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Newberg City Council Spends Covid-19 Recovery Funds On Progressive Yamhill Members’ Private Businesses

Newberg Budget Committee is spending federal relief money on privately owned bars and restaurants owned by Indivisible chapter members and making other questionable purchases for the city.

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Note: An earlier version of this article listed Critter Cabana and Velour as having owners tied to Progressive Yamhill. This was a mistake and has been corrected.

This article is the result of a very time consuming investigation I have been conducting over the past several months into the financial ties between Progressive Yamhill members, and how they might be using their positions as public officials to reward other PY members for their loyalty to the group. I have been looking for a smoking gun, and I finally found one. This article is by no means the only evidence I have of what I believe are cases of Progressive Yamhill members using public money to enrich themselves, but as this one is very recent I felt it warranted publication as soon as possible.

On February 23, 2022, the Newberg Budget Committee allocated funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) received from the federal government to 16 projects, spending $4.3 million of the $5.3 million in ARPA funds the city received. The intention of ARPA is to help cities stimulate the local economy for job creation and recover from economic fallout as a consequence of the Covid-19 lockdowns.

However, that does not seem to me to be what the money is being spent to try to do. Instead, it’s being spent irresponsibly on frivolous wasteful nonsense and to benefit a minority of the city’s local businesses owners and several nonprofits who have ties to the Indivisible movement.

As I have exposed in prior reporting, the Newberg City Council is controlled by Progressive Yamhill. As detailed in my reporting in past articles on the Advocate, Progressive Yamhill and its subgroup Newberg Equity in Education are chapters of the Indivisible movement, a nationwide movement of social activists pushing for radical fringe ideologies. Although they do not publicly disclose their ties to one another as part of their conspiracies, last September I infiltrated the secret Facebook groups used to coordinate much of their communications and have published many of their communications in my reporting to expose their activities.

If you have not read those investigative reports, they are Meet the Newberg, Oregon Mafia Led by Elected Officials and Other Community Leaders and Part 2: Meet Progressive Yamhill, the Parent Group of the NEEd Mafia Seizing Control of the County.

With that information in mind, the City of Newberg’s Budget Committee has the following individuals I have identified as either being members of the Progressive Yamhill / Newberg Equity in Education Facebook groups, or who have strong ties to people in those groups specifically related to Indivisible activism (such as, for example, Rick Rogers’ election campaign having been assisted by Progressive Yamhill members, and they considered him to be their mayoral candidate).

  • Stephanie Findley
  • Elise Hollamon
  • Rick Rogers
  • Denise Bacon
  • Greg Meenahan

Now that you understand that connection, let me tell you how they spent this money intended to assist Newberg with economic recovery.

Newberg Downtown Coalition and Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce Get Their Businesses Subsidized

  • $24,343 was provided to the Newberg Downtown Coalition, Taste Newberg and Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce, so they could create a “gift card program” called ‘Berg Bucks’ for businesses in the Newberg Downtown Coalition. None of these businesses, by the way, provide good paying jobs.
  • An additional $15,000 was provided to Newberg Downtown Coalition (NDC) so they could construct a “Rotating Public Sculpture Project”, with the claim that this project will “help create the infrastructure needed to attract nationally recognized, local, and regional artists from diverse backgrounds”. Again, this does not provide good paying jobs, either.
  • $29,176 was provided again to Taste Newberg/Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce (CVCC)/Newberg Downtown Coalition (NDC) for “Small Business Marketing Assistance”. Basically, the City Council is giving this small number of businesses money to subsidize the costs of advertising their privately owned businesses, none of which provide good paying jobs.

They sure got a lot of money, didn’t they? By my count about $68,519 was gifted to these groups for things that will not lead to good paying jobs for residents in town, but instead will serve the interests of a select few people who own those businesses.

