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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Dec. 7, 2023

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Back to school, voter turnout

The Columbian

Cheers … or jeers: To back-to-school season. Depending on your perspective, it can be good or bad that the start of school is approaching. Either way, it means that parents and students are beginning the end-of-summer ritual that is school shopping. Nationally, retailers expect a record $41.5 billion to be spent this year, and one expert said: “Back-to-class shopping is one of the most important consumer shopping occasions of the year.”

But shopping for pencils and notebooks and clothes is only part of the process. Parents need to make sure their children meet immunization requirements (no, COVID-19 vaccines are not required), and students in several local districts should be aware that start times have been altered this year. There still is a month before the first bell rings, but summer will be over before we know it.

Jeers: To low voter turnout. A small percentage of Clark County voters were eligible to participate in last week’s election, with races only in Battle Ground, Woodland and two fire districts. But of those eligible voters, only approximately 20 percent turned in ballots.

Washington’s late-summer primary helps to suppress turnout, and this election did not include any high-profile contests that grab the attention of voters. But the participation rate still is disconcerting, as most eligible voters opted to let others make decisions that impact our community. Indeed, the right to not vote is sacrosanct, but we hope more citizens are motivated to participate when the November general election rolls around.

Cheers: To keeping cool. The Vancouver Housing Authority is adding portable air conditioning units to several housing complexes, focusing on areas that house low-income seniors.

Recent summers have highlighted the dangers of extreme heat and the need for air conditioning; an academic study this year determined that a 2021 heat wave contributed to 441 additional deaths in Washington during a one-week span. Neighbors and family members should check on people who might need assistance, and they should be aware that Clark County provides cooling centers at local libraries when the temperature climbs. The Vancouver Housing Authority’s initiative is just a small part of helping the community deal with the heat.

Jeers: To a poor “solution.” The mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, recently proposed buying one-way plane tickets so homeless people in his community can go elsewhere. The idea has not been funded and has drawn widespread criticism.

Jeers are warranted not out of concern that people from Anchorage would relocate to Vancouver or elsewhere in Washington. They are warranted because they reflect what is commonly considered a “solution” to the homeless — just send them somewhere else. Simply moving unhoused people doesn’t solve an issue that requires more thoughtful attention.

Cheers: To the National Pastime. The Ridgefield Raptors are preparing for the West Coast League playoffs after wrapping up the regular season. The season finale for the team of college-age players was a disappointing loss, but the crowd of 1,396 fans demonstrates the benefits of having a local baseball team to follow during languid summer days.

It also demonstrates the benefits of the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex, which is owned by the city and opened four years ago. In addition to being the home of the Raptors, the complex hosts local youth teams and tournaments that draw visitors to the area. “You’re bringing people into Ridgefield who wouldn’t have come in otherwise,” City Manager Steve Stuart said.

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