In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Weight-loss strategy extends to kids; why farmers can't afford to retire

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Cheers: To Camas and Washougal on a Diet. Not a New Year's resolution, this is the community weight-loss campaign that has been active since May 2012 and even got the mayors of the respective cities some national attention for their own efforts at diet and exercise. Now the group is focusing on local children, too.

"With the obesity rate being what it is, we need to do something," health coach Michelle Clark told The Columbian's Marissa Harshman. So in conjunction with Camas and Washougal schools, the group has launched Take Your Parent for a Walk. It encourages kids to exercise with adults for at least 15 minutes a day. Kids can turn in participation slips at school, and fitness-related prizes will be awarded to some of the lucky entrants. For more information, visit http://camasandwashougalonadiet.com.

Jeers: To rules that penalize farmers who want to retire, but not sell their farms. Longtime farmer Joe Beaudoin, operator of Joe's Place Farm in Vancouver, is a perfect example. He's 72 and wants to scale back his efforts. But over the decades the city has surrounded him, making his land valuable for apartments, housing or even commercial ventures. He's been able to keep farming because his property taxes are calculated based on the land's current use.

But should Beaudoin quit farming, the land is automatically reassessed at its higher value. The owner must pay back the past seven years of unrealized taxes with interest and a 20 percent penalty. That might be affordable if the land is sold to a developer, but should the farmer want to hold the property, it's a burden. Luckily for farmers such as Beaudoin, Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick is aware of the problem. He's urging the Legislature to amend the law so county commissioners can waive the 20 percent penalty, and state Rep. Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, says he will introduce the bill.

Cheers: To plans for an orientation video to be shown to people who are being booked into the Clark County Jail, as part of an effort to reduce the rate of inmate suicide and suicide attempts.

People arrive at the jail in all kinds of conditions. Some are intoxicated. Others may be suffering the symptoms of withdrawal from drugs and alcohol, or having a mental health crisis. At the very least, it's a traumatic experience for nearly everyone.

As they arrive, the new inmates sit in an intake area at the jail, where they can watch television. The idea is to develop an orientation video that can be shown on that TV, according to jail administrator Ric Bishop. The video would include information about jail rules, and also about what inmates should do if they feel like they might harm themselves. Right now, inmates get a handbook that explains the jail rules, so a video would be a significant upgrade. The county will contract with Clark-Vancouver Television to produce the video.

Jeers:To a flotilla of debris from the March 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami that appears destined for Pacific Northwest beaches this winter storm season. The debris has been coming for months, but is expected to intensify with seasonal storms and ocean currents. On Dec. 18, a piece of dock apparently from Japan washed up on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, where it will take considerable time and money to remove. The dock landed on a 70-mile stretch of wilderness that's part of Olympic National Park. And that's just one chunk of debris.

The federal government has awarded some funds for beach cleanup, and the states will have to invest, too. For the smaller items, the best hope for a thorough cleanup might come from volunteers. Already at least one coastal environment group is seeing a mild case of "tsunami debris fever" among beachcombers and the environmentally conscious.