Look Mom – I Can Fly! Memoirs of a World War II P-38 Fighter Pilot

A hero.  Period.

Rep. Shemia Fagan and Bob "Smoky" Vrilakas.  Photo by Shelly Parini

Rep. Shemia Fagan and Bob “Smoky” Vrilakas. Photo by Shelly Parini

Bob “Smoky” Vrilakas, a resident of Happy Valley, OR, held a book signing this week for his WWII memoirs, Look Mom – I Can Fly!  He donated proceeds from the book sales to the Clackamas Community College Military Families Scholarship Endowment. I was honored to be on hand to meet Smoky and welcome the guests to the event in his honor.

Book

In the mid-1920s the sound of airplane motors would cause the entire inhabitants of author Robert “Smoky” Vrilakas’ small Northern California village to dash outside to look up at the sky. Overhead would be a Ford Trimotor passenger plane droning off toward some unknown destination, a sight almost as awesome then as watching a manned satellite pass over in space today. The author, then a young boy, thought those who flew airplanes had to be super humans, far beyond anything he could ever even dream of doing. Later, in the midst of the Great Depresssion, Smoky Vrilakas’ life took a sudden, sweeping turn. Six months prior to the December Pearl Harbor attack and at only 22 years old, Smoky was drafted into the army in preparation for an expected major war. Look, Mom-I Can Fly! takes you through the author’s Army infantry training and his Army Air Corp flight training. You will share Smoky’s experience in learning to fly the Army’s top fighter airplane of the time: the P-38 “Lightning.” In mid-1943 you will travel with him and 65 other P-38 volunteer classmates to North Africa and Italy. (Read More)

Imogene Fagan aboard ship 939, named in her honor for a perfect weld.

Imogene Fagan aboard ship 939, named in her honor for a perfect weld.

I had the honor of telling the story of my own Grandma Fagan, a welder on the Portland shipyards during WWII.  After welding ship 939 perfectly, it was named in her honor.  The USS Imogene Fagan.

Out of the mouths of babes: New laws proposed by 2nd graders at Oregon Trail Elementary

What ideas do Oregon second graders want to see become law?

This week, I had the opportunity to visit with students at Oregon Trail Elementary school in North Clackamas. After an hour answering the questions of 72 second graders, let me tell you, I was fearless heading back to the Capitol to only deal with adults.

Sweating bullets, Rep. Shemia Fagan took questions for an hour from 2nd graders at Oregon Trail Elementary.

Sweating bullets, Rep. Shemia Fagan took questions for an hour from 2nd graders at Oregon Trail Elementary.

I spent an hour with two 2nd grade classes talking about state government and my job.  I explained how an idea becomes a law and solicited ideas for new laws.  Following my lead (my idea = that we eat ice cream every Friday) the kids came up with some fun ideas, e.g, everyone has to own a kitten, people have to be careful to walk where horses walk, and everyone must eat pizza on Mondays.

While these ideas about ice cream and pizza were circulating, I called on a little girl and asked, “What is your idea for a new law?” Quietly she replied, “There should be no more wars.” 

Whoa.  Second grade!

Rep. Fagan learning about the opportunities that come from investing in CTE grants.

Rep. Fagan learning about the opportunities that come from investing in CTE grants.

Later in the week, I was visited by two amazing young women who were here for the Career and Technical Education student’s day.  One was the president of Oregon’s Skills USA, the other the Vice President of Oregon’s chapter of the Future Business Leaders of America.  Both impressed me with their poise and clear vision for what they wanted for their futures.  They were in the Capitol to thank legislators for the money we invested in CTE grants last session.  Using those grants, Skills USA was able to double its membership in Oregon!

It was encouraging to get a taste of what happens when we give Oregon’s kids the tools they need to pursue their dreams.  I’ll keep fighting to give all Oregon kids, regardless of geographic location or family income, the same opportunities.

Republican Julie Parrish thinks sidewalks in East Portland are … a bad thing? Wait … what?

If you have driven down SE 136th Ave in East Portland recently, you’ve seen the new sidewalks and crosswalks I fought for in my first term.  There is no dispute, the new sidewalks have begun to transform that neighborhood.  We worked closely with the family of Morgan Maynard Cook, a 5 year old girl who was killed on that stretch of road because she didn’t have a safe place to cross.  I couldn’t be prouder of the work we did to stand up for this long neglected neighborhood.

Without sidewalks, East Portland children are forced to walk along the state highway next to cars driving 35-45 mph.

Without sidewalks, East Portland children are forced to walk along the state highway next to cars driving 35-45 mph.

