Cheers: To the Vancouver City Council's decision to leave current fireworks laws in place, at least for the next two years. For those who haven't followed this perpetually contentious debate, the council had briefly considered whether it should amend its code to allow sale and discharge of only "safe and sane" fireworks, which would not include the spectacular aerial displays currently allowed. A look across the river at Portland, which has long had such a restriction, shows some of the pitfalls. First, the law is widely ignored by consumers who purchase their fireworks in Clark County or on Indian reservations. They know that with thousands of violators, the rules can't be enforced. Second, it does little to mollify the concerns of those who bitterly oppose fireworks. Pets still hear noises, smoke still fills the air and litter is strewn on the streets. In Vancouver, a restriction in the city limits would cut into the revenue of nonprofit groups, but wouldn't likely stop many fireworks shoppers from going to Hazel Dell or other unincorporated areas to get more bangs for their bucks.Jeers: To people who don't use fireworks safely and according to legal restrictions. This includes not only the annoying — and illegal — July 5 and July 6 celebrations, but also those who use them improperly. According to the state fire marshal, improper use of fireworks was blamed for 264 fires and 212 injuries last year. Most of the incidents occurred on July 4. Not surprisingly, the fire marshal says, most incidents were caused by males between 15 and 21 years old. It's worth noting that 105 fires and 91 injuries were caused by fireworks that are illegal to possess in Washington, including nine "sparkler bomb" incidents. Made from legal fireworks, those are actually considered improvised explosive devices.
Cheers: To Vancouver's continued progress toward its goal of becoming an "18-hour" downtown. Talked about for more than a decade, the goal is to make the city's core into a gathering place people visit not only on weekdays, but in the evenings and on weekends. The improvements have been many and have come from both the public and private sectors. With a seasonal farmers market and a variety of activities, Esther Short Park has established itself as a major gathering place. In the evenings, restaurants and nightclubs draw crowds, as does the Regal Cinemas. Just last weekend, the second annual Vancouver USA Marathon and the "Who's Your Daddy?" beer festival — held in the new Turtle Place public square -- brought thousands downtown. Certainly more can be achieved. There are still vacant storefronts on Main Street. The Great Recession has delayed some investment. But much has been accomplished.
Jeers: To more delay in construction of the Columbia River Crossing. Like an oasis in the desert, work on a replacement for the aging, outmoded Interstate 5 Bridge is always on the horizon. This week the state's deputy transportation secretary, David Dye, confirmed that once again major construction on the project was two years away. That's the same thing that was said in 2008, and in 2010. The reality is that significant issues, including the height of the finished span above the water, still remain. Dye also pointed toward "funding realities." Both Oregon and Washington need to commit to their share of the estimated $3.5 billion cost, and the federal government has yet to cut a check, though the Obama administration has said the project ranks high on its list.
Cheers: To the blend of science and symphony. The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra broke all attendance records with its recent performances of Gustav Holst's "The Planets." Each performance was teamed with a talk by OMSI's planetarium manager, Jim Todd, about the planets of our solar system. The result pleased all audiences.