In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

We applaud free Thanksgiving meals, boo government secrecy

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Cheers: To free Thanksgiving dinner. Since 1982, Chuck Chronis and Judge Rich Melnick have organized efforts to provide holiday dinners for those who otherwise might not have them. After a one-year hiatus in 2015, the program was revived with help from Mark Matthias, owner of restaurant WareHouse ’23. Together, on Thursday, they prepared enough Thanksgiving meals to serve 700 people.

As detailed by Columbian reporter Dameon Pesanti, the festivities were enhanced by an impromptu piano performance by David Allen Welsh, a homeless man who stopped in for a meal. “God gives gifts,” Welsh said. “This is the gift he gave me to share.” Chronis, who for years owned Chronis’ Restaurant, and Melnick, a state Court of Appeals judge, long have reflected the generous nature of Clark County. Along with Matthias and the many volunteers who make the event possible, they are deserving of cheers for helping to make this area so special.

Jeers: To government secrecy. Attorneys for the Legislature are arguing that lawmakers are and should be exempt from public-records laws that apply to other government agencies. That is the gist of a court filing in response to a lawsuit from numerous media outlets. The basic question is whether items such as the daily schedules and emails of lawmakers should be open to public scrutiny.

The answer: Of course they should. Employers must have the right to know what their employees are doing while on the job, and the public employs lawmakers. Regardless of whether the court rules in favor of legislators, those legislators should work quickly to rewrite the law they say allows them to avoid scrutiny. Transparency must be a hallmark of lawmakers’ work in Olympia.

Cheers: To thoughtful planning. The Vancouver City Council has extended a moratorium on development at the former Tower Mall site, which the city purchased in June for $5 million. Located along Mill Plain Boulevard between MacArthur Boulevard and Devine Road, the area has much potential for revitalizing a part of the city that long has been neglected.

In extending the moratorium by six months, city officials sought time to develop a comprehensive plan for the area, which likely will include residential and retail outlets while integrating transit options. “We have a vision for a real vibrant urban center,” said Teresa Brum, the city’s economic development division manager.

Sad: The condition of Camas’ Crown Park pool. An independent consultant had some bad news for city officials this week: “The pool is dying. We know this is not an easy decision because of the historic significance of the pool.”

Crown Park pool was built by the Camas Lions Club and donated to the city in 1954. While it has created memories for generations of residents, the age and condition of the outdoor pool is quickly making it too costly to maintain. The state Department of Public Health has determined that about $400,000 in maintenance will be required simply to open the facility for the 2018 season.

Cheers … and jeers: New stickers are being placed upon gas pumps throughout Washington informing residents that the cost for each gallon of gas includes 67.8 cents in taxes. That represents 49.4 cents in state tax plus the federal tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, giving Washington the nation’s second-highest gas tax.

While we are in favor of an informed public, the move would be more beneficial if it included more detail. For example, Washington does not have an income tax or a capital gains tax, and funds for items such as road maintenance must come from someplace. Taxes reflect more complexities than can be included on a single sticker.