Cheers: To outdoor dining. Vancouver’s popular Street Eats has been extended three years by city officials. The program, which grants permits for restaurants to set up tables on sidewalks or parking spaces, was designed to help businesses weather the coronavirus pandemic. With restrictions on indoor dining continually evolving, outdoor dining provided some consistency for restaurants – as well as patrons.
As part of the program, 14 downtown restaurants have established quasi-permanent seating in parking spaces. City official Teresa Brum said: “Public spaces are highly regulated by cities. There’s a lot of things you can’t do in a public space. To allow the parklets, we had to change the rules in so many different levels.” While city officials will have to monitor the impact on downtown parking once the economy fully reopens, we hope Street Eats will prove its value long after the pandemic has passed.
Jeers: To virtual restaurant inspections. Clark County Public Health has announced that some food safety inspections will be conducted remotely for the foreseeable future. Instead of showing up unannounced, officials often will conduct scheduled virtual inspections, and scores will not be made available to the public.
The reasons are understandable. With the pandemic creating distancing restrictions, having an inspector in the kitchen can add stress for employees. But inspectors must remain diligent to safeguard the health of the public, and it is difficult to see how remote inspections can have the same effectiveness as in-person visits.
Cheers: To new mascots. The state Senate has approved a bill to ban the use of Native American names and symbols as mascots or logos at public schools in Washington. The measure now heads back to the House, which already approved an earlier version. Vancouver Public Schools earlier announced that it would retire the Chieftains mascot long used by Columbia River High School.
As The Columbian has written editorially: “Allowing a representation that diminishes the experience and value of a race of people is an offense that has continued for far too long. Native Americans are people, members of the community worthy of dignity and respect, not mascots to be equated with Lions and Tigers and Bears.”
Jeers: To careless driving. A couple news stories remind us of the need to be responsible behind the wheel. In one, a 13-year-old was driving with two passengers and fell asleep, leading to a rollover accident in Kennewick. In another, a car in Kent left the road and crashed into the second floor of an apartment building. Excessive speed is believed to have been involved, and six people were hospitalized.
Typically, about 500 people a year are killed on Washington roads. Careless driving not only endangers the perpetrator but also the responsible drivers who are sharing the road.
Cheers: To the Zags. The ending was disappointing, but Gonzaga University’s men’s basketball team had a memorable season. The Bulldogs reached the national championship game before losing to Baylor University, ending the quest for an undefeated season. The final record of 31-1 was frustratingly close to perfection.
Big-time college sports draw outsized attention and budgets that can obscure a university’s academic mission. But for more than 20 years, Gonzaga’s basketball team has elevated the profile of a midsized Catholic university in Spokane. That basketball success and the role it has played in making the school a national brand demonstrates why many schools invest so much in athletics.