In our view: Cheers & Jeers

An oasis proposed for a food desert; Herrera Beutler listening to calmer crowds

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Cheers: To the prospects of fresh groceries coming to one of the county’s most prominent “food deserts.” To those who don’t follow planning lingo, food deserts are created when older, smaller supermarkets in long-established parts of town close, forcing neighbors to drive miles to the suburbs to obtain a healthy selection of groceries.

One of the most written-about local food deserts was created in the Rose Village neighborhood five years ago when Fred Meyer closed an outdated store at Fourth Plain and Grand boulevards and opened a modern one near Highway 14. Now comes word that an unnamed grocer plans to acquire the old store, demolish it, and build a smaller, modern market that would presumably include fresh, healthy foods not stocked by convenience stores.

The Columbian’s Cami Joner reported that the application is very similar to a new, smaller-concept Walmart being developed in Beaverton, Ore. No matter what the name above the door, it’s good to see the redevelopment of a prominent retail corner, particularly if it’s the gateway to an oasis.

Jeers: To U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, and her staff. In an effort to duck the political theater being staged at congressional town hall meetings elsewhere, the first-term congresswoman has largely avoided holding these “anyone’s welcome to show up and speak” events in her first term.

She’s substituted a series of “coffee meetings” with groups of invited constituents, who presumably are less reluctant to disrupt the meetings or denounce the Republican Party’s views of jobs, foreign policy, federal spending, health care and other controversies. With these invited groups, the conversation goes well. So well, in fact, that last week her staff even invited a reporter from The Chronicle to observe a Lewis County coffee meeting, on condition that it be kept secret until after the event concluded. Casey Bowman, the congresswoman’s spokesman, said letting the public know in advance would allow her constituents to “just yell whatever’s on their mind.”

While it’s legitimate to expect people to be polite, it’s hard to believe that any member of Congress wouldn’t benefit from the feedback of all of her constituents, and not just a hand-picked few. It’s also troubling to see a member of Congress, through her spokesman, attempt to keep the news media in her district from writing about her (almost) public appearances.

Cheers: To the Clark County Fair, recently named one of the nation’s Top 10 Summer Fairs by the website http://livability.com. It’s hard to know how these lists are derived — we know of at least one Portland entrepreneur who makes a good living researching and writing them — but in this case we are quick to agree.

The website touts the fair’s “Hershey’s Cocoa Classic” baking contest and some other lesser-known events. We enjoy the demolition derby, the 4-H activities, and the Clark County Dairy Women’s milkshakes. But that’s the great thing about the Clark County Fair — almost anyone can find something interesting to see or do.

Jeers: To state economist Arun Raha’s prediction this week that Washington state shouldn’t expect much economic recovery until mid-2012 or even 2013. Raha gave an informative talk to leaders of the local real estate and construction industries in Vancouver this week, but he didn’t bring much good news. “Sideways is the new up,” Raha said, adding that the anemic real estate and construction sectors are still dragging down the economy, along with lagging consumer confidence.

He sees a few positive signs, but not a dramatic turnaround. At least Microsoft and Boeing are doing well. “Our economy sucks,” Raha said. “But Washington state’s economy sucks less.”