Sheriff: Body cams not high on priority list
The takeaway? A body-worn camera program would be costly but a worthwhile investment.
“This wasn’t exhaustive research into what it is that we would be doing here, this was more of an opportunity … to see roughly what something like this would cost for planning purposes,” Sheriff Chuck Atkins told the Clark County Council at a presentation Wednesday. “But I’ll be honest with you, I have no problem with body-worn camera programs myself, but it isn’t high on my priority of budget items. And so, this isn’t something that I’m presenting it right now expecting you to make a decision in this budget cycle to try to implement.
“This is driven by our desire to preplan, get this information on the radar screen, because you know we could have a big incident tomorrow that our community does want to try body-worn cameras immediately or our state legislators decide that the state will have body-worn cameras. Hopefully, this will help us to jump-start that process and be kind of ready if that were to happen,” he said.
Use-of-force incidents and police body-worn cameras have been hot topics of discussion in other parts of the state and country, Atkins said. Those discussions are also happening here, following four officer-involved shootings by Vancouver police earlier this year.
So when an intern became available through Portland State University’s Hatfield School of Government Fellowship Program, the sheriff’s office wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to explore a body-worn camera program.
Jean Dahlquist conducted the analysis, looking at departments in Spokane, Seattle, Grant County, Las Vegas and Parker, Colo., that use body-worn cameras, as well as three camera brands: Visual Labs, Reveal and Axon.
She found a body-worn camera program “comes close if not exceeding the cost it takes to run it,” and recommended the sheriff’s office invest in one.
Estimated one-time program costs — which includes cameras, video storage, added features and initial training costs — could range from $224,398 to $337,708. Estimated annual costs could range from $174,188 to $276,128. However, the sheriff’s office could recoup an estimated $73,500 from redaction fees, $62,000 from a reduction in complaints and $253,743.75 to $608,925 from a reduction in use-of-force incidents, Dahlquist said.
In conducting the analysis, Dahlquist found the sheriff’s office would need at least 150 body cameras for its patrol and patrol-ready deputies. She recommended the sheriff’s office hire an additional sergeant to oversee the program, an IT person and a staff member to handle public records requests.‘Big Brother’
Dahlquist said there were perceived concerns among deputies that a body-worn camera program could become like “Big Brother.” The sheriff’s office also expressed concerns about cost, added work flow, stress on the training schedule and targeted harassment. However, deputies also believe camera footage would exonerate them in false complaints.
After implementing a body-worn camera program, Las Vegas saw a 66 percent reduction in citizen complaints and 16.5 percent reduction in use-of-force incidents; Spokane saw a 78 percent reduction in citizen complaints and 39 percent reduction in use-of-force incidents.
Between 2013-2018, the sheriff’s office averaged 1.4 incidents of deadly force per year. On average, every one of three years, an incident resulted in a settlement. In that time frame, Clark County paid out $900,000 in one settlement. Dahlquist was unable to obtain information on a second settlement. The national average wrongful death settlement amount is $1.2 million, Dahlquist said. Body cameras offer a risk reduction of $400,000 per year, she added.
Though county councilors asked a number of questions about the projected costs, technology and public disclosures process, no decisions were reached Wednesday. Atkins said the desired next step is continued conversation.
Many employees feel devalued even in booming job market
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Ken White had a good job at a credit card processor for 22 years, but he was laid off in the Great Recession.
Today, at 56, White does similar work. Yet everything feels different. He’s a contractor for a technology services firm that assigns him to manage tech projects for a regional bank. He’s paid just two-thirds of his old salary. The bonuses and stock awards he once earned are gone.
Despite the U.S. economy’s job growth, White and others like him don’t feel like beneficiaries of the longest expansion on record. The kinds of jobs they once enjoyed — permanent positions, with bonuses and opportunities to move up — are now rarer.
“It’s not as easy as it was,” White says.
White’s evolution from employee to contractor is emblematic of a trend in the American workplace: The economy keeps growing. Unemployment is at a half-century low. Yet many people feel their jobs have been devalued by employers that increasingly prioritize shareholders and customers.
Economic research, government data and interviews with workers sketch a picture of lagging wages, eroding benefits and demands for employees to do more without more pay. Experts say a confluence of forces are at play: globalization, workplace automation, a decline of labor unions, fiercer price competition and outsourcing.
“We’ve made decisions and baked into the structure this extreme inequality,” said Barbara Dyer of the Good Companies, Good Jobs Initiative at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.
A collaborative analysis of the 2018 General Social Survey by The AP-NORC Center and GSS staff finds more people saying work has grown more demanding. Around one in three American workers said they face too much work to do everything well. About one in five held a job other than their main one. About three-quarters had to work extra hours beyond their usual schedule at least once a month. Those numbers are up from 2006.
A Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis analysis found corporate profits have far outpaced employee compensation since the early 2000s.
Paul Nota has worked at CVS in Massachusetts since 2002 in several roles: technician, supervisor, assistant manager. He likes CVS and still works there part time. But he’s noticed a change from earlier days, when he felt CVS “thought of the employee first” — with small appreciations like company barbecues.
Those gestures are mainly gone, he said, while the company asks for more.
Nota, 32, juggles helping people in line, answering calls and handling the drive-thru. He said they’ve been told they could soon be giving flu shots, but notes they won’t get extra pay.
