Columbian Newspaper

Vancouver police investigate robbery at Columbia Credit Union branch
Author: Jessica Prokop

A robber who hit a Columbia Credit Union branch Thursday afternoon in Vancouver’s Bagley Downs neighborhood made off with an undisclosed amount of cash, according to the Vancouver Police Department.

Police responded at 1:20 p.m. to 3003 N.E. 62nd Ave., for a robbery alarm. The suspect presented a note and was given cash. He was last seen on foot headed north on 62nd Avenue, the police department said in a news release.

The suspect is described as a white male in his mid- to late-20s, with a thin build and short, strawberry blond hair. He was last seen wearing a light blue polo shirt and light-colored denim jeans, police said.

Police are continuing to investigate. Anyone with information about the incident should contact the police department’s tip line at 360-487-7399.

Washington governor: State on track to fully reopen June 30
Author: Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Washington is on track to fully reopen its economy by June 30, and a full reopening could happen even sooner if 70% or more of residents over age 16 have gotten at least one dose of vaccine by then, Gov. Jay Inslee said Thursday.

And next Tuesday, Inslee said, the four counties that are currently in the more restrictive second phase of the state’s current reopening plan will join the 35 other counties that are in Phase 3. In Phase 3, restaurants, bars and gyms can operate at 50% indoor capacity. At Phase 2, that’s reduced to 25%.

Inslee said that the state will stay at 50% capacity for most indoor activities until it moves to full capacity at the end of the June. Small cruise ships with fewer than 250 passengers can sail if the crew and 95% of the passengers are vaccinated. And weddings and funerals can have full capacity if all attendees are vaccinated.

Inslee said that his decision does not mean the state of emergency sparked by the coronavirus pandemic will end on June 30, and he said that if statewide intensive care capacity reaches 90% at any point, he will roll back activities again.

All state residents over age 16 have been eligible for a coronavirus vaccination since April 15. As of this week, more than 6 million doses of vaccine have been administered, with more than 57% of those age 16 and up getting at least one dose. Nearly 44% of people age 16 and older are fully vaccinated. As of this week, youth aged 12 to 15 are now eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine.

Inslee’s linking faster easing of COVID restrictions to vaccination rates is similar to what Oregon Gov. Kate Brown recently announced. This week Brown said much of her state’s economy can reopen when 70% of eligible people 16 and older have received their first vaccine dose.

Also Thursday, Inslee said he was looking at the new guidance offered by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which eased indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to stop wearing masks inside in most places. And, he said, he is also looking at additional incentives for people to get vaccinated, including lifting the crowd limits on the number of vaccinated attendees at indoor and outdoor sports.

Inslee said the state’s Department of Commerce is also working with the Association of Washington Business to fund gift cards to local businesses for residents who are recently vaccinated, and the Liquor & Cannabis Board is working on a request from wineries and breweries to allow vaccinated customers to get a free drink.

And starting at Thursday night’s Seattle Mariners home game, vaccinated fans are eligible for prizes.

Inslee’s announcement comes just over a week after the last shift in the state’s reopening plan — which was based on the number of new cases and hospitalizations — when he said all of the state’s counties would remain in their current phase of the state’s economic reopening plan, which angered some in the four counties that were stuck in Phase 2.

But Inslee said that the plateau in COVID-19 activity the state saw a few weeks ago has now turned into a decline, allowing for a full reopening date.

There have been more than 385,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases — plus another 32,000 “probable” cases — in Washington state, and 5,614 deaths.

For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks, although long-term effects are unknown. But for some, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Justices consider hearing a case on ‘most offensive word’
Author: JESSICA GRESKO, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Robert Collier says that during the seven years he worked as an operating room aide at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, white nurses called him and other Black employees “boy.” Management ignored two large swastikas painted on a storage room wall. And for six months, he regularly rode an elevator with the N-word carved into a wall.

