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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: Good defense; empty protests

The Columbian
Published: November 20, 2023, 6:03am

Cheers: To rigorous public defense. The Clark County Council has approved the formation of a public defense office. The county currently contracts with private entities to provide lawyers for indigent defendants, but will use $3 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to create the office. Looking ahead, officials believe money currently used for the hiring of outside defenders will pay for the office.

“I am thrilled; it’s been a long, number of years trying to get this started, and it’s just the beginning,” Councilor Gary Medvigy, a retired California Superior Court judge, told The Columbian. Last year, the county had 28 contract attorneys handling 5,044 cases. Experts say that having in-house defense attorneys will improve representation and efficiency. Clark County is wise to adopt a model that will better serve our community.

Jeers: To pointless protests. Woodland School Board member Trish Huddleston has proposed a resolution expressing opposition to public health mandates, including masking, vaccines or social restrictions. “We don’t want to watch our town be devastated and suffer like they did before,” she said.

Whether or not the public agrees with Huddleston’s stance, the issue is beyond the purview of the school board. If federal, state or county officials were to issue such a mandate, it would override local desires. As Jeff Wray, vice president of the school board, said, “We can stomp our feet here in our room, but nobody will see it.” Foot-stomping and other forms of performative politics have become all too common. It would be more effective for Huddleston to contact decision-makers in Olympia and make her opinions known.

Cheers: To a high-tech WAVE. Swimmers at Marshall Pool are testing a new WAVE Drowning Detection System. Participants wear lightweight headsets that alert lifeguards if somebody has been submerged for too long. The devices won’t keep a swimmer afloat, but they can improve response time if help is needed.

“At first, I was a little apprehensive to it,” a recreation coordinator said. “I thought, ‘Is it going to work? Is it going to replace our staff?’ I realized it’s something to enhance our lifeguards, not replace them in any way.” A trial period is underway through Dec. 15, after which the system will be assessed. Fortunately, WAVE has not yet been needed for its intended purpose, but the remarkable technology adds a layer of protection.

Jeers: To dirty water. The federal Government Accountability Office reports that Washington has failed to meet federal requirements for cleanup efforts in Puget Sound to assist the survival of salmon and steelhead.

Much attention has been placed on proposals to remove four dams along the Lower Snake River to boost salmon runs, but the report points out that other factors also are in play. As Republican members of Congress said in a statement, state officials have “completely ignored the salmon being poisoned in their own backyard.”

Cheers: To body cameras. The Clark County Sheriff’s Office has joined police departments in Vancouver and Camas in implementing a body-camera program. County officials approved a contract for body cameras, dash cameras and updated Taser equipment, and training now is underway.

Cameras cannot answer all questions about disputes regarding the use of force, but they often provide some clarity. The devices protect both the public from excessive force and deputies from false accusations of poor conduct. In the process, they help build trust between the public and law enforcement.