the road which is where have been kicking the can for decades now that has put us in this position.

        Measure 5, and the capping of property taxes have bled schools dry of funds. Add to it that PPS is the ONLY school district in the region that doesn't have a bond to pay for facility repairs and upgrades, and this is what you get.

        I am empathetic to the economic impact of passing the bond measure. But it is more costly (both financially and morally) to sacrifice adequate and safe facilities which we have to have, at the alter of not wanting to pay the equivalent of 2 cans of soda from a vending machine a day to make our schools safe, efficient, and up to the needs of our kids.

        To put it in even more blunt terms, are the lives of even one child worth the gamble of the cost of a couple of cans of Pepsi a day should we have an earthquake and our not up to code schools collapse?

        Is having actual functioning science labs for students less important that the cost of a couple of cans of Coke a day?

        Is putting over 2,000 construction workers back to work so they can feed their families not worth the investment of a couple of cans of Mountain Dew a day?

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    Thank you so much for writing this, KC, and so glad you're ok!

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    Well done, KC. I see you really drew the trolls out on Oregonlive! Somehow we have to solve 2 huge problems: keep kids in school, and drive out the gangsters. Getting the HS completion rate up above 55% is def a PPS problem, and I'm not sure fancy remodels has much to do with it. The gangsta culture has got to go. Somehow, if you live in a civil society, you need to be civil. Otherwise, get outa town. I'm starting to sound like a righty but I'm sick of being fearful in my own town.

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      So buildings that are upgraded so they won't collapse and kill kids when an earthquake (which will occur at some time) hits is "fancy remodels"...?

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        The harder I look, the less I'm finding of assurances that seismic improvements are the top priority for every school building. Can somebody clarify that? What if we spend this half-billion so carelessly that school buildings still collapse when the big one comes?

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          The seismic improvements are not for "every school" since not "every school" require the same upgrades, and many of the safety upgrade issues are not just seismic ones. Such as ancient oil furnaces whose fire shut-off mechanisms consist (literally) of a string that it is hoped will burn through to shut off the furnace in case of a fire.

          The upgrades are not just> safety either. Things such as making it so science labs have working sinks, to making it so that mold doesn't occur because of inefficient and outdated HVAC systems.

          The other reason why this bond is as large as it is, is due to the front-loading of the payback rate of the bonds. So once the construction work is completed, the district is not saddled with decades paying off a longer term bond which ultimate cost more money.

          A portion of it also goes to retiring some existing debt (which also saves more money).

          This bond measure does multiple things (not just seismic upgrades), all of which are needed and does it at less cost than kicking the can down the road (again) or by having longer term bonds, etc.

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            when Corvallis built a brand new Corvallis HS a few years back, seismic issues were a major part of it - it was a big concrete block ready to collapse in a heap. but most of the drinking fountains were unusable: old pipes with lead soldering, among other problems.

            there are always reasons not to invest in the future. almost every reason is a bad one. and we always looks back and realize we made a mistake. i'm pretty sure Portlanders will repeat the mistake yet again. and then bitch endlessly about the problems that result.

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          The "Learning Now, Buildings Later" campaign claims "Only 12 percent of the bond money is slated to be spent on seismic safety." See here.

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            The source document that is based on is somewhat misleading. Nine of the schools they list (in the 2006 seismic survey they base that document on) have had seismic upgrades since the.

            In addition, for some schools, such as the Alameda Elementary school, PPS is in the process of getting Federal and state grant money for seismic retrofitting.

            IN addition (as I commented below) many safety issues being addressed by this bond are not just seismic upgrades.

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