Thursday, September 24, 2020
Sept. 24, 2020

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Morning Press: Car theft, comics, casino, Heisman(s), community aid

The Columbian

Were you away for the weekend? Catch up on some big stories.

Unless you go up a mountain, a light rain jacket should be enough this week, but local weather coverage is online here to double-check.

Auto theft is dropping; officials work to cut it further

When Rhonda Ouchida’s co-worker at Urban Styles Salon and Spa said she didn’t see Ouchida’s car parked outside, the nail technician just laughed.

“I didn’t think anything of it,” Ouchida said. “I laughed and said, ‘It’s out there. I’m here.'”

The 52-year-old drives to work and always kept her 1995 Honda Accord in the same spot outside the salon, which is in a complex near the Battle Ground Cinema. So, when her ride was stolen in broad daylight on Dec. 19 last year, she was shocked and frustrated.

“I walked out of work thinking I lost my mind,” she said. “Where did my car go?”

On the day after Christmas, a week after the theft, Battle Ground police told Ouchida her car had been recovered and she would need to retrieve it from a tow yard in Clackamas, Ore. She paid about $450 in fees to get her car back. Whoever stole it apparently removed her radio, damaging the dashboard in the process, and stole some valuables she had in the trunk.

Ouchida’s narrative echoes thousands of others in Clark County. Her 90s Honda Accord is the most commonly stolen car locally and across the state.

Although auto thefts are declining locally, stealing a vehicle is still one of the top crimes in Clark County. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office hopes to make a sizeable dent in local cases with the help of a Washington Auto Theft Prevention Authority grant that supports a prosecutor dedicated to convicting offenders of auto-related crimes.

From 2004 to 2013, there’s been an 87 percent increase in arrests related to auto theft. The number of vehicles reported stolen dropped from 2,045 in 2009 to 1,687 in 2013. Crime Analyst Brian Salsig, with the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, projects that by the end of 2014, the number of auto thefts will drop even more.

When Battle Ground police called her, Ouchida learned that the Clackamas County (Ore.) Sheriff’s Office found the car around 2 a.m. Dec. 20 (the day after it was stolen), abandoned in the parking lot of the Clackamas Town Center.

A Battle Ground police officer took a report about the theft, but wasn’t able to find any evidence or identify a suspect, said Chief Bob Richardson. The vehicle was entered into a national database of stolen vehicles; that’s how Clackamas deputies knew it was stolen when they found it at the mall.

“While TV shows portray officers lifting fingerprints and DNA material off of every item, entering the information into a database, and a few minutes later, a suspect’s name, photo and current address show up on the monitor — that’s not real life,” Richardson said.

  • Read the complete story here.

Columbian reveals new comics lineup

We asked for your feedback on our comics pages, and we were floored by the response.

We knew before the survey that our readers value and have strong opinions about comics. As more than 3,200 ballots rolled in, it became increasingly clear that people were going to be thrilled or horrified with whatever move we made.

Comments from readers spanned from “Hooray, and thanks for asking my opinion,” to “It’s about time,” to “All of the strips are great and leave them alone,” and pretty much every sentiment in between.

There were some popular superstars — Peanuts, Pickles and Family Circus all got a thumbs up from more than 90 percent of those who took the survey. And there were other strips that enjoyed popular support — but also a note of dissent.

Other strips received passionate — and diametrically opposed — reactions.

It’s clear: Our readers take funny seriously.

The hard part was, to make room for every new strip, we had to cut something else.

How’d we do? Give us your feedback by calling 360-735-4448 and leaving a voicemail, emailing or commenting below on this article.

Thank you to everyone for being part of the process and say “welcome” to your new breakfast guests.

  • Read the complete story here.

Cowlitz casino proposal wins a round in court

A U.S. District Court judge on Friday sided with the Cowlitz Indian Tribe in its long-running quest to establish a reservation along Interstate 5 west of La Center and build a casino. She dismissed a lawsuit filed by opponents.

U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein in Washington, D.C., issued a 57-page opinion outlining her reasons for denying the plaintiffs’ challenge of the Department of Interior’s decision to acquire 152 acres on behalf of the tribe.

The plaintiffs included Clark County and the city of Vancouver.

Another of the plaintiffs, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, immediately announced plans to appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

That came as no surprise to William Iyall, the chairman of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe.

“There are always avenues of appeal no matter how you do it,” Iyall said. “I know there’s legal wrangling around all this, but it’s certainly a huge victory for the Cowlitz people.”

The decision upholds the rights of the tribe’s ancestors to have land of their own, he said. Construction on the 134,000-square-foot casino the tribe plans to build on the site likely won’t get started for quite a while, depending on how the appeals process unfolds, he said.

In the meantime, the tribe is celebrating what Iyall considers a long and hard-fought victory.

“The land going into trust will be a huge milestone, a historic milestone 150 years in the making,” he said. “It’s taken a long time to get here. It is justice served.”

  • Read the complete story here.

Heisman goes to local football player

Nolan Henry was in middle school when he and his family stopped at a Wendy’s restaurant and noticed a poster for the High School Heisman award.

Nolan’s father, Darin, saw his son looking at the display.

“You gotta win that some day,” Darin said.

“OK,” Nolan replied.

Some day became Friday — his birthday.

Nolan Henry, a senior from Union High School, was named the Wendy’s High School Heisman boys award winner at a ceremony in New York City as part of Heisman Week.

“It was a ‘No Way!’ moment,” Henry said when hearing his name announced at the Best Buy Theater in Times Square. “The group of kids was amazing. Getting to know them, learning about their stories, it was so cool. I think any one of us could have won. When I won, I was shocked. I don’t know if there is a better word for it.”

Henry sent a message and a picture on social media of himself with the trophy:

“Just won the Wendy’s High School Heisman! Could not be here without the support of so many people. Love you all,” Henry posted on Twitter.

There was a reception following Friday’s ceremony, plus still plenty left on the weekend itinerary.

“Oh my goodness, this has been amazing,” Henry said after getting back to his hotel after midnight in New York. “And it’s just getting started.”

Community steps up at prospect of lost homes

A Vancouver personal trainer is organizing a fundraising run/walk to aid those being forced out of their homes at the Courtyard Village Apartments in Rose Village.

Sherri McMillan, owner of Northwest Personal Training, posted Saturday on her Facebook page that she is organizing an informal 3-mile run/walk at 9 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 21. The event will start at Torque Coffee Roasters, 501 Columbia St., and proceed along the Columbia River.

On Dec. 2 — immediately after the December rent was due — some residents of Courtyard Village Apartments, a large complex of buildings at 2600 T St., started getting legal notices to vacate by the end of this month. The new owner, MF Parc Central, plans to make badly needed improvements and raise the rents accordingly.

Not everyone has gotten a notice to vacate yet, but the expectation is that as the work proceeds, all occupants will eventually be hit with the same notice. On Wednesday, crews were already removing landscaping as well as patio furniture and other items left outdoors by residents — even locked bicycles and barbecues.

“These are people who are already struggling to make it, and now they have to find a place to live, come up with first and last months rent all during the holidays when they are already having a difficult time getting presents for kids and making the season special,” McMillan said on a page promoting the event.

McMillan is suggesting a minimum donation of $10, but she said any amount would help.

Those who can’t make the event but still want to help can send checks directly to the Council for the Homeless, which will administer the fund, at 2500 Main St., Vancouver, 98660; make sure to write “Courtyard Village” in the memo line.