Editor’s note: Today’s editorials originally appeared in The Columbian and The Seattle Times. Editorial content from other publications is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
With a legislative committee taking shape to consider the future of the Interstate 5 Bridge, numerous questions are begging to be answered. And while the minutiae of any eventual project will need to be addressed, two major issues could stall the effort before it even gets into gear: Will Oregon officials get involved? And what will be different this time around?
Last week, four Washington representatives were appointed to a task force designed to begin working toward replacement of the century-old bridge. Brandon Vick, R-Vancouver, and Sharon Wylie, D-Vancouver, have been tabbed as part of a 16-member committee created by passage of a bill during this year’s legislative session. Four Washington senators will be added to the group, but that represents the relatively easy part of the process.
The difficult portion, it appears, will be getting Oregon legislators to join the party. “Eventually, I think they have to come to the table because it’s in the region’s interest to do that,” Wylie said. “Ultimately, if it was easy, we would have already had a bridge.”
Therein lies the problem. With then-Clark County Sens. Ann Rivers and Don Benton leading the opposition, Washington effectively scuttled the Columbia River Crossing proposal in 2013. More than a decade of work and nearly $200 million in expenditures went down the drain, and Oregon lawmakers have demonstrated little eagerness to engage in discussions since then. Fool me once, and all that.
Which brings up the question about approaching things differently. As Gov. Jay Inslee and local legislators have stressed, the key will be to demonstrate that there is local consensus regarding a replacement bridge, rather than leaving open the possibility of another last-minute collapse for the project. Consensus does not mean unanimity, but the inclusion of Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, on the committee will make consensus more difficult. Orcutt voted against formation of the task force and believes a third bridge should take priority over the I-5 span.
Editorially, The Columbian has recommended a provision allowing for the inclusion of light rail when Clark County reaches a designated level of population density. Including light rail at this time would be a fiscal albatross, but it would be nonsensical to ignore the eventual need for the system to extend into Washington.
In a similar vein, local residents must recognize that some tolls would be an equitable form for providing funding for a new bridge. User fees are a fair and necessary method of paying for large projects, and they fit in with conservative political philosophy. Tolls to help pay for a replacement bridge should not be confused with Oregon officials’ current effort to place tolls on I-5 and I-205 beginning at the state line. Those tolls would not go toward enhancing the bridges, but instead would have Washington residents contributing mightily to some projects that would not benefit those residents.
And finally, the committee should work to establish a process for additional bridges across the Columbia River. I-5 must remain the priority, but the work should not stop there. Multiple bridges will be essential for the region’s economy in the coming decades.
Let DACA deadline kickstart reform
The Obama administration’s program protecting young immigrants brought to this country illegally as children was meant to be a stopgap until Congress acted on immigration reform.
Now President Donald Trump has given Congress a deadline of six months to do what President Barack Obama wanted in the first place: Fix the nation’s broken immigration system.
The harsh, divisive rhetoric of Trump and U.S. attorney general Jeff Sessions regarding immigration is repellent, but the challenge is now before Congress to shake off its dysfunction and finally act on immigration reform. It must not fail.
The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program has helped 800,000 young people avoid deportation, work legally in the United States and continue their education. Many already have made significant contributions as leaders, doctors, writers, soldiers and scientists.
Congress must create a path to citizenship for these young people. Those who were brought here illegally as children must be protected, not just the ones who have already signed up for the DACA program. It’s incumbent that Congress deliberates with a sense of urgency to avoid creating more fear and uncertainty.
Americans who value the contributions immigrants make to this country will not tolerate mass deportations while Congress debates needed reform.
Fixing DACA is the first step. The bigger lift is long-needed reform addressing the immigrants who came here illegally but have built a new life here, pay taxes and are integral to our nation’s strong economy. As for immigrants who break the law, the U.S. has been deporting many and will continue to do so. That was the Obama administration policy and it continues, as it should.
The U.S. needs an immigration policy that provides a reasonable, predictable path to citizenship. Continue to improve border security, yes, but end the ridiculous distraction of a horrendously expensive, likely ineffective and darkly symbolic wall along the border with Mexico.
U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, already has vowed to work toward a solution for the so-called “Dreamers,” who have benefitted from the DACA program. As a leader in Congress who has demonstrated an ability to craft bipartisan solutions to tough challenges, Murray is up to the task.
Five years ago, Obama made a promise to the young people who were brought to this nation as children. He made that promise on behalf of the American people, a majority of whom support a path to citizenship for Dreamers. Congress needs to fulfill that promise.
Not only is that the right thing to do, the country needs these young people to become part of the permanent fabric of this nation of immigrants.