Cheers: To more evidence that the residential housing market is rebounding. Home sales in the Portland-Vancouver area were 8.7 percent greater in January 2013 than in the prior year, according to a report from CoreLogic, a national provider of residential data. Prices were up, too, by 1.8 percent in January over the previous month. The data includes sales of distressed homes such as bank-owned properties and short sales, so a reduction in the number of those homes on the market may be partly responsible for the price increase. The year-over-year home price increase for January was 8.4 percent in Washington and 9.1 percent in Oregon.Jeers: To Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, for his assertions that bicyclists pollute the air with their heavy breathing. Orcutt, who represents a sliver of Clark County as well as Cowlitz County, is a veteran legislator whose ideas generally merit consideration. In this case, he was trying to make a point that bicyclists should help to pay for construction and upkeep of state roads.
But he wrote that "the act of riding a bike results in greater emissions of carbon dioxide from the rider. Since CO2 is deemed to be a greenhouse gas and a pollutant, bicyclists are actually polluting the air when they ride."
After his ridiculous statement received considerable publicity, Orcutt apologized for his poorly worded message. He could probably have offered this follow-up: Some people consider political hot air to be a pollutant, too.
Cheers:To shorter trip times and more reliable schedules on Amtrak's Cascades passenger train service between Vancouver and Seattle. The Washington State Department of Transportation is predicting both outcomes after the Federal Railroad Administration issued a favorable environmental ruling on a bypass.
The $89 million project would route Amtrak trains away from the BNSF Railway main line around Point Defiance, south of Tacoma, and onto a less-congested, more direct route through south Tacoma, Lakewood and DuPont. Construction could begin in 2015; the first trains won't use the tracks until 2017. It's already been funded from federal stimulus funds.
Jeers: To the Transportation Security Administration's decision to relax rules against carrying knives on planes. Starting later this year, the TSA will allow commercial air passengers to carry small pocketknives, as well as golf clubs, pool cues and other potential weapons, onto airliners. Passengers will still be prohibited from bringing more than tiny amounts of liquids or gels, and will have to remove shoes, belts, hats, coats, etc. etc.
We'd all agree that subjecting ourselves to this onerous security screening is a necessary evil if it prevents incidents in the air. But allowing small knives — which have functions similar to weapons employed by the Sept. 11 hijackers — seems like a bigger risk than a bottle of water, and a risk that is not worth taking.Cheers:To volunteers against vandalism. Taggers armed with cans of spray paint are a perpetual problem, particularly in some of the city's west side neighborhoods including Rose Village. The vandals deface private property with various symbols indicating gang affiliation or sometimes just some self-promotion. According to police reports the problem peaked two years ago, but it remains unacceptably high.
But Rose Village residents say they've had enough, and have organized into what they call "tag teams" to clean up private property that has been vandalized. Chris Haberthur, one of the organizers, explains that "if you don't take care of it, the problem tends to multiply." The tag teams have already had two cleanup efforts and may try to make it a monthly habit.