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News / Opinion / Editorials

Cheers & Jeers: Fiscal sacrifice; closing cruises

The Columbian
Published: February 26, 2024, 6:03am

Cheers: To fiscal responsibility. With her district facing a $3 million budget shortfall, Washougal School District Superintendent Mary Templeton will see a $21,000 reduction in compensation for the 2024-25 school year. This includes cuts in salary and vacation buybacks, along with the waiver of a contractual salary increase.

Templeton made $245,475 during the 2022-23 school year, and school officials characterized the reduction as voluntary on her part. “As we make these really difficult decisions, I feel the responsibility to share in the sacrifice I’m asking others to make,” Templeton told the Camas-Washougal Post-Record. For a variety of reasons, several school districts throughout Clark County are facing sharp budget cuts in the coming year. Templeton’s gesture will not solve Washougal’s $3 million shortfall, but it should serve as an example for other administrators in the region.

Jeers: To closing cruises. The American Empress apparently has made its last trip up the Columbia River. The company that operates the paddle-wheel cruise ship is closing operations, ending departures from the Port of Vancouver.

“The overnight cruise industry was especially affected by changes in travel preferences and, as a result, has become financially unsustainable,” the website for American Queen Voyages states. The cruises, which travel between Vancouver and Clarkston, provide a unique view of the landscape and the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Cheers: To Leann Caver. C-Tran’s next CEO began her transit career as a bus driver; starting March 1, she will oversee an agency with an annual budget of more than $90 million. Caver has been appointed to succeed Shawn Donaghy, who has taken a job with a transit agency in San Diego County, Calif.

Caver spent 17 years with TriMet in Oregon, rising to the management level. She joined C-Tran in 2021 as a transit manager and now is ascending to the top spot. Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle, chair of C-Tran’s board, said, “We realized we have a candidate right here that a recruitment agency would probably have given to us.”

Jeers: To pharmacy closures. The Seattle Times reports that a record number of Washington pharmacies closed last year, continuing a trend that limits access to health care. While 60 closures were reported in the Seattle area, Clark County also has seen diminishing service. Over the past decade, two ZIP codes in the Vancouver area have seen four closures, and every part of the county has had at least one.

Nationally, three major chains have announced the closure of more than 1,500 pharmacies in the past two years, with minority communities most likely to lose pharmacy access. The trend is a small indication of the United States’ fractured health care system.

Cheers: To Ridgefield grapes. An effort to cultivate wine grapes in the Clark County city has come of age. As detailed in a recent Columbian article, in 2015 city officials began planting small vineyards on two roundabouts along Pioneer Street. “They were on a state highway, and the state does not take care of the areas around them,” Mayor Ron Onslow said. “We proposed it to the council and the city, and they all said yes. We asked the state, and they said, ‘Yeah, sure. Go right ahead.’”

Now, volunteers annually harvest the grapes, which are sold to local wineries. The city then purchases the wine — about 240 bottles from each roundabout. The project is a creative use for small parcels that easily could have been neglected.

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