Now understand I am not suggesting that boutique retail, bars and restaurants are unworthy of existence, but I am pointing out that Newberg has some severe economic troubles — this is a city where purchasing even a small home is going to cost an average of around $450,000, and renting even a small one bedroom apartment over $1,500 per month. The average person in Newberg earns only $22,971. This means most of the people who work in Newberg cannot afford to live in Newberg. This is a significant problem and the kind of thing a windfall of $5 million dollars could have helped address.

Newberg Downtown Coalition Ties to Progressive Yamhill

Now here is the real kicker; Newberg Downtown Coalition is controlled by a Progressive Yamhill member.

As mentioned before, Newberg Equity in Education (NEEd) is a subgroup to Progressive Yamhill, and the executive director of the Newberg Downtown Coalition is Polly Peterson, who is a member of NEEd.

Furthermore, several of the businesses which are listed as part of this ‘coalition’ are ones I can prove are associated with Progressive Yamhill,

  • Honey Pie Pizza, owned by Sarah King (NEEd)
  • Pulp & Circumstance, owned by Jenniffer Sitter (NEEd)
  • Social Goods Danny and Robin Sickens (NEEd)
  • Barley and Vine Tavern, owned by Brandon Buerkle (PY)
  • Chehalem Cultural Center (PY and NEEd; you’ll see later)

Proof of the membership,

Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce Ties to Progressive Yamhill

Now let’s talk about Taste Newberg; it is a project of Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce. Contrary to popular belief, CoC are not government agencies but instead a privately controlled business network. In this case it is one that is controlled by Progressive Yamhill members.

The executive committee consists of at least two Progressive Yamhill members I have identified because they were members of the Facebook group,

Phil Higgins is a member of Progressive Yamhill, one whom I have exposed in two past articles, the first being Evidence Exists For Possible Personal Financial Benefits To Progressive Yamhill Members, and the other being Potentially Shady Real Estate Stuff From Inside Progressive Yamhill. In my opinion Higgins arguably warrants his own in-depth investigative article (which I am working on, by the way) due to the many tendrils I have discovered about his financial dealings, some that overlap with major events that have, in my opinion, caused economic harm to Newberg’s local economy, such as the sale of the paper mill to a scrapper. I’ll publish the spotlight article on him in the future once I have completed my investigation into all of his dealings.

Francisco Stoller is the husband of Kristen Stoller, who I have written at length about in the past already. Francisco is also a member of NEEd and Progressive Yamhill himself as well.

Here is proof of his NEEd affiliation,

You can download the master screenshot of everyone in Progressive Yamhill with an F in their name by clicking here, and the one for NEEd by clicking here. As the files are very huge, open them in something like MS Paint to zoom in and read the names.

John Bridges is also listed as a member of the board of directors, and while he was not a member of the Facebook group when I was inside it, his wife Debra Bridges is a member of NEEd, as I have previously exposed.

Also, it’s possible John Bridges was a member of the NEEd group at one time, because I found this post by Newberg School Board Director Brandy Penner inside the NEEd group that has him tagged in it,

There are also several ex-officio board directors, which are people who because of their public position have been granted a board director seat. All of those highlighted in yellow are either members of Progressive Yamhill’s Facebook group or that I believe have allegiances to the group based on behavior and actions (such as Will Worthey)

  • Yamhill County Commissioner Casey Kulla I have written at length about already, proving beyond doubt he is a Progressive Yamhill member, especially given the volume of his writings from inside the group I have published. He’s also a member of NEEd as well.
  • Polly Peterson is the Executive Director of Downtown Newberg. I showed the proof of her membership already earlier in this article.
  • Wade Witherspoon is the Employer Relations Manager at George Fox University. He is also a member of NEEd, too.
  • Will Worthey was not a member of the Facebook groups when I was inside them, however, as I mentioned in my prior article about his reported refusal to remove pornographic comics from the library, I believe he is a sympathizer of the group’s agenda if nothing else. He is also the City Manager for Newberg, which creates a conflict of interest in my opinion given the money the city has given, but really at this point with how many definitive PY members are in this nonprofit that was gifted a bunch of tax money to pursue private business interests, I may just be nitpicking about him.

