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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: Wisdom; moving firefighters

The Columbian
Published: October 9, 2023, 6:03am

Cheers: To wisdom and compassion. A pair of Tibetan Buddhist monks spent more than 30 hours this week creating a sand mandala in the Clark College library. A mandala is an intricate pattern of colored sand representing the Buddhist values of wisdom and compassion. “Whoever witnesses this creation will have some wisdom seeds created in their minds,” said a Chinese bhikshuni — a fully ordained nun — who helped lead an opening ceremony for the event. “That seed will grow and couple with compassion.”

Clark College president Karin Edwards added: “This is an incredible opportunity for our community to witness traditions in other cultures. From what I understand, it stands for being present in the moment and appreciating where you are right now.” But all is temporary. After working on the creation, the monks planned on ceremonially destroying it and disposing of the sand in the Columbia River.

Jeers: To a lack of firefighters. Southwest Washington will soon be without a nearby inmate crew to fight wildfires — at least temporarily. For more than 60 years, the Department of Natural Resources has trained crews at minimum-security Larch Corrections Center near Yacolt. The center is closing, and one proposal was to move firefighters to a corrections facility in Longview.

The Department of Corrections has decided to hold off on making the move, and instead will disperse firefighters to facilities throughout the state. With the state nearing the end of wildfire season, we hope their absence is not noticed this fall and that sufficient crews are in place by next year.

Cheers … and jeers: To increasing costs. The Vancouver City Council has approved an extra $1.4 million over the next year for two Safe Stay Communities. The money is included in a contract with Outsiders Inn, a nonprofit that manages one Safe Stay site and has signed on to operate a future site. Officials say the funds are needed to ensure adequate staffing and retain employees.

The Safe Stay communities provide transitional housing for unhoused people and have been a worthy investment. But we hope the latest funding is not a sign that the cost of the sites will continue to increase beyond what was originally expected.

Jeers: To a wayward helicopter. An Army Apache helicopter struck power lines over the Columbia River this week, sparking a small wildfire and causing a state highway to close near Vantage, about 30 miles east of Ellensburg.

The helicopter, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord near Tacoma, was involved in a training exercise and made a hard landing about one mile from the incident. Fortunately, nobody was injured. Unfortunately, it sounds as though the pilot could use more training.

Cheers: To building bridges. The Interstate Bridge Replacement Program has requested $600 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help construct a new Interstate 5 bridge. If awarded, the grant would mark the first significant federal investment in a new bridge.

Of course, a request is not the same as a grant. But it marks continued progress for the endeavor. This year, the Oregon Legislature has allotted $1 billion toward a new bridge, and Washington has authorized tolling on a new span. “Usually, the federal money likes to be the last in, and so here’s that piece of the program that’s showing them the states are committed and that they’ve put a significant contribution toward this program,” said Frank Green, assistant program administrator. Any step that moves the process forward is worthy of cheers.