Cheers: To partnerships in La Center. Voters will recall that in February they approved a maintenance and operations levy for La Center's schools. However, a companion six-year capital fund levy to improve sports facilities fell 27 votes short of approval. The school board has placed the measure before the voters again on April 23.But this time, several local contractors have stepped up to offer to volunteer time, equipment and employees if the facilities levy passes. So far, nearly $100,000 worth of in-kind work has been pledged. That should go a long way toward helping the school improve field lighting, add covered bleachers for spectators and install some new scoreboards. In fact, the donations may help extend the work to include an all-weather track, a concession stand and permanent restrooms.
Jeers: To state Rep. Liz Pike, R-La Center. We get it: She opposes the Columbia River Crossing project. In fact, she thinks the state should throw out the $150 million worth of planning done so far, and in her words, "go back to the drawing board." Her bill, HB 2025, would order the state Department of Transportation to design a new bridge that does not include light rail, builds a third bridge and provides a bridge clearance that accommodates all future river users for the next 100 years or more. Should Pike's obviously political bill pass, the state would waste millions planning for things that will never come true -- Oregon fervently opposes any third automobile bridge in the metro area -- or pursuing the unknowable. Does anyone really know what some river user might want in 2113? Thankfully, the bill seems unlikely to receive a hearing, so Pike has mostly just wasted her time.
Cheers: To the return of the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star. The ship and its sister, Polar Sea, had been mothballed in Seattle, leaving the United States without any heavy icebreakers available. The only other ship for the job, the USCGC Healy, was pressed into service last year when ice cut off the fuel supply to Nome, Alaska. But the Healy was built for research missions and lacks the 75,000 horsepower and other heavy icebreaking features of Polar Star. "Icebreakers are critical to our national security and America's interest in the Arctic," explained Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, who championed the reactivation of the vessel.
Jeers: To Gov. Jay Inslee's apparent flip-flop on giving letter grades to public schools. Last year, candidate Inslee endorsed the idea. But now that Senate Republicans are backing SB 5328, the Democrat is not so sure about the idea. His spokesman explains that the governor is still interested in setting up a system to grade schools A-F, but that the details are important, schools must have lots of time to prepare, and stakeholders -- the teachers' union, perhaps? -- must be consulted. We'll watch to see if Inslee is back soon with a proposal of his own.
Cheers: To technology upgrades to C-Tran fare boxes. The transit agency's fleet is modern, but the fare boxes haven't changed much in a generation. Personal habits are different now. When's the last time most people carried $1.65 in exact change, the current cost of an adult ride in Clark County? The new fare collection system would give riders the option to pay with a card.
Jeers: To downtown employees who hog all of the free parking spaces. County employees are said to be the main culprits here. There is plenty of parking in the garage on the county's downtown office campus, but employees are charged for the privilege. So they seek out all of the parking in the surrounding neighborhoods, to the frustration of those who live there or who have business there. The city's on to the scheme, though, and will be looking at ways to end the practice.