“It’s all about rapid growth now,” he said. “How can you help the bottom line? And that way is not paying your employees much.”
CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said the company has made workflows more efficient with tools such as new phone technology. CVS last year raised minimum starting pay to $11 an hour and stepped up pay raises. DeAngelis said turnover among pharmacy technicians has declined.
Another trend that has disrupted life for some workers is when companies outsource jobs not central to their business.
Companies looking to “to get out of the messy job of employing people” shed janitors, security guards or tech support, said David Weil, dean of the Heller School of Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University and a former Obama administration official.
Weil’s 2014 book “The Fissured Workplace” documented how companies hire outside firms to do work formerly done in-house. These companies hire people at lower pay with fewer benefits and job protections and in some cases outsource work to still other companies. Sometimes, workers are hired as contractors, who are technically self-employed even though they report to the same workplace.
Hotel brands such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton now operate this way. Uber and Instacart are other examples. So are universities that increasingly rely on adjunct professors and distribution centers that use independent contractors.
Experts say there’s no definitive data on how many Americans have these kinds of jobs, only that they’re increasingly common.
Ruth Milkman, a City University of New York labor sociologist, said people most affected used to be blue collar workers but fissuring has crept up the income scale into tech jobs and others that require college degrees.
Deunionization has also eroded workers’ influence, she said. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics finds the proportion of wage and salary workers in unions was just 10.5 percent in 2018, down from 20.1 percent in 1983.
Beginning in the 1970s, experts said, more public companies began to make shareholders their top priority.
Workers since then have been “devalued as stakeholders,” said Adam Seth Litwin, associate professor at Cornell’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. “When workers had more power, they had a larger share of that income and of that income growth.”
Ken-Hou Lin, a University of Texas at Austin sociology professor, has found a greater focus by companies on shareholders typically leads to an employment decline, with blue-collar production and service workers hit hardest .
Retail is among the hardest hit sectors since the recession. Nearly 16 million people work for U.S. retailers. Several have filed for bankruptcy protection this year, and thousands of stores have closed.
Such pressures weigh on workers like Patty Tamez, who started at Gap in 2006 and notices a decline. Shipments and store changes can come with little warning. Shifts are sometimes cut with less than a day’s notice.
“I do schedules, and sometimes it’s like, ‘OK, how I’m going to get this done?'” said Tamez, of Fort Worth, Texas.
Gap spokeswoman Trina Somera said most stores aren’t hit by unscheduled deliveries, and that Gap discourages schedule changes in the same week, but it does happen occasionally.
Tamez was warned that her workweek would be cut from 40 hours to 32. She decided to leave and found a job at Target that she likes.
Still, she wonders if she has a future in retail.
Review set for Vancouver police use of force
Following four Vancouver police shootings — three of which were fatal — the city has ordered an independent assessment of the police department’s use-of-force protocols and training, and will explore the possibility of a body-worn and dash camera program.
The city entered into a contract with the Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit, national law enforcement membership organization, to conduct a use-of-force assessment, according to an Aug. 1 email from City Manager Eric Holmes to the city council.
The nonprofit provides management services, technical support and executive-level education for law enforcement agencies.
“(Police Executive Research Forum) helps to improve the delivery of police services through the exercise of strong national leadership, public debate of police and criminal justice issues, and research and police development,” Holmes’ email to the city council reads.
Community tensions ran high following the spate of shootings, which occurred between Feb. 5 and March 7. Two of the fatalities involved people of color and the third involved a homeless man previously diagnosed with schizophrenia. The shootings prompted an online petition calling for police body-worn cameras, an impassioned Vancouver Neighborhood Alliance meeting and public forum, and a “March for Justice” rally.
Initially, Police Chief James McElvain said he was not planning an official review of the department’s use-of-force policies. But in a reversal weeks later, he said he was considering having the Police Executive Research Forum review the department’s use-of-force policies.
Community feedback has ebbed since the shootings, McElvain said Thursday, but police routinely meet with groups such as Vancouver’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and League of United Latin American Citizens, who were interested in keeping the conversation going.
McElvain said there are a couple reasons his department wants an outside assessment of its use-of-force policies.
“While we think we’re doing a good job, we are always looking at how we do business — whether through our policies, training or procedures. If we can be providing better practices to our community, we want to ensure we are employing those,” McElvain said. “The second reason is we heard from the community they wanted to understand what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. This sounded like an opportune moment to be able to review how we do it from an outside perspective, an impartial perspective versus us saying, ‘We think we’re doing a good job.’ ”Components of the review
McElvain identified the Police Executive Research Forum “as a likely candidate organization to do this work for the city based on his knowledge and understanding of their depth of experience in matters such as this,” Holmes wrote in an email to The Columbian. The group was hired, however, following a competitive request for proposals process. Three groups submitted proposals, McElvain said.
“The Police Executive Research Forum has a very strong reputation in our country, being able to impartially review what police departments do and fair about how they approach their process,” McElvain said.
The organization will conduct its review for a flat fee of $98,750, according to the group’s proposal.
According to Holmes, the assessment will focus on:
• Reviewing the department’s organizational culture surrounding use of force.
• Reviewing the department’s policies and procedures on use of force.
• Reviewing the reporting, documentation, and supervisory roles and responsibilities in use of force incidents.
• Reviewing the department’s training, tactics and tools.
• Analyzing and summarizing the department’s use-of-force incidents and case files.
