Cheers:To the Washougal City Council for clarifying its ordinance on barking dogs. The city is home to both the West Columbia River Gorge Humane Society and a business called Northwest Underwater Construction. The two enterprises are locked in one of the most bitter neighbor disputes in Clark County over the barking noise emanating from the Humane Society's animal shelter.The city council this week voted to amend its ordinance, specifying that barking dogs are allowed at shelters and animal-related businesses. Even if the clarification doesn't result in a resolution of the dispute, it at least lets both parties know the city's position.
Jeers: To an estimated $4.8 million raid on the county's general fund over the next 18 months. That's the estimated cost of the fee waiver on nonresidential development enacted by Republican County Commissioners David Madore and Tom Mielke. The fee waiver — one of Madore's campaign promises — comes despite testimony against it from the Republican county assessor and the Republican county auditor, and lukewarm support or outright opposition from the building community. Taxpayers have been more muted. For them the issue is likely to come to a head later, when other county services must be cut in order to subsidize road improvements benefiting big-box discount stores.
Cheers: To the Craft Winefest of Vancouver. The event takes place next weekend in downtown's Esther Short Park and is not to be confused with the long-running Vancouver Wine & Jazz Festival. In fact, that confusion led the older festival to take the new event to court over its name. With the help of a federal judge the new Craft Winefest name was born for the event, which will focus on local wines and musical — but not jazz — entertainment. Whatever its name, it promises to be yet another event that stimulates downtown business and gives Vancouver its unique identity.
Jeers: To a significant rise in deaths among Washington's heroin users. Heroin abuse isn't a new problem, but it has been on the rise as people addicted to prescription painkillers have turned to the opiate for a similar, but cheaper, high. As a result heroin deaths are up from 931 in 2000-2002 to 1,821 from 2009-2011, according to a new University of Washington study. In Clark County, deaths rose to 89 from 50 in the earlier period. Neighboring Cowlitz County registered one of the biggest percentage increases in the state, more than doubling from 20 deaths to 50. Experts hope more awareness of heroin's dangers may lower the number of new users, particularly young people, who are attracted to the drug.
Cheers: To drivers who avoided Interstate 5 last weekend. The Washington State Department of Transportation mounted an information campaign warning that the freeway would be closed to allow installation of girders over the freeway at the new Northeast 139th Street overpass, and drivers listened. Many drivers stayed away, which made the going easy for drivers who used the detour via Highway 500 and Interstate 205. Bonus cheers to WSDOT for using the freeway closure to do some maintenance, such as patching potholes, and to the general contractor, Max J. Kuney of Spokane, for installing the last beam and reopening I-5 more than a day early.
Jeers: To brinkmanship between big health care insurers and big health care providers. For a specific example, look no further than Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon, which recently warned its members they soon may lose the use of PeaceHealth's hospital facilities. Negotiations continue and some reports indicate a deal seems likely, but in the meantime consumers, many of whom are older or unwell, are left worrying about where they will get care.