December Cheers & Jeers

Let’s kick this December Cheers & Jeers editorial off with a seasonally appropriate cheers: to the folks who work at the Camas Post Office on Northeast Fifth Avenue.

Everyone who lives far away from family and loved ones knows the pure torture of standing in line at the post office during this “most wonderful time of the year,” waiting to see if the price for sending your presents will actually cost more than the gifts themselves.

Happily, a recent trip to the Camas Post Office — just one week before Christmas Day, no less — proved to be a completely painless process. The clerks kept the line moving and managed to smile and be friendly despite what must have been the final minutes of an exhausting day. Cheers to them for making this holiday season a little more joyful for countless Camas gift-senders.

Our second cheers goes out to the Camas and Washougal folks who are taking time out of their busy holiday schedules to make sure everyone in this community can have a warm breakfast on Christmas Eve and a nice dinner and gifts from Santa on Christmas Day.

Cheers to Camas Mayor Shannon Turk, her daughter, Emma, and several of Emma’s former Camas High classmates, who are serving a free Christmas Eve breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m., Monday, Dec. 24, in the Camas Community Center. Cheers to the East Clark Professional Fire Fighters, IAFF Local 2444, who helped buy some of the groceries for the Christmas Eve breakfast, and are cooking the meal. And cheers to the Radiant Church and ReFuel Washougal volunteers hosting a free Christmas Day dinner from 3 to 6 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 25, at Hathaway Elementary School in Washougal. That group, by the way, still needs volunteers to help serve the more than 100 people expected to attend the dinner and to donate unwrapped gifts for adults, teens and children. For more information, read reporter Dawn Feldhaus’ story on page A1 of this week’s Post-Record.

Cheers also go out to the girls on the Camas and Washougal basketball teams. These young athletes have been having incredibly impressive seasons — on Dec. 11, the Camas girls beat West Linn, one of the best girls basketball teams in the state of Oregon, and on Dec. 17, the Washougal girls completely decimated the Mark Morris Monarchs out of Longview, Washington. These teams are giving local sports fans something to look forward to this winter.

As much as we would like to hand out cheers like candy canes this month — and maybe avoid the hate mail that often accompanies the act of sharing an opinion on the Opinion page — we must fulfill the “jeers” portion of this column.

This jeers goes to the political leaders in Washougal who claim they didn’t realize Camas would want to increase staffing at the Camas-Washougal Fire Department and therefore weren’t ready to find a solution to funding those seemingly critical positions.

Even if the Washougal leaders don’t read this newspaper — which has been covering this issue for more than 10 months with front page stories, social media posts of firefighters crowding into city council meetings and quotes from firefighter union representatives as well as the fire chief himself calling for increases to the fire department’s staff — they surely have seen the “I’m 4 More Firefighters” signs decorating half the business windows and flower planters in downtown Camas. And even if they somehow missed those bright yellow signs, surely they understand the fact that their community is growing and that emergency calls are increasing while staffing levels at the local fire department haven’t budged in nearly two decades.

Washougal leaders say they are concerned about using their city’s reserves to pay for the new fire department hires, which is understandable, but they must have known this issue was coming. There are many businesses that can handle growth without adding new employees, but the business of fighting fires and responding to every single medical call, traffic accident and other emergency in fast-growing cities like Camas and Washougal is not one of them.

Camas City Administrator Pete Capell said this week that Washougal political leaders are trying to figure out how to contribute to the salaries of at least two of the proposed five new fire department hires.

That’s a good start, but it shouldn’t have come to Camas City Council members having to push their budget decisions to the very last minute — and discussing a possible dissolution of the joint Camas-Washougal Fire Department — for Washougal leaders to get to this point in the game.

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