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Saturday, March 2, 2024
March 2, 2024

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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Giving spirit; forgotten ballots

The Columbian

Cheers: To generosity. This time of year typically is filled with stories about Clark County residents sharing holiday spirit with those in need. Such was the case last week in La Center, where the annual Stuff the Bus event delivered food donations to the Clark County Food Bank and other organizations.

Middle school students collected and delivered 1,200 pounds of food to Friends in Service to Humanity in downtown Vancouver; another bus filled by elementary and high school students delivered even more. “It’s a great thing that our kids can get involved in,” one elementary school official said. “I love that they get so excited about it, and it’s a great opportunity for them to give back to the community.” Throughout Clark County, the holiday season will be filled with similar tales of generosity, providing reminders that our community has a giving spirit.

Jeers: To forgotten ballots. On Tuesday, The Columbian wrote editorially about mailboxes in King and Pierce counties that had not been emptied, leaving ballots for the Nov. 7 election unprocessed. On Wednesday, the Clark County Elections Office reported that 13 local ballots had been discovered in out-of-service boxes.

This represents a disturbing failure on the part of the U.S. Postal Service. When ballots are not delivered, voters risk being disenfranchised and elections risk being compromised. Plus, we wonder what other mail had been left unattended. Mortgage checks? Birthday cards to loved ones? Products being sent by eBay sellers? While much commerce and correspondence is conducted online these days, the USPS provides a necessary service; failing to empty mailboxes in public spaces is unacceptable. In Clark County, ballots signed and dated by Election Day were counted in the vote totals, pursuant to state law. But the Postal Service must take immediate steps to fix the problem.

Cheers: To civic engagement. The Greater Vancouver Chamber of Commerce is accepting essay submissions for the 2024 National Civics Bee. Students in grades 6-8 are invited to write about a problem in their community and share potential solutions.

Engagement is essential to a strong democracy. The Legislature has taken steps in recent years to bolster civics education throughout Washington, and a public understanding of government is important. Cheers go to everybody who helps students learn about our democracy and to all young people who take an interest in it.

Jeers: To legislative secrecy. A Thurston County Superior Court judge has ruled that state law allows Washington lawmakers to withhold records that are “privileged.” Judge Anne Egeler said elected officials may withhold “records revealing internal legislative deliberations concerning bills contemplated or introduced in either house of the Legislature.”

Lawmakers in recent years have used extreme measures to withhold information about how they do their jobs. If state law supports their opaqueness, they should change the law rather than hide behind it.

Cheers: To a charging station. Clark Public Utilities is installing a charging station for electric vehicles in the Arnada neighborhood. The entire project costs $30,000, and the utility will slightly increase its electricity fees at the charger to help compensate.

An increase in the number of electric vehicles — and expected continued growth — has led to questions about charging infrastructure. The coming outlet at 20th and C streets will help to answer those questions and provide guidance for future projects.