• Evaluating existing verbal de-escalation training.
McElvain said his department has already sent the organization a series of reports to review on use of force, as well as its policies and procedures. Police Executive Research Forum staff will be in town the week of Sept. 9 to conduct meetings — some one-on-one and others with groups — to include everybody in the department, as well as city councilors and the city manager, to get feedback from various perspectives.
The Chief’s Diversity Advisory Team — which includes community members representing communities including Latino, Asian-Pacific Islander, Slavic, Native American, Islamic, Sikh, African American, Vietnamese, Korean and Jewish, as well as organizations that serve people throughout Vancouver — will be used as a focus group. The Police Executive Research Forum will also meet with the department’s training unit to address what officers do and how they do it, McElvain said.
The organization will come back with recommendations for the department; the entire review process will take roughly nine months.Camera programs
In the meantime, the department has been researching best practices, program development, and cost and labor implications for deploying body-worn and dash camera programs. McElvain said best practices show body-worn and dash camera programs complement each other and enhance officers’ overall performance.
“It provides for that transparency to what your local police department is doing, it increases the trust factor in the community and our credibility to the community,” he said of police camera programs.
Assistant Chief Troy Price, with a small work group, has been looking into body-worn and dash camera programs. McElvain said Price is preparing to draft a preliminary report on the costs.
Holmes told the city council that establishing a camera program will “entail significant start-up and ongoing operating costs.”
In an email to The Columbian, he said there’s also more to consider.
“While costs are certainly a major consideration, introducing a camera program also raises issues of privacy, community relationships, data stewardship and officer concerns, all of which are all factors we will need to consider and balance,” he wrote. “There are also a range of expectations around each of these facets we will need to take into account as we consider this tool as a way to better serve the community.”
Holmes said the goal is to hold a general work program in the next several weeks “that will allow us to engage the city council in a decision in time for the 2021-22 biennial budget.”
But in response to Holmes’ email to the city council, Councilor Erik Paulsen wrote: “The feedback I’m hearing from citizens specific to body-worn cameras is that the city has been slow to respond/take action. The time line you outline in your update supports this perspective.”
Paulsen said he understands there will be significant costs to consider for a camera program but thinks “it would be helpful, and show better responsiveness to citizen concerns, if we were to come forward with a preliminary estimate of start-up and operating costs as soon as possible.”
His response added, “At least this would help citizens understand with concrete numbers why council may be slow to move forward, if at all.”
Some of the biggest brands can’t avoid political outrage
Business leaders hoping late summer would offer a break from mounting political and social pressures have had a rude awakening.
Two lethal shootings and a third attempt at Walmart stores put the retailer back into the spotlight on gun rights. Exercise companies SoulCycle and Equinox worked to fend off a boycott triggered by investor Steve Ross’ support for President Donald Trump. Les Wexner, CEO of Victoria’s Secret parent company L Brands Inc., tried again to distance the company from alleged sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, as well as models’ complaints of harassment.
Since 2017, when business leaders were pressured to step down from President Donald Trump’s advisory council, companies have found it increasingly hard to separate business from politics. Calls for action have become a quagmire for executives, and there’s no clear consensus on how to respond.
“The more people look to businesses to make a political statement, the more dangerous it is for businesses not to make a political statement,” said Kabrina Chang, who teaches business ethics at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. “The problem with that is that they are going to get killed for the political statement. For better or worse, society is looking to business more than ever.”
Two people died in a shooting at a Walmart in Mississippi on July 30. More than 40 were shot in an unrelated attack Aug. 3 at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas. An additional shooting may have been thwarted Thursday when a gunman wearing body armor was stopped by an armed private citizen outside a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri.
As one of the country’s biggest firearms retailers, Walmart is a frequent target of anti-violence activists. In 2015, the company stopped selling military-style weapons, citing sluggish demand. Last year the company said it would increase the age to purchase firearms and ammunition to 21 years old.
Earlier this week, the New York Times published an open letter calling on Walmart Chief Executive Officer Doug McMillon and other business leaders to use their companies’ market power to influence the way guns are bought, sold and tracked in the U.S.
In a letter to employees posted on the company’s website on Aug. 7, McMillon said Walmart would consider the “broader national discussion around gun violence” and “act in a way that reflects the best values and ideals of our company.” Two days later, the retailer said it would remove violent imagery from its stores.
Walmart did not respond to a request seeking additional comment.
Employers are just as likely to face pressure from their own employees. A Walmart employee was locked out of corporate email and chat services last week after he tried to organize a protest over gun sales. Twitter, Amazon.com Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube and Google have all bowed to pressure from their employees or customers to block or limit content or contracts that are considered offensive. Wayfair Inc. employees walked out to protest sales to contractors furnishing border camps for asylum seekers.
In the current climate, companies can’t play access-driven, politics as usual, said Rashad Robinson, executive director of civil rights organization Color of Change. “Companies are talking a position when they decide to sell guns in the first place, or when they decide that their CEO is going to make certain political donations,” he said. “It’s not that they’ve got to make a choice about whether to not do something. They also have to examine what the status quo was in the first place.”
It’s not always clear what if anything a company should do. Sometimes, the best option is to try to wait it out, Boston University’s Chang said. Most controversies are short-lived, and there’s no way to please everyone. Companies face the risk of angering groups like Robinson’s on the left or a boycott call from organizations like 2nd Vote on the other side. Over the weekend, 2nd Vote reiterated calls for companies to get stay out of politics and focus on selling products.
