Sunday, March 7, 2021
March 7, 2021

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Homelessness effort laudable

The Columbian
Published:

Cheers: To combating homelessness. Clark County and the city of Vancouver have formed a joint advisory group to deal with homelessness in the region. “I’m confident that working together with our partners at the city is the best approach to develop strategies to fight the devastating problem of homelessness in Clark County,” Interim County Manager Kathleen Otto said.

A combined effort is necessary to reduce the growing issue of homelessness throughout the area; the impact is evident in downtown Vancouver and unincorporated Hazel Dell and areas both within and beyond the city limits. In recent years, under different leadership, Clark County government paid little attention to homelessness. Identifying the root causes and working to ensure the dignity of homeless residents will require input from all local jurisdictions and the public.

Jeers: To poor forest management. Severe wildfires throughout the West this year have brought renewed attention to forest management — especially by the U.S. Forest Service. As a recent article from the Los Angeles Times details, the Forest Service has a growing backlog of management projects that are ready to go but are awaiting funding.

In 2008, about 544,000 acres of federal forests in Washington and Oregon had been designated for prescribed burns and thinning projects; by 2019, more than 2.2 million acres were awaiting action. While President Donald Trump instinctively blames states for poor management when devastating wildfires break out, large swaths of the West are owned by the federal government. The impact of the failures can be seen each summer in increasingly damaging wildfires.

Cheers: To traffic improvements. It is too early to make definitive assessments, but traffic improvement projects along Highway 14 and Highway 500 appear to be having the desired effect.

Last year, a pair of roundabouts were installed on Highway 14 in Washougal, and early indications are that the severity of crashes in the area has been reduced. Two years ago, traffic signals were removed at two intersections along Highway 500 in Vancouver, converting the sites to right-in/right-out interchanges. This also has reduced severe crashes; at Falk Road, for example, there have been four crashes the past two years, compared with 109 over the previous five years. Cheers go to transportation officials — and to drivers — for making the roads safer for all motorists.

Jeers: To scammers. Clark Public Utilities is warning of scam callers who contact customers and claim that service will be cut off unless a fee is paid. In truth, Clark Public Utilities is not doing any service disconnections because of the coronavirus pandemic.

If customers receive a call purporting to be from Clark Public Utilities, they may call 360-992-3000 to check the status of their account. Most important, we offer a reminder that financial information such as bank account or credit card numbers should never be provided to an unsolicited caller.

Cheers: To DNA testing. It’s not yet fully operational, but a new DNA testing facility at the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab in Vancouver is up and running. Some instruments have been loaned out to help the state with COVID-19 testing, but when the pandemic subsides the Vancouver lab will play a key role in solving crimes.

That will include testing a statewide backlog of about 10,000 sexual assault kits. The goal, set by the Legislature, is to essentially eliminate the backlog within two years. That could help provide justice for thousands of victims throughout the state.

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