Collier ultimately sued the hospital, but lower courts dismissed his case. Now, however, at a private conference Thursday, the Supreme Court will consider for the first time whether to hear his case. Focusing on the elevator graffiti, Collier is asking the justices to decide whether a single use of the N-word in the workplace can create a hostile work environment, giving an employee the ability to pursue a case under Title VII of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Already, the court’s two newest members, both appointed by President Donald Trump, are on record with seemingly different views. The case is also a test of whether the justices are willing to wade into the ongoing, complex conversations about race happening nationwide. The public could learn as soon as Monday whether the court will take Collier’s case.

Jennifer A. Holmes, a lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which has urged the court to take the case, says she hopes the conversations taking place nationally will push the justices in that direction.

Doing so gives the court an “opportunity to show that they’re not insensitive to issues of race,” Holmes said. And courts are “all the time” confronting workplace discrimination claims involving use of the N-word, she said. The question for the justices, she said, is just whether someone who experiences an isolated instance of the N-word can “advance their case beyond the beginning stage.”

Two of the court’s nine justices have experience with similar cases.

In 2019, as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, Justice Amy Coney Barrett wrote an opinion for a panel of three judges who unanimously ruled against a Black man who sued over alleged discrimination and had his case dismissed at an early stage. Among other things, he claimed a former supervisor at the Illinois Department of Transportation called him the N-word.

“The n-word is an egregious racial epithet,” she wrote. But she said previous cases have made clear that an employee can’t win his case “simply by proving that the word was uttered.” He also must prove that “use of this word altered the conditions of his employment and created a hostile or abusive working environment.”

Barrett’s colleague, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, has said he sees things differently.

In 2013, as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Kavanaugh was a part of a three-judge panel including now-Attorney General Merrick Garland that sided with a Black former Fannie Mae employee who sued alleging racial discrimination. The judges ruled that the man, who said he was called the N-word by a supervisor, shouldn’t have had his case dismissed at an early stage.

Kavanaugh wrote separately about “probably the most offensive word in English.” His view, he said, is that the word’s use in the workplace by a supervisor “suffices by itself to establish a racially hostile work environment.”

The Supreme Court itself has yet to squarely address the issue. The justices have said that the “mere utterance of an ethnic or racial epithet” doesn’t allow a person to sue under the Civil Rights Act’s Title VII. But in a 1998 case, the court suggested that a single, “extremely serious” incident could.

The hospital’s lawyers, for their part, have urged the court not to take Collier’s case. Parkland, the hospital where President John F. Kennedy was taken in 1963 after he was fatally shot, says the case’s “factual record … is neither strong nor clear.” And Collier himself previously said that the racial graffiti he saw “had no appreciable effect on his job performance.”

In a statement to The Associated Press, hospital spokesman Michael Malaise noted that there is no evidence “that any Parkland employee was responsible for the alleged graffiti or that it was directed specifically at Mr. Collier.” Over 70% of hospital staff members self-identify as minorities and the hospital’s “diversity is one of our strongest assets,” he said.

Collier was fired by the hospital in 2016 after a conflict with a supervisor. He brought his lawsuit after he was fired. His attorney, Georgetown law professor Brian Wolfman, declined an interview request on his client’s behalf. During a 2018 deposition, however, Collier talked about how seeing the elevator graffiti made him feel.

“I would say it was something I noticed and complained about,” Collier said. “And that every time I would have to catch that elevator by not seeing anything done about it … it was upsetting … Because I would have wanted to see it gone away pretty much instantly.”

Colleges pushed anew for reparations for slavery, racism
Author: PHILIP MARCELO, Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — For Brown University students, the Ivy League college’s next step in its yearslong quest to atone for its legacy of slavery is clear: Pay up.

Nearly two decades after the Providence, Rhode Island, institution launched its much-lauded reckoning, undergraduate students this spring voted overwhelmingly for the university to identify the descendants of slaves that worked on campus and begin paying them reparations.

At the University of Georgia, community activists want the school to contribute to Athens’ efforts to atone for an urban renewal project that destroyed a Black community in the 1960s to make way for college dorms.

