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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

In Our View: Cheers & Jeers: Getting home; untimely raises

The Columbian
Published: July 8, 2024, 6:03am

Cheers: To housing options. Three new projects to house people exiting homelessness are in the works for Vancouver. Together, the ventures from nonprofits and community developers are expected to house more than 100 people. Open House Ministries is opening a 30-unit apartment building adjacent to its campus; the Vancouver Housing Authority is breaking ground on a 40-unit supportive housing project; and a cluster of seven small homes is being finalized by Community Roots Collaborative.

“Our shelters are full of families,” Peggy Sheehan, executive director of Community Roots Collaborative, told The Columbian. “I know this is not going to save the world, but it will save it for these seven families.” That is the most salient point about efforts to reduce homelessness. While the problem is daunting, community groups and local governments continue to tirelessly work on solutions.

Jeers: To Clark Public Utilities. Utility commissioners have approved a 5 percent pay raise for general manager and CEO Lena Wittler. The increase, which took effect July 1, bumps her salary to $351,750 — plus a car allowance and benefits — and follows an annual performance review.

In January, commissioners voted to raise customer rates 14.5 percent after the utility faced a $17.7 million budget shortfall at the end of 2023. For years, Clark Public Utilities has been well managed and has reliably provided excellent customer service. But approving a pay raise at the same time rates are significantly increasing requires some explanation. The two decisions seem incongruous and tone deaf to the concerns of customers.

Cheers: To a special delivery. Three new water tanks have been delivered to Camp Hope of Southwest Washington — arriving by helicopter. According to The Columbian, “The installation site has steep hills, unpaved roads and thick vegetation, creating transportation challenges to keep the tanks’ structural integrity intact.”

The 6,000-gallon tanks will replace a single 3,800-gallon tank as part of an updated water system. Lewisville Regional Park was used as a staging area for the helicopter ride, temporarily disrupting access to the park. That was an inconvenience for some, but the project can provide big benefits for the youth camp along the East Fork Lewis River.

Jeers: To COVID. State officials warn that COVID-19 infections are increasing but that few Washington residents have received updated vaccinations. “Even at this point in the pandemic, COVID carries a higher risk of mortality than influenza. … I worry people think COVID is behind us,” said Dr. Eric Chow of King County’s public health department.

Meanwhile, 19 percent of Washington residents reportedly have up-to-date COVID vaccinations. Infection rates are not approaching those at the height of the pandemic, but vaccines remain the best way to avoid the disruptions the virus created in 2020 and 2021.

Cheers: To Dennis and Kooky Helland. The Camas couple have been named king and queen of the 2024 Camas Days celebration and will ride in the July 28 Grand Parade. But many residents might find them unrecognizable.

The Hellands, you see, are best known for dressing as Santa and Mrs. Claus and spreading good cheer during the holiday season. For the Camas Days parade, however, Dennis will wear the military uniform he wore while returning home from Vietnam, and Kooky will don a patriotic red, white and blue ensemble. Regardless of attire, they are appropriate honorees for the event.