 

So imagine how disappointed I was to see one of my legislative colleagues propose a new law to specifically outlaw further investments in sidewalks in East Portland.  Republican Julie  Parrish (West Linn) today filed HB3153, to “prohibit” the legislature from “allocating or authorizing” money from the state or ODOT to “highway maintenance or sidewalk development” in incorporated cities, i.e. East Portland.  This is especially shocking since Rep. Parrish canvassed East Portland for my opponent during the 2014 campaign.  How someone can campaign in East Portland and then turn around and try to make it impossible for the state to invest in making East Portland streets safe is beyond my understanding.

I just want to give you an idea what I am up against as I continue my fight for East Portland.  The good news is, I’m up for the fight.

 

How an idea becomes a law. A visual.

How_an_idea_becomes_a_law

Have an idea you’d like to see become law?

Mandating government paperwork to register to freely worship?

Thank you Madam Speaker. To the bill.

Imagine that you’re sitting at home with your spouse on Friday night watching TV. Suddenly!!! Police break down your door and start going through your cupboards, drawers, and file cabinets.

You jump up and yell, “STOP! I have a 4th amendment right to privacy in my own home. Show me a warrant.”

The officer responds, “I don’t need a warrant to search your home. You’ve never for registered for your 4th amendment rights. You didn’t fill out the mandatory government paperwork to register, so I get to assume that you don’t want your 4th amendment rights.”

Maybe the officer sees your hunting rifles on the wall and decides to make off with them. You can’t assert your 2nd amendment right unless you’ve registered to protect those rights, and updated that registration if you’ve moved recently.

I can picture state officials at the doors of churches, mosques, temples, synagogues all over the state every week just checking to make sure that you registered for your 1st amendment rights before you can go worship.

“I’m mean, you can’t just wake up one morning and decide you want to worship. Right? How do we know you really mean it unless you fill out that mandatory government paperwork. And fill it out at least two weeks before you go worship.?” (heavy sarcasm)

 I could go on, colleagues, but I think you get the point.

Mandating government paperwork to register before exercising any of our other fundamental constitutional rights sounds absurd.

So I’m honestly baffled that we’re even debating whether to keep a mandatory government paperwork requirement for our most fundamental right. The right to vote. In fact, this right is the single right that appears the most often in the constitution’s text. It is mentioned 5 times in 4 different amendments, the 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th. Each uses the same powerful language to protect it:

“The right of citizens of the U.S. to vote shall not be denied or abridged. . .”

It’s been said that voting is a civic duty and a responsibility of good citizenship. And if that’s what voting means to you, great. I feel the same way about attending church. When I had my son a deep sense of responsibility was awakened and we joined a community church out of this sense of responsibility. But my sense of responsibility did not transform my 1st amendment rights.

Regardless of how I feel about attending worship, from the government’s perspective, it is and remains, a fundamental right.

The same is true for voting. If you believe voting is a duty or a responsibility, great. This bill doesn’t change that.

Regardless of how you feel about voting, from the government’s perspective, it is and remains, a fundamental right.

The fact is, the arguments I’ve heard today against this bill simply would not fly if we were debating a mandatory government paperwork registration before Oregonians could exercise any other fundamental right.

So I urge you to set these arguments aside and seize the opportunity to make Oregonians, the people who we serve, the first citizens in the nation with their right to vote as accessible as their other fundamental rights.

I urge you to join me in voting yes to make Oregon the first state in the nation to put a ballot in the hands of every eligible voter.

Thank you, Madam Speaker.

Virtual Town Hall was a Success!

Reps. Shemia Fagan and Jessica Vega Pederson discuss allowing all Oregon workers to earn paid sick days at work.

During a Virtual Town Hall, Reps. Shemia Fagan and Jessica Vega Pederson discuss allowing all Oregon workers to earn paid sick days at work.

A hearty thank you to all the participants in our first Virtual Town Hall!  We had a great discussion of the Paid Sick Days and Military Families’ Pay Equity bills your lawmakers are considering.

What topics do you want to cover in our next Virtual Town Hall?

5 simple ways to keep an eye on Salem, without leaving home.

Let’s get real, as a working mom I know life can get in the way of keeping up with local government by traveling to Salem or going to a local town hall. But it is your government. Isn’t it time your leaders tried a little bit harder to reach you where you are?

5 simple ways to keep an eye on Salem, without leaving home.

1) Attend a Virtual Town Hall – On February 12, I’m hosting my first Virtual Town Hall. You can participate, ask questions, and share your opinions, all from the comfort of your own home. Time is running out! REGISTER HERE.

motionmailapp.com

Not sure how to register? Watch this quick video.

