John Laird: Building bridges, fighting fires and catapulting cliches




Notes, quotes and anecdotes while wondering — since Republicans castigate the Hilton Vancouver Washington as a repulsive monument to government waste — why did they hold their county convention there?

Flawed comparison —
Critics of the Columbia River Crossing are still showing up at public meetings and comparing the project’s cost to bridges elsewhere (often citing bridges in Minneapolis or near Hoover Dam). Any day now at a city or county meeting, I expect Billie Joe McAllister to ask why the Tallahatchie Bridge can’t be used as an expenditures model for the CRC.

If you encounter any of these folks, ask them a few questions about their comparison. Is their example five miles long, like the CRC? Does it include seven large freeway interchanges? Does their bridge have to be low enough to allow planes to fly over but high enough to allow major river commerce to pass underneath?

Then ask ’em: Does their bridge affect a major railroad line and two large ports? Does it include high-capacity public transit? Does it cross the largest river on the West Coast? In the middle of that river, does their bridge provide access to a large island with more than 2,000 residents and a wide array of large retail areas?

Finally, does their example require collaboration among multiple jurisdictions in two states plus the federal government?

The deeper you delve into these questions, the more flawed their comparisons become.

Rampaging socialism? Oh, my! —
Why do some people easily embrace universal fire protection — everyone paying their fair share for a fire department, even if many will never need it, because we’re all in this together and it’s the right thing to do — but those same people insist that universal health care is un-American and socialistic? Isn’t the health of our families as important as our homes?

And a related question: Does anyone believe losing your home, your retirement nest egg and your children’s inheritance solely because your health failed is the American way of doing things?

Taxed Enough Already! —
Are you fed up with the property tax increases that local governments keep jamming down our throats? Vancouver City Councilor Jack Burkman illuminates what turns out to be — in the city’s case — an unsubstantiated allegation. His research shows the city’s portion of property taxes averaged $44.60 monthly last year. That’s up from $44.30 nine years ago. I say “up,” but when you factor in inflation of 22 percent since 2002, it’s really no increase at all. These statistics make me wonder how the Vancouver city government even performs as well as it does.

Speaking of clichés — My investigative aides say the ubiquitous “jamming down our throats” expression actually is code for “popularly elected officials doing stuff I hate but which makes sense to other folks.”

Recession recovery formula —
When my family encounters budget woes, we try to do two things: cut spending (no vacation) and increase revenue (get a second job). Wouldn’t this blend of spending cuts and revenue increases work for governments, too?

Nothing nice happens in that terrible, awful, no good, very bad place across the river — That yodeling you hear is the Portland-phobic Hounds of Whinerville, who howl to the hills anytime anything good comes to that den of debauchery across the river. Recently, Portland was ranked No. 1 among “America’s Greenest Cities” by, with Savannah, Ga., Minneapolis/St. Paul, Denver, Chicago and Seattle rounding out the top six.

Travel and Leisure compliments Portland because “one fourth of the city is shaded by tree canopy,” including 288 parks. Also, T&L applauds Portland’s top-notch mass transit system and “groovy, offbeat locals, known for their DIY spirit and cycling culture.” Eeuww! bray the Hounds.

Meanwhile, the dream of the suburbs is alive in Vancouver. Speaking of which, you’ll chortle at the new Episode 5 of “Vancouvria.” Go to, search for “Vancouvria,” and click on “The Vancouver Tourist Office.” Even the Hounds will giggle at the dig at our local mayor.