In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Disability parking makes new library better; do 14,000 bureaucrats make us safer?

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Cheers: To the addition of more parking for holders of disability permits near the front door of the new Vancouver Community Library. Since it opened last summer, the library has been extremely popular with patrons, making it tough to park at peak hours. In addition, the library’s parking lot is on the east side of the building, about as far away from the door as it could be. So the new spaces will be more convenient, as well. For the first time in downtown Vancouver, these spaces will come with a time limit: four hours. That makes sense, as it will allow more patrons to conveniently come and go throughout the day.

Jeers: To the bloated, costly and ineffective bureaucracy known as the Transportation Security Administration. The task of screening air passengers and cargo was federalized following the Sept. 11 attacks on the grounds the government would provide better security at a reasonable cost. But on its 10th anniversary, TSA’s annual operating budget is $8 billion. It employs nearly 14,000 administrators at an average salary of $104,000, including 4,000 at headquarters, according to USA Today. It might be palatable if they were effective, but TSA has suffered 25,000 security breaches in its first decade. Stories of abuse of law-abiding passengers by TSA screeners are legion.

Cheers: To a new contract between Boeing and its thousands of union Machinists. The four-year agreement should bring an end to the labor strife that has caused all sorts of grief for the aerospace giant and its 80,000 employees in Washington. But the agreement brings with it even more cheerful news: Boeing will build its new-generation 737 MAX plane at Renton, rather than look for a new site out of state. The 737 is already the biggest seller in Boeing’s stable of commercial airplanes and the 737 MAX is likely to maintain that best-selling position. With airlines expected to order more than 22,000 single-aisle airplanes like the 737 over the next two decades, the years of economic stability this contract brings to Boeing, its employees, its suppliers and Washington’s economy in general is hard to underestimate.

Jeers: To the increasing costs to taxpayers of dealing with various Occupy protests. Freedom to protest is a constitutionally protected right in our country, and justly so. But the costs associated with this movement have been substantial. The Washington State Patrol estimated it spent about $225,000 handling the Occupy Olympia protests this week, including $54,000 in overtime and $24,000 in travel-related costs for troopers who had to be brought in from out of the area, including Southwest Washington. Previously, Vancouver police estimated they spent nearly $40,000 assisting Oregon cops at the Occupy Portland protest. This week, Portland’s parks department estimated it will cost $86,000 or more to clean up and restore the public squares the demonstrators occupied. Taxpayers wonder: Isn’t there a way to protest the economy less expensively?

Cheers: To the annual Interservice Walk & Knock food drive. If last year is any guide, somewhere between 160 and 170 tons of food will be set out on Clark County porches and walks Saturday morning to be collected by an army of volunteers. This year the food will be taken to the new Clark County food bank, off Northeast Minnehaha Street, where it is sorted, inventoried and divided among local food banks and meal providers. The $4.2 million food bank, to be dedicated Tuesday, is the culmination of years of planning, fundraising, and, finally, construction. At 22,000 square feet, it’s almost three times the size of its predecessor, and contains considerably more cold storage, which will allow the food bank to accept more donations of fresh, healthy produce.