In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Hotel refinancing allows investment; Clark County's brain drain accelerating

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Cheers: To refinancing the bonds for downtown Vancouver's landmark hotel. The Hilton Vancouver Washington will benefit from an estimated $15 million saved over the life of the bonds following action by the hotel building's owner, the Downtown Redevelopment Authority.In 2003, the DRA, an arm of city government, issued $65 million in bonds to pay for construction of the hotel and convention center at an interest rate averaging 5.56 percent. Rates are considerably lower now. The savings from the refinancing will be applied to hotel renovations, which are a constant in the industry and required to keep the Hilton a first-class facility. The Hilton hosted approximately 7,000 events between 2007 and 2012, and has become a focal point in downtown redevelopment efforts.

Jeers: To the continued brain drain in Clark County government. The latest to leave is Bronson Potter, whose role as chief civil deputy prosecutor includes serving as lead attorney to the Board of Clark County Commissioners. His resignation joins a stack of others, including County Administrator Bill Barron and Deputy Administrator Glenn Olson. The county also parted ways with Kevin Gray, environmental services director, in what appeared to be a vendetta orchestrated by Commissioner Tom Mielke.

Potter will take a pay cut in his new job as Vancouver's chief deputy city attorney, but won't talk about his reasons for leaving other than telling Columbian reporter Erik Hidle that "At this time, the city is just a better fit for me." After 22 years at the county, that's quite a statement, and points directly to the distrust and unease county employees currently feel following David Madore's defeat of incumbent Commissioner Marc Boldt last November.

Cheers: To a suggestion to rename the collapsed Interstate 5 bridge over the Skagit River in honor of the State Patrol trooper killed there last week. Sean O'Connell was a veteran 16-year trooper who was directing traffic on a detour around the bridge when his motorcycle was struck by a box truck. Three state legislators responded to the sad news this week by proposing the bridge, once it is repaired, to be renamed the Trooper #1076 Sean M. O'Connell Memorial Bridge. It would be a fitting tribute to a man who gave his life nearby and a reminder of the dangers law enforcement officers routinely face even on an ordinary assignment.

Jeers: To state Rep. Ed Orcutt. The Kalama Republican, whose district dips into the northern part of Clark County, is becoming as well-known this legislative session for his verbal gaffes as his usually intelligent positions. The latest involves a written response he provided when asked about updating the state's roads and bridges in light of the Interstate 5 Skagit River Bridge collapse. According to the Seattle publication The Stranger, Orcutt pointed toward the fact that 11 of the bridge's 12 spans are still standing. That comment eclipsed Orcutt's other point — that the bridge is functionally obsolete, but not unsafe for normal traffic. The same thing happened to him earlier this year. Then, he talked about bicyclists contributing to global warming due to their heavy breathing when he was really trying to make his point that cyclists should help pay for road maintenance.

Cheers: To courteous drivers. Specifically, to drivers who leave a note if they accidentally ding a parked car. A survey commissioned by PEMCO insurance shows about 10 percent of Northwest drivers have struck a car. Among Washington drivers who did so, 28 percent fled without leaving a note. In Oregon, 47 percent of drivers who had hit another car admitted to leaving the scene without leaving a note.

The survey also found that 62 percent of Washington men report being at fault for at least one car accident, compared with 51 percent of women.