Now that I have explained the clear ties between Progressive Yamhill members on the City Budget Committee and the receipts of this award from that committee, let’s talk about one of the most absurd gifts that Progressive Yamhill gave to its members.

Private Bar Owned By Progressive Yamhill Members Gets Money for a Patio Deck

This one is an excellent example of how Progressive Yamhill members enrich themselves using public money, at no benefit to the public whatsoever.

  • $34,500 was provided to the bar Social Goods so they could create an open outdoor seating “that would drive revenue”. Again, this does not provide good paying jobs, either.

Social Goods, by the way, is owned by Progressive Yamhill members Danny and Robin Sikkens.

Once again, you can download the proof here and here to see for yourself.

As residents may recall, the Social Goods bar was used as a signature petition gathering location for the recall against Newberg School Board Directors Dave Brown and Brian Shannon, and Yamhill County Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer.

Social Goods has also been selling a lot of the propaganda that Progressive Yamhill has created as part of their campaigns to indoctrinate kids in the public schools.

And now their fellow Progressive Yamhill members have rewarded them for their loyalty and service to the group by gifting them the city’s economical recovery fund money so they can “improve revenue” for a business that pays its employees minimum wage and will provide exactly zero benefit for the community’s economic relief.

Newly constructed homes in the area are selling for $450,000 while the average median resident income in Newberg is only $22,971, but Progressive Yamhill members want to make sure their members’ bars stay in business by subsidizing with your covid relief funds that were intended to help stimulate the job market.

Giving A Quarter of a Million Dollars to the Chehalem Cultural Center

The City also gave $250,000 to the Chehalem Cultural Center to create a “Performing Arts Wing”; to develop 9,167 square feet of the space, mostly on the 2nd floor. The project claims to “renovate the building’s original 250-seat theatre and building a movement studio adjacent to the existing second-floor classrooms”

A ‘movement studio’ is just a fancy term for a pilates or yoga studio. I’m sure local fitness business owners will be thrilled to learn they will now have to compete with a nonprofit who is creating competition against them using covid-19 relief money.

The project claims that this donation will “stimulate economic development by growing our educational offerings and increasing access to an expanded wealth of cultural offerings for more people and a greater diversity of community members and guests in our community alike.”

However, I’ll tell you right now that sounds to me like a lot of nonsense, and I will explain in detail why.

Now, I do understand some people in Newberg have an emotional attachment to the old building, because it was Central Elementary School for decades. I went to that school, I get it. But the reality is that this building was built to be a school, and not a commercial building. It sits in a historical residential area where many of the people do not have a driveway and have to park their cars alongside the street. While its current caretakers have demolished part of the old playground to add a small parking lot, it’s nowhere large enough for the thing they want to do. Consequently, I severely doubt that the residents in this area want to have 250+ people constantly visiting the “Cultural Center” to compete for parking space with them, which is what will no doubt happen if this project is permitted to move forward.

It’s one thing to want to preserve the historical building and repurpose it, but it’s another thing entirely to try to use it for a purpose it was never designed to do. I distinctly recall that the auditorium in Central was never used for plays because of the parking issue, and instead people went to Edwards Elementary and used that significantly larger auditorium. Why can’t that still be where plays are held? Newberg High School also has a large one as well, and certainly far more parking at it. Why not just hold the plays there? It makes more sense.

But let me tell you why I believe something that obviously makes no sense is taking place; I think it’s because Progressive Yamhill members want to reward their members by funding their pet projects with tax money whenever they get the opportunity to do so. They were handed $5 million dollars by the federal government, and they decided to spend a quarter of a million into pet projects to make their members happy. That is the only explanation I can see on why any of this wasteful nonsense would be approved. Newberg has some real economic problems and this is not going to solve any of them.

