In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Better safety at Grove Field airport; police need to adopt a sting policy

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Cheers: To nearly $10 million in improvements coming to Grove Field, the county’s second-busiest airport. The Port of Camas-Washougal, which operates the airport, is in line to receive most of the money from the Federal Aviation Administration. Most of the funding will go toward safety improvements including lengthening the runway to 3,070 feet, widening it to 60 feet, and providing more separation from the parallel taxiway. Although not many people use general aviation airports such as Grove Field, there is a benefit to everyone by making the Fern Prairie airport safer for all of the pilots and student pilots who use it.

Jeers: To prostitution stings without a policy. To the Vancouver Police Department’s credit, last year it put resources into cracking down on prostitution, particularly child prostitution. To that end, last April officers set up a sting operation at a local hotel. But an undercover officer testified at a prostitution trial last week that at one point he complied with the suspect’s request to unzip his trousers and let her fondle him.

Though the conduct was outrageous, his superiors said the officer had done nothing to violate policy. There wasn’t one, because police have rarely conducted these sorts of sting operations. Next time police officers go under cover, they should make sure there is a clear, widely understood policy about when, if ever, it is proper to get uncovered.

Cheers: To the county’s proposal to ban sales of drug-smoking paraphernalia from stores frequented by minors. Specifically, at least 22 convenience stores in the county sell glass pipes and other devices commonly used to smoke marijuana, methamphetamine and other drugs. According to Columbian reporter Stephanie Rice, a draft ordinance would eliminate the “it can be used for tobacco” excuse. In December 2008, an Oregon teenager died after smoking drugs. The pipes are a constant temptation to recovering addicts, and an invitation to children.

Jeers: To a proposal to relax Oregon’s mandatory helmet law for adult motorcycle riders. This issue surfaces periodically in Washington, too, where motorcyclists also are required to wear approved helmets. The argument is that going without a helmet allows the bikers to see and hear better, and perhaps prevent an accident from happening. And many equate riding a motorcycle with freedom. But as the saying goes, freedom isn’t free. Serious head injuries suffered by bikers result in heavy expenses for taxpayers or private health insurers, who pass those costs on to the rest of us.

Cheers: To a couple of smart Camas High School students and an Oregon Health & Science University doctor they helped. Olivia Janson and Nicholas Lim volunteered to help Parkinson’s disease researcher Dr. Charles Meshul with making some observations and tabulating data. Meshul had figured mice suffering Parkinson’s-like symptoms would do better placed in cages with lots of toys, because that would promote exercise. Instead, the students found the mice in a more crowded but less furnished cage did better.

“One of the most exciting days I’ve had was when Nick and Olivia showed me their data,” Meshul said. Let’s hope they both have a similar experience some day in the future when they are scientists mentoring bright interns.

Jeers: To Washougal Councilor Dave Shoemaker’s symbolic “no” vote on local transportation projects at his first Regional Transportation Council meeting. Shoemaker may be frustrated at government spending. He might hate waste and inefficiency. But he shouldn’t take it upon himself to vote no, when the groups that sent him there — the Camas and Washougal city councils — expected him to vote yes. To his credit, he since has resigned his RTC post.