In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Neighbors On Watch program expanded; college costs soar even higher

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Cheers: To the Clark County Sheriff's Office for following the lead of the Vancouver Police Department and starting a Neighbors On Watch program.The police department's NOW program has grown in four years from an original group of 16 volunteers to several dozen trained helpers who patrol neighborhood streets, talk to neighbors and help police look for signs of criminal activities.

Citizens from the county told the sheriff's office they wanted the program, then CCSO talked to VPD and arranged to send a few county volunteers to the city academy. Now the sheriff's office has five volunteers in the unincorporated urban areas, and the sheriff's office plans to launch its own NOW training program in 2013.

Citizen-based law enforcement -- with thorough and effective training -- is an excellent way to help cash-strapped agencies in tough economic times. And regardless of the economic climate, enlisting volunteers is an excellent way to make communities safer and strengthen neighborhood bonds.

Jeers: To soaring costs of higher education even beyond the double-digit percentage increases in tuition in recent years. According to an Associated Press story, many colleges and universities around the state are adding a vast array of mandatory fees that conspire to drive up costs even higher. It's not uncommon to see access to wireless Internet and computers at colleges jump from $75 to $123, or fees for use of recreational facilities jump from $200 to $300. Renovating a stadium or dormitories could mean an extra fee of from $50 to $250.

The average annual cost of attending the University of Washington or Washington State University as an in-state undergraduate student is now reaching up to $25,000, and at Washington's four other colleges and universities, it's as high as $21,000.

All the more reason for parents to plan far in advance for higher education, for students to take the right courses in high school and make good grades, and for both factions to make sure those big bucks are spent wisely on campus in pursuit of a college degree and credentialed entry into a career.

Cheers: To our friends, the fish. Most notably, we're talking about the irrepressible salmonid. Scientists have spotted adult steelhead jumping at Husum Falls and BZ Falls on the upper White Salmon River about 65 miles east of Vancouver. This is particularly impressive because it's happening only about nine months after the Condit Dam was breached.

Be careful not to jump to premature conclusions here. Scientists still have a lot to learn about migratory fish returning to the upper White Salmon River for the first time in 99 years. Biologists will next be looking for fall chinook moving up the river to spawn in September. But this much we do know: Fish are making their way into the mouth of the White Salmon, they're navigating the opening at the site of the dam-removal project, and they're jumping the falls. And that's a great thing.

Sometimes we wonder: What if humans were as adept as salmonids at trusting our instincts and fulfilling our natural job descriptions?

Jeers: To our community, collectively, for not doing enough to address rapidly increasing obesity. According to the state Department of Health, two-thirds of local adults and one-fourth of children are overweight or obese. The ZIP code with the highest obesity rate (75.9 percent) is in the Ridgefield area, but even the lowest rate (in east Vancouver, roughly south of Mill Plain) is at 52.6 percent. Don't read too much into the geographic distinctions. The truth is: All of Clark County must start getting serious about losing weight … or pay serious consequences in reduced quality of life and soaring health-care costs.