Stanford research shows that whatever they do, companies should proceed with caution, because people are more likely to stop buying over positions they disagree with than company positions they support.
Hundreds of companies have signed pledges to support LGBT rights, but few have spoken out against newly restrictive abortion laws. Nike Inc. built a campaign around its support of Colin Kaepernick and, recently, pulled shoes emblazoned with a historical version of the American flag that’s often also used by racist groups. Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A have stuck by controversial positions on gay marriage. Target Corp. augmented its policy to allow customers to use restrooms based on their gender preference by agreeing to add single-occupant bathrooms to stores without them.
Hobby Lobby and Chick-Fil-A did not respond to requests for comment on their current positions. Target did not have an immediate comment on the status of the bathroom policy.
“Businesses are in a really precarious situation,” said Chang. “If Walmart stopped selling guns, it might make us feel better. But would it really be long-term change for the better for society?”
Columbia Food Park in downtown Vancouver tasting success
The vision for downtown Vancouver’s Columbia Food Park has always been clear: transform the abandoned bus station waiting area on Seventh Street into an outdoor food destination and community hangout.
It’s taken two years of slow and difficult work, but earlier this month the park hit an important milestone on the road to turning the vision in to a reality: the official opening of longtime vendor-in-waiting Slow Fox Chili Parlor.
“We’ve come a long way in the last year,” park founder Alex Mickle said.
The arrival of Slow Fox doesn’t signal completion of the food park, but it does mean the project has cleared what Mickle describes as its biggest hurdle: building a commercial-grade kitchen from scratch.The kitchen project
Mickle, a Vancouver resident who works downtown at DiscoverOrg, developed the food park idea with co-founder Kylan Johnson. In late 2016, they began renting the former C-Tran bus ticket office at 108 E. Seventh St. and the vacant 4,500-square-foot connected courtyard.
They quickly found two eager food vendor partners: AndraLea Kieswether (nee Mack) who debuted her Mack Shack breakfast burrito cart in the summer of 2017, and Derek Saner, who was looking for a location to launch his planned chili kitchen.
Mack’s mobile cart was able to launch right away. But Saner’s slow-cooked chili recipes needed a full kitchen to operate. The fledgling Columbia Food Park had nothing of the sort.
Mickle opted to build the kitchen inside the rear wing of the former bus depot’s ticket office, so the outer walls were already in place. He had to bring in a bulldozer to demolish the internal walls, and then build a new customer-facing outer wall section and service window.
The kitchen project also included the creation of two restrooms that comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Construction began in late 2018 and wrapped up in late July.
Mickle said the build-out has occupied the majority of his attention for the past year, but there have been other smaller changes to the courtyard as well. The park has gained five new picnic tables, new signs and a wall-size white board where customers can write inspirational quotes.
“It’s huge and super exciting,” said Kieswether’s sister Michaela Mack, who has been helping run the cart while Kieswether welcomes a new baby. “I have a lot of faith that this place is going to really get rolling soon.”Slow Fox arrives
Slow Fox officially opened Aug. 2, less than two weeks after completion of the kitchen.
Saner has worked for years in the Portland food scene, including a five-year stint at the popular East Burnside Street brunch spot Screen Door. About six years ago, he began developing his own restaurant concept that would focus on chili and other slow-cooked comfort foods.
Saner said the brand’s name is partially inspired by the food scene in his home state of Kentucky, where local comfort food restaurants sometimes use the descriptor “Chili Parlor.”
“I love slow-cooked foods,” he said. “Comfort food is never going to go out of style.”
He debuted the menu as a pop-up spot called Portland Chili Parlor, and received a strong enough reception to begin searching for a more permanent location. He connected with Mickle and Johnson in 2017 and became convinced that their vision of a courtyard food park with a full kitchen would be the perfect spot to set up shop permanently.
Of course, opening in Vancouver would require a name change. Saner said Vancouver Chili Parlor just didn’t have the same ring, so he eventually came up with Slow Fox.
The name is partially meant to catch people’s attention due to its incongruity. Foxes aren’t typically thought of as slow. Saner said it also highlights the core slow-cooked chili dishes, and is intended to remind customers to take their time and enjoy themselves.
Saner said he keeps multiple varieties of chili simmering throughout the day, so even though the chili itself is slow cooked, the food service is fast.
After just a week of operations, “I’m getting a lot of repeat customers,” Saner said.Taproom coming soon
Mickle plans further expansion of Columbia Food Park, including the addition of a taproom within the next six months.
The courtyard’s enclosed design will allow it to be licensed as an outdoor alcohol venue, Mickle said.
The picnic tables seat up to 30 people right now, but there’s room to grow. Mickle said the courtyard’s maximum occupancy is 189 people.
“It’s always been the vision of the park for it to be a community space,” he said.
Mickle plans to eventually host music acts and other events. He said he’s thought about adding a play structure to one corner of the courtyard to make the venue more kid-friendly.
It’s easy to see the pitch for the food park in bright summer sunshine. Mickle said he’s also confident that the park will remain a destination during the rainy winter months. Most of the picnic tables are under a plastic roof, and he plans to add more canopy tents and possibly a row of heaters.
The courtyard has room for one more food vendor. Mickle said he’s received multiple inquiries, but he wants to wait for the right complement for Mack Shack and Slow Fox.
