Wednesday, December 11, 2019
Dec. 11, 2019

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Shining new light on city, seasonal scammers

The Columbian
Published: November 30, 2019, 6:03am

Cheers: To new street lights. As the city of Vancouver swaps out its streetlights for improved efficiency, we are reminded of the scope of managing a city of more than 180,000 people. Vancouver is switching about 14,000 streetlights to energy-efficient LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, in a project that will continue until next fall. City officials have allocated $4 million — about $2 million for new fixtures and $2 million for installation.

Those are big numbers, as is the $900,000 a year Vancouver spends to light its streets. Officials say the new bulbs will cut that cost in half; in addition, LEDs typically last about 20 years before going out — roughly twice as long as the current bulbs. In the long run, the new bulbs will save taxpayers money and use less energy — a win-win for residents.

Jeers: To scammers. The holiday season tends to bring out more than a few Grinch characters. Law enforcement officials typically have a variety of warnings for the public at this time of year about various scammers and thieves. In one recent alert, the FBI has warned of two men who used skimming devices at ATMs in the Vancouver area and then made fraudulent withdrawals in western Montana.

Phone scammers also come out in force during the holidays, tugging at the heartstrings of well-meaning victims to lure donations for phony charities. The FBI also warns of online scams, including paying for goods or services that are never delivered. We mention this as a reminder to be cautious at all times, especially during the Christmas season, and as a reason to give jeers to the scammers out there.

Cheers: To Friends of Vancouver Lake. The local advocacy group is getting the word out about problems at the 2,300-acre lake, and state officials are listening. Leaders from the state Department of Ecology have received a briefing, and a bipartisan group of legislators has asked the state to put the lake on its priority list for improving water quality.

A milfoil infestation has been added to a long list of problems that often includes blue-green algae at the lake. Those issues threaten the health of a recreation spot that is popular with boaters and swimmers and is a jewel of the region. City, county and state officials all have a stake in Vancouver Lake and should work together to ensure its future.

Jeers: To the illegal turtle trade. Yes, there is such a thing, and a man from Shanghai has pleaded guilty in Eugene to his role in it. With help from an unindicted co-conspirator in Oregon, Xiao Dong Qin plotted to smuggle 315 endangered turtles from the United States to China, violating laws regarding International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

The turtles, purchased from throughout the United States, reportedly have a market value of more than $250,000 in the Chinese pet trade. If Xiao had a preference for other reptiles, we might say he came up snake eyes or is crying crocodile tears. Instead, we’re left with suggesting he shouldn’t have stuck his neck out to purchase the turtles (sorry).

Cheers: To D.B. Cooper. Or maybe to D.B. Cooper aficionados. Many of them gathered last week in Vancouver for CooperCon, swapping theories about what happened after the hijacker parachuted out of an airplane 48 years ago.

As part of Northwest lore, the unidentified perpetrator continues to fascinate nearly five decades after his dastardly deed and daring leap. As one CooperCon participant said, “In the D.B. Cooper world, if you have 10 investigations, you’ll have 11 theories on what happened.” That is what keeps the mystery alive.

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