In our view: Cheers & Jeers

What floats downriver brings money; what sinks in Lake River costs taxpayers

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Cheers: To great big oil rigs that force prolonged openings of the Interstate 5 Bridge. Twice this month, hundreds of motorists had to stop to let the big barge loads pass under the freeway on their way to their ultimate destination on Alaska’s North Slope. So why the cheer? Because the construction of the oil drilling rigs pumped $200 million into the local economy over the last few years, and employed some 300 people. Clark County has long had an advantage in building big things out of metal; let’s hope it continues — even if we get stuck in a bridge lift.

Jeers: To an apparently abandoned houseboat causing a problem on Lake River. In what appears to be the water-based equivalent of locking the door and letting the blackberries grow up over the windows, a man who had been embroiled in a rent dispute with his landlord at the marina towed his full-sized houseboat out into the river, moored it to the shore, and left it there. Months later, both the houseboat and the tow vessel have taken on water, and the owner is nowhere in sight. It looks like the taxpayers will be on the hook to clean up the mess.

Cheers: To Cruisin’ the Gut 2011. The annual event, which started just two years ago, drew thousands of people and hundreds of cars downtown last Saturday night. They paraded up and down Main Street, drawing attention to themselves and generally having the good time they wish they remembered from high school. Along the way they also donated 3,120 pounds of food and raised $3,127 for Share. About the only problem police could think of was that some folks pilfered the temporary “No burnouts; reckless driving fine $500” signs. No, the signs won’t look good over your bar. Maybe next year they can be sold as souvenirs, raising more money for good causes.

Jeers: To more discouraging employment numbers. Cite any statistic you please, but for many people the recession won’t end until they can find steady work and have confidence it will continue. To that end, jeers to this week’s report that the state’s unemployment rate ticked up slightly in June, though the private sector added 3,600 jobs. The state’s chief labor economist says the economy would have to add roughly 6,000 jobs a month for a year for unemployment to cut that rate by 1 percentage point.

Cheers: To technology-savvy seniors. Though it’s unlikely those of us old enough to actually remember the ’60s will adopt the texting addiction afflicting our (grand) children, old dogs can learn new tricks. That’s the premise behind computer classes offered for older Americans at the Firstenburg Community Center, the Vancouver Community Library, Clark College, and other locations. Most of the classes are inexpensive and cover subjects that some of us are too shy to admit we need to know, such as how to wander around the Internet without contracting some electronic virus. For more information on classes, see the July 18 Columbian or go to our website.

Jeers: To more mining activity near Mount St. Helens. A Canadian company, Ascot Resources, wants to proceed with exploration for copper, gold and other minerals in an area 12 miles northeast of the crater and partly within the blast zone. It plans to drill test holes this summer.

The U.S. Forest Service has allowed Ascot to proceed without a public environmental review process, a decision that was challenged in federal court by the environmental group Gifford Pinchot Task Force.

Regardless of whether the suit has merit, the bigger issue should be reform of archaic 19th century laws that put mining above other uses of federal land. In the case of Mount St. Helens, science is much more important than mineral extraction.