Right now the park is open whenever either of the two vendors are open. Mickle said once the taproom is in place, he wants the park to be open all day with its own set hours.
Fast-food sales surge, won’t satisfy for long
From McDonald’s to Wendy’s, America’s biggest restaurant chains are serving up exactly what Wall Street is hungry for this summer: Robust sales combined with little or no tariff exposure. But peer deeper, and the outlook isn’t so rosy.
That’s because the growth has been rooted in higher prices — not necessarily new customers. Traffic has been flat or falling across the industry as U.S. consumers cut back on eating out in favor of dining on the couch. Unless restaurants can reverse this trend, the recent gains could be fleeting.
“Without positive traffic, I don’t think it’s sustainable,” said Peter Saleh, a restaurant analyst for BTIG. The average check has gone up as some of the deep discounting at fast-foot chains abates, but that doesn’t mean restaurants are getting more people in the doors. “At this point I don’t think anyone is modeling growth in traffic.”
Investors have been less skeptical: the Russell 3000 Restaurants Index has risen 12 percent since May 1 through Wednesday’s close. The biggest restaurant players, such as McDonald’s, Taco Bell-owner Yum Brands, Starbucks and Chipotle Mexican Grill, have led the way, with the Golden Arches this month touching record highs.
To cite one example, Wendy’s shares jumped 8.2 percent Aug. 7, after the fast-food chain reported profit and same-store sales in the second quarter that slightly outpaced expectations. Chief Executive Officer Todd Penegor said that traffic was lower in the period and he expects it be down for the full year, so the company is experimenting with prices to find the right “mix” — which means keeping some prices low to lure diners in, but compensating with higher prices elsewhere in hopes it drives up the average check.
Wendy’s, Burger King and McDonald’s are among the companies that have raised prices on parts of the menu while keeping discounts on some areas, Saleh said.
Getting this right is a delicate balance — especially at a time when customer visits are falling and labor costs are rising. Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Michael Halen said the higher prices have also contributed to the slower traffic trends.
“You’re pricing some people out,” Halen said. “They have to be careful — especially fast food. Your customers are very price sensitive.” The average check for fast food is up 4.1 percent this year, according to data from MillerPulse, a restaurant industry analytics company.
Competition has intensified in the industry as consumers eat out less and buy more prepared foods from grocery stores, Halen said.
To try to get new customers in the door, fast-food chains are increasingly turning to imitation meat from the likes of Impossible Foods Inc. and Beyond Meat Inc.. Burger King now offers the Impossible Whopper and White Castle has an Impossible Slider, while chains such as Dunkin’ and Tim Hortons are offering Beyond Meat breakfast products.
“We’ve learned that we’re reaching a brand new guest, an incremental guest, that we hadn’t touched prior to launching it,” said Owen Klein, vice president of global culinary innovation at CKE Restaurants, which owns Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s. Carl’s Jr. currently offers Beyond Meat products on its menu and Hardee’s is preparing to test them this fall.
A dearth of diners means companies are making bigger bets on delivery and takeout, while trying to whet appetites with fare such as Unicorn Frappuccinos.
In Our View: First Amendment doesn’t require sharing hate
In the United States, even the most toxic forms of speech can be spewed without fear of government interference. While that protects a free-flowing sewer of hateful opinions, internet-hosting platforms should question whether they desire to wade into those noxious waters.
That was the issue facing Vancouver-based BitMitigate recently in the wake of a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas. The company, a subsidiary of Seattle-based Epik, briefly signed on to provide internet security for 8chan, an internet forum that frequently harbors the kind of hate speech that festers in the dark corners of the World Wide Web.
Three times in recent months, mass shooters have essentially announced their intentions on 8chan, which has become known as a hub of white nationalist ideology.
That includes the gunman who is accused of killing 22 people and wounding dozens more at a Walmart. Before the shooting, the alleged perpetrator railed against immigrants, warned of a “Hispanic invasion” and cultural “replacement,” and borrowed President Trump’s toxic exhortation to “send them back.”
The forum also hosted hateful posts by a gunman who killed 51 Muslims total at two mosques in New Zealand, and by a man who shot four people, killing one, at a synagogue in California.
Words did not kill the victims in those shootings; madmen with guns did. But companies that host content allowing hatred to take root and blossom should face scrutiny. The House Homeland Security Committee has subpoenaed the owner of 8chan to testify.
Questioning those who willfully allow hate speech and requiring accountability is far different from shutting down such speech. It also fits into complex and often misunderstood issues surrounding the First Amendment.
That amendment states, in part, “Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech.” Government cannot quash your speech; but companies that provide platforms for public discussion have a right — indeed, a duty — to keep that speech within the bounds of decency. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing; but like any wonderful thing it can be abused and distorted.
The Columbian publishes letters to the editor each day, but there are some letters too distasteful for a public airing. We also allow comments on our website, but there are guidelines designed to promote meaningful discussion without allowing a cesspool of hateful rhetoric to form.
Failing to publish such opinions does not violate free speech. If your thoughts are repugnant, you remain free to shout them from the rooftop; but we will not be complicit by sharing them.
That is not the case in many shadowy corners of the internet, including 8chan. And that should lead tech firms to take measure of the company they keep.
After initially announcing that BitMitigate would work with 8chan, Epik’s leaders had a bout of conscience and a change of heart. “This is due largely to the concern of inadequate enforcement and the elevated possibility of violent radicalization on the platform,” Epik wrote on its website.
