In our view: Cheers & Jeers

Visitors center finds new mission; mortgage program mismanaged

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Cheers: To the repurposed Coldwater Ridge center near Mount St. Helens. The former visitors center, the second-closest to Southwest Washington's restless volcano, was closed in 2007. The building needed new windows, new exhibits and a better source of funding. Now the U.S. Forest Service has poured $1 million into the 19-year-old building and found a new purpose for it. As the Mount St. Helens Science and Learning Center at Coldwater, it will be a place for special events, scheduled educational opportunities and research. With its commercial kitchen, the center will be able to host overnight events, and on most days, there is a spectacular view of the mountain and its awe-inspiring crater.

Jeers: To mismanagement of a program intended to prevent foreclosures among Oregon homeowners. The state received $220 million in federal taxpayer money to distribute as part of the Obama administration's attempt to keep people from losing their homes. But according to The Oregonian, the state has struggled to implement good programs. One initiative awarded $1.7 million to 242 homeowners who were later determined to be ineligible for benefits. The state also paid $750,000 to a private company owned by a former Portland city commissioner that promised to help homeowners refinance their mortgages. But more than a year later, the firm had helped only 11 homeowners.

Cheers: To the first recipients of the new Washington State Opportunity Scholarships. This new program, championed by state Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, is endowed by a new public-private partnership between state government and companies such as Microsoft and Boeing. It grants $1,000 scholarships to students from middle-class and needy households who will study science, technology, engineering, math or health care at any Washington public college or community college. In its first year, 3,000 students are being helped, including 231 in Clark County. That's the fourth-highest total among Washington counties. Sixty scholarship recipients plan to use the money to study at Clark College, and 62 will use the money to pay tuition at Washington State University Vancouver. The scholarships are renewable for up to five years. For more information: http://www.waopportunityscholarship.org.

Jeers: To motorists who tow travel trailers in the left lane. With summer camping season upon us, the Washington State Patrol is reminding drivers that vehicles towing trailers or weighing more than 10,000 pounds are not allowed to use the left lane when there are three or more lanes moving in the same direction. Violators cause problems ranging from unsafe passing to aggressive driving. Violators are fined $124. The state patrol also reminds all motorists that left lanes are for passing, and that vehicles should keep to the right during regular travel.

Cheers: To nonstop service between Portland International Airport and Reagan National Airport, the nearest commercial airport to Washington, D.C. Alaska Airlines won the right to operate the route this week with one daily flight in each direction. PDX flights had been shut out of the airport, which due to its proximity to the capital operates under significant restrictions. United Airlines operates a daily flight from PDX to Dulles International Airport, which is a considerable commute from the National Mall and Washington's other attractions. Service will commence this summer; Alaska has yet to announce a start date or flight times.

Jeers: To a continuing lack of congressional achievement. The inability of this Congress to address the nation's pressing economic problems has been legendary; now The Washington Post reports that businesses are already predicting more catastrophe this fall, unless agreement can be reached during the lame-duck session on a package of deficit-reduction measures.