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1994: Publisher exposes lax security for vice president


1994

Wow, former Clackamas County News Publisher Bill James played a trick on the White House!

He included the story from his days working in Colorado Springs in the early 1970s in his weekly column. It’s too good not to present in his own words:

“Jerry Sykes, editor of the weekly Colorado Springs Times, came into my office one day with a letter from the White House.

It laid out a procedure for getting clearance for special press passes to cover the commencement speech at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The speaker? It was then-Vice President Gerald Ford.

My editor said he would complete and submit the information for me, himself and our lady news editor. Our official letterhead had to be used and we had to include our home addresses, our social security numbers, height, weight, eye and hair color, race, etc.

“Do you want to have some fun and possibly get some national attention?” Jerry asked.

“What do you have in mind?” I said.

He told me his plan.

After Jerry was finished, I laughed and told him to go ahead.

“We’ll have a good story no matter what happens,” I said.

Jerry took the name of one of the 10 most wanted people in the United States from a poster at the local post office and included it in the request for a press pass clearance.

He used the FBI’s own criminal identification number as his social security number and listed his home as the vacant lot across the street from the newspaper building. He used other personal information directly from the FBI poster.

He didn’t state that the man had, at one time, been wanted for (among other things) questioning in an assassination attempt on one-time presidential candidate George Wallace. This guy was bad, REALLY bad.

“Probably armed and extremely dangerous,” according to the FBI.

The week before Ford arrived, the White House sent clearances and specially-printed press passes to all who had passed their security check.

We all got passes.

So did our poster boy.

Jerry had his story, and he played it to the hilt. That week’s headline blared, “White House Security Issues Press Pass to One of America’s Most Wanted.”

Of course the story included “no comment” statements from the head of security down to the commandant of the Academy and everyone in between.

Within hours of printing the story my office was inundated with phone calls and reporters from Associated Press, Universal Press Syndicate, TV network news, news magazines and a bundle of freelance reporters and photographers.

The head of security whose name I cannot recall, called me a “totally irresponsible” publisher for allowing my editor to pull such a “dirty trick.” The security chief described himself as an educated, honorable man and a highly regarded professional with an “unblemished” record for doing his job thoroughly.

“It doesn’t look like you did it very thoroughly this time,” I said. “The vice president’s life could have been put in jeopardy, and my editor proved it.”

Before Ford arrived, a number of heads rolled, including the security chief’s. The security force, meanwhile, was doubled for the graduation exercises that year. We never did really understand that, unless they thought that our poster boy was actually going to show up. We had good copy for several issues after that, pointing out our national recognition, the changes in background clearance procedures by White House security and comments from public officials — pro and con — who wanted the spotlight we had turned on.

The Colorado Springs Times was the smallest of the area’s three newspapers of general distribution at the time. Until the story appeared, both dailies had basically denied our existence. But no longer.

They had to cover our story and my “creative news staff.” Sykes had become a newsman and the paper a news breaker. Neither could be ignored.

We were congratulated editorially by both dailies and at least one national magazine for bringing about “long overdue reforms” for protecting the nation’s No. 2 executive.

It was a fun time.

But what’s happening in Estacada is of a lot more importance to me now. I hope it stays that way for a long time.”

2004

Clackamas County granted $205,000 to the city of Estacada to resurface and repave Main Street from Highway 224 to Northeast Sixth Avenue.

2013

About 25-years ago, the city changed Estacada’s speed limit from 30 miles per hour down to 25 mile per hour.

After a complaint from a citizen prompted the city to look into the speed limits, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) conducted an investigation.

Turns out, the city wasn’t allowed to change the speed limit... only ODOT had that authority.

After the investigation ODOT concluded the speed limit should be 25 miles per hour.

It would take until ODOT issued a speed zone order for the signs to be changed.




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