In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

County engages in openness; study could be bad news for coal trains

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Cheers: Clark County has unveiled a new "Sunshine Review" page (http://www.clark.wa.gov/transparency/) on its website, allowing users to have a look at the county's detailed financial records, contracts, and other information in one handy location. The site even includes a searchable database with five years' worth of payments made to county employees and consultants for everything from mileage reimbursement to transportation contracts.

The brainchild of Republican Commissioner David Madore, the site will aid efforts to make government more transparent for the people it serves. While transparency is a long-held American ideal, all too often governments seek to limit disclosure in efforts that undermine citizens' faith in the system. For example, the state Supreme Court recently affirmed the governor's power to invoke "executive privilege" in withholding information from the public. People should expect more from their governments; after all, the people are the boss. With their "Sunshine Review" page, Clark County commissioners are acting like they understand that.

Jeers: It's only a preliminary finding, but a new study by a professor at the University of Washington Bothell suggests that coal trains are contributing to air pollution in the Northwest. Researcher Dan Jaffe measured air quality at two locations along tracks, finding that the quality decreased when coal trains went by.

With a proposal pending that would bring a multitude of coal trains through Vancouver each day on their way to Longview, this study is relevant to our interests. The Columbian long has argued that science should play an important role in whether the coal-train plan is approved, and while Jaffe's science is not definitive, it's a good start.

Cheers: Vancouver City Council members have unanimously approved a plan for the city to move forward on developing a waterfront park along the Columbia River. Located at the former Boise Cascade site to the west of the Interstate 5 Bridge, the idea is for the park to eventually anchor a multiuse development at the site.

As planned, the park would cover 7.3 acres and would include a 14-foot-wide paved extension of the Waterfront Renaissance Trail. Ideally, it someday will be surrounded by restaurants, shops, and residential buildings. To that end, the development of the park will open river access to the public and serve to transform the area near Vancouver's downtown.

Jeers: Note to employees in all walks of life -- insubordination can cost you your job, or the opportunity to share your skills. Such is the lesson to be learned from the case of a middle school football coach in Corbett, Ore., about 20 miles east of Portland. Coach Randy Burbach had scheduled the team's after-season party at a Hooters restaurant. Because Hooters features waitresses in tight tank tops and skimpy shorts, some parents had a problem with this. When administrators told the coach, a volunteer, to choose another venue, he declined. He won't be allowed to coach there again.

According to some media reports, Burbach defended his decision and his stubbornness by saying that he teaches kids to stand up for what they believe in, so that's what he's doing. Really, coach? You believe in Hooters? We'll side with athletic director Jean-Paul Soulagnet, who said, "Hooters is known worldwide for a number of things, and I don't think food is one of them."

Cheers: It might seem too early for Christmas shopping, but a little Christmas spirit never goes out of style. So it's worth noting that the official Capitol Christmas Tree, which this year comes from Washington state, will make a stop in Vancouver today for public viewing.

The 88-foot-tall tree, from the Colville National Forest, will decorate the lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building when it arrives there in late November. But from 9 to 11 a.m. today, it will make a stop at Heritage Square at Eighth and Washington streets downtown.