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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.
News / Opinion / Editorials

Cheers & Jeers: Recovery; drug residue

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

Cheers: To a human connection. The Hands Across the Bridge gathering took place on Labor Day, providing a powerful reminder of the strength demonstrated by those in recovery from addiction. The annual event brings together people who link hands across the Interstate 5 Bridge, celebrating their daily triumphs.

The gathering, which formally started in 2001, is organized by the nonprofit Hands Across the Bridge Project. In addition to linking people who have struggled with addiction, it celebrates those who provide support. “No matter where you are in your journey, you have found your way here, you are embraced by a community that loves you and wants you to thrive,” Vancouver City Councilor Sarah Fox said. Tabby Stokes, who leads the nonprofit, said: “A lot of people tell us throughout the year that this was the first event that they realized they could have fun during their recovery.” Cheers are warranted for all those who working to improve their lives and those who help them on the journey.

Jeers: To drug residue. A study from the University of Washington has found airborne fentanyl residue in one-quarter of Seattle and Portland light-rail transit vehicles. Methamphetamine residue appeared in all the trains tested.

The fact that the amount of residue is too low to pose a risk to riders is of little consolation. Instead, the study demonstrates the pervasive problem of illicit drug use in the Northwest’s major cities and the cities’ unwillingness to crack down on public use. The law-abiding residents of our communities deserve better from elected leaders.

Cheers: To jail improvements. The Clark County Jail is undergoing a series of renovations, including shower and plumbing upgrades, changes that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and the replacement of a freezer/cooler.

Those are encouraging, but major questions remain regarding whether the county will conduct a complete renovation or build a new facility. The answers ultimately will rest with taxpayers, and serious discussions are long overdue. For now, local residents should be happy about any upgrades that improve safety for both inmates and staff.

Jeers: To El Niño. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns of a “very strong” El Niño weather system this winter, which can cause problems for coastal residents and marine life. As the Oregon Capital Chronicle explains: “For aquatic species, warming ocean temperatures could spur a northern migration and could be deadly for plankton vital to salmon and other species up the food chain.”

El Niño is a tropical weather system that impacts oceans and atmospheric weather patterns and has far-reaching effects. For example, it can lead to rain in mountain areas rather than the typical amount of snow. As one expert said: “We’ve had a very dry summer. If we have below average snowpack, that could potentially exacerbate drought conditions.”

Cheers: To fresh socks. Thanks to a donation from apparel brand Bombas, Ridgefield-based XChange Recovery is handing out 10,000 pairs of socks to unhoused people in Clark County. “Something as simple as socks has a big impact,” said Vicki Smith, founder of XChange Recovery.

Indeed, people experiencing homelessness often have walking as their only mode of transportation. The donation of socks is a reminder that even the most basic of amenities can make a big difference for our neighbors who are living in trying circumstances.