Undoubtedly, there will be online providers willing to work with 8chan and other sites that comprise the sewer of the internet. And, undoubtedly, there will be no shortage of forums on the web that appeal to and feast upon society’s darkest impulses.
That calls for the rest of us to be diligent in rejecting hate speech, opposing white nationalism, and holding companies accountable when they allow toxic rhetoric to ferment. The stench cannot be eliminated, but all Americans should work to keep it underground.
Transportation forum addresses projects big to small
Different transportation initiatives are underway or planned in Vancouver, from replacing the Interstate 5 Bridge to launching ferry service from Vancouver to downtown Portland.
More than 50 people attended Vancouver’s Downtown Association’s transportation panel discussion last week at the Hilton Vancouver Washington to hear about these and other projects.
The discussion ranged from replacing a critical component on the I-5 Bridge, used by more than 130,000 vehicles a day, to operating an all-electric van that would provide two-hour tours of Vancouver’s top historical sites.Interstate 5 Bridge
Ron Arp, president of Identity Clark County, heralded recent developments after the Columbia River Crossing crashed and burned in 2013.
Those include the 2019 Legislature allocating $17.5 million for a project office and $17.5 million for planning and pre-design of a new bridge. Last week, Oregon appointed eight state legislators to a bridge committee and agreed to provide $9 million for the project office.
“We are going to replace this I-5 Bridge,” Arp said. “It’s going to take a lot time. It’s going to take a lot of work.”
“Edison didn’t invent the light bulb the first time,” he said. “And Microsoft didn’t invent Windows the first time.”
More information: www.fix5now.com.Bridge trunnion
No one knows when the I-5 Bridge will be replaced, if ever. Not so for a major repair project coming up in 13 months.
In September 2020, the I-5 Bridge’s northbound span will be shut down to replace two trunnions, part of the lifting mechanism that allows taller vessels to pass under the bridge’s twin spans.
The mechanism includes sheaves, or wheels about 12 feet in diameter, cables and trunnions, which are axles that help turn the sheaves and lift and lower the span for marine traffic below.
In 1999, a crack was found in one of the trunnions on the northbound span’s south tower, just two years after the span was shut down to replace the other two trunnions in September 1997.
Ellen Sweeney, community affairs coordinator for the Oregon Department of Transportation in the Portland area, said the replacement will require closing the northbound span for up to two weeks in September 2020.
All vehicle traffic will be switched over to the three-lane southbound span. As was the case during the 1997 closure, a reversible lane will be used to create two travel lanes to accommodate rush hour traffic into Portland in the morning and two lanes for afternoon traffic to Clark County.
Jessica Bull, a program manager with JLA Public Involvement, said if drivers do not change their travel habits during trunnion replacement, backups could stretch for 4 miles on either side of the Columbia River and congestion could more than double, from 7 hours to 16 hours a day.
More information: www.interstatebridge.org.C-Tran
CEO Shawn Donaghy reviewed a number of initiatives his agency has underway, including expanding The Vine bus rapid transit system onto Mill Plain Boulevard, which would provide high-capacity transit between downtown Vancouver and a planned transit center west of 192nd Avenue.
In September, C-Tran will provide its first direct service from the Fisher’s Landing Transit Center to Portland International Airport, Donaghy said.
C-Tran also is looking to expand its “bus on shoulder” program, which currently operates on a section of state Highway 14. The new service would be on Interstate 5 southbound, from 99th Street to the I-5 Bridge, Donaghy said, adding that the agency wants to have the project running before trunnion replacement in September 2020.
Donaghy said his agency’s Youth Opportunity Pass has seen “a ridership explosion” since it was expanded to provide free bus passes to all students. When the program was available only to low-income students, it provided between 20,000 and 30,000 rides a year, he said. Now that it is open to all students, it provides more than 250,000 rides a year, he said.
More information: www.c-tran.com.Ferry service
Susan Bladholm, president of Friends of Frog Ferry, said her group proposes to create an all-passenger ferry with no vehicles that would serve commuters, local residents, visitors and tourists, and emergency responders.
“This is not a vanity project,” she said. ” ‘Isn’t this cute and fun?’ I have zero interest in that.”
Bladholm said she is a big supporter of transit and “the bridge,” an apparent reference to replacing the I-5 Bridge.
“We need the bridge,” she said. “However, this is something we can do in the next three years.”
The Federal Transit Administration provides grants to support ferry service in urban areas, Bladholm said, adding that Oregon is one of only 10 states that have not tapped the federal program for ferry dollars.
Frog Ferry service could begin in 2022 or 2023, starting on the Willamette River before expanding to Vancouver, she said. Ferries could whisk commuters from Vancouver to downtown Portland in as little as 38 minutes, she said.
“I feel very confident standing before you today saying this will happen,” Bladholm said.
More information: frogferry.com.Rethink your drive
Shara Wokal, chief financial officer at LSW Architects, said Rethink Your Ride, or ryd, has been doing 18 months of beta-testing to meet niche transportation needs in downtown Vancouver.
The program allows people to avoid parking hassles and receive free service at ryd stops in downtown Vancouver during non-peak hours, Wokal said. Those who use the subscription plan can receive unlimited service in the ryd zone in downtown for a monthly fee, she said.
