In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Bridges begin to build in Olympia; law would ticket drivers who text

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Cheers: To progress on a bridge bill in Olympia. A famous Chinese proverb says a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step; so too begins the path toward solving the increasingly vexing traffic problem plaguing Interstate 5. House Bill 2095 — favored by all of Clark County’s legislative delegation, except Republican Reps. Liz Pike and Vicki Kraft — passed 60-38 this week and now goes before the Senate.

Considering the enormity of the task ahead, the bill is modest. It calls for an inventory and cataloging of all previous work done on the Columbia River Crossing project before it was sunk by GOP torpedoes, creates a legislative action committee and asks the Washington State Department of Transportation to submit a report by Dec. 1. It sets aside $350,000 for this work.

From there, presumably, the action committee can use the information to reach out to its counterparts in Oregon and begin to build the political bridges that will have to be in place long before the first bucket of concrete is ever poured.

Jeers: To drivers so incredibly talented that they can pay full attention to the road while sending and receiving texts on their smartphones and checking their Facebook. We’re being sarcastic. There are no such drivers, and never were. Did you ever see Dick Tracy try to use his watch phone while driving a squad car?

That’s why we’re glad two similar bills — one in the House, the other in the Senate — are quickly finding favor with their colleagues. (Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, is the sponsor of the Senate version.) They would allow police officers to ticket motorists spotted holding a phone, tablet or other electronic device. The current law, written before the latest generation of smartphones added more potential distractions, requires the cop to actually spot the driver sending a text or holding the phone to an ear. In the interest of public safety, the legislation should be passed and resolutely enforced.

Cheers: To unrelenting winter. We’d rather be giving this cheer from, say, Oahu than West Eighth Street, but the fact is that the rain has created an amazing mountain snowpack that will slake our thirst all summer long. The Natural Resources Conservation Service measured the statewide snowpack this week at 108 percent of normal, and the Lower Columbia region was an impressive 133 percent of normal based on snow water content. The snowpack will be good for farmers, boaters and wildlife this summer, and with luck will make wildland firefighters as lonely as the Maytag repairman. Now let’s have some sunshine.

Jeers: To fake news. You know, the kind of stuff that says Pope Francis endorses Donald Trump. This sort of nonsense was all over social media last year and created worries that a misinformed electorate is even worse than an uninformed electorate. It’s not possible to wish these sorts of posts away, but Facebook this week started slapping a new warning label on news stores that are “disputed” by third-party fact-checkers such as Snopes and PolitiFact. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says it will be tough to differentiate between hoaxes, satire and opinion, but it’s better to give away the punch line than the democracy.

Cheers: To great prep sports coaches. Jennifer Buscher, the girls basketball coach at Skyview High School, announced this week she will step down after leading her team to six league titles in seven years, and, in 2012, the state championship. She’s planning to return to college to study educational administration. Good luck to Buscher, and thanks to her and all of the hundreds of other coaches who help students find success and self-esteem through athletics.