In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Chalk the Walks spreads positive vibes; wheat woes may sting state\u2019s economy

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Cheers: Vancouver's Joy Team once again has demonstrated the power of a positive message. The group engaged in its annual Chalk the Walks this week, drawing pictures and leaving uplifting messages — such as "Love is the strongest magic," accompanied by a picture of the genie from "Aladdin" — on sidewalks in Uptown Village and elsewhere in the city.

"It's just a really fun way of spreading joy, and getting other people to feel happy makes you feel good," said Grace Hopkins, an 11-year-old participant with the Junior Joy Team. And speaking of spreading … this year, more than 4,000 people around the world took part in Chalk the Walks. Participants in all 50 states — and several countries, including Brazil, Canada, and India — shared positive messages on the sidewalks of their communities. Until footsteps or an unexpected rain wash away the work, Vancouver's sidewalks will provide an uplifting experience.

Jeers: It often happens in agriculture that Mother Nature has the final say, and that could be bad news for wheat farmers in Washington. Too much heat and too little rain this year are taking a toll on the state's winter wheat crop in the eastern part of the state.

Winter wheat makes up three-fourths of the wheat crop in Washington, and 90 percent of that typically goes to foreign markets. Estimates are that this year's crop will be 30 percent to 40 percent smaller than last year's, a situation that could reverberate through the state's economy.

Cheers: Taking a step in the right direction, albeit a tepid one, the Legislative Ethics Board voted 5-3 to define how often public officials can accept free meals. State law states that legislators can accept meals from lobbyists on "infrequent occasions," which might set some sort of record for vagueness.

The ethics board recommended a limit of 12 meals a year, which at least would provide some specifics. Last year, a media investigation found that the state's 50 most active lobbyists lavished $65,000 worth of meals on lawmakers during the first four months of 2013. Even more problematic is lax record-keeping and reporting on the part of the lobbyists. The ethics board's proposal still needs to pass a final vote, but at least some lawmakers recognize the need for action.

Jeers: State lawmakers' desire to appease teachers' groups is coming home to roost, as school districts are explaining to parents why their schools are "failing."

Earlier this year, Washington lost its waiver for some provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act. That means that if 100 percent of students in a school don't meet standards in reading and math, the school is deemed as "failing" and districts are mandated to explain why. The 100 percent standard is an absurdly high target for schools, but Washington easily could have avoided the situation. The state says standardized tests can be used in evaluating teachers' job performance, while the federal government wanted it to say such tests must be used. The Legislature refused to capitulate, leaving local school districts in a difficult situation.

Cheers: From the you-never-know-where-you'll-find-a-treasure file: A painted mural, measuring 28 feet by 7 feet on canvas, has been confirmed as a 1941 work by noted artist William Cumming.

The mural spent decades collecting dust in barns and basements, but its recent discovery set off a search to determine the artist. A Seattle art dealer confirmed that it is the work of Cumming, saying the piece is worth at least $100,000 and is a priceless piece of state history.