Sunday, September 26, 2021
Sept. 26, 2021

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Cheers & Jeers: Spending wisely; wan welcome

The Columbian
Published:

Cheers: To good economic news. One snapshot of the economy is tax revenue; if the economy is humming, consumers are spending money and governments can fund essential services. By many measures, the impact of coronavirus shutdowns has not been as severe as initially expected.

Recently, the city of Vancouver reported that collections from property taxes, sales taxes and other sources are $8.9 million higher than previously anticipated. “The city acted conservatively when the pandemic hit to ensure stability when we were unsure how revenues would come in as businesses and residents were impacted by the economic downturn,” said Natasha Ramras, the city’s chief financial officer. State revenue also has exceeded initial projections. Many people have been severely hurt economically by the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is worthy of jeers. But by preparing for a worst-case scenario, elected officials have effectively managed an unprecedented situation.

Jeers: To a less welcoming display. The “Welcome to Washington” flower bed along Interstate 5 will be underwhelming again this year, with the planting of colorful foliage delayed until next spring. One reason is predictable; the coronavirus pandemic was still causing havoc when the planting season came and went. But another cause was preventable.

Crews working on I-5 last year inadvertently cut a water line under the freeway, and the boxwood shrubs that form the outline of the state died. The boxwoods have been replanted, but officials opted to not fully replant the garden until the water line is repaired. We look forward to a colorful display next year that welcomes visitors.

Cheers: To the Digital Equity Act. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., has reintroduced legislation to improve high-speed internet access throughout the country. The bill would provide $1 billion in grants over five years to close the digital divide. “The past 15 months have only made this worse,” Murray said. “I have heard heart-wrenching stories from across our state.”

Broadband internet access should be considered a basic amenity of modern society — much as telephone service was some 70 years ago. Whether through piecemeal legislation or as part of a broad infrastructure bill, Congress must work to ensure such access for all Americans.

Jeers: To megadroughts. New research suggests that the western United States is in the midst of an historic drought. “The clear indication is that the current drought ranks right up there with the worst in more than a thousand years, and there’s a human influence on this of at least 30 percent and possibly as much as 50 percent in terms of its severity,” one co-author said.

The study, published in Science magazine, reveals that a drought between 2000 and 2018 was the second driest of all 19-year periods in the past 1,200 years. Megadroughts of the past lasted as long as 90 years. The impact of the current drought already is evident — through lowered reservoir levels and increasingly severe wildfires, and it is likely to last for at least several decades.

Cheers: To high school sports. The high school sports season has drawn to a close, ending a most unusual year. Football and other traditional fall sports started in late winter; basketball and other winter sports were played during the spring.

Regardless of the oddities, the important thing is that students got a chance to compete — even if seasons were shorter than usual. Cheers go to coaches, administrators, parents and, of course, the athletes. They all made the best of difficult circumstances.

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