And at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., there’s growing dissatisfaction among some slave descendants about the Catholic institution’s pioneering reparations efforts.

Nearly a year after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police sparked the latest national reckoning on racism, student and community activists from New England to the Deep South are demanding institutions take more ambitious steps to atone for past sins — from colonial-era slavery to more recent campus expansion projects that have pushed out entire communities of color.

“There’s been a shift in America,” said Jason Carroll, who was student council president during the spring referendum at Brown University. “We’re at a different place. Just a few years ago, it was controversial to say ‘Black Lives Matter.’”

The 22-year-old Maryland native, who graduated this month, argues Brown has taken nearly every conceivable step to atone for its past — save for making slave descendants whole.

The school released an exhaustive historical report in 2006 and followed it up with the dedication of a slavery memorial in 2014, among other efforts. An “Anti-Black Racism” task force is expected to deliver recommendations soon for how the school can further promote racial equity. But university spokesperson Brian Clark stressed it’s not clear whether the panel, which was formed following last summer’s racial unrest, will address reparations.

“There’s real trauma and pain here,” said Carroll, who is descended from Carolina slaves. “This shouldn’t just be an academic question. There are real families that have been burdened and harmed by this — and probably still are.”

Students at Harvard are similarly calling for reparations after years of headline-grabbing announcements from the school, including dropping the law school emblem, which was derived from the crest of a slave-owning family. A panel looking at the university’s slave legacy plans to release its findings and recommendations later this year.

At the University of Chicago, students are frustrated that the university continues to distance itself from its slavery ties, even as it touts efforts to advance racial equity and justice, said Caine Jordan, a graduate student who co-authored a recent report on the school’s fraught racial history.

Last year, the university removed markers honoring U.S. Sen. Stephen Douglas, but maintained the Mississippi slave plantation owner donated land to an older version of the school and had “ no connection “ to the current one.

“All of it rings hollow if you’re founded on Black pain, and you’re not willing to acknowledge that,” Jordan said.

A university spokesperson declined to respond, but said University President Robert Zimmer will provide an update soon on the school’s racial equity efforts.

In Athens, Georgia, students and community groups complain the University of Georgia has largely stayed silent on the city’s recent efforts to atone for the displacement of some 50 Black families to make way for new dorms for the school in the 1960s.

Earlier this year, Mayor Kelly Girtz signed a resolution acknowledging the taking of the homes under eminent domain, and setting into motion a process to provide “equitable redress.” Student groups rallied Wednesday to call attention to the issue, among other racial justice demands.

“UGA has got to do more. It’s got to come to the table and acknowledge what it did,” said Hattie Whitehead Thomas, a 72-year-old Athens resident who grew up in the destroyed Linnentown neighborhood.

The university responded in part that the dorms have housed tens of thousands of students “from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds — providing those students with the transformational benefits of a higher education.”

In Virginia, a new law mandates the state’s five public colleges provide “tangible benefits” for slave descendants.

Cauline Yates, a descendant of one of Thomas Jefferson’s slaves, said she hopes the law compels the flagship University of Virginia, which Jefferson founded, to provide academic scholarships and economic development projects for descendants.

“It’s time for them to stand up and honor our ancestors,” said the 67-year-old Charlottesville resident, who works at the university and co-founded the advocacy group Descendants of Enslaved Communities at UVA.

Brian Coy, a university spokesperson, said it’s premature to say how UVA will meet the new reparations requirement. But he noted the school has already met the first provision of the law — to honor and identify the slaves — with its Memorial to Enslaved Laborers dedicated last month.

Back at Georgetown, the Jesuit university’s reparations efforts are meant to atone for the local Jesuit province selling around 272 slaves to settle the school’s debts in the 1800s.

Ruth McBain, a Georgetown spokesperson, said the university hopes to award the first grants from a new $400,000-a-year fund for community-based projects benefiting slave descendants sometime this year, and will work with the campus and descendant communities on that effort.