2) Watch Committee Hearings – Did you know that you can watch live or past committee hearings? Committee hearings are the time and place for lawmakers to hear from the public and advocates about proposed new laws. Visit www.oregonlegislature.gov or watch this quick video to learn how.

3) Read Bill Information– You can see any proposed laws as soon as they are filed. That gives you a chance to send an email, make a phone call, or submit testimony about a proposal you care about. Visit www.oregonlegislature.gov or watch this quick video to learn how.

4) Sign up for Email Updates– If your legislature is considering an idea that you care about, you can sign up to receive email alerts any time a new action is taken on that concept. Visit www.oregonlegislature.gov or watch this quick video to learn how.

5) Grab the Popcorn and Watch the Show– Once a bill passes out of a committee, it is headed to the House or Senate Floor for debate. Grab some popcorn and watch the debate! Visit www.oregonlegislature.gov or watch this quick video to learn how.

As elected lawmakers, we work for you. I will continue to do my best to make your government more easily accessible to you.

Happy Valley Town Hall

Jan 31st Town Hall meeting at Happy Valley City Hall.

Jan 31st Town Hall meeting at Happy Valley City Hall.

Rep. Jeff Reardon and I had a great turnout at our Jan 31st Town Hall in Happy Valley. Engaging questions and thoughtful comments are what I have come to expect from this community, and you did not disappoint. Thanks to your questions, we covered a wide range of topics including schools, global warming, small business support, environmental toxins, early childhood education, $15 minimum wage, earned sick days, equal pay for equal work, community colleges, gun violence prevention, high school graduation rates, earthquake preparedness, racial equity, mental health parity, and career and technical education.

Couldn’t make it to this Town Hall? On Feb. 12 you are invited to my first ever Virtual Town Hall. That’s right, a Town Hall meeting you can attend … in your PJs. Email me here to get the scoop.

A day in the life …

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Melissa Erlbaum, Executive Director of Clackamas Womens' Services and Rep. Shemia Fagan touring A Safe Place, Clackamas County's family justice center.

Melissa Erlbaum, Executive Director of Clackamas Womens’ Services and Rep. Shemia Fagan touring A Safe Place, Clackamas County’s family justice center.

Before heading to Salem for the next five months, I have been packing my days with activities in our community; from school visits to hard-hat construction tours. Yesterday, I toured A Safe Place, the family justice center in Clackamas. If you have not heard about the great work Clackamas County is doing for victims of domestic violence, check it out here. A Safe Place opened last year and is a one-stop resource for victims of domestic violence and their kids.

Amelia Porterfield, Chief of Staff to Speaker Tina Kotek, and Rep. Shemia Fagan at Willamette Falls in Oregon City, OR

Amelia Porterfield, Chief of Staff to Speaker Tina Kotek, and Rep. Shemia Fagan at Willamette Falls in Oregon City, OR

From there, I threw on a hard-hat and toured the former Blue Heron Paper Mill, the site of the Willamette Falls Legacy Project. In 2013, led by my colleague Rep. Brent Barton, your legislature invested $5 million toward the creation of a public-access river walk along the Falls. Did you know that Willamette Falls is the second largest waterfall by volume in the nation? You can learn more about the Willamette Falls Legacy Project here.

I ended the day with officials from Clackamas County for a preview of the County’s 2015 legislative priorities. You can take a peek at the County’s priorities for yourself here.

Let me know if you want more information about A Safe Place or the Willamette Falls Legacy Project.

East County legislators to pursue bills backing literacy, law enforcement

Recently the Gresham Outlook featured a story about East Multnomah County legislators’ priorities.  Here are some of the priorities of mine the paper picked up.

For Fagan, the focus is on putting money toward reviving shop classes in schools.

“I want to make sure every kid has a path to a career even if they don’t go to college,” Fagan said.

She’s also looking to get funding for expanded summer school programs and workforce programs for schools in low-income areas. Specifically for Gresham, Fagan is working to help Open Meadow, an alternative school, build a campus in the Rockwood neighborhood.

Open Meadow is looking to vacate its Portland location for two reasons, Fagan noted. One, because the gentrification of Portland has shifted much of the need for the school eastward, and because they are becoming too big for their current campus…

Fagan will [also] be working on issues that support the idea of “an economy that works for the working people,” with bills that would support veterans, the manufacturing sector, working parents, retirees and small-business owners.

Read the full story here.

 
What do you think?