In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

A needed rehab for Skyline Crest; don't underestimate earthquakes

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Cheers: To a $28 million renewal of Skyline Crest, the Vancouver Housing Authority’s 150-unit public housing complex in McLoughlin Heights.

Since the community of duplexes and four-plexes opened in 1963, some 3,000 people have lived there. So it’s no wonder that after 51 years, the community is ready for some renewal.

Plans call for renovating the existing units, and razing the central building, which houses the Rise & Stars Community Center. In its place will be a three-story residential block, bringing the total to 163 units capable of housing 471 people. There will also be room for a new Boys & Girls Club, where children can get help with homework and have a safe place to play until parents arrive home from work.

Best of all, the renovations will be done in phases, so no one will lose their homes. Some residents may have to be shifted from one unit to another, however, which seems unavoidable as the work progresses.

Jeers: To anyone whose New Year’s resolutions do not include preparing for earthquakes. A small temblor under Vancouver Lake on Monday morning serves as a reminder that we live in a seismically active area, says John Vidale, director of the Pacific Northwest Seismic Network. Quakes like Monday’s little 2.7 magnitude scale are frequent, and by themselves don’t portend an impending “big one.”

But the quake can serve as a reminder that the Cascadia Subduction Zone fault will someday unleash “The Big One,” causing massive damage, as it has in the past. We can’t prevent it or predict when such damaging force will be unleashed more than a few moments ahead of time. We can prepare now, though. A good place to start is at this website: ready.gov/earthquakes.


Cheers:
To more environmentally friendly ways to treat roads during snow and ice storms. Though the pain of winter driving is rarely inflicted on Clark County motorists, we live close enough to the snow belt to understand the difficulties of driving in winter, and the limitations of treating roads with salt and chemical de-icing agents.

One of the biggest problems is what the salt does to the environment. A Washington State University environmental engineering professor, Xianming Shi, is studying alternatives. Shi says that in Washington, road crews apply roughly four tons of rock salt per mile per winter season. Much of that salt stays in the environment, where it harms soil and plants.

As a result, the U.S. spends $5 billion per year to mitigate the environmental costs associated with the salt. That’s more than double the cost of applying the salt in the first place.

Shi’s research has already led to “smart” snowplows, equipped with sensors, that are being integrated into winter fleets. He’s experimented with organic fluids, such as beet and tomato juice, as de-icers, and is currently testing an ice melt substance made up of leftover barley residue from vodka distilleries. He’s even looking to see if the concrete used in roadways can be improved.


Jeers:
To county Councilor David Madore’s latest silly attempt to gut public transit in general, and C-Tran in particular. Look, we get it: Madore knows that not too many voters ride the bus, and that a C-Tran style system can only operate with taxpayer subsidies. Therefore, in his thinking, it should be disposed of, no matter the fact that it serves a variety of audiences who cannot drive, cannot afford to drive or choose not to drive.

Madore’s latest gambit is to reduce bus fares to 25 cents in order to promote ridership. It’s unclear why this would even be a goal. Wouldn’t it be most prudent to offer the best service to riders at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers?