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Tuesday, February 20, 2024
Feb. 20, 2024

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Parklets praise; scarce spuds

The Columbian

Cheers: To parklets. The city of Vancouver is extending a program that allows businesses — primarily restaurants — to operate seating areas in what previously were on-street parking spaces. There will be a change, however. Beginning in November, a fee of $75 a month plus a 12.84 percent state excise tax will be implemented — the same as the cost for a residential parking permit.

The parklet program arose early during the COVID-19 pandemic, when businesses had limited indoor seating, and it has been praised by city officials and proprietors. “Parklets bring a dynamic urban environment to downtown,” said Michael Walker, executive director of Vancouver’s Downtown Association. “Ultimately it adds to the vibrancy of the city.” Indeed, it does. Extending the program makes sense; so does charging businesses for the privilege. While the parklets can add to the strain on downtown parking, the pluses outweigh the minuses.

Jeers: To a spud shortage. Washington farmers reportedly planted fewer potatoes than usual this year. Combined with a late harvest, that has led to a shortage of spuds in the state.

What does this mean for us? Well, apparently, Washington potatoes are particularly good for making fries. They are drier than potatoes from other states and typically have fewer internal blemishes. “We grow generally higher-quality potatoes in Washington than come from Idaho,” a regional vegetable specialist at Washington State University said. “They fry more consistently, and they’re a nicer-looking product generally.” So if you wind up with some mushy fries, blame the potato, not the cook.

Cheers: To a botanical marvel. Titan VanCoug, a corpse flower on the Washington State University Vancouver campus, is expected to bloom this month. The unusual plant has a new growth, estimated at 4 feet tall, that is almost ready to blossom. The last time that happened, in 2019, an estimated 20,000 people stopped by to look — and smell — the plant over a 2½-day period.

Corpse flowers, scientifically known as titan arum, get their name from a pungent smell. They are considered to be endangered, and WSUV’s plant has been cared for over the past 20 years by professor emeritus Steve Sylvester. Now, school officials are awaiting the bloom and the visitors it will attract. “It’s like planning a party for ‘I don’t know how many people’ on ‘I don’t know what day,’ ” a spokeswoman said.

Jeers: To a housing shortage. In addition to contributing to a large number of unhoused people in our community, the housing crunch is impacting the traditional American Dream. A median household income often is not enough to purchase a home in Clark County, and one local analyst said, “It’s really hard to find a home that’s first-time-homebuyer friendly.”

There are various reasons for the trend, and it is not unique to Clark County. The important thing is that it is negatively impacting an entire generation of would-be homebuyers.

Cheers: To a poignant remembrance. Vancouver’s Korean War Veterans Chapter 391 has been instrumental in the establishment of a new memorial in Washington, D.C. The local group was the top fundraising unit for the Wall of Remembrance, collecting more than $200,000.

“I’m so proud of what took place and the recognition, but I would like to make sure that we give recognition locally to the people that donated their money,” local leader Ed Barnes said. “People in this community stood by their citizens. …The Korean War is no longer forgotten.”