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In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Astronaut soars, potholes jar

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

Cheers: To explorers. Camas native Dr. Mike Barratt is preparing for his third trip into space. The 64-year-old astronaut is scheduled to be on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 mission to the International Space Station next month. Barratt’s expertise is space medicine, and his duties will focus on science experiments, maintaining operations and going on spacewalks to upgrade the station’s systems.

Although Barratt has spent 212 days in space, the act of getting there remains a thrill. “That visceral experience is amazing, and it will always be that way,” he told The Columbian. “It’s one of the most defined and seminal moments of any astronaut’s life.” The journey also can be humbling: “Nobody could look back at their home planet and not be transfixed or transformed. You appreciate the fragility of your planet, this beautiful blue marble in the blackness of space.”

Jeers: To potholes. Ice storms — like the one that covered Clark County this month — inevitably leave behind pocked roads that can range from annoying to threatening. “Following freezing temperatures potholes pop up much quicker and are more severe,” an official from the Washington State Department of Transportation said.

That can keep drivers on edge and keep road crews scrambling. It also can keep repair shops busy; a survey from AAA determined that American drivers spent more than $26 billion fixing damage from potholes in 2021. Cheers go to crews that are working to quickly fill in the pesky cracks and cavities; but jeers go to the vehicle-shaking leftovers from ice storms.

Jeers: To dangerous drivers. Speaking of potholes and road crews, too many drivers are careless in work zones. Six workers were hospitalized Sunday after a crash caused by a suspected drunk driver. As workers waited in two pickup trucks for lanes to be closed near the intersection of Interstate 5 and Interstate 205, a car plowed into the trucks.

“If it sounds like we’re angry … we’re angry,” a social media post from WSDOT read. “This happens all too often. The people working out on the roads are just that, people. They aren’t just vests and hard hats.” Strict traffic enforcement and common sense from drivers are necessary to protect workers.

Cheers: To progress at the waterfront. The first phase in the transformation of Terminal 1 has been completed. A dock and century-old wood pilings have been removed at the site between The Waterfront Vancouver development and the Interstate 5 Bridge. For decades, the old dock was home to the Vancouver Red Lion at the Quay.

The next steps for the site, which is owned by the Port of Vancouver, are construction of a new dock atop steel pilings and a 40,000-square-foot marketplace. Importantly, Phase 1 of the multiyear project was completed on time, keeping the marketplace on track for construction in 2026 and 2027.

Cheers: To corporate accountability. State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has announced a $149.5 million settlement with drug maker Johnson & Johnson for the company’s role in fueling an opioid addiction crisis. The agreement comes four years after the state launched a lawsuit against the company. “They knew what the harm was. They did it anyway,” Ferguson said.

The settlement, which must be approved by a judge, is little consolation for families negatively impacted by opioids. But the attorney general has rightly held companies accountable when they promote the overprescribing of painkillers while downplaying the risk of addiction.