In Our View: Cheers & Jeers

Job report shows economy still strong; sewage discharge calls for caution

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Cheers: To job growth. Just-released numbers from September indicate that the economy remains strong in Clark County, with unemployment dipping slightly to 4.5 percent. That marks the sixth consecutive month in which the number was at or below 5 percent, close to what is considered full employment.

For the year, Clark County has added 8,200 jobs — an increase of 5.2 percent, according to the state’s Employment Security Department. That is more than double the growth nationally, in Washington, and throughout the metro area. Regional economist Scott Bailey said that should eventually translate to wage growth: “Someday, we’ll see a real punch-up in wages, but right now I think there’s a lot of reluctance on the part of employers unless they absolutely have to.”

Jeers: To raw sewage. In what is sounding like something out of Homer Simpson’s nuclear power plant, sewage has been discharged from Vancouver’s Westside Water Treatment Facility into the Columbia River — again. On Wednesday, about 80,000 gallons of feces, urine and laundry waste poured into the river during what officials say was routine maintenance; on Oct. 5, 400,000 gallons of sewage was discharged following a power failure. D’oh!

While officials say health risks are low, caution is warranted. The plant, at 2323 W. Mill Plain Blvd., empties into the Columbia near Frenchman’s Bar Regional Park. Fish caught downstream should be thoroughly cleaned and cooked, and clothes that came into contact with the water should be washed. Anybody concerned about contamination can contact Clark County Public Health at 360-397-8428.

Cheers: To the Vancouver City Council. One year after voters approved a property-tax levy to support affordable housing, city leaders have decided to not seek an increase to the funding this year. Voters approved a levy to raise $6 million a year, and with assessed property values increasing, the rate of the levy — tax per $1,000 in value — will decline for property owners.

Meanwhile, the city is considering its allowable 1 percent increase to the property tax levy. That is an increase to the total collected; individual results may vary. While inflation results in rising costs for providing services, officials are wise to avoid increasing the year-old affordable housing levy this time around.

Interesting: Foghorns in the middle of the night. This doesn’t warrant cheers or jeers; after all, although the situation is annoying for residents along the west edge of Clark County, it’s better than having ships on the Columbia River collide in the darkness.

According to a story by Columbian reporter Scott Hewitt, those ships have been sounding their electronic whistles and mystifying residents. “We’ve been looking all around the house for an alarm on vibrate — I thought I was going crazy!” one person wrote on a neighborhood message board. “I thought my son’s phone was vibrating all night! I was about to wake him up!” wrote another. Foggy nights have led to an increase in warning signals from ships, but at least the mystery has been solved and residents can sleep easy — we hope.

Cheers: To Make a Difference Day. Numerous opportunities are available for Clark County residents to get outside today and do good works. As the website for the national effort to make a difference explains: “Since 1992, volunteers and communities have come together on Make A Difference Day with a single purpose: to improve the lives of others.”

Locally, that includes Clark Public Utilities’ StreamTeam, which typically draws about 200 volunteers to help plant trees. It also includes litter pickups and trail building and other worthy endeavors. Then again, making a difference in your community is something that can be accomplished every day.