In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Town hall meetings showcase democracy; union’s grab for cash is misguided

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Cheers: To congressional town halls. The unscripted face-to-face meetings between a representative and the represented have been a foundation of our democracy since our nation’s early days. That tradition was continued locally this week by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, who held her first Vancouver town hall at Skyview High School. Her predecessor, Democrat Brian Baird, was also a frequent holder of town halls during his tenure.

Judging by the hundreds who came to the meeting and subsequent interest in the media coverage (the columbian.com story received nearly 300 comments alone,) nothing has supplanted the desire for people to hear and be heard on the issues. It’s important that this give-and-take continue in the future, but with that comes the responsibility for everyone to keep town halls safe and constructive.

Jeers: To Jeanne Harris. The hot-headed Vancouver city councilor is now accusing her mild-mannered colleague, Larry Smith, of improper behavior. At Monday’s city council meeting, Harris claimed she was “damaged” by the consequences after she ranted at a city council meeting last year and ordered Mayor Tim Leavitt to “Gavel DOWN!” a citizen who was speaking. After Harris was done airing her latest complaints, Smith noted that any backlash Harris felt was her fault, since she made the original comments. His statement was eloquently presented and warrants no apology. If Harris wants to see what truly constitutes improper behavior and disrespect, she should review the tapes of her infamous meltdown.

Cheers: To Farwest Steel’s successful negotiation of environmental and other legal reviews required before it can break ground at the Port of Vancouver. Farwest is one of several new firms that promise to bring a substantial number of new jobs to the port in the near future. The steel company eventually will employ as many as 228 at its fabrication and distribution facility. Now that the paperwork is nearing its finale, the construction could begin as soon as the end of June.

Jeers: To Service Employees International Union’s latest attempted grab for state cash by proposing to end the sales tax exemption for out-of-state shoppers from Oregon. This bad idea has likely died in this legislative session — there’s no doubt it would hurt Clark County’s already struggling economy and put our retailers at a further competitive disadvantage with Oregon. The way the union sees it, the money from the additional taxes would be devoted to training long-term caregivers, who are members of the union. The training is not a bad thing, but it’s something the state simply cannot afford right now. Furthermore, setting up more dedicated earmarks in the state budget is a bad idea; what the Legislature and administrators need is more discretion over state spending, not less.

Cheers: To Jed Mickelson, the Wy’east Middle School teacher featured recently on “Live! With Regis and Kelly.” He wasn’t named the show’s Top Teacher of 2011, but the positive attention he brought to himself, his school and his occupation was a just reward. Plus, he and his wife, Suzanne, got a long expenses-paid weekend in New York — not a bad escape for the young parents.

Jeers: To a resurgence of methamphetamine manufacturing along the West Coast. The meth scourge has been taking its toll for years — a recent report shows 106 deaths in Oregon last year, up 22 percent — but a ban on sales of pseudoephedrine had moved the manufacturing, which has its own dangers, to Mexico. The AP now reports, however, that it has returned to the Northwest with the rise of “supersmurfing,” or hiring many people to buy small, nonreportable amounts of cold medicine for cooking meth.