In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Cleanup resuming at Camp Bonneville; faculty raises at Western are ill-timed

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Cheers: To the resumption of cleanup work at Camp Bonneville, the former Army training facility in east Clark County contaminated by years of weapons firing and ordnance disposal. The new contractor, Weston Solutions, expects it will be back cleaning up the central valley floor by the end of the month, according to Clark County Public Works. The Army wound down its use of the 3,840-acre site by 1995 and is paying to clean it up for future use by the county. Covered with old trees, forest vegetation and crisscrossed by streams, Camp Bonneville is an open invitation for future uses. But first the unexploded ordinance must be found and removed from areas where humans will go, and groundwater, soil and other natural resources need to be protected from contaminants that have leached into the ground since the first shell was fired there in 1909.Jeers: To pay raises totaling more than 13 percent over three years for some faculty members at Western Washington University. The state-supported university's president, Bruce Shepard, claims that faculty must be better paid to be competitive with other schools, and that some lower-ranking faculty are paid less than Bellingham schoolteachers. All this may be true. While raising pay to attract and retain better faculty is a laudable long-term goal, it needs to be balanced with economic reality. Right now, that reality is that the state can't afford to give raises, not at WWU, not at University of Washington, and not at community colleges.

As Gov. Chris Gregoire explained in a letter to Shepard, "Your agreement seems to ignore the shared sacrifice that other state employees in general government and institutions of higher education have made during the Great Recession." Times are tough, but the best professors have strong ties to their school and career that goes beyond paychecks. Not many will be resigning from Western to go teach seventh grade.

Cheers: To Washougal resident Brent Boger, who was appointed this week to the Washougal City Council. This appears to be a win-win for Boger, who ran a hard-fought but ultimately unsuccessful campaign last year for Clark County prosecutor, and what has been until recently a contentious group that was prone to make missteps with public money and policy. Boger brings to his new position a rich background as a senior assistant city attorney for Vancouver and service as an officer in the county Republican party. It seems likely that his insight, along with that contributed by other new faces around City Hall, will serve Washougal well over the next few years.

Jeers: To an unfortunate grounding of a third of our nation's air tanker fleet, just as wildfire season erupts in the West. Clark County has been largely free of these wildfires in the past few years, where aircraft loaded with water and fire retardant drop millions of gallons to protect property and help establish fire lines. But Google "Yacolt Burn" and you realize how wildfire has shaped Southwest Washington. The news is this: A military C-130 cargo plane flying to a fire crashed, forcing Air Force officials to ground seven other tankers while the cause of the accident is established. With safety in mind, the decision is understandable. But it leaves only 14 other tankers, many of which are very old converted airliners, in service in a summer when half of the West seems to be on fire.

Cheers: To the Cedar Creek Grist Mill, whose volunteers recently launched an internship program in conjunction with Clark College. The mill, built 13 years before statehood and restored in the 1980s, is rightly famous, seen in prints, postcards and even jigsaw puzzles. Find it 10 miles east of Woodland; staffed by volunteers, it's not always open. Good days to go this year include July 28, Aug. 25 or Sept. 29, when special events are planned. Details: http://www.cedarcreekgristmill.com.