So here we go. These are the ties the Cultural Center has to Progressive Yamhill.

The Cultural Center Executive Director is Sean Andries, who is a member of NEEd.

This is proof that he is a member of NEEd, from the Facebook group member list I screenshotted back in September when I infiltrated the group,

You can see his name clearly in the master screenshot for NEEd members with an ‘A’ in their name, which you can download by clicking here. Make sure you open the photo in MS Paint or something though, as it is extremely large.

Additionally, Karen Puglsey is on the Board of Directors alongside Lisa Rogers, who is Mayor Rick Rogers’ wife. Pugsley is a member of both Progressive Yamhill and NEEd.

Proof of Pugsley’s membership in Progressive Yamhill,

And proof of her membership in NEEd,

You can download the master screenshots for NEEd and Progressive Yamhill members with a ‘K’ in their name by clicking here and here to see it for yourself. Make sure you open the photos in MS Paint or something though, as they are extremely large.

What Does the Cultural Center Do Anyway?

Nothing of any noticeable importance, in my opinion.

As most people are aware, the building is primarily used to push Critical race theory and other nonsensical political ideologies, with members of Progressive Yamhill frequently hosting panels and seminars inside the building. In fact, former Newberg City Councilor Bryce Coefield, who is also a member of NEEd, did exactly this in the past prior to his appointment to the empty seat that was on the council.

Also, they really like to use the building to advertise their political causes, hanging the Transracial pride flag from the windows alongside a poster claiming that “This is Kalapuya Land” to virtue signal (I wonder if they realize that, as I have pointed out in a previous article, the Kalapuya people actually sold their land to the federal government in 1885-6 because they were about to go extinct from a plague, and also, that the Kalapuya people owned slaves, just as pretty much every other tribe in the Pacific Northwest did? I suppose that last historical fact would blow their minds).

Furthermore, as I recall the building had been donated by the school district to Chehalem Parks and Recreation with a $1 sale. It’s their responsibility to pay for its remodel, and they have done a poor job of it. CPRD have managed to find money to build golf parks, trail projects and a brand new swimming pool, so I don’t think there is much excuse for why they have made little progress on renovating the old school building other than a lack of desire to do so.

In conclusion, using covid-19 relief money to fund projects that will create a parking crisis in a historical suburb is not a responsible application of the money.

Other Strange Spending From the Budget

Okay, let’s dissect a few things here. The Budget Committee did spend the bulk of the money toward things for the City government and its departments, but there are still some oddities I have noticed.

“Accounting Software”

The city claims it is spending $400,000 into “accounting software” with the argument that the Finance Department needs to upgrade financial software for all departments in the City. They claim that the current software was purchased in 1985 and has not had any upgrades since 2010. The claim is that the new software would allow the City to streamline many manually performed tasks, increase budget knowledge for all staff, and reduce errors in current systems.

However, $400,000 is an incredible price tag to license accounting software in the year 2022. I mean, I could develop an entire accounting platform from scratch for $400,000. Probably even for a lot less.

I actually don’t know what accounting software today could possibly cost $400,000 — it’s not like the software needs to be installed on every computer in the city. Most accounting software these days is a SaaS anyway.

Look, I used to be a Vice President at a movie studio that did tens of millions of dollars in revenue annually, and we never spent anywhere close to six figures on accounting software. This seems highly irregular to me, and is potentially wasteful spending on some obscure proprietary license someone is going to code specifically for the city, instead of just using something that is readily available and used by nearly everybody else. BMSI Financial Software is like what, $3,000 a seat? There’s only about 8 departments in the city, so at most that is a $24,000 one time payment. Spending $300,000 on accounting software seems extremely sketchy to me.

“New Computers”

The City is claiming it needs to spend $176,000 to upgrade all city departments’ technology with new desktop infrastructure and to upgrade all host servers that run and control the desktops that staff uses both in the office and remotely.

