Tuesday, May 24, 2022
May 24, 2022

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Cheers & Jeers: Building bridges; map mess

The Columbian
Published:

Cheers: To building bridges. Officials of the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program have announced a locally preferred alternative for a new I-5 Bridge — including one auxiliary lane in each direction and an extension of Portland’s light rail system into Clark County. Auxiliary lanes separate on- and offramp traffic from through traffic, easing the flow of vehicles.

Cheers might or might not be warranted for the professed alternative; that will require vetting, examination and public input. But cheers go to the fact that the process is moving forward, with much work being done toward a vitally important project. Presenting the public with a detailed proposal allows for informed discussion that can move us closer to a project that will effectively serve the people of Clark County.

Jeers: To gerrymandering. We welcome Richard Rylander Jr. to the Clark County Council and hope he governs with diplomacy and insight, but we believe he is off to a poor start. Rylander joined the council this week and quickly injected himself into an ongoing mess — the redistricting of council districts. Council members have spent months considering a variety of maps, but Rylander introduced yet another alternative.

Of course, every councilor has a right to weigh in on the issue. But it is presumptuous of a newcomer to think he can improve on the ideas put forth by voters, a redistricting committee, council members and county staff. The goal should not be to protect the seats of current councilors, but to follow the will of voters as closely as possible.

Cheers: To an opioid settlement. Three of the nation’s largest drug distributors have agreed to pay $518 million to Washington for their role in an opioid epidemic. The settlement requires approval from a judge and from cities that brought lawsuits against the companies, but it is a victory for the people of the state and for Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

Washington officials earlier declined to sign on to a national settlement with the corporations, saying it was insufficient. After choosing to go to court, the state will reap an extra $100 million for an epidemic that has taken an enormous toll in lives and costs for health care, law enforcement and jurisprudence.

Jeers: To vehicle thefts. The Washington State Patrol reports that 12,659 vehicle thefts had been reported in the state during the first three months of this year; for the first three months of 2020, the number was 5,897. The increase is evident in Clark County, as well.

Police officials say laws limiting enforcement have contributed to the surge; critics say announcements from law enforcement about staffing shortages also have contributed. The truth probably is a combination of both factors, but that is of little consolation for the public. Robust enforcement and prosecution is needed to stem the crime wave.

Cheers: To a new orca. For the first time in 11 years, a calf has been born to the K pod family of southern resident orcas. The mother is K20, also known as Spock, and observers do not yet know the gender of the calf. “For it to be a female would be ideal,” one official said. “But anybody in K pod is just so special and hopeful.”

The population of endangered southern residents is now believed to be 75. The orcas are struggling to survive threats to their habitat, including a lack of adequate chinook salmon in their foraging range, pollution and underwater noise that makes it more difficult for them to hunt.

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