Laird: Rough arts, red lights and reductions




Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering if Chris Christie’s decision not to run for president might have been different if he thought he had a chance of winning:

Line up for handouts — Why, you ask, are Clark County commissioners considering a public contribution to the rough arts (the Yakima Bears baseball team) but not a public contribution to the fine arts (say, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra)? As a musician and former sports writer, I find that question interesting. Here’s my answer:

When symphony folks offer to pay $7 million toward a fine arts auditorium (as the Bears’ owners offered toward a stadium), and when an economic impact study shows the symphony plan will contribute $4.6 million annually to the local economy (as happened with the Bears’ proposal), then I suppose county commissioners will consider a public contribution to the fine arts.

Red-light rage — One frequent complaint about cities using cameras at intersections to catch red-light runners is: “Those cameras are only being used to generate revenue for the cities.”

First, that statement is false. Red-light cameras are used for many reasons, not the least of which is to save lives and reduce the number of accidents. Yes, rear-end collisions increase when red-light cameras are used, but that’s more than offset by the sharper reductions in the more serious T-bone and head-on collisions.

Second, let’s assume the complaint is true, that the cameras are only used for the cities to make money. How is that a problem? What’s wrong with cash-strapped municipalities extracting money from lawbreakers? Seems to me, law-abiding citizens would give that strategy a standing ovation.

Where’s the applause? — Speaking of ovations, Tea Partyers and other cut-the-government types ought to be ecstatic over three-year reductions in America’s state and local governments. I wonder why they haven’t called a press conference to cheer recent statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nationwide, state and local public payrolls show almost half a million fewer workers than three years ago, as reports. Among those cuts are about 9,000 fewer firefighters and police officers in just the past two years, and 16,000 fewer state and local hospital employees. In Washington state, there are about 15,000 fewer state and local workers than in 2008. Where’s the celebration?

Let your voices be heard — Two new opportunities for public participation have been added to The Columbian’s online Opinion pages. Daily editorial cartoons and syndicated columnists are now posted on our website, with invitations for your Facebook comments. So if you see or read something you love or hate in the editorial cartoons or syndicated columns, visit, click on the “Opinion” tab, and weigh in with your views.

How to recognize undue political pressure from special-interests groups — It’s always what the other guys are doing. What you’re doing when you give money to politicians is simply making sure the best candidates get elected.

How to recognize class warfare in politics — It’s always what the other guys are doing. What you’re doing in the midst of all the class warfare is simply advocating for those who are under attack.

More about Lewis and Clark — Last week’s column about the Lewis and Clark expedition drew a healthy response from online commenters and emailers. One of my favorite sources of information about the expedition is It’s a treasure trove of details and cool tidbits about the 28-month odyssey. On the website, click on “Inside the Corps” for bios of expedition members, and click on “Native Americans” to read descriptions of 16 tribes with which Lewis and Clark came in contact.

Pot, meet kettle — When one of the Dixie Chicks criticized President George W. Bush, Republicans went ballistic, and Democrats snarled how dare you take away her free-speech rights! When Hank Williams Jr. criticized President Barack Obama, Democrats went ballistic, and Republicans snarled how dare you take away his free-speech rights! Meanwhile, members of both parties wonder why so many Americans remain independent.