Cheers: To Clark Public Utilities. The utility’s board has decided to return $20 million to customers in the form of bill credits, along with allotting $5 million to assist customers who are facing financial struggles due to the coronavirus pandemic. The funds come from a 2020 surplus and should start showing up on bills in April. Similar rebates were provided in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
One could argue the utility should reduce its rates if it is consistently running a surplus and then returning customers’ money to them. But this scenario is preferable to operating at a deficit that requires sharp rate hikes the following year. Most important, the system demonstrates the benefits of having a publicly owned utility that is reliable when bad weather strikes and is accountable to customers rather than its profit margin.
Jeers: To the pandemic. Although some businesses are opening and although increasing numbers of people are being vaccinated, COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc. The latest victim is Portland’s Rose Festival, with organizers announcing that the various parades and gatherings associated with the festival have been canceled this year. Other traditional summer events in the Vancouver-Portland area – including the Fourth of July fireworks show at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site – already have been called off.
While small events are increasingly being allowed by state officials, we have not reached a point where large gatherings are deemed safe. And social distancing and mask-wearing in public still are recommended.
Cheers: To Clark College baseball players. When school officials decided to scuttle the spring sports season, the players took action. A roster of 41 athletes is planning to compete as an independent club willing to take on all comers.
“I would say we were pretty shocked,” sophomore Jack Fletcher said. “We were confused. We’ve been following the guidelines all year, and then for that to happen, it just came out of nowhere.” Among 36 schools in their athletic conference, Clark is one of five that is not playing spring sports because of COVID-19 concerns. The scenario is not ideal for the players, but they warrant cheers for making the best of a difficult situation.
Jeers: To Asian giant hornets. They haven’t been in the news lately, but that’s only because it hasn’t been hornet season. State officials warn that the critters colloquially known as “murder hornets” will remain a concern in northern Washington this summer.
Therefore, wildlife officials have announced they are working with the federal government and British Columbia to find and eradicate the invasive species. In October, a nest in Whatcom County was destroyed, but more are believed to be out there. The hornets, which can be 2 inches long, tend to destroy bee colonies by feasting on the larvae. That certainly is worthy of jeers.
Cheers: To March Madness. After a one-year hiatus, the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments get underway this weekend. The Gonzaga University men completed an undefeated regular season, are the top seed in the tournament, and are trying to become the first undefeated national champions in 45 years. Gonzaga and Washington State also are striving for glory in the women’s tournament.
The madness that typically surrounds the men’s tournament likely will be tempered this year; office bracket pools loose some of their luster when relatively few people are actually working in offices. But the return of buzzer-beaters and the Final Four in two weeks will be most welcome.