OPINION: August Cheers & Jeers

Given the fact that most of these long, slow COVID weeks feel like we’re all swimming upstream in a river of molasses, it’s always a bit startling to look back at a month’s worth of news stories before writing this monthly Cheers & Jeers column and realize just how much has happened over the past four weeks. August, at least in Camas-Washougal, has been a month filled with Cheers-worthy news.

CHEERS to the bravery of teen girls: When Vancouver teens Hillary Darland, Maddy Gregory and Hannah Salinas saw what appeared to be a man and little girl on the verge of drowning in the Camas Potholes near Round Lake one warm July day, the girls did not hesitate: Salinas jumped from a 15-foot cliff into the water and pulled the man and his young daughter to shore. Darland and Gregory rushed down the path, calling 911 and making sure the family was OK.

“I didn’t think about it too much,” Salinas told us earlier this month, during a ceremony outside Camas City Hall in which Camas’ mayor and police and fire chiefs honored the teens for their heroics. “No one was doing anything and (I thought), ‘Someone needs to do something, or they’re going to drown.’ It was just instinct.”

Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey and Camas-Washougal Fire Chief Nick Swinhart later said they believed the girls’ actions saved two lives that day.

CHEERS to cleaning up Camas’ ‘crown jewel’: In our first August issue, we wrote about a regional effort, spearheaded by a Camas City Council member and Camas community volunteer, to clean up Lacamas Lake and rid “Camas’ crown jewel” of the toxic algae and other problems that have plagued it for decades.

As Councilman Steve Hogan said, the city needs to dedicate its resources to the lake cleanup so the issue doesn’t fade into obscurity: “We ought to … be making sure it’s in good condition for our city and citizens. We need to dedicate our money and human resources to deal with the lake issues and push them forward.”

The cleanup will likely take several years and require the backing of the entire community.

As Judit Lorincz, a Camas mother who is heading up the community volunteer aspect of the ongoing lake cleanup, said: “This effort needs everyone to be united. It will take not just the community and the city, but the county and the state to get this issue fixed.”

CHEERS to building relationships: In our Aug. 13 issue, we featured Washougal resident Lina Alvarez, who was recently appointed to the Washington State Commission on Hispanic Affairs.

Having come from eastern Washington, Alvarez said the local area has a few more barriers to overcome when it comes to building up Latino communities.

“I think the Camas and Washougal communities are kind of set in their ways, with a mentality of, ‘This is how it’s always been done, and there’s no reason to change what we’re doing. There’s still a lot of pushback — the ‘This is America, speak English’ kind of mentality,” she said.

Cheers to Alvarez for helping Camas-Washougal push beyond its stuck-in-the-past mentality and for pulling the area into a new, more equitable chapter.

CHEERS to “reading for change”: The Camas Public Library’s new, 12-week “Read for Change” initiative, which kicked off this month and runs through the fall, deserves a Cheers for turning a spotlight on the issue of racial inequity in the United States.

For anyone hoping to understand more about the basis of the Black Lives Matter movement or about why hundreds of thousands of everyday Americans have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and systemic racism, the Camas library’s “Read for Change” initiative is packed with information and designed to get the conversation started on a local level.

JEERS to those who still refuse to work together to fight COVID-19: Despite the fear-mongering and completely false messages some have promoted during this ongoing COVID-19 crisis, no one wants to see our communities remain shutdown with small businesses suffering and children attending school via a computer screen in their living room.

Unfortunately, the novel coronavirus thrives when we disregard public health mandates meant to slow the transmission of COVID-19: refusing to wear face coverings in public, gathering in each other’s homes, twisting a rejection of public health mandates into something to be celebrated as “standing up for personal rights” instead of calling it what it is — a selfish act that puts the whole community in danger and contributes to even longer school and business shutdowns.

Some countries have already shown us how to beat COVID-19. According to the nonprofit End Coronavirus, at least 33 countries, including Vietnam, Iceland and New Zealand, are beating COVID-19. Another 18 are “nearly there,” including Ireland, Italy, Norway and Singapore. The rest, including the U.S., are considered countries that “need to take action.”

CHEERS to everyone, including leaders in the Camas and Washougal school districts, who remain committed to making decisions based on the latest available scientific research and public health data and rooted in what is best for the health and safety of the entire community.

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