The program uses distinctive vehicles that look like elongated golf carts and are 100 percent electric powered, she said.
The program partners with several local companies and organizations, including LSW Architects, Clark Public Utilities, C-Tran, Columbia River Economic Development Council and the city of Vancouver.
More information: ryd.green.The TourVAN
Imagine being able to take a 2-hour tour of the top historical attractions in Vancouver.
Two proponents of such a project describe it as a transportation anomaly: an all-electric vehicle carrying the smallest number of people traveling at the slowest speed possible with multiple stops.
Well, not exactly the smallest number of people. Richard Burrows, director of community outreach and engagement for The Historic Trust, said the TourVAN would seat 14 people.
Brad Richardson, executive director of the Clark County Historical Museum, said the museum had done walking tours, but this would take that effort to the next level.
“For the first time, all of our historical narratives can be told,” he said.
Vancouver as mural town facing formidable challenges
A big smile spreads across Salvador Larios’ face when he looks at the Martin Luther King Jr. mural on the west-facing wall of his Mexican bakery and grocery.
“We are 100 percent minority in the community. We are the little ones. We are always trying to survive,” said Larios, who came here from Mexico at age 9.
On the east wall of Larios’ shop, Dulce Tentacion (“Sweet Temptation”), is a festive gallery of people with skull faces, or calaveras.
“That is a traditional Hispanic picture,” he said. “I feel part of Hispanic culture, right here in Vancouver.”
Celebrating that culture by adding colorful murals to the gritty Fourth Plain streetscape has been a joint project of the nonprofit groups Clark County Mural Society and Fourth Plain Forward, assisted by the city of Vancouver. This is the third year of the Summer of Murals project along Fourth Plain Boulevard, with proposals vetted and artists hired to add several new diversity-oriented artworks to what’s often called the city’s international district.
But the campaign to make Vancouver a real “mural town” has never gone as smoothly and quickly as Jerry Rolling envisioned when he founded the Mural Society in 2004. Rolling, who worked as a Realtor then, wanted to bolster a downtown still struggling to reinvent itself. Today he still sees the approximately two dozen large and small artworks that have appeared on downtown walls as only a peek at what’s still possible — if only property owners, both public and private, would rally around the idea.
Instead, Rolling is steeling himself for the disappearance of several prominent public artworks from downtown — chiefly the towering, glowering Chkalov landing mural on Evergreen Boulevard between Main and Broadway. Cascadia Development Partners’ David Copenhaver, who is renovating that property this summer, did not respond to multiple calls from The Columbian, but Rolling said he’s been told the Chkalov mural is definitely a goner.
“We don’t have the money or the location to move it,” Rolling said. “We’ve got a lot of ideas, but we’re short resources and volunteers. We’re quite disappointed about this.”‘Nothing is permanent’
The red wingspan of Valery Chkalov’s airplane is so wide, it spills past the boundaries of the vast mural on Evergreen Boulevard and onto some upper-story windows. That’s a nice artistic touch by muralist Guy Drennan, who created this artwork in 2008. The mural commemorates Chkalov’s record-breaking transpolar flight and unexpected landing at Vancouver’s Pearson Field in 1937. Chkalov himself has become something of an adopted hometown hero, and his landing a celebrated moment in Vancouver history.
But a wall is a temporary thing. Drennan said he wasn’t brokenhearted, nor even particularly surprised, to learn that the Chkalov mural is almost certain to come down. “I’m the last to hear anything. I’m just the artist,” he said sardonically. (When this story went to print, workers were still working around the yet-intact mural.)
Drennan, 63, described his journey as a working artist as tough all along. Vancouver’s most recognizable muralist — whose clear, crisp, representational style can be seen on historical murals across town, from the Orchards Feed Mill mural at Covington Square to a paperboy on the east side of this newspaper’s headquarters — spent years paying the bills by working as a mortgage broker and restaurant waiter while pursuing art opportunities after work, he said.
Being a full-time artist really means “I’ve had a glorious career in the food industry,” Drennan joked.
Mural lovers must take change in stride, said Audrey Clark, the mural society’s president.
“Nothing is permanent,” she said. “That’s part of putting art up in public. It may be there for a season, and that season may be not as long as we’d wish.”
Maybe sometimes that’s even a good thing, she said, because the churning signifies a vibrant, growing downtown.
Mural Society founder Rolling feels differently. Vancouver has a self-declared but toothless downtown arts district, he pointed out. A state-certified “creative district” might offer real protections, or even dollars to relocate at-risk artworks.
The Mural Society intends to mount future downtown murals on removable panels, he said — as Drennan did recently with a historical look at early encounter between Japanese and Pacific Northwesterners, now facing a parking lot behind the Kiggins Theatre.
Meanwhile, Rolling recently put Drennan to work on a private project in time for a party commemorating the Apollo 11 moon landing. The muralist was down on hands and knees last month in Rolling’s driveway, transforming cracked asphalt into a gleaming star field complete with nebulae and that famously grimacing, bullet-wounded moon face from the 1902 silent film “A Trip to the Moon.”
“This (mural) I expect to be permanent,” said Rolling, who treated the final product with high-quality sealant. But in reality, “permanent” probably means “a few years,” he said.Downtown gallery
Rolling’s decadeslong mission to make Vancouver a real “mural town” grew out of elements as disparate as his childhood in England and his amazement at the way murals saved the declining logging town of Chaimainus, B.C., he said.
