In our view: Cheers & Jeers

Reserve center serves modern soldiers; Larch is back on the prison closure list

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Cheers: To the new Armed Forces Reserve Center, which held a ribbon-cutting last week at its new location in Orchards. The center at 15005 N.E. 65th St. provides a modern home for local detachments of the U.S. Army Reserve and the Washington National Guard. The new center is considerably smaller than the old location at Vancouver Barracks, but still offers 18.5 acres, including storage for a mobile hospital and parking for 300 vehicles. It also offers the nearly 1,000 part-time soldiers based there better classrooms, office space, access to technology, and modern plumbing, heating and air conditioning. In addition, the center’s opening clears the way for the federal government to dispose of the 33-acre Vancouver Barracks, which after 162 years of military history can assume a new public role in the decades to come.

Jeers: To state officials who are once again placing Larch Corrections Center on the list for potential closure. It was just last year that the county’s only prison, located in the Yacolt Burn State Forest, was spared from closure at the last possible minute, after prisoner transfers and staff layoffs had already begun. Ironically, the state’s growing budget woes meant Larch was spared because the state closed the bigger, more costly prison on McNeil Island in Puget Sound. Larch costs less to operate, and prisoners provide valuable labor in the surrounding forest and on other public lands. The state is also looking at reducing or eliminating post-prison supervision, even for sex offenders deemed to be a danger to re-offend. Corrections shouldn’t be spared in the bleak state budget, but these cuts don’t make sense.

Cheers: To news that suggests Clark County is working through its housing bubble. A report issued this week showed that mortgage foreclosures here continued to decline in October, and were 47 percent below the 2010 level. The foreclosure cases also dropped statewide, probably owing in part to Washington laws that keep the unpleasant process from bogging down in the courts. Meanwhile, home sales have slowly improved year-over-year. October was up almost 25 percent compared with 2010. But not all is well. Prices are still down — the median sale was $177,900 last month — leaving many homeowners who bought in the 2000s under water. Housing inventory has increased too, with 2,881 properties on the market last month.

Jeers: To the cluster of 14 Oregon Lottery video poker parlors monopolizing the shopping center at 11950 N. Center St. at Jantzen Beach. The Oregonian reports the minicasinos have transformed their corner of Hayden Island into a haven for chronic drug-dealing, public intoxication and petty crime. The owners took in more than $10 million in lottery commissions last year, presumably much of it from Clark County residents, their nearest customer base. The Oregon Lottery is unlikely to break up this unsavory cluster, but thankfully the Columbia River Crossing project would level the building.

Cheers: To Kathy Sinclair, widow of former Camas police chief Glen Sinclair. When she died this year, she left $1.3 million to endow scholarships at Washington State University Vancouver. That’s the most ever left for scholarships at our branch campus, and the second-largest donation of any kind since the campus was established in 1989. The Sinclairs were far from wealthy for most of their lives, and as a result Kathy Sinclair couldn’t afford to attend college when she graduated from Camas High School in 1938, toward the end of the Great Depression. The Glen D. and Katherine Sinclair and Family Endowed Scholarship will target middle-class students, particularly single parents who are working their way through college. The first awards will be next fall.