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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: Start of summer; traffic jams

The Columbian
Published: June 24, 2024, 6:03am

Cheers: To summer break. Students, teachers and parents — well, some parents — throughout Clark County are celebrating the end of the school year. For many students, summer break presages change; some are graduating high school, and some are preparing for a new school in the fall and the next stage of their education. For others, it is simply the start of summer.

Meanwhile, parents are wondering how to keep their children busy during the break. Our region offers plenty of outdoor recreation, and the city of Vancouver’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services department has a wide range of summer activities. Cheers are warranted for all those who have completed another school year and are looking forward to summer. As The Columbian quoted one excited student exclaiming on the last day of school: “There’s no rules anymore!”

Jeers: To traffic jams. Friday morning delivered a reminder that even a new bridge will not solve all the region’s traffic woes. Crashes on both Interstate 5 and Interstate 205, near the bridges that cross the Columbia River, snarled traffic throughout the region. I-5, for example, was slowed to a crawl in the southbound lanes all the way to Hazel Dell, and east-west highways also were affected.

With or without a new I-5 crossing, occasional jams are inevitable; they are part of living in an auto-centric society. We trust that all motorists eventually arrived at their destinations with a minimum of frustration.

Cheers: To a proposed arts center. The Southwest Washington Center for the Arts, a nonprofit organization, has signed a letter of intent to purchase 1 acre of land for development of a concert and performing arts center. After decades of trying to build a center in downtown Vancouver, the group is now targeting the Columbia Palisades development at Southeast 192nd Avenue, north of state Highway 14.

A center could enhance the city’s cultural offerings, providing a space for local and touring artists to perform. The project has a long way to go, and city officials have hired a consulting firm to examine its viability. But the recent development could lead to a beneficial addition to the region.

Jeers: To legal deserts. A recent article from The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review highlights a shortage of lawyers in rural areas of Washington. According to the Washington State Bar Association, for example, there are three lawyers serving Garfield County — one for roughly every 800 residents. Statewide, there is one lawyer for every 200 residents, with heavy concentrations in urban areas.

It is a common trope that the United States has too many lawyers, but the jokes are not so funny when you can’t find one. From estate planning to contract writing, lawyers do much more than work on criminal cases. The bar association has developed a Small Town and Rural Committee to increase representation in rural areas. We hope it finds solutions to ensure that all Washington residents can access services.

Cheers: To accountability. A federal judge has ordered BNSF Railway to pay nearly $400 million to the Swinomish Tribe north of Seattle. A 1991 easement allowed the rail company to move no more than two trains of 25 cars per day through tribal land; the tribe sued in 2015 after the company started running 100-car trains carrying crude oil through the reservation.

“The trespass was willful, knowing, and conscious throughout the trespass period,” U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik said in his ruling, determining that BNSF would be “stripped of the net profits obtained from its unauthorized interference with another’s property.”