Once again, that price tag sounds incredibly sketchy to me. I once put together a brand new post-production facility for video editing that had a rendering farm, and it didn’t cost six figures. So, what the hell kind of computers does the City of Newberg think it needs here? Can they even fit that many computers into City hall?

I will also mention that I spent two years running a software developer that created a video streaming platform with servers that needed to handle millions of simultaneous connections 24/7, and I don’t know how I could have ever spent so much money on hardware for that company, let alone for the computing needs of small municipal city like Newberg is. This isn’t Los Angeles or Portland, where there are hundreds and hundreds of city employees scattered around town. Again, this seems an excessive price tag to me.

In Conclusion

I believe this information I have shared and the observations about the budget I have made are important for people to understand about the Indivisible movement and chapters of it like Progressive Yamhill / Newberg Equity in Education. These people are not genuine social activists, and I believe there is a considerable financial incentive for their supposed “activism”. Many are really just looking to use tax money to fund their own egotistical pursuits. They want taxpayers to subsidize their pipedreams that serve absolutely no economic value to the general public nor will improve the quality of their lives — paying for the marketing campaigns of their privately owned businesses that do not pay a living wage, to construct outdoor seating for a failing bar, building a theatre and Pilates studio in a suburb with no adequate parking for the venue, and so on.

Worse, none of these people have admitted to the public that they are all connected to one another via the Indivisible groups. They have not been forthcoming with taxpayers about how they are members of secret Facebook clubs designed to coordinate and strategize their political and private business machinations, which frequently have enormous crossover. Despite having been exposed, they keep marching on.

So I must ask, are the residents of Newberg going to keep allowing these leeches to exploit our city government, using public institutions like the schools and the libraries to groom children into sexual perversions, and to spend economic aid money like they were handing out money from their personal checking accounts to their associates?

2022 is an election year for Newberg, and so far, I haven’t seen anyone come out and run for office against these people. Who is going to stand up to them and tell them they cannot get away with this crap any longer?

So I need to ask you reader, are you going to sit here and do nothing but read my articles, or are you going to take some tangible action to remove these people from office?

Stand up and fight for this city. Nobody else is going to do it for you.

Update: The City of Newberg has issued a response to this article

From the Newberg Dundee Info Group,

This is clearly a response to this article. The problem is this; first of all, I question why they need to buy $150,000 worth of computers to begin with, and why an accounting software license would cost so much.

Secondly, it doesn’t change that they voted for the projects — they could have voted No on these projects. Just because the projects were submitted does not mean they get to have the money. I contest that building outdoor patio for a small bar, funding the marketing campaign of a small group of restaurants, bars and boutique retail stores, and renovating an old school building to have a theatre are legitimate ARPA fund expenditures and they should have been denied so that money would be available for things that would more directly improve the economy of the city and either lower the cost of living for residents, or create new job opportunities to balance the ever skyrocketing costs of living in Newberg. Which is what ARPA is actually for doing, not subsidizing the business interests of a small group of people who do not help reduce the cost of living nor create new good paying jobs.

I will say quite bluntly, I am disinterested in Newberg gaining more retail, restaurants and bars. I could care less. What I am interested in seeing is genuine economic stimulation of the local economy, so that Newberg children do not have to keep moving away because they can’t afford to live in the city they grew up in, because there aren’t enough good paying jobs for them here once they become adults. Turning Newberg into a bedroom community utopia for retired Californians and Portlanders, and a wine tourist destination for the benefit of the winery owners, is something I could care less about.

Lastly, they still made no public disclosures about the relationships between Progressive Yamhill members on the committees and the recipients of the funds. This is highly unethical in and of itself.

The person managing the City Facebook account gave this reply,

The City account also made this statement,

The person using the City’s Facebook page did not answer my questions, but the Economic Health Manager for the city is Shannon Buckmaster, who is a member of NEEd. She is also the former  CEO of the Chehalem Valley Chamber of Commerce.

