In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

VA promises sound good; trees pose a growing problem

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Cheers: To promised improvements in health care for veterans. Sloan Gibson, the Obama administration’s deputy secretary for Veterans Affairs, is on a fence-mending public relations tour of VA facilities and stopped earlier this month at the Portland VA hospital, which includes facilities on the Vancouver campus along East Fourth Plain Boulevard just east of Interstate 5.

Gibson said his tour was part of the VA’s efforts to “restore the public’s trust” in the agency, which has been rocked with tales of inadequate service delivery and mismanagement. He and other officials talked about several improvements being made locally. More space and equipment will be devoted to eye care, increasing total capacity by 500 appointments per month. Saturday schedules are being added in Vancouver. And the VA is hiring more medical providers, including primary care providers.

On Thursday, Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., visited the Vancouver campus, where she was told by the Portland VA director that wait times have vastly improved. Murray also noted that Congress and President Obama have approved needed new spending on our veterans’ health care needs.

Already the VA has announced plans for a new 20,000-square-foot primary care clinic for the Vancouver campus. Construction should begin by year’s end and it should open in 2016.

All of these promises sound good, but it will be up to a notorious bureaucracy to deliver on them. We’ll keep watching to see what happens.

Jeers: To the Tree of Heaven. This big, deciduous native of Asia poses a significant threat to Southwest Washington homeowners. It’s a prolific grower, adding as much as eight feet a year, and can reach 80 feet tall. As it grows, it emits a chemical that kills other plants. Its roots are so strong it can crush concrete foundations and strangle plumbing and electrical connections.

The trees were imported to North America nearly 200 years ago by settlers who thought of them as the perfect street tree for urban environments. Now the Vancouver Urban Forestry Commission has put them on its least-wanted list. Good luck eradicating them! Established trees can take years to kill and require repeated herbicide applications to the trunks. Young trees are easier to remove, but all of the roots must be taken from the ground.

Cheers: To a record-breaking year for the Clark County Fair. Attendance reached nearly 273,000 over the fair’s 10-day run, a 10-year high. Food sales were $1.63 million, and the carnival brought in another $1.37 million. Both were records. Fair Manager John Morrison thinks this year’s mix of shows and events were probably the reason for the records. The weather was also generally nice, with only one really hot day.

A good year for the fair translates to a good year for county coffers. The fair is self-supporting, and its profits are used to pay for year-round operations at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds and the Dr. Jack Giesy Arena. Further, it is yet one more sign that the local economy has improved after several years in the doldrums.

Jeers: To infighting on the Washougal City Council. Mayor Sean Guard, who is not popular with several of the council members, took to Facebook to accuse councilors of holding “budget committee” meetings of the full council (except, apparently, him) without proper adherence to the state Open Public Meetings Act. Councilor Brent Boger, who works as a municipal attorney, agrees that the law may have been violated. Regardless, outside-regular-meetings meetings are a poor way to lead and administer a city. The council and the mayor need to find ways to work together, in public view, to move forward with improving what is already a very nice small city.