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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Safe Stay; rethink tax plan

The Columbian
Published: December 4, 2021, 6:03am

Cheers: To dedicated sites for the homeless. City of Vancouver officials this week cleared unsanctioned tents in the North Image neighborhood, making way for the first Safe Stay Community. The site, which will include sanitation facilities and access to services, is scheduled to open Dec. 23.

“Folks have been living here since August 2020, so they’ve been settled in,” said Jamie Spinelli, the city’s homeless response coordinator. “A transition like that is hard — no question.” But it is necessary. Officials plan to open several dedicated sites throughout the city, hopefully providing some stability for unhoused people and for neighbors who feel the impact of the homelessness crisis. The campsites will not solve that crisis, but they are a reasonable step toward addressing a situation that diminishes our community.

Jeers: To poor legislation. It seems that nobody is happy with Washington’s plan for a payroll tax to fund long-term care. Employers in the state are scheduled to begin withholding the tax Jan. 1, but Senate Democrats have asked Gov. Jay Inslee to delay the plan.

Inslee doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally stop the tax, but he hinted at a special session of the Legislature before the 2022 session begins Jan. 10. The law was passed in 2019, but recently has come under increased scrutiny. When even the majority party in Olympia starts to express doubts, it becomes clear that the plan was not well thought out to begin with.

Cheers: To jobs. Clark County has surpassed its record for employment. With job increases in October, more people are working in the area than ever before. Of course, there are more residents than ever before, but the milestone reflects a strong recovery from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Technically, since (Clark County) has likely had population growth of 1 percent or more over the past year and a half, more jobs would be required to reach parity, but let’s just call this a win,” Scott Bailey, regional economist for Southwest Washington, wrote in a report. After the past 20 months of economic uncertainty, we’ll take any win we can get.

Jeers: To Christmas tree shortages. Because of shipping delays and supply shortages, both real and artificial trees are expected to sell out sooner than usual this year. They also are costing more.

The shortage is exacerbated by the fact that grand fir trees are difficult to find, with blame being placed on the summer’s extreme heat. “If you want to make sure you get the kind of tree you want to get, people should be out there by this Sunday,” one vendor told The Columbian. Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association, told Fox Business, “Growers have been hard hit by floods, fires, smoke, drought, extreme weather conditions.”

Cheers: To Francis Reagan. The Washougal police officer has been awarded the Washington State Law Enforcement Medal of Honor for heroic actions in 2019. Reagan had helped save a woman from rapids on the Washougal River after she fell out of an inner tube and became trapped between rocks in frigid water. He helped hold her head out of the water for 45 minutes while responders worked to free her. The woman’s companion did not survive.

“It’s surreal. I realize it could have ended much worse,” Reagan told The Columbian as he visited the site of the rescue. Reagan and other first responders were treated for hypothermia. “It was a huge risk but a huge reward. We always have to try. I’d want someone to try if it was my loved one.”