So what we have here is Indivisible members in charge of soliciting businesses to apply for the funds, who then collect those submissions for the Indivisible controlled Newberg Budget Committee. This is a closed loop that ensures the Indivisible controlled groups and businesses receive those funds.

And why does this matter? It’s because they are squandering the money and not using it to address the city’s problems. And the city has real problems.

As mentioned earlier in this article, in order for someone to purchase the new “affordable housing” built in Newberg you need an income of at least $70K a year, after taxes. The average resident in Newberg earns $22K a year.

The people paying $450K for starter homes are not so much as born and raised residents of Newberg, but instead primarily people moving here from out of state, places like San Francisco where the same size home sells for over a million. But San Francisco has huge tech companies paying people exceptionally high salaries to sustain that market. Newberg’s property value is grossly inflated because its become transformed into a bedroom community due to poor city planning which has prioritized retail and housing over job creation.

The fact this City Council wants to rezone the paper mill to build yet more houses and retail, instead of attempting to attract employers who will pay good wages, is indicative of how they have no idea how economies work. The result is that inevitably the flow of Californians will stop and the property values will crash, as there is not enough job creation to sustain it or even balance it out. Those who sell their homes elsewhere to move here, usually do not buy the homes outright but instead take out a mortgage and then use the capital from the sale of their home to start some boutique business or otherwise re-invest it, which can have mixed results.

Furthermore, of the few employers in the area who pay comparable wages to big tech giants, such as Intel and Nike, do not employ enough people to sustain the market, and additionally, some like Intel are migrating out of the area to other states like Ohio. A-dec does pay good wages, but that is one employer of roughly 900 people in an ever growing population of over 24,000; Newberg needs more employers like A-dec, not more boutique retailers and bars.

When the local economy collapses due to the loss of good paying local employers like Intel and the flow of money from out of staters moving here ends — and it will end as there is very little space remaining in city limits to develop new housing — the people with high mortgages in towns like Newberg will be unable to resell their homes for what the mortgage is worth. Consequently Newberg will transform into a ghetto at the current direction it is heading.

We need good employers to mitigate the effects from the inevitable end of outside money inflating the value of land,, and economic relief money should not be wasted as it has been by this current city council. It should be used to try to reduce the cost of living and take steps to attract high paying employers to the area. Not spent on patio decks for bars, trying to turn an old school in a suburb into a theatre or public sculpture projects.

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Carey Martell
Carey Martell
Publisher and editor for Yamhill Advocate. Digital media entrepreneur. Born and raised in Newberg, Oregon. US Army Veteran.


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Beth Rankin

hmmm…you lost me after you got too wordy…still not writing in a clear journalistic style. Read some good writing advice (there are many). But I have a question about this paragraph (Now understand I am not suggesting that boutique retail, bars and restaurants are unworthy of existence, but I am pointing out that Newberg has some severe economic troubles — this is a city where purchasing even a small home is going to cost an average of around $450,000, and renting even a small one bedroom apartment over $1,500 per month. The average person in Newberg earns only $22,971. This means most of the people who work in Newberg cannot afford to live in Newberg. This is a significant problem and the kind of thing a windfall of $5 million dollars could have helped address.) Wouldn’t this be a great subject for you to put your “investigative skills” to use? Can you determine what is driving the cost of Newberg housing to go up so much higher than Newberg residents can afford?

James Russell

There is a bigger gift program coming to the Progressive rulers of Newberg: The Urban Renewal District which will be established without voter approval, will funnel $125Million dollars to downtown business owners, and the owners of the river area and old paper mill. Who controls the Urban Committee? Bridges, Stoller, Parrish, Rogers, and others.

Me myself and i

Social goods owners are also part owners of chehalem valley brewery. Not sure if they received any funding or not but I have heard from employees currently working there that they are intending to “remodel” their restaurant. Also a very low paying place to work…

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