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Capitol caper: King City Travel Club takes whirlwind trip to Salem

Members experience a few thrills and spills along the way


by: BARBARA SHERMAN - EXPLORING THE CAPITOL INSIDE AND OUT - Members of the King City Travel Club gather around the Oregon state seal in the Rotunda of the Capitol as a guide explains what the various symbols represent.The Oregon state Capitol was still standing when the King City Travel Club left after a tour Feb. 13, but the same couldn't be said for the group, which suffered four casualties (including the bus) during the day-long trip.

Even before the trip was over, travel club host Dee Schiavone dubbed it “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.”

The day started out promising with no rain in sight as club members left King City for the bus ride to Salem one day before Oregon celebrated its 155th birthday after becoming a state on Feb. 14, 1859.

Capitol’s history

The Capitol, which was busy because the Legislature was in session, has quite a dramatic history: The first two buildings burned down, and the present one was dedicated Oct. 1, 1938, with President Franklin D. Roosevelt speaking at the event; the Capitol was expanded in 1977, and in 1988, it was placed on the National Register of Public Places.

In 2008, a fire once again broke out at the Capitol on a patio outside the governor's ceremonial office but was quickly extinguished.

Governor’s office

After the travel club group walked into the the Rotunda, the members were divided into two groups for tours, with one starting on the second floor outside the governor's reception room and ceremonial office.

The guide stepped inside and learned a news conference was being held in the governor's ceremonial office beyond the reception room, where Gov. John Kitzhaber was announcing a new initiative to maximize the economic development potential of clean fuels in Oregon.

He directed the Department of Environmental Quality to move forward with full implementation of Oregon's Clean Fuels Program and announced a new Clean Fuels Work Advisory Committee.

The news conference was breaking up as the tour group entered the reception area, where the guide described some of the furniture in the room, including a beautiful table featuring the Capitol created out of inlaid wood, which was a gift from the building’s architects.

Inside the governor's ceremonial office, the guide told the story behind the large leather chair at the desk.

"It's a replica of the chair used by the character Professor Henry Higgins in the 'My Fair Lady' movie," she said. "Gov. Hatfield had prison inmates make him the replica, but he took it to Washington, D.C., when he became a senator, so this one was made and is a replica of the replica."

She told the group to look closely at the leather, which was somewhat crinkled, explaining that it had been damaged along with a hand-painted map on the wall by the 2008 fire.

The two tour groups converged in the governor's ceremonial office/reception room, and after most of the people left to return to the Rotunda, one of the ladies fainted. Schiavone asked the receptionist to call for help, and the first to arrive was a couple of the Oregon State Police troopers who are stationed throughout the building when the Legislature is in session.

The next call was made to Sen. Alan Bates (D-Medford), who was elected to the House in 2000 and to the Senate in 2004.

The patient was in good hands because Bates was a medical doctor before entering politics. He was chief of medicine at both Rogue Valley Medical Center and Providence Medical Center, and a founding board member of a primary care physicians' group.

Finally, 9-1-1 was called, and half a dozen "really handsome" medics, according to Schiavone, showed up, tended to the patient and put her on a stretcher before driving her to Salem Hospital.

Interestingly, Kitzhaber, who was probably in his private office next door at the time, was an emergency room physician before entering politics - and his official portrait shows him with his medical bag - but he did not appear.

Rotunda

Back down in the Rotunda, the guide explained that the exterior of the Capitol is finished with Vermont marble while the lobby, Rotunda and hallways are lined with a polished rose travertine stone from Montana. The Rotunda's staircases and floor are made of Phoenix Napoleon marble quarried in Missouri with the borders made of Radio Black marble from Vermont. The guide also pointed out fossils imbedded in the floor marble.

In the Rotunda’s center is an embedded Oregon state seal sculpted in bronze by Ulric Ellerhusen, who also sculpted the Oregon pioneer on top of the Capitol dome's exterior, which is 106 feet higher than the state seal. Harvey Gordon designed the seal in 1857, two years before Oregon was admitted to the union in 1859, and it includes various symbols of Oregon's geography, native fauna and agriculture such as mountains; the Pacific Ocean; an elk; a covered wagon; a sheaf, plow and pickaxe; and a British man-of-war leaving and an American steamer arriving to symbolize the end of British rule in Oregon Country.

