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The following is presented as part of The Columbian’s Opinion content, which offers a point of view in order to provoke thought and debate of civic issues. Opinions represent the viewpoint of the author. Unsigned editorials represent the consensus opinion of The Columbian’s editorial board, which operates independently of the news department.

In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Having a ball; threats to bees

The Columbian
Published: March 11, 2023, 6:03am

Cheers: To having a catch. Regardless of the weather today, we’re guessing that John Scukanec is wearing a baseball mitt and playing catch with somebody, somewhere. As detailed by The Columbian’s Tim Martinez, that’s what the Washougal man has done every day for more than a year. After launching Catch 365 in March 2022, Scukanec reached the one-year milestone by tossing the ball around with Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Ken Griffey Jr. in the Seattle Mariners’ home stadium.

Starting with friends and family members and quickly extending to strangers, Scukanec found no shortage of people eager to share the human connection that comes with throwing a baseball back and forth. That connection often is emotional; as Scukanec recalled about an exchange with his wife early in the endeavor: “She looks at me and she says ‘This isn’t about baseball, is it?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think so. I think this is going to become something different.’ ”

Jeers: To Houdini flies. While the threat from Northern giant hornets — formerly known as murder hornets — has hopefully subsided in Washington, now the Houdini fly is causing problems for bees.

Houdini flies infest the nests of native mason bees and steal their food, essentially starving the bees. Experts have noticed an increase in Houdini flies in the Northwest, leading to concerns about the health of mason bee populations. As one bee supplier told The Seattle Times: “If we don’t do anything, it’ll be a disaster. It’d wipe us out pretty quickly.”

Cheers: To increased accountability. After years of seeking funding, the Vancouver Police Department has implemented body-worn cameras for its officers. Beginning in the fall, the department expects to add front-facing dash cameras and rear passenger cameras to its vehicle fleet.

Cameras cannot answer all questions about the police response to an incident, but they will help protect both the public and the officers when those questions arise. “It’s satisfying to know we met the needs and desires of the community,” Assistant Chief Troy Price told The Columbian. “It’ll help us reach a new level of transparency.”

Jeers: To legislative inaction. The Legislature apparently has rejected two bills designed to protect renters in the state. One would cap rent hikes, and the other would require landlords to provide additional notice before a rent increase.

Lawmakers are right to be cautious about intervening in the free market and capping rent increases. But it seems that extending the notification period before a rent hike would be sensible at a time when many are facing housing insecurity. With many on the edge of homelessness, the Legislature must make strong strides this year to help keep Washingtonians in their residences.

Cheers: To COVID remembrances. In a fitting tribute, members of the Vancouver Heights Neighborhood Association have planted a sequoia in memory of former leader Vaughn Rhoden and others who have died from COVID-19. “I think this is a fitting tribute to Vaughn and not just to Vaughn,” Park Llafet, the association’s current chairman, told the crowd at a ceremony. “Vaughn was just one of them. Many of you lost loved ones.”

More than 1,000 deaths in Clark County have been attributed to COVID, demonstrating how the virus has touched each corner of the county. What is now just a small tree could grow to be hundreds of feet tall in their memory. As Rhoden’s niece said with a laugh, her uncle “always wanted to be looked up to.”