October Cheers and Jeers

Normally, finding individuals and groups worthy of accolades in our monthly “Cheers & Jeers” editorial is the easy part and we struggle to come up with those deserving the “jeers.”

This month is a bit different. There are still plenty of folks who have earned “cheers” — the young athletes who continue to bring pride to their Camas and Washougal school communities; the food cooperative supporters in Washougal who are trying to connect residents with area farmers and build a healthier, more environmentally friendly community; and the students at Washougal High School who gave up a sunny Saturday afternoon to build a haunted house — but we’ve also found enough “jeers” to fill an entire page.

The first October “jeers” goes out to Republican Larry Hoff, a former credit union CEO hoping to snag retiring Rep. Liz Pike’s 18th Legislative District, Position 2 seat in the Nov. 6 election, for his stale, uninformed answer to Camas students’ nuanced question about climate change during the Oct. 22 Camas Youth Advisory Council (CYAC) Candidate Forum.

The question, developed by Camas students, was straightforward: “The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last week published a report saying the world needs to take urgent and unprecedented action before there will be irreversible climate change. What policies would you propose the legislature take to address this looming issue?”

Instead of giving the Camas students the credit, the “cheers” they deserve for coming up with thoughtful questions designed to better understand candidates running for county, state and federal office, Hoff responded with a Republican line that should have been retired 15 years ago, telling the teens the climate “has been (changing) for thousands of years” and the degree to which humans are at fault “is still a question.”

Instead of answering the students’ question — likely because the tiny group of remaining climate change skeptics has no policies designed to stem the nearly irreversible and deadly effects of a rapidly warming planet — Hoff used his two minutes to attack a state carbon-emissions-control initiative that out-of-state oil companies have spent millions trying to defeat.

They may be able to trick older generations, but candidates like Hoff aren’t fooling the teens of today, who know the vast majority (around 97 percent) of climate scientists agree global climate change is caused by humans. A group of young people recently formed a group called Zero Hour, “a youth-led movement to sound the alarm and call for action on climate change and environmental justice.” On the group’s website, the teens tell it like it is: “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

Our kids are ready to go into this battle alone, but they shouldn’t have to. If Hoff didn’t have a good answer to the Camas students’ “how will you fix this?” question, he should have had the guts to tell the teens he doesn’t understand the problem well enough to even begin to know how to fix it. Then, he should have gone away and found a solution far better than simply attacking a piece of legislation that, although far from perfect, is at least trying to make a difference.

Our second “jeers” also goes to a candidate at the CYAC forum, Republican Rep. Brandon Vick, for his flippant comments regarding school shootings.

Asked by Camas students where he “drew the line between the right to bear arms and protecting the children of Washington state,” Vick insinuated the media is making it seem like mass shootings in the United States are worse than they really are.

Like climate change, teens today understand gun control is an issue they may have to conquer by themselves, since adults are continuously dropping the ball and still making lame excuses for why we, as a society, cannot seem to learn from other nations that don’t have mass shootings happening in their schools, churches, concerts and university campuses every single year.

Vick told the students he questioned whether we really have an “epidemic” on our hands when it comes to mass shootings. Here is what those teens likely know: you can quibble all you want about the word “epidemic,” but of the five most deadly mass shootings in the United States, three have happened in the past three years.

It is a sad state of affairs when a politician can stand in front of a group of young people who have, over the course of their short high school careers, lived through 49 people massacred at an Orlando nightclub, 58 slaughtered at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, 17 slain at a high school in Florida and 26 killed inside a First Baptist church in Texas, and tell them he hopes they don’t go to school afraid of getting shot.

Of course they’re afraid. And they’re asking us, the adults who are supposed to be in charge, what we’re going to do to help keep them safe from gun violence and from a rapidly warming planet. The very least our politicians can do is come up with answers that don’t insult their intelligence.