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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: New beginnings; subterfuge

The Columbian
Published: April 29, 2024, 6:03am

Cheers: To a new beginning. We’re guessing that many local residents have noticed a three-story gray building just east and north of the Interstate 5 Bridge. And we’re guessing they have wondered, “What the heck is that?” Now, the 113-year-old structure might be given new life.

For decades, the building served as an electrical substation. Then it was used for office space. Now, Clark Public Utilities, the owner, is looking to sell. We hope a buyer comes up with creative ideas, but the building’s future probably will not be as colorful as a tale from its past. In 1913, the structure was moved from its original location, and The Columbian reports: “The job was too much for the first moving contractor, who left it sitting in the intersection of Fifth and East Reserve streets for months, causing farmers to drive their wagons around it.” Cheers go to a building with an interesting history.

Jeers: To subterfuge. When asked about possible air pollution from a railroad maintenance yard near Vancouver’s Lincoln neighborhood, BNSF Railway officials failed to answer the question. Instead, they told The Columbian in an email that rail is the most carbon-efficient way to haul freight and that “freight railroads account for about 40 percent of U.S. long-distance freight volumes, yet they produce just 0.5 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.”

Those are valid points, but they do little to assuage the concerns of local residents. With residential neighborhoods and elementary schools nearby, railroad officials would be wise to address concerns about smoke and steam from locomotives under repair at the facility. They also would be wise to engage in conversation about the issue instead of trying to change the subject.

Cheers: To accountability. The Vancouver City Council has joined the state of Washington’s opioid settlement with Johnson & Johnson. The company is paying a one-time penalty of $123 million for marketing practices that helped fuel an opioid crisis in the state. Vancouver will receive nearly $1 million to combat opioid addiction.

In a series of lawsuits against opioid manufacturers and distributors, Washington has recovered $1.2 billion. That cannot make up for the devastation caused by the opioid crisis, but state leaders are doing their best to hold corporations accountable when their practices cause damage.

Jeers: To Boeing. Officials for the aerospace giant have announced first-quarter losses of $355 million. Revenue has fallen since a door plug blew out of a plane in January, and investigations of the incident implied lax safety standards by both Boeing and some of its suppliers.

While those issues are widely known, it is easy to overlook the broad impact Boeing has on the economy. Southwest Airlines announced last week that it will halt service at four airports — including Bellingham International Airport — and limit hiring, in part because Boeing has delayed its expected delivery of planes. The hope is that Boeing can quickly rectify its problems and regain public trust.

Cheers: To following current laws. The state Supreme Court commissioner has ruled that a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines will remain in place while the state appeals a lower-court ruling that the ban is unconstitutional.

The ban was approved by the Legislature in 2022 and overturned last month by a Cowlitz County judge. Keeping it in place until the Supreme Court issues a definitive ruling is sensible and will help keep Washington residents safe.