In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Schools districts get money-saving grants; CEO's big raise disregards ratepayers

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Cheers: To spending money to save money. In this case, three Clark County school districts will share in $2.7 million in grants for energy efficiency projects. The grants leverage other funds, bringing the total investment to $6.5 million in the Battle Ground, Washougal and Ridgefield school districts.The money will go toward projects such as better boiler control software and high-efficiency lighting in classrooms and will save each district substantial amounts of money over the coming years. Though the county's largest districts, Evergreen and Vancouver, didn't share in this round of grants, it's important to note that each have already made significant improvements. Evergreen in particular has been recognized nationally for its work to cut energy costs.

Jeers: To above-inflation pay raises for government officials. In case these bureaucrats haven't heard, times are still tough in Southwest Washington. The official unemployment rate is in the double-digits, and much higher when you add in the number of under-employed and discouraged workers who have dropped out of the labor force. Demand at local food banks is extremely high, and people struggle to pay for necessities such as water and heat.

That's why we think Clark Public Utilities board members erred in giving the government utility's CEO, Wayne Nelson, a fat pay increase this week. Nelson will get a 4.4 percent pay increase, raising his pay from $225,000 to $235,000 per year, plus continuance of a $400 per month car allowance. He can also convert 100 hours of sick leave to vacation time.

The pay increase follows an 11 percent raise he received in 2011. It's not about job performance -- Nelson leads a utility that has high customer satisfaction rates -- but the message it sends to ratepayers is wrong.

Cheers: To Vancouver city government, fire employees and a citizens Fire Service Delivery Analysis group for thinking outside the box on ways to trim expenses. The facts are these: There are few fire calls these days, but firefighters stay busy responding to medical calls. Staffing stations and driving firetrucks is expensive, and costs are rising much faster than expenses. Yet the public wants services maintained.

Given these parameters the new report analyzes costs and comes up with some possible ways to do more with less. Rather than roll a firetruck to a noncritical medical response, for example, a smaller SUV that takes fewer people and costs less to operate might be sent. And staffing might be tweaked to have more firefighters on duty in the city at peak response hours, and fewer staffers at other times of the day. The city will continue to examine and possibly test the options, but the innovative thinking thus far is welcome.

Jeers: To sour-grapes Democrats who don't seem very eager to give the state Senate's new coalition control a chance to succeed. State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, was quoted in a Seattle Times blog: "… I do think we can find a more functional way for the Senate to operate than this." Murray had been expected to emerge as Senate majority leader before this week's big power shake-up. He also said: "I think it would be healthier for the institution if 24 of us are a strong minority influencing the process as a minority. I think it would make for a better product in the end."

Really? There's no chance leaders from both parties can work together to create solutions for all Washingtonians? Murray might ultimately emerge as correct, but why not at least give the new coalition a chance to succeed? Washington has proved itself as a pioneering influence in same-sex marriage and other crucial issues. Who says we can't show the way in collaborative leadership as well?