December Cheers & Jeers

‘Tis the season of cheer, so let’s kick this off with a giant CHEERS to all of those who are making the upcoming holidays a little brighter for less fortunate families in our area.

In Washougal, that CHEERS heads toward the folks behind Refuel Washougal, a coalition of community leaders who provide a free, warm meal every Friday for those Washougal residents who are having trouble making ends meet. As they have in the past, Refuel volunteers will help with the Radiant Church’s free Christmas Day dinner for individuals and families who might otherwise go hungry over the holidays. (See related story on page A1.)

The group recently inspired Camas teen Emma Turk to create a similar holiday meal for Camas folks who may need some extra cheer this year. Emma’s upcoming Christmas Eve breakfast will count as her Camas High senior project, but her mother, Camas City Councilwoman Shannon Turk, hopes to continue the free Christmas Eve meal in the future. CHEERS to the Turk women for starting what will, hopefully, become a lasting tradition.

Likewise, CHEERS to everyone who supports local nonprofits like the Inter-faith Treasure House and the Washington Children’s Home’s East County Family Resource Center. As we reported in the Dec. 7, 2017, issue of The Post-Record, these two organizations, which contribute so much to the lives of this area’s less fortunate, could be negatively affected by a trickle-down effect after the Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Camas shutters much of its operations next year and lays off about two-thirds of its employees. Those workers have been stable and generous donors to the Camas-Washougal Community Chest, which partially funds both nonprofits, as well as 18 other organizations that lift up families in need.

As the gap between this country’s “haves” and “have-nots” continues to grow — income disparity between the top 10 percent of earners and the other 90 percent is the greatest it has been in more than 100 years, with more than one-quarter of all American workers trying to survive on less than $10 an hour — and as the cost of housing, particularly in this area, continues to skyrocket, we will likely see many of our neighbors struggle to afford basic necessities like shelter, food and clothing.

Organizations and individuals like the ones mentioned here, that are doing their part to make the holiday season just a little bit brighter for families who wonder how they’ll put food on the table, deserve as many cheers as we can give them.

We’re in a charitable mood now, so we only have one JEERS to give. That dishonor goes to the Trump administration for its recent decision to roll back a critical safety mandate for trains carrying highly explosive liquids, like the oil trains that regularly roll through both the Oregon and Washington sides of the Columbia River Gorge.

Initiated by the Obama administration in 2015, after a series of oil train derailments, including the 2013 derailment in Quebec, Canada that killed 47 and destroyed 30 buildings in Lac-Mégantic, the safety mandate would have required oil trains to have electronically controlled brakes by 2021.

Unlike the current standard, these brakes would have triggered on each tank, at the same time, making oil trains safer and less prone to derailments.

Oil train safety is especially critical in Camas-Washougal, where a derailment and potential explosion and/or fire could endanger the entire area.

Even without the addition of the proposed Tesoro-Savage Vancouver Energy oil terminal, the Washington side of the Gorge has up to 18 oil trains passing through it each week.

This seems like yet another Trump-fueled decision based more on unraveling everything Obama ever touched than on protecting the American people, but the official reason for the roll back, given by the U.S. Department of Transportation, says the mandate had to go because “the cost was three times the benefit.”

We find it incredibly difficult to imagine that anyone who loses a loved one or home or their town’s entire downtown business community to a future oil train derailment will see it that way.