The first month of 2016 is a good time to take notice a few of 2015’s local accomplishments and hopes for the new year.
1. We are grateful for efforts by Peninsula Poverty Response and a team of local churches to provide winter shelter for our area’s vulnerable population of homeless people and those for whom housing is insecure. This fortunate area has many who are mired in poverty. Working to improve the coastal economy while providing a local safety net is a moral imperative that we can’t afford to ignore.
2. Driving by the Chinook School and seeing its great windows, doors and paint job is a pleasure. Going inside the restored gymnasium for an event is heartening. Work remains to be done inside the school. If history is any guide, the organizers of the restoration campaign will do a fine job.
3. The Port of Chinook’s management agreement with the Port of Ilwaco is a big deal. It promises to address years of financial strain in Chinook, while ensuring the continuing viability of the commercial and recreational fishing fleets. Local boards and commissions should explore these collaborations whenever possible. In today’s world, it will often make financial and organizational sense to combine administrative functions to get the most value from personnel, equipment and other assets. Old, worn-out politics and self-interest shouldn’t be allowed to interfere with basic common sense.
4. Succession is everything. The city of Long Beach’s long-time, dedicated mayor, Bob Andrew, retired at the start of the year, with Councilman Jerry Phillips stepping up to that office. In South Bend, Superior Court Judge Mike Sullivan has announced his departure from the bench after many eventful and wearing years. State Sen. Brian Hatfield of Raymond stepped down, with popular State Rep. Dean Takko stepping up. Longview School Board member J.D. Rossetti took Takko’s former seat in the state House. We wish them all well, and thank them for their past and future service.
5. On the national level, our wish list for 2014 included, “An immigration bill, please.” Knowing that U.S. House Republicans don’t see this as essential business, especially for their friends in agriculture, we realize it is a pipe dream to expect an immigration solution in 2016. But the deeper fear is that with congressional Republicans, it will never be time for progress on immigration. Coastal seafood, hospitality and farming businesses all rely on hard-working, newly arrived residents, regardless of their legal status. Resolving this issue ought to be a higher priority for all in Congress, including our congresswoman.
6. The U.S. Coast Guard’s decision to base Sector Columbia River at the river’s mouth has been a ringing success for an agency vital to our safety and economic well-being. We continue to hope for a favorable decision to base two new 154-foot Sentinel-class fast response cutters here. Astoria, Warrenton and Ilwaco are Coast Guard towns. Let’s keep it that way.
7. A regionwide shortage of affordable housing — keynoted by historically low rental vacancy rates — is harming the finances of families and has the potential of hobbling our economic prospects. We need effective collaboration between developers, lenders and agencies to add new single-family and multiple-family dwellings in ways that respond to needs without violating the still-important goals of growth management. Far too many residents here have to rely on campers and similar dwellings never intended for permanent, year-round use. We need a coherent low-income housing strategy. Accommodating more residents without sprawling over important farmland, forests and open spaces will be one of the Pacific Northwest’s biggest challenges in the 21st century.
8. It is time for Washington and Oregon state fisheries managers to acknowledge that commercial gillnetting on the Columbia River is an environmentally responsible way to provide consumers with local salmon. Hypothetical alternatives like seine nets have not been shown to lower wild salmon mortality, nor have off-channel net-pen fisheries proven up to the job of replacing gillnet drifts on the main river. The gillnet ban was an impulsive decision by a distracted and now-disgraced governor. It should be abandoned.
9. Thanks to a provocative story in The New Yorker, 2015 was the year the general public learned about the Cascadia Subduction Zone and understood its potential to generate massive earthquakes and tsunamis. In our area, Cannon Beach has long been a leader in preparing for this disaster, practicing evacuation routes, caching supplies on high ground and generally planning how to survive. All coastal and estuary communities should follow Cannon Beach’s example in 2016. Work is starting this month, in a visible way, on an evacuation site next to Long Beach Elementary School. We will watch its progress with interest, while continuing to advocate for additional responses including west-to-east pedestrian evacuation paths on the Peninsula.
10. We will hope and advocate for constructive solutions to the pesticide-spraying dilemma in Willapa Bay, downtown renewal in Ilwaco and the over-long and divisive Oysterville Sea Farms zoning battle.