Cheers: To litter cleanup. Vancouver’s Public Works department has removed 1,380 pounds of trash near two Interstate 5 ramps this fall. The work is the result of a grant from the state Department of Ecology, following a bill passed by the Legislature (Senate Bill 5040 was supported by all Clark County legislators). Officials estimate that 12 million pounds of litter are tossed or blown onto Washington highways each year, and a release from the city of Vancouver notes: “Litter is preventable, and cleanups are labor-intensive. It can take a lot of time and money to pick up a lot of little pieces of litter.”
The callousness of litterbugs calls to mind the Keep America Beautiful campaign of the 1970s, which featured a memorable TV commercial known as “The Crying Indian.” The best preventive measure is to keep a garbage bag in your car and then responsibly dispose of refuse, but perhaps another public-service campaign is warranted.
Jeers: To a public autopsy. A recent spectacle at a Portland hotel has rightly drawn condemnation. A company sold tickets — VIP seats went for $500 — for people to watch a full forensic autopsy and dissection of a cadaver. The widow of the dead Louisiana man said: “I have all this paperwork that says his body would be used for science — nothing about this commercialization of his death.” The body has since been returned to the family.
The Multnomah County Medical Examiner attempted to prevent the demonstration, calling it “completely immoral and unethical,” but police and officials had no authority to stop it. Jeers go to the company that thought this was a worthy profit-making endeavor — it has since apologized — and to those who paid to watch.
Cheers: To safer speeds. The Clark County Council has approved efforts to improve safety along 13 roadways. Some roads will see speed limits reduced 5 to 10 mph; the speed limits for others will remain unchanged but new speed-limit signs added. In some cases, the change reflects the reality of increased urbanization in the area. In 2020, 35 traffic fatalities were reported in Clark County, with 15 of them being on county roads.
The issue with speed limits, however, is that they are ineffective without enforcement. If sheriff’s deputies are not available to patrol local roads, speed limits amount to nothing more than a suggestion.
Jeers: To a sunken ship. An abandoned Coast Guard cutter, the Alert, has sunk near the Interstate 5 Bridge. The Alert and another former military vessel have been moored for years near the Oregon bank of the river just west of the bridge, where they have been visible to southbound traffic.
According to media reports, a nonprofit group had planned to restore the vessel, but plans were scuttled when the founder of the group died. Now, it will cost state and local agencies more than $1 million to remove the ship from the bottom of the Columbia River.
Cheers: To a water rescue. Multiple agencies helped pull a woman from the Columbia River this week after she fell from the Interstate 205 Bridge. The Vancouver Fire Department, Portland Fire & Rescue and Coast Guard all participated. The woman, who was found clinging to a ladder on a bridge pier, was treated for hypothermia and taken to a hospital.
“This rescue was truly a team effort between multiple agencies,” Vancouver Fire Division Chief Tim O’Connor said, adding that several agencies recently conducted training in the area. “That type of training relationship is crucial when faced with a life-threatening water emergency.”