In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Herrera Beutler watches her budget;2012 Marshall Lecture will be missed

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Cheers: To freshman Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, for keeping tight control of her office expenses. A recent story in USA Today about tightening office expenses for the House noted that 45 members will have to make spending reductions this year to stay within their annual allotment of about $1.45 million. Not Herrera Beutler, who ranks as one of the thriftiest members of Congress. She spent only 75.6 percent of her $1.5 million budget, a mark bettered by only 22 of her peers. Her total payroll was $747,602, which also landed her among the most efficient of the 435 House members.Jeers: To the last-minute cancellation of the 2012 Marshall Lecture, which had been scheduled for April 19 at Hudson’s Bay High School. The event was canceled after the Fort Vancouver National Trust received word that scheduled speaker Sergey I. Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, had to remain in Washington, D.C. Kislyak apparently needs to be on hand during the U.S. visit of Russia’s first deputy prime minister, and there was not enough time to find another speaker. Perhaps the cancellation was unavoidable -- it’s too bad the diplomat couldn’t have provided a suitable stand-in to speak, or the Trust couldn’t have found one -- but the lecture is an important part of Vancouver’s culture.

Cheers: To another small sign that Clark County is finally on the road to economic recovery. The Department of Revenue reported taxable retail sales increased 5.6 percent in Clark County in the fourth quarter of 2011, beating the state average of a 4.2 percent increase from the same quarter of 2010. Vancouver saw taxable retail sales gains of 6.1 percent year-over-year, nearly two percentage points better than the state as a whole. But it’s worth noting these are merely signs along the road, and not the destination. Unemployment remains stubbornly high. And the retail trade component of taxable sales -- in other words, consumer sales -- increased only 2.6 percent countywide and 4.7 percent in Vancouver in the quarter. So local consumers are still not feeling flush.

Jeers: To the shrinking size of the Vancouver Mall Community Library. Library district officials announced this week that the mall branch will go from 7,215 square feet now to 3,575 square feet under a new 10-year lease taking effect next year. The library will close temporarily late this year for the downsizing to occur. The library district will still pay about the same amount of rent to the mall’s owners, Westfield America, but will have the option of reducing operating hours if the budget makes it necessary. With nearly 325,000 visitors a year, the branch is the library district’s second-most-visited; a lot of users come for the free broadband Internet access.

Cheers: To a recent day of free dental care offered to more than 200 low-income people who lack dental insurance. The event was organized by Stephen Hendricks, an AmeriCorps volunteer working with the Free Clinic of Southwest Washington. Thanks to his efforts, 55 general dentists, periodontists, oral surgeons and endodontists performed a variety of procedures at no cost to the patients, many of whom had suffered chronic pain. The blitz helped chop nearly a third off the clinic’s waiting list for dental care, which had been 700 names long.

Jeers: To the city of Eugene, Ore., which will be forced to demolish its city hall and disperse its offices into rental spaces. The current building is prone to collapse in an earthquake and will soon be without heat after demolition of a downtown steam plant. The lack of a city hall in Oregon’s second-largest city shows an appalling lack of civic planning, and reinforces that Vancouver made a wise decision to purchase its new city hall across from Esther Short Park.