In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

More choices at alternative school;Congress takes an undeserved vacation

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Cheers: To more alternatives at Vancouver's alternative high school. Lewis and Clark High School has long filled a niche for a small percentage of students who, for one reason or another, don't fit into traditional high school programs. The Vancouver school district is now interested in redesigning Lewis and Clark with a "blended learning" curriculum. The school would offer flexible online learning tailored to each student, coupled with daily face-to-face instruction including a daily advisory class, breakout sessions, science labs and the like.

The school would continue to serve a maximum of 220 students, and the school day would actually increase from 4.5 hours per day to 6.5 hours per day. More information and an application for the school is at http://www.vansd.org/magnets. The application deadline for fall is March 4.

Jeers: To Congress' latest vacation. While millions of Americans worked five days this week, Congress took Presidents Day -- already a holiday enjoyed primarily by government employees -- and stretched it through next Monday. The reasons are tempting. The sun was shining in Palm Desert, it was 81 degrees in Honolulu and the temperature of the Caribbean Sea was 83 degrees in the U.S. Virgin Islands. So it's hard to blame well-to-do members of Congress for wanting to get out of town for a little holiday (District of Columbia temperatures were in the 30s.)

It was a carefree week to forget those automatic spending cuts due to take effect March 1 that will affect the nation's military readiness, along with basic services such as food inspections, mental health services and teaching jobs. And, why should important political leaders lose tanning time over that $845 billion federal deficit the Congressional Budget Office is projecting for 2013? It's not like their $174,000 annual salaries are in danger of being reduced.

Of course, what these lazy shirkers really need to do is put aside their partisan bickering, inane parliamentary rules and me-first attitudes and resolve to make some decisions that would put the nation on a sustainable fiscal path. Or at least work on it.

Cheers: To efforts by the Ridgefield community to solve an access problem to the city's waterfront. For a century or more, the railroad's main line between Portland and Seattle has passed along the western edge of downtown. On a busy day, more than 50 trains can pass through Ridgefield, rarely stopping, but nonetheless blocking access to the waterfront for several minutes at a time. What happens when there's an emergency on the west side of the tracks? Firetrucks and ambulances have to wait. That was the case recently when a houseboat caught fire at McCuddy's marina. No one was home, but two dogs perished in the fire while firefighters waited for the tracks to clear.

The best solution is an overpass. The Port of Ridgefield has plans for a $12.5 million overcrossing at Mill Street, where it could serve the recently rehabilitated Pacific Wood Treating site as well as other populated spots such as the marina. The project is mostly designed, but about $6 million more is needed for construction. As scarce transportation dollars are handed out, this project deserves consideration for reasons of economic development and life safety.

Jeers: To more leaks at Hanford. Here's a hot spot that Congress won't be visiting: 1940s-era underground storage tanks full of radioactive waste. Hanford, which was developed as part of the World War II effort to build the first atomic bomb, has long been the nation's most contaminated nuclear site. Cleanup has been frustratingly slow, and word this month that a tank could be leaking anywhere from 150 to 300 gallons per year into the ground doesn't inspire confidence in Vancouver, less than a half-life downriver from the nuclear reservation.