Cheers: To Josh McNeal. The 2013 graduate of La Center High School will compete starting Sunday in the Iditarod sled dog race, as detailed in a Columbian story by Tim Martinez. The legendary competition this year will follow an 852-mile out-and-back route between Wasilla, Alaska, and Iditarod, with 47 mushers taking part.
McNeal’s connection to Alaska began when he worked as a fishing guide while in high school. He then attended the University of Alaska Anchorage and gradually developed an interest in sled dog racing. “The original draw of Alaska was the adventure,” he said. That sense of adventure has made the Iditarod a fixture of extreme sports, with mushers and their dogs battling the elements and untamed wilderness for hundreds of miles. There is a reason, after all, that promoters bill it as The Last Great Race.
Jeers: To political divides. It’s no secret that there are sharp divisions throughout the country, but an online political forum hosted by two Seattle civic groups recently devolved into virtual chaos, according to The Seattle Times.
Featuring the leaders of the state’s Republican and Democratic parties, the forum “quickly descended into interruptions and blame-casting and accusations over the former president, the integrity of elections, whether the two major parties really represent the people, the nature of truth and the definition of good-faith bipartisanship. And it got personal …” In a touch of irony, the title of the forum included “Bridging the Political Divide.” It sounds as though the rank-and-file supporters of both parties deserve better representation.
Cheers: To Jeff Snell. The board for Vancouver Public Schools has selected Snell as superintendent, after a messy departure by Steve Webb. Snell has been superintendent of the Camas School District since 2016 and started his career as a teacher in Vancouver schools, giving him a vast knowledge of the educational needs in Southwest Washington.
Pending contract negotiations, Snell is expected to start work in Vancouver on July 1. Part of those negotiations should include provisions to avoid an enormous severance package should Snell and the district part ways in the future. But for now we trust that, under Snell, Vancouver Public Schools will continue to provide a top-notch education for its thousands of students.
Jeers: To coronavirus deaths. A little more than one year after the first confirmed COVID-19 death in Washington — and the country — the state passed a grim milestone this week with its 5,000th death attributed to the disease. More than 323,000 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Washington — roughly one in 24 people.
Those numbers place Washington in the top-10 per capita in avoiding the disease, and yet they are disturbing. While vaccines have provided hope that the coronavirus will soon be under control, precautions such as mask-wearing are still essential.
Cheers: To downtown groceries. The announcement that a New Seasons store is coming to downtown Vancouver (at 15th and Main streets) is good news. City officials — and many residents — have longed for a full-service grocery store near the heart of the city; as early as 2007, planners identified a store as being central to their vision for the area.
Chad Eiken, Vancouver’s director of community and economic development, said the announcement “signals a growing confidence in where the downtown is heading.” But don’t pull out those reusable grocery bags just yet; the development won’t be complete until 2023.