The interior of the dome high above the state seal was painted by Frank H. Schwarz featuring 33 stars to symbolize that Oregon was the 33rd state to join the Union.

On the walls inside the Rotunda are four murals painted by Schwarz and Barry Faulkner depicting major events in Oregon history.

One shows Captain Robert Gray and his ship the Columbia Rediviva at the mouth of the River of the West in 1792 (he is credited with naming the Columbia River); one shows Meriwether Lewis and William Clark with their party at Celilo Falls on their way to the Pacific in 1805; a third displays the first white women to cross the continent welcomed by Dr. McLoughlin at Fort Vancouver in 1836; and the last shows the Great Wagon Train migration at The Dalles before departure for the Willamette Valley in 1843.

House and Senate

The next stop was the Oregon House, where the representatives were meeting, and the group watched a law adopted: HJM 201A, which urges Congress to direct the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to enhance safety standards for new and existing tank rail cars used to transport crude oil and other flammable liquids.

Speaker of the House Tina Kotek (D-Portland) announced that visitors from King City were in the gallery, and the representatives turned to wave at the group high above them.

The group next got settled in the Senate gallery just as the session was beginning, and following the Pledge of Allegiance, two Native American flute players entertained the senators and visitors.

by: BARBARA SHERMAN - SO FAR SO GOOD - Members of the King City Travel Club leave the Capitol following their tour that included visiting the Rotunda, the governor's ceremonial office where he had just wrapped up a news conference, and the House and Senate, which were both in session.Rep. John Davis

After everyone in the travel club group of about 50 people made it safely down the marble steps outside the Capitol, one of the ladies fell while walking in front of the bus parked below and took another lady down with her.

A young man ran over to help them up and posed for a photo with them before going on about his business.

Once everyone was back on the bus - minus the lady who went to the hospital - Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville) stepped on board to chat with the group for a few minutes.

Following the 2010 Census, Oregon went through a redistricting process in 2011, and King City was moved from Dist. 35 to Dist. 26 in the Oregon House, now represented by Davis.

He explained that the Oregon Constitution calls for the Legislature to meet for up to 130 days in odd-numbered years between Jan. 1 and July 31.

"Three or four years ago, we changed it to create a regular session that can meet in even-numbered years, but it is limited to 35 days," Davis said. "That happens to be this year. The purpose of the special session is to balance the budget and fix technical mistakes in a few bills. But we have 255 bills this session.

"Some of the big issues are the Columbia River Crossing Bridge across the Columbia River, whether cities can prohibit the sale of medical marijuana, gun control, the lottery and regulating e-cigarettes, despite the fact that we are only supposed to balance the budget and fix technical mistakes."

Davis explained that Oregon has a biennial budget that begins July 1 of odd-numbered years and continues for two years, so the sessions in even-numbered years allow an opportunity to make minor adjustments.

He pointed out that "with 90 politicians in the building," they weren't going to miss an opportunity to introduce bills on issues that are important to them.

"This session 255 bills have been introduced," Davis said. "As a comparison, during the last regular session, 2,684 bills were introduced."

Someone asked Davis to explain the voting process they had observed in the House and Senate. He replied that senators and representatives vote electronically, and it must be done within 30 seconds.

Unplanned stop

The travel club members enjoyed a delicious and ample lunch at the Best Little Road House restaurant before boarding the bus, some taking leftovers with them.

Schiavone announced that the hospital had called, and the lady who had been taken there was ready to be released, so Steve the bus driver navigated the narrow streets of the Salem Historic District to the hospital where Schiavone retrieved her.

As everyone settled in for the ride home, one of the ladies spilled her lunch on the bus floor, and someone else’s water bottle leaked, sending streams of water into the spilled food, but the mess was quickly cleaned up.

The group finally thought it was home free, but then Steve suddenly pulled the bus over on the shoulder as it died just after getting on the northbound freeway. He called the Raz Transportation headquarters in Tigard and talked to a mechanic about what to do.

According to Steve, the problem was the transmission, and while parked at the side of the freeway, he kept shutting the bus off and rebooting it over and over. The company was prepared to send another bus, but after about 45 minutes, Steve got the bus going, and it delivered the passengers safely home.

King City never looked so good.