By David Bates • Staff Writer • 

Along the Street: Mac severs ties with media company

McMinnville has severed ties with CGI Communications Inc., a New York-based firm hired in 2015 to produce promotional videos on its behalf.

In a Feb. 16 letter, City Attorney David Koch not only put CGI on notice that the city was voiding its contract, but also that it was calling for an investigation into the company’s business practices.

Former City Manager Martha Meeker raised more than a few eyebrows when she signed the contract on April 16, 2015, reportedly without consulting anyone on the city council. In his Feb. 16 letter, Koch said city officials were concerned that company conduct had “resulted in violation of one or more provisions of local, state or federal law.”

Those concerns stem from pressure CGI representatives used on local merchants to buy “sponsorships” to cover the cost of the videos. Koch demanded all such sales efforts be terminated by March 17.

While Koch declined to elaborate, the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce advised members in a Feb. 17 newsletter that the company intends to keep promoting sponsorships until the city deadline, and advised them it is no longer affiliated with city government in any way.

CGI has generated complaints in other communities about its business practices.

Brenda Roberts, who owned a tobacco store in Napa, California, filed a complaint in 2012 alleging she paid the company $2,000 for a minute-long promotional video. She said CGI never delivered, and calls, e-mails and letters she sent in response all went unreturned.

“It was a disappointing experience,” she said in phone message. She eventually got some of her money returned, but only after writing an opinion piece for the Napa Valley Register.

David Jones, assistant city attorney in Napa, ordered CGI to cease sales activities in Napa in January 2013. “CGI agreed to cease and desist following its receipt of this communication, and the city is not aware of any improper representations made in Napa thereafter,” he advised the News-Register by e-mail.

 

Bonsai exhibition

Local dentist Adam Diesberg will celebrate five years of practice in McMinnville with an all-day open house Saturday, Feb. 25, featuring a Bonsai exhibition. 

The “Art of Care” exhibition includes a dozen tiny bonsai trees, styled by Diesberg using traditional Japanese and Chinese techniques.

“Ever since I was a child, I have been drawn to caring for living beings,” he said. “We’re throwing this party because we wanted to give back to the people who have entrusted us with their care, and do it in a fun way.”

The event runs 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at the clinic, at 1927 N.E. Baker St., just north of Baker’s intersection with 19th Street. A reception is set for 4 to 6.

The trees are from Diesberg’s collection of more than 100, which he styles himself. Some of his specimens are several decades old, he said.

The event is open to the public at no charge. Parents bringing children are encouraged to warn them ahead of time about not touching the trees.

 

Railroad credit

Sen. Ron Wyden has introduced legislation to give a tax credit for rehabilitating regional railroads, including the Portland and Western Railroad that runs through McMinnville, a permanent place in the tax code.

Wyden, senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, said shortline railroads play an essential role in creating jobs at factories, grain elevators and mills around Oregon.

He said Oregon is home to 15 such railroads operating on nearly 1,300 miles of track. He said they account for more than half of the state’s freight track. 

The railroads qualify for a 50 percent tax credit on the first $3,500 of per-mile maintenance expenses on either leased or owned track. However, unless Congress acts, it will sunset.

In McMinnville, Cascade Steel Rolling Mills and Ultimate RB, former RB Rubber, are among companies relying on the Portland and Western.

“The rail system is vital,” said Becky Sutton, customer service manager at Ultimate RB. “We use the rail system to deliver goods across the United States, and without this key mode of transportation, we would not be competitive in those geographies.”

Wyden is co-sponsoring the Building Rail Access for Customers and the Economy Act — BRACE for short — with Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow and Idaho Republican Mike Crapo.

 

UPS honor

John Kraft Jr. of McMinnville is among 22 United Parcel Service drivers in Oregon to win induction into the Circle of Honor, recognizing a quarter century of accident-free driving.

Oregon boasts 86 active Circle of Honor drivers with a combined 2,428 years of experience. They are among 9,349 nationwide.

“My thanks goes to all of them for their dedication and focus for the countless lives they’ve saved,” said Northwest District President Joe Braham. 

 

Carlton VR

Wallow VR Gallery, newly opened in Carlton, will be hosting an open house Saturday at its quarters at 125 West Main St. The event will feature helicopter rides.

The gallery is the brainchild of Benjamin Powers, who owns and operates Visiting Media in Portland.

His firm develops visual sales technologies for wineries and hotels. He has opened the gallery in memory of his mother, who died last year.

“My mother used to ‘wallow’ in color,” Powers said. “She’d spend hours in her garden painting.”

The gallery features watercolors she painted, along with a virtual reality experience taking participants on a tour of her studio, home and favorite painting haunts.

The gallery opens at noon. The helicopter rides start taking people up 4 p.m.

A party and reception are from run 6 to 9 p.m. A visual reality demonstration is scheduled for 7:30.

For more information, visit www.wallowgallery.com.

 

David Bates is the News-Register’s business editor. He can be reached at dbates@newsregister.com or 503-687-1228.

 

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