In Our View: Cheers & Jeers
Small projects add up downtown; bookkeeping errors haunt cemetery
Saturday, October 15, 2011
Cheers: To many small, good things happening in Downtown Vancouver. Mayor Tim Leavitt saw several examples on a walking tour this week with members of Vancouver’s Downtown Association. A new private-sector climbing gym, complete with simulated rock walls, is nearly complete at the corner of 12th and Main. Just down the street, the Kiggins Theater has reopened after a much-needed rehabilitation. On Washington Street, the old Koplan’s Furniture store has tenants for the second floor, and someone else has plans to convert Koplan’s annex for offices. Renovation projects are due to start at 806 and 808 Main St., and a microbrewery has relocated to 113 W. Ninth St.
Jeers: To questionable bookkeeping practices at Clark County Cemetery District 4, which runs the Amboy cemetery. A state audit released this week found insufficient controls and lack of a paper trail to document proper ownership of 41 cemetery plots. The audit also found the district sold plots in parts of the cemetery where burials could not occur, sold other plots for the wrong price, and failed to require timely payment for graves, vault liners and headstones. In some respects it’s easy to see how these small districts, which employ part-time people, many of whom are not trained in accounting, can fall astray. In this case the district’s leadership has changed since the mistakes were made, but it’s important for these agency boards to pay careful attention to the public money entrusted in their care.
Cheers: To new weapons against the war on drugs sold as other substances. Not long ago a visit to some of Clark County’s shadier retail stores would have turned up substances labeled as incense, potpourri, plant food or even bath salts, but actually intended to be smoked or ingested. These substances are supposed to mimic the effects of marijuana, cocaine, ecstasy and other illicit drugs. On Sept. 8 the state Board of Pharmacy banned these substances permanently. Though a local emergency room physician said it’s tough to quantify the problems associated with these substances, “bath salts” were blamed for the death of a Spokane man last month. The head of the Washington Poison Control Center said the bath salts “are probably the worst synthetic drug I’ve ever seen.” Unfortunately the rule doesn’t seem to have stopped the sale of all similar substances. Let’s hope the pharmacy board continues to expand its ban.
Jeers: To the state Department of Licensing. The department last year distributed more than $28 million in gas taxes to Washington tribes last year, but won’t provide a breakdown of which tribe got how much money, or how the money was spent. The department says the information is proprietary; its disclosure would allow anyone with a calculator to figure out how much fuel each tribe was selling, as the payments are based on volume. As the lobbyist for Allied Daily Newspapers points out, this would be like the federal government announcing how much foreign aid it granted without saying what countries it went to.
Cheers: To the First Amendment — “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances” — and those who exercise it. An Occupy Vancouver rally is called for noon Saturday at Esther Short Park. Presumably many of those who attend will have liberal views. Last week, the park was the scene of a rally by conservative-leaning citizens, Americans for Prosperity. The economy is troubling, many people have little faith in our national leaders, but it’s our bedrock foundation of free speech that keeps faith alive.