In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Drop in foreclosures encouraging sign; Forest Service panel an empty gesture

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Cheers: The number of home foreclosures in 2013 in Clark County was at its lowest level since 2007 — another sign that the economy slowly is improving. There were a total of 2,248 foreclosures last year, down slightly from the 2,297 the previous year and down markedly from more than 3,500 in both 2009 and 2010.

But while those numbers might be worthy of a tepid cheer, we'll stop short of calling for streamers and balloons. Last year's number of foreclosures in the county still was nearly 31/2 times as high as the 672 foreclosures of 2006. And, Clark County's rate of foreclosure in 2013 was higher than the state average, which was higher than the national average. On the bright side: At least those numbers appear to be trending downward.

Jeers: The curious case of the Gotchen Creek Guard Station in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest is an embarrassment. The 105-year-old guard station has undergone renovations that make it just about ready for public rental. Yet before the U.S. Forest Service can charge a rental fee, the plan must be approved by the Pacific Northwest Recreation Resources Advisory Committee, a citizen group signed into law in 2004.

But, as detailed by Allen Thomas in Thursday's edition of The Columbian, the advisory committee doesn't exist. All 11 positions are vacant, according to the website for the Forest Service's regional office, and a spokesman said the committee has not met since 2010. Talk about bureaucracy run amok. If the committee could be nonexistent for three years without the public or media noticing, it probably didn't need to be created in the first place.

Cheers:The story of Shelli Fanning serves as an example of what people can accomplish if given an opportunity. Fanning, a 46-year-old who has Down syndrome, recently retired after a 23-year housekeeping career at the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay.

Originally placed in the job with help from Hazel Dell-based Goldman & Associates, Fanning was able to thrive when many people like her are shunned. "When she work, everybody happy," said Vera Babiy, a Ukrainian native and Fanning's supervisor. "She make everybody happy." With an understanding employer and occasional visits from a job coach, Fanning was able to spend more than two decades being a productive member of society and enriching those around her.

Jeers: A tax-break extension worth $8.7 billion was one thing, but worrying about fish consumption and how it impacts Boeing might be a bit much.

After directing plenty of state largesse toward the aerospace giant late last year, officials now are vowing to work with Boeing on water quality issues (which for some reason involves fish consumption levels), workers' compensation costs, and improved transportation infrastructure. Working with Boeing to forge a win-win partnership is beneficial for the state; becoming the company's lap dog is not.

Cheers: What began as a federal holiday that had plenty of detractors has grown into a notable landmark on the calendar. Monday is the day for honoring the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, a holiday that seemingly expands in significance each year.

Locally, Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge will offer free admission Monday. But more important is that MLK Day has become a traditional day of service in this country. Many people will mark the occasion by volunteering on various community projects, and last year President Barack Obama noted, "This is really what America is about; this is what we celebrate." It is a perfect way to acknowledge the legacy of Dr. King.