Morning Press: Grandfather, Big Brother, sheriff hopefuls; work at home and water at schools

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A grandfather's pride

photoAfter his daughter's death, Ron Onslow raised his three grandchildren,from left, Mitch, Maria and Micaela, who think of him as their father. Ron was proud to watch Mitch graduate from medical school this spring on his way to becoming a doctor.

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Tears of pride and pain streamed down Ridgefield Mayor Ron Onslow's cheeks as he embraced his grandson, Mitch Onslow, last month at his graduation ceremony in Cincinnati.

More than 26 years after his eldest daughter, Michele Onslow, who had hoped to be a teacher, was murdered at the hand of her estranged husband, Ron was overcome with emotion as he watched her youngest child prepare to begin his career.

"I want you to know how proud I am of you and how proud your mom would be of you," Ron, 75, told his grandson. "And she's looking down and she's thinking about you."

Mitch was only 2 years old when his mother died. Now he's 28 — his mother's age at the time of her death.

After the murder, Ron and his ex-wife, Sally Onslow, took over for Michele, raising Mitch and his two older sisters, Micaela and Maria. In the face of his loss, Ron has taken solace over the years in watching Mitch rise to become an accomplished adult as the two have developed a strong father-son relationship.

And perhaps what Ron has loved most is seeing Mitch follow in his mother's footsteps with plans for a career spent helping children. Mitch went to medical school aiming to become a pediatrician, and after getting a chance to deliver a few babies in Cincinnati, he's changed his focus to obstetrics and gynecology.

Read the complete story here.

Paired on purpose

photo"I can't help everybody, but I can help one. I still have something to give." Jamie Stratton

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Shy and nervous. Awkward but hopeful. That's how 15-year-old David Hinds felt when he met Jamie Stratton about a year ago.

"It was brand new, and I wanted it to get off on the right foot," said David, who's 16 today.

His modest ambition was to build a positive, lasting relationship with a man he could look up to and rely on. To hear him tell the tale, David hasn't benefited from much mature fathering in his short life. Other than a few years in foster care, he's lived mostly with his mother. A short stretch living with his father ended abruptly and badly — he still doesn't know why — when he was about 12, he said.

Now watch David and Stratton, who's 65, boisterously shoot hoops or cruise around on Stratton's motorcycle — or just hang out on the back deck, chatting over pizza — and the warm bond between them is obvious. David has achieved his first goal, and the pair now is working hard toward his second: graduating from high school.

"We've talked a lot about that," said Stratton, and about some of the difficulties David has had in the past, including suspensions from school. David has a diagnosis of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, his mother Rhonda Delagasse said, but the medication he needs hasn't always been affordable.

David isn't a big fan of school — "You know how teenagers are," he said — but he likes his English and math classes at Heritage High School, mostly because those teachers take the time to understand him and are willing to reach out "when I seem like I'm having a bad day."

"What I want is to see him get to choose his life, not have life choose for him," Stratton said. "He seems like he's doing better."

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Four who would be sheriff

photoCandidates for Clark County sheriff, from left, Chuck Atkins, Shane Gardner, Ed Owens and John Graser

Candidates for Clark County sheriff say now is the time to think big and think bold.

After all, one of the four candidates — Ed Owens, Chuck Atkins, Shane Gardner and John Graser — will replace retiring Sheriff Garry Lucas when votes are tallied in November. It will be the first change in leadership for the county's top law enforcement position since Lucas took office in 1991.

In an hourlong interview with The Columbian, broadcast live over the Internet, the candidates tackled a variety of topics, ranging from how best to reach out to minority groups to whether staffing reconfiguration needs to occur to put more deputies on the streets.

In response to what the sheriff's office could do to improve safety at schools — in light of the deadly shooting this week at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore. — the candidates offered different approaches.

The candidates also tackled the topic of how to do more policing with less money. Even though commissioners approved money for the hiring of eight new deputies earlier in the year, the candidates said they worried about the long-term effects tight budgets have on law enforcement.

There was also concern that the sheriff's office wouldn't have a sustainable funding stream to pay for the officers in the years to come — that is, without commissioners loosening the purse strings and shelling out more money.

The county is already underserved by on-the-street deputies, when compared to other counties of a comparable size. The county was forced to lay off deputies after the economy tanked in 2008 when the burst housing bubble set the economic downturn in motion.

The candidates agreed that reaching out to minority groups was important to foster community relationships.

Read the complete story here.

Schools wait for verdict on county fees

photoCary Armstrong, Source Control Specialist with the Clark County Department of Environmental Services, shows a well maintained stormwater site in a Vancouver neighborhood, in 2011.

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A handful of Clark County schools will learn later this month whether they will be on the hook to pay county fees they've been exempt from furnishing in recent years.

The school districts have been at loggerheads with the county's Department of Environmental Services over a proposal to strip schools of fee waivers for storm water mitigation since the beginning of the year.

So far, two districts are appealing the proposal, which calls for rescinding a waiver for school districts on storm water fees. The districts will learn the status of their appeals by June 30.

The fee proposal to charge districts the fees would be done to supplement the county's clean water program funding, Environmental Services Director Don Benton said.

Managers at the department will meet this week to make a decision.

The districts appealing the decision include Evergreen Public Schools and Vancouver Public Schools. A third district, Battle Ground Public Schools, said it has withdrawn its appeal and paid the fee, amounting to $22,000.

The Vancouver school district is on the hook for $43,539, while Evergreen has been charged $25,668.

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Telecommuting still uncommon, but growing

photoTami Marshall works as a medical coder from home with her dog Jazzy to keep her company on Wednesday June 11, 2014. (Zachary Kaufman/The Columbian)

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Tami Marshall's love of her job has only increased since she began telecommuting from her Hazel Dell home about six months ago.

"Now, not only do I have a dream job, but a dream location," said Marshall, a medical coding specialist for PeaceHealth, Clark County's largest employer. She converted a spare bedroom into an office, where she begins her work day at 6 a.m. with her dog, Jazzy, perched atop her desk.

Marshall doesn't have much company, both figuratively and literally. Although a growing number of Clark County residents work from home, the telecommuting trend hasn't taken off as predicted. Twenty years ago, conventional wisdom was that the number of telecommuters would inevitably expand, thus curbing commutes and helping employees accommodate family demands. Yet many employers continue to approach telecommuting with wariness, and some, like Yahoo, have made headlines by revoking the option.

According to Gallup's 2013 State of the American Workplace report, 39 percent of employees surveyed reported spending at least some time working remotely. The number of Clark County residents telecommuting has grown by nearly 38 percent, but remains a mere sliver of the workforce, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures. In 2005, 4.9 percent of Clark County workers, or 9,112 people, worked from home, including those who were self-employed. In 2012, that figure grew to 6.6 percent, or 12,551.

"Then you think of all the jobs that can't telecommute, like your electrician," said Mark Harrington, a senior planner for the Southwest Washington Regional Transportation Council. "There's a whole section of the economy that just can't do that."

Studies show that telecommuting boosts productivity, decreases absenteeism and increases worker retention. But, for better or worse, it also blurs the boundary between work and home and increases the number of hours worked. Gallup reported that remote workers log an average of four more hours per week than their office-based counterparts.

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