The recent launch of a $1 billion “ racial reconciliation “ foundation by the Jesuit order that founded the university is another “important step in building trust and partnership” with the descendant community, she added.

But one of the main concerns among descendants and students is how committed funds will be spent — and whether descendants will truly have adequate say in the process — according to Shepard Thomas, who graduated from Georgetown last year and was among the first to benefit from the school’s new legacy admission status for descendants of the 272.

“The fear is that the university will use these funds for their own purposes,” the 23-year-old New Orleans native said. “The university is trying to control the narrative, and we’re trying to prevent that.”

Davarian Baldwin, an American studies professor at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, isn’t optimistic many colleges will ultimately meet the demands of students and activists, even with the renewed activism.

“Universities will do as little as they can get away with,” he said.

Indeed, at Brown, university leaders have long touted the 2007 launch of an endowment to benefit the Providence public school system as a key part of its slavery atonement.

But the university only fully funded its $10 million pledge to the troubled, state-run school district last year after the mayor and others complained.

Carroll also argues the effort, while laudable, has nothing to do with compensating Black communities for slavery. The school district, after all, is overwhelmingly Latino.

“That’s not really a solution,” he said. “In a way, it’s even more insulting.”

Washington schools to open full time in fall, masks required
Author: Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Washington authorities said Thursday all schools in the state must provide full-time, in-person education for students for the 2021-22 school year and that students and staff will still be required to wear masks.

The Washington state Department of Health released guidelines that included mitigation efforts they said were designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

The mask directive could prove controversial, as the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday moved to ease indoor mask-wearing guidance for fully vaccinated people.

The new federal guidance still calls for wearing masks in crowded indoor settings like buses, planes, hospitals, prisons and homeless shelters, but will help clear the way for reopening workplaces, schools, and other venues — even removing the need for masks or social distancing for those who are fully vaccinated.

Currently people over the age of 12 are eligible for COVID-19 vaccines in Washington state.

About 1.1 million students attend public schools in Washington state.

“Schools are fundamental to child and adolescent development and well-being. They provide children with academic instruction, support for developing social and emotional skills, safety, reliable nutrition and more,” said Dr. Umair A. Shah, the Washington secretary of health.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed an emergency proclamation in March requiring all public K-12 schools to provide an in-person learning option for all students by April 19. In March of 2020, at the beginning of the pandmemic, Inslee ordered all schools to close.

The Washington state schools directive for fall calls for all people in K-12 schools to wear masks indoors – as well as outdoors if six feet of distancing can’t be maintained.

The other mitigation measures include requiring basic ventilation, cleaning and infection control plans, recommending physical distancing of at least 3 feet in classrooms and six feet outside of classrooms.

State authorities are recommending COVID-19 vaccinations and testing programs but are not requiring them for in-person instruction in the fall.

Seattle Times Opinion

Republican leadership: Something doesn’t add up
Author: Letters editor

Do the Republican representatives and senators elected in the same general election in which Donald Trump was said to be fraudulently defeated think they should therefore NOT have been elected? Neely E. Pardee, Seattle
Sawant’s ethics admission comes without remorse — her constituents deserve better
Author: The Seattle Times editorial board

City Councilmember Kshama Sawant continuously blames others for her errors and never shows contrition. Central Seattle residents should sign recall petitions to hold her accountable for poor ethics and incivility since the 2019 election.

Portland Business News

Oregon lawmakers vote to give 'energy burdened' households a break on utility bills
Author: Pete Danko
Legislation gives regulators leeway to help low-income households in ratemaking.
Oregon hospitals ended 2020 with positive margins, despite Covid-19
Author: Elizabeth Hayes
Hospitals returned to "nearly normal" operations in the third and fourth quarters.

Seattle Times Politics

Inslee: Washington to lift COVID-19 restrictions by June 30 and adopt federal government’s looser mask guidelines for vaccinated people
Author: Joseph O’Sullivan and Evan Bush

Washington is set to lift the state's broad COVID-19 restrictions by June 30, and possibly sooner if enough people get vaccinated before then, Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday.