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Friday, December 1, 2023
Dec. 1, 2023

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Lower rents; domestic terror

The Columbian

Cheers: To the rental market. Apartment rents are down and vacancies are up in Clark County, possibly providing a bit of relief from the housing and homeless crisis. According to the Washington Center for Real Estate, average apartment rents in Clark County decreased 1.1 percent over the past year, and vacancies are at 4.4 percent. In the middle of 2021, the vacancy rate stood at 1.8 percent, one of the lowest in the nation.

Analysts warn that the changes over the past year might deter developers from adding housing units. “You kind of see pendulum swings,” local broker Terry Wollam said. But for now, the fact that more apartments are available is welcome news. Limited inventory helps drive up prices, contributing to a growing number of homeless people in our community.

Jeers: To domestic terrorism. Elections offices in King, Skagit, Spokane and Pierce counties were evacuated Wednesday after receiving envelopes containing suspicious powders. As of Friday, fentanyl had been identified in two of the packages. Clark County Auditor Greg Kimsey said his office did not receive any such envelopes.

Secretary of State Steve Hobbs decried “acts of terrorism to threaten our elections” and said, “These incidents underscore the critical need for stronger protections for all election workers.” The hope is that officials can identify and prosecute the perpetrator as a threat to our democracy.

Interesting: Mount St. Helens earthquakes. We are not sure whether to cheer or jeer this development, but it is fascinating. Approximately 400 earthquakes have rumbled under the nation’s most famous volcano since mid-July, signaling a geological reawakening. Mount St. Helens last showed activity in 2008, when a series of minor eruptions concluded.

An explosion akin to the 1980 eruption is unlikely; that event, which killed 57 people, left a crater that prevents superheated gases from pressurizing. Yet the mountain remains a source of interest for scientists throughout the world. And occasionally it does something to remind us that it’s still an active volcano.

Jeers: To cyberattacks. Portions of the Washington State Department of Transportation website were unavailable last week following what officials described as a cyberattack. The primary website and app remained accessible, but The Seattle Times reported: “The outage has caused major disruptions for anyone trying to track the chronically late ferries or navigate mountain passes as winter approaches.”

As disruptions go, it was relatively minor. But the incident is a reminder of the importance of cybersecurity. A major cyberattack could upend utilities, traffic and financial institutions while creating chaos in all facets of society.

Cheers: To a remarkable life. Carla Olman Peperzak of Spokane was honored recently on her 100th birthday — at the middle school that bears her name. Peperzak joined the Dutch Resistance in World War II and helped save fellow Jews from the Holocaust. The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review reports: “After studying as a medical technician, she got a job at a hospital where she stole an identity card, bought a German nurse’s uniform and used the disguise to bluff her way into a train station to save a young relative from being sent to a detention center.”

She moved to the United States in 1958 but started sharing her story only in recent decades. When a new middle school opened this year, it was named in her honor. “I like that age very much and really enjoy it,” Peperzak said after her latest visit to the school. “The kids are so open, asking questions.”

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