In our view: Cheers & Jeers

Soldier gets a well-deserved welcome;state wastes millions on cellphones

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Cheers: To a hero’s welcome for Army Pfc. Cory Doane. The 2009 graduate of Mountain View High School received a motorcycle escort from Portland International Airport to his parents’ Cascade Park home, where dozens of friends, family and well-wishers, many bearing American flags, were there to greet him. It was a fitting tribute to a young man who on July 3 lost his right leg below the knee while serving in Afghanistan. The months since have been a cycle of surgery and rehabilitation. Doane’s visit was just that, he needs to report back to Walter Reed National Medical Center near Washington, D.C., where he is one of 200 amputees currently being treated. That’s why it’s so important to pay tribute to Doane — his is one of so many sacrifices made by our troops since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Jeers: To $1.8 million the state wastes annually on 6,679 cellphones used minimally or not at all. An audit of the state’s 22,000 cellphones — how there could be a need for that many official phones boggles the mind — revealed that 2,000 phones, at a cost of $500,000 per year, are never used. Furthermore, the audit by the Office of Financial Management found agencies were signed up for a variety of plans, and not always at the lowest cost. By optimizing the cellphone plans, the state could save as much as $18 million over the next five years. Can you hear me now?

Cheers: To new solar panels on the roof of the massive Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds. In contrast to the now-ditched plans for a biomass plant in downtown Vancouver, this deal appears to pencil out for the county and the contractor, SunStrom, a German firm with its U.S. headquarters in Vancouver. The county leased the roof for a modest $300 per year, but didn’t pay for any of the cost of installing the panels. It does, however, get a chance to buy the electricity at a discount rate — last quarter, it saved the county $3,661 — and after seven years will own the system. SunStrom gets a chance to showcase its technology, the proceeds from electricity sales to the county, and several tax incentives. Even on a cloudy day there’s a clarity to this deal.

Jeers: To anyone who says their vote doesn’t count. This month’s general election contained several nail-biters, including a Woodland City Council race between Scott Perry and Robert Ripp that stands a good chance of ending in a tie. Recently only one vote separated the men, and a mandatory recount seems likely to be ordered. If the recount puts them in a tie, a coin flip will decide the winner.

Cheers: To successful fundraising for Share, the Vancouver nonprofit that provides services to homeless people, including backpacks of food for children who would go hungry on weekends and school breaks. The agency is in the midst of remodeling an old bowling alley on Andresen Road for its headquarters and for work space, freeing up room at the Share House shelter in west Vancouver for more programming. A recent fundraiser netted nearly $200,000. However, another $1 million must be raised for Share to meet its goal of $5.4 million to complete the renovation of the former Timber Lanes.

Jeers: To government agencies, including the state of Washington, who allow departing employees to cash out their unused sick leave. The Associated Press recently cited an example of a Department of Corrections employee who received an extra $15,000, tax free, when he retired recently. At least half of the states allow such a cash-out, as do many local government agencies. In contrast, only 4 percent of private-sector firms allow departing employees to cash out their unused sick leave. It’s another example of government workers having more advantageous plans than those who pay their salaries.