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In Our Views: Cheers & Jeers: Workers brave cold; bad drivers

The Columbian
Published: January 22, 2024, 6:03am

Cheers: To diligent workers. Snow and ice closed schools, made roads hazardous and wreaked general havoc throughout the county last week. But cheers are warranted for first responders, utility crews, road crews, C-Tran employees and everybody else who went about their jobs while many of us were holed up at home.

The snow and ice that blanketed the area turned out to be a nuisance rather than an emergency for most people — thanks to workers we often take for granted. Warming temperatures have cleared the roads and hopefully will lead to some normalcy this week, allowing us to again render emergency workers to an afterthought — until the next time we need them.

Jeers: To driving in Washington. Even when roads are clear and dry, driving in Washington can be treacherous. At least, that is the conclusion reached by WalletHub, which judged our state to be the second-worst for driving. Looking at various metrics including average gas prices, auto-maintenance costs, congestion and traffic fatality rates, Washington came out ahead of only Hawaii.

Washington scored poorly in cost of vehicle ownership and maintenance, as well as in traffic and infrastructure. The crux of the issue: Maintenance costs, congestion, fatality rates and other metrics are related to infrastructure. Lawmakers have taken steps to remedy those shortcomings with strong investments, but it takes time to see results.

Cheers: To election workers. The state House of Representatives has approved a bill that would make it a felony to threaten election officials with injury through words or conduct (Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, was the only Southwest Washington representative to vote against). A similar bill passed the House last year yet lapsed in the Senate, but indications are that the Senate is ready to address the issue. Currently, such behavior is a gross misdemeanor.

Threats to election workers have been well-documented in Washington and throughout the country. Protecting those who protect our democracy is a reasonable and necessary step at a time when political disagreements too often result in violence.

Jeers: To a brazen criminal. A man has been arrested in Oregon, accused of stealing a Vancouver Fire Department vehicle and apparently driving it 80 miles south to Albany, Ore. As paramedics tended to a patient near downtown Vancouver, somebody jumped into the Ram 5500 model and took off. Washington State Patrol troopers later spotted the truck on freeway cameras crossing into Oregon, leading to the eventual capture.

The guess is that there is more to this story that might explain the motive for the theft. But the lesson should be obvious: Do not steal vehicles, let alone from first responders.

Cheers: To a daring rescue. Even amid tragedy, we often can find heroism. Such was the case in Portland last week, when a downed power line draped across a vehicle and resulted in the electrocution deaths of three people who slipped on ice and contacted the line. A 9-month-old baby also was at the scene, which was witnessed by an 18-year-old neighbor.

“The baby moved his head … and that’s how I knew he was still here,” Majiah Washington said. “The only thing I could think about was he was still here I wasn’t thinking ‘Oh, I can be electrocuted.’ I was thinking, ‘I need to grab this baby.’ ” She did, and the baby reportedly is healthy. According to fire officials, Washington told them, “I just did what any sane person would do.”