In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Home prices show hope of rebound;anti-light rail petitioners waste money

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Cheers: To signs that local home prices may finally have hit bottom and are starting to trend upward. The median home sales price in March was $176,000, up 6.7 percent from February. In addition, the number of home sales closed rose, and the number of unsold homes on the market declined. Both factors may be signaling a rebound in the county’s housing market, which has been beset by a five-year slump. Though unemployment remains too high here, mortgage rates are near historic lows, and good employers such as PeaceHealth and Fisher Investments are growing their workforces. That’s helped to drive demand.Even if you don’t plan to buy or sell real estate, the rebound in housing prices provides good news. Home equity is one of the largest forms of personal savings. Seeing an increase, rather than erosion, in home values helps boost consumer confidence, which in turn drives other sectors of the economy higher. It’s been a long, difficult time for the local housing sector, and the market still couldn’t be described as robust. But perhaps the worst days are behind us.

Jeers: To the usual gang of light rail and Columbia River Crossing opponents. The group thus far has failed to gather signatures on a petition that would attempt to limit the city of Vancouver from spending money on extending MAX light rail across the Columbia River. Their two-thirds failure rate on last week’s signatures was not surprising. For one thing, they apparently failed to ask many petition signers whether they were residents of the city, and thus eligible to vote. Most weren’t. But finding out that only 35 percent of the signatures were valid cost taxpayers an estimated $31,000. Even if the signatures had been valid, and there had been an election, and the voters had gone along, and the law had been upheld by the courts, it still targets the wrong agency. It’s the federal government that will pay for the light rail construction component, and C-Tran will pay for its operation. Nonetheless, the group claims it will keep trying.

Cheers: To Vancouver city officials for consolidating the community development and economic development departments. The two have had closely aligned missions for years, but now will share staff. The economy is a major contributing factor to the merger; the community development department, which is supported by permit fees, has lost half of its staff since 2010, and further losses are expected due to impending retirements. The new combined department will handle all facets of planning and permitting. A streamlined paperless permitting system will be one of the combined group’s first projects.

Jeers: To raw milk. Some people persist on thinking that this dangerous brew somehow contains more health benefits than pasteurized milk, which has been heated to kill E. coli and other bacteria. In fact, at least one Clark County family was spurred into driving to Wilsonville, Ore. to get the milk through a law-evading “cow share” program. One of the kids ended up in the hospital. At least 18 people have been sickened, some seriously enough to be hospitalized with severe kidney failure, according to Oregon public health officials. The same thing happened here a few years ago. Healthful? Hardly.

Cheers: To a new program that keeps certain minor criminal offenders out of court. The defendants eligible for the new misdemeanor diversion program must be charged with a nonviolent, non-DUI offense such as petty theft. They’ll still be required to complete a course of counseling and treatment, and pay applicable costs, but will be able to avoid a criminal record. Prosecutor Tony Golik calls it a “smart-on-crime” approach, and notes a felony diversion program has been successful here for years. And it will save taxpayers some money, too.