Friday, August 7, 2020
Aug. 7, 2020

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Right time for Academy plans

The Columbian
Published:

Cheers: To moving forward with major plans for Providence Academy. The historic building in downtown Vancouver is older than the state of Washington and is a testimony to the genius and hard work of its builder, Mother Joseph of the Sacred Heart. A generation after its construction, a laundry building, boiler building and a tall smokestack were added on the east side of the property. The smokestack is a bit of a landmark, clearly visible from northbound Interstate 5.

However, the stack and its two small associated buildings have become a hazard. The Academy’s owner, The Historic Trust, is moving ahead with demolition, which will be followed by development of apartments on that site and what has been a gravel parking lot. Money from the apartments will be invested back into Mother Joseph’s building.

A study showed the smokestack could be saved at a cost of $1 million, but all that sum would be spent to ensure the stack collapsed instead of toppled, marginally improving its seismic safety, but not restoring it for any use. Since they are not part of Mother Joseph’s plan or building, it is time for the old smokestack and the two buildings to go.

Jeers: To exploiting loopholes. The county’s home rule charter, approved by voters in November 2014, is a foundational work that set the tone for a much improved Clark County government. But, as county councilors are finding out, the document isn’t perfect. The charter properly includes a section on the public’s right to file ethics complaints against councilors, but it apparently contains too many loopholes. With the election coming up, opponents found ways to file ethics complaints against three of the five councilors in July.

“I think we’re seeing how this section of our code, our code of conduct, can be co-opted for any particular reason — political or not,” said Councilor Julie Olson, one of the two councilors not current facing an ethics complaint (or up for reelection).

The council has suspended investigations into the complaints for six months, which seems reasonable. Reviewing this part of the charter and closing the loopholes will be a job for the county’s charter review commission, which is to meet next year.

Cheers: To rental assistance programs during a national crisis. When tenants lose jobs in an economic crisis, there are two problems: the tenants can’t pay their rents, and the landlords can’t use the rent receipts to pay their property taxes, insurance premiums and mortgages. In spring, when the COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented spike in unemployment, several temporary rental assistance programs were established. They are now in the process of being extended, the only reasonable decision. A moratorium on evictions also merits an extension, with appropriate safeguards in place to prevent abuse.

Jeers: To people who won’t cooperate with contact tracing. Public Health officials say one of the most important ways to fight the spread of COVID-19 is to contact confirmed patients and ask them about people with whom they’ve had close contact. Then public health workers reach out to those people to warn them they’ve been exposed and ask them to self-quarantine and get tested.

Unfortunately, many people won’t talk with the health workers. At one point, local authorities were able to reach only 7 percent of confirmed cases within 24 hours, when the goal is 90 percent. Luckily, the percentage is trending up as the county adds more workers and shortens the list of questions. But it’s up to people to cooperate to slow the spread of this horrible virus. Our lives could literally depend upon it.

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