As 2019 arrives, here are our hopes and toasts for the new year:
To teamwork: With robotics students coming off a world championship win and plenty of success statewide, here’s to these kids’ efforts in gaining the same kind of prominence we regularly assign to sports, drama and other pursuits.
(It is elements such as the new STEAM wing at Wy’east Middle School that are so conducive to the success of programs such as robotics. Kudos to the school district for creating this complex of flexible learning area, maker space, prototype lab, flex and science labs, and outdoor learning space.)
To leadership: That U.S. Rep. Greg Walden might soon overcome his reticence over making bonafide public appearances in his home county, and belatedly fulfill his promise by scheduling a local town hall, once and for all.
To second chances: All the best to the Port of Cascade Locks and Mark Johnson, hired last fall as its Government Affairs coordinator. As a former State Representative and school board member, Johnson’s business and legislative acumen will well-serve Cascade Locks.
To healing: For the forest and all its elements, following the $36.6 million restitution order for the now-16-year-old Vancouver boy who set the Eagle Creek fire in September 2017.
(There is no way the boy and his family will ever repay that figure. No doubt county authorities will rigorously monitor the payments he does make and the 2,000 hours of public service he will be required to do. With hope, this experience can help all of us gain a greater appreciation for losses to our natural areas, from human-caused or natural fires, and from bureaucracy.)
To clarity: For Mike Oates (see page A1) and the rest of the County Board of Commissioners, as well as policy-level staffers (permanent and interim). May 2019 be a year of stability as they proceed with decisions over the daunting task of providing public services and the means to pay for them.
To connectivity: The county did well in its public outreach on the budget in the last half of 2018, just as the Port of Hood River made great strides last year in gaining public input on the future of the Hood River Interstate bridge — that, and working to involve parties on the Washington side of the river.
In 2027, the centennial of the existing bridge, may we look back at 2019 as the year when the new bridge really started to come together.
First, we wish discernment and savvy to veteran State Sen. Chuck Thomsen and his newly-elected colleague, State Rep. Anna Williams. They are heading into what will be a highly-challenging Legislative Session starting Jan. 22.
Second, we invite the City of Hood River and the state to a simple step in working to meet the city’s top goal of providing affordable housing: Schedule a 90-minute conversation this month; a face-to-face with a single mission: “Can the West Cascade ODOT yard property be transformed for use as affordable housing and how do we go about it?” And if such a minds-meeting does not produce an answer, let the public know why.
This should happen before any further efforts are put into taking out Morrison Park and turning it into housing; taking the long view on the both the park (aka Lot 700) and “The Yard” makes sense.
For 2019 will be a critical year in the future of Lot 700, and any change in its use. The housing plan is worth pursuing, but only after the city and the state can show they fully exhausted what looks like a golden opportunity less than two blocks away.
Finally, a far-from-exhaustive list of other long-pending ventures we look forward to watching this year, each with several years of planning and preparation behind them: