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Daily News editorial

Recycle Christmas trees

When the holidays come to an end, the cleanup begins. We take the ornaments off the tree and store them, then we head outside to take down the lights and the decorations. Once all the decorations are put away, what do we do with the Christmas tree?

That is an easy question to answer — recycle it.

The cities of Longview and Kelso, along with Cowlitz County, operate a Christmas tree recycling program. The recycled trees are chipped and used for alternative fuel and compost. This is a great idea and we hope you take advantage of it.

Felix rescued

Felix, a 2-year old border collie, was rescued from a cliff north of Indian Beach in Ecola State Park near Cannon Beach, Ore., after spending a lonely night stranded.

The border collie went missing during a Christmas Day hike. The dog’s owner, Seattle resident Sarah Stremming, and her friends searched for Felix, but couldn’t find him. Stremming told The Daily Astorian that Felix likes water, so she figured he went over a cliff, noting if he had not gone over a cliff, he would have come back to her when she called him. The group thought they knew where Felix was, but they couldn’t see him because of the geography and he couldn’t hear them calling him because of the sound of the tides.

Stremming made a good decision and informed local authorities Felix was missing and where he might be located. The fire chief from Hamlet, Ore., used his own drone to pinpoint the dog’s whereabouts. Then, Seaside Fire Lieutenant Genesee Dennis roped down the steep cliff face and rescued Felix, who was not injured during the ordeal.

Great job to all the folks involved in the rescue!

Seattle’s long commutes

The Washington State Department of Transportation recently released the 15th Annual Congestion Report containing all kinds of data on traffic in Seattle — and it’s not good news.

An average commute from Everett to Seattle, if you’re driving alone in your vehicle, now will take about an hour and 34 minutes. That’s right, 94 minutes to go a little less than 25 miles.

With the Seattle economy going full bore, more people are employed and many of them need to commute to work. Combine higher employment rates with lower gas prices and you get high traffic congestion.

The data behind the Congestion Report is interesting. According to the report, three major freeways, I-5, I-405 and I-90, experienced congestion increases of 59 percent, 28 percent and 74 percent respectively, compared to 2007 pre-recession levels. The comparison is made to pre-recession levels due to employment losses that occurred during the recession.

Some people think mass transit is the answer to the traffic congestion in Seattle, but according to the Congestion Report, mass transit usage hasn’t changed much. In 2011, 5.6 percent of the people older than 16 years old used mass transit. The percentage of mass transit users peaked at 6.3 percent in 2013 and leveled off at 6.2 percent in 2015.

The driving alone commuting rate also has stayed fairly consistent. In 2011, 73.3 percent of commuters drove by themselves; and in 2015, the rate stood at 72.2 percent. From 2011 to 2015, carpool driving rates dropped slightly from 10.2 percent to 9.8 percent, while the biking or walking commuters increased slightly from 4.2 percent to 4.7 percent.

It appears not much has changed in terms of commuting habits from 2011 to 2015, according to the Congestion Report. The folks in Seattle still are overwhelmingly commuting alone in their vehicles, while a relatively low percentage use mass transit.

Looking ahead, Seattle’s traffic problem likely will overwhelm the state transportation and capital budgets. Roads, bridges and other transportation infrastructure can’t be built fast enough to keep up with expanding traffic needs. We know governments are good at building roads and bridges, but typically they do a poor job of maintaining them, which means all of the new infrastructure assets will be in need of costly repairs in 20 or 30 years.

One factoid in the Congestion Report caught us by surprise. According to the Washington State Department of Ecology, transportation activities contribute 46 percent of all greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. The national average is 27 percent.

The 72 percent of Seattle commuters who are in their cars alone might need to start carpooling.

Maybe the Department of Ecology should spend less time worrying about Millennium Bulk Terminals and more about Seattle commuters.

I-940

We have not yet taken a position on Initiative 940. Supporters of I-940 reportedly turned in enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot if no legislative action is taken during the upcoming session.

De-escalate Washington is the theme for I-940. The initiative stems from police shootings in Seattle the past several years and would change existing law making it much easier to prosecute law enforcement personnel who use deadly force.

While supporters think the proposed law would help reduce confrontations with police, the Washington Council of Police and Sheriffs disagrees. Teresa Taylor, executive director for the Washington Council of Police & Sheriffs said, “Unfortunately, this initiative will not do anything to reduce violent interactions between law enforcement and the public.”

This will be a hot topic come the next election season, something we expect you’ll hear a lot about.

We will study this initiative in depth over the coming months and declare our position.

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