Rolling, 76, grew up feeling the reverberations of two world wars fought right in his global neighborhood, not a whole ocean away. Britons felt those crises far more deeply than Americans did, he believes. “My mother thought we were all going to die,” he said.
In World War I, he noted, as many as 100,000 British soldiers died at the Battle of the Somme. “There were no American casualties in that,” he said.
But Vancouver, the site of a pioneer fort, wartime shipyards and an Army base helmed by the likes of president-to-be Ulysses S. Grant and Gen. George C. Marshall, has a uniquely rich military history that deserves vibrant artistic celebration, he said.
“We have so much wonderful history here, and it’s grossly underutilized,” he said.
Rolling and fellow Realtor Nikki White launched the Clark County Mural Society in 2004, and immediately focused on what was then a dingy, blocked-off railroad berm at the bottom of downtown “that was pretty sad,” Rolling said.
He brainstormed a Remembrance Wall full of murals commemorating foreign wars and local veterans through history. Farthest left is Uncle Sam and a collection of classic “I Want You” posters. Parading right are scenes and personalities from America’s numerous overseas campaigns (as well as some “Wendy the Welder” shipyard workers here at home).
The big, impressive series of images remains unfinished. Mold is starting to spread down the wall.
“It needs baking soda and water and about 30 man hours to get rid of it,” Rolling said. Clark and Gus Melonas, spokesman for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, both said a veteran-driven volunteer effort to clean the wall will get underway soon.
Rolling is always on the lookout for a great wall, and he’s drawn to the big, new, paneled ones on berms under the rest of those railroad tracks, setting off downtown from the new waterfront development. They would be ideal for sweeping new murals, he noted. But officials have assured him that permissions, plans and prices would be prohibitive, he said.
“We’ve got a lot of projects and ideas on the back burner,” Rolling said. “We’d love to see more of the railroad walls become an art gallery for downtown Vancouver. But all these things take resources and maintenance.”
Not to mention permission. Melonas said that Vancouver’s Remembrance Wall is an exception to a general rule: BNSF “doesn’t get involved with” and doesn’t encourage artworks on railroad berms.
“We’re running a railroad here,” he said. “We actively discourage people from being anywhere on our properties.”Fourth Plain diversity
Even as downtown stands to lose murals, the body of artwork along Fourth Plain is expanding. Eleven “official” Fourth Plain murals now line the boulevard. Call it a dozen if you count the unplanned, extra artwork painted on a shipping container in a parking lot.
Florida muralist Camille Cote (who signs her artworks “FABS”), back in Vancouver for her third consecutive summer, said she had time and supplies left over after finally completing her huge, ongoing, multi-year celebration of children on the west wall of Evergreen Floors and Doors. So she and assistant Raphe Hec whipped up a big, surreal, female face surrounded by what Hec called “wild style” lettering. The final result resembles the kind of sophisticated graffiti art that’s more common in places like Rio de Janeiro than here.
“My view of art has evolved from ‘just a fun thing’ to something that helps the community,” said Clark, who hosted the visiting Cote in her home this summer. “Everybody brings their diversity and that’s really cool.”
On a recent afternoon, Fourth Plain business owners Jackie Steiner of Anderson Glass and Steffan Krueger of Evergreen Floors and Doors watched as Cote and Hec worked. Hec described his fluid spray-can painting technique as akin to dancing.
“It is very dynamic,” he said, pausing to take in the whole picture. “I want to feel the energy in the colors.”
The neighborhood certainly feels that energy, said Steiner, who has championed the Summer of Murals project all along.
“It brings more positive awareness; it helps this area,” she said. “When I drive to work and see this, it makes my day better in no time.”
Salvation Army to remove donation trucks from area Fred Meyers
The Salvation Army is removing its donation trucks from Portland-Vancouver area Fred Meyers at the end of the month.
Alexa Morris, director of communications and marketing for The Salvation Army Cascade Divisional Headquarters, said the nonprofit has an opportunity to restructure the thrift store model to lower costs.
In Clark County, this change will shutter the donation trucks at 7411 N.E. 117th Ave. and 16600 S.E. McGillivray Blvd. in Vancouver, and 401 N.W. 12th Ave. in Battle Ground.
Service at the donation trucks will end Aug. 30, impacting 21 employees. Morris said employees who do not find other jobs in other Salvation Army programs will receive severance pay commensurate with their years of service and help finding other jobs.
Fred Meyer has for the past 10 years been a partner of The Salvation Army, a faith-based nonprofit offering a variety of programs and services to people in need.
“We’re thankful for the years they provided space for our donation trucks in their local parking lots,” Morris said in an email.
After the donation truck closure, people can still drop off donations at The Salvation Army Family Stores:
• 11808 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd., Vancouver.
• 2990 S.E. Hogan Road, Gresham, Ore.
• 10174 S.E. 82nd St., Happy Valley, Ore.
• 642 Lancaster Drive N.E., Salem, Ore.
The Vancouver store opened in March 2015 after its former location on Northeast Highway 99 closed to make room for a Fred Meyer fueling station.
News of the donation trucks’ closure comes a couple of weeks after the nonprofit said it would close its Northeast Portland drug and alcohol rehabilitation center for men in September, affecting 72 employees.
Thrift store proceeds have supported The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Portland. With the program change, proceeds will be used to support social service programs operated by The Salvation Army.