Our Voice: Progress toward a regional emergency communication system deserves thumb up

March 24, 2013 

Benton County commissioners Jerome Delvin and Shon Small recently approved a draft of an agreement that would bring the Tri-Cities a step closer to a regional emergency communication system.

Under the agreement, a consultant would be hired -- using a $100,000 grant from the state -- to help design a regional plan to unite the Tri-Cities' separate emergency dispatch systems.

The concept has so much potential to improve public safety that any opposition at this exploratory stage is stupefying.

Commissioner Jim Beaver voted against the draft agreement because of concerns about how Benton County, Richland and Kennewick would be compensated for money they already have spent on their upgraded radio system.

It's a reasonable concern, but shouldn't get in the way of pursuing an agreement at this point. The pact now states the analysis would include looking at the "value of existing system infrastructure." So the issue isn't ignored.

The final agreement that brings all agencies together ought to be equitable, but it would be a shame to sacrifice the public safety benefits in pursuit of some perfect notion of fairness.

Do your homework

Thumbs down to Pasco City Councilman Tom Larsen for his clueless opposition to extending Chapel Hill Boulevard in west Pasco.

Larsen was the lone dissenting vote on an $18,000 contract for preliminary design work on the extension, which would add a segment from Road 68 to Road 84 through land owned by the state Department of Natural Resources.

"If we're going to run a street north-south, it should be east of Road 68," Larsen complained. "We would still have the problem of getting over to see a ball game."

That remark prompted this clarification from Mayor Matt Watkins: "It runs east-west."

Larsen also objected to the city spending taxpayer money to run a road through Department of Natural Resources land.

But the expenditure, which is for preliminary design and doesn't cover more than a small fraction of the total engineering cost, is aimed at advancing a plan to transfer the land to the city for eventual development.

The actual cost of the road would be paid by the developers after the city sells the land.

It's a good plan. Larsen might think so if he bothered to understand it before casting his vote.

See no evil

Thumbs down to the meat and poultry industries for pushing state legislators across the country to introduce bills that would make it harder for animal welfare groups to document cases of cruelty.

The frustrations of meat producers are justified. No doubt, some radical groups have used their undercover investigations to paint a less than accurate picture, and used a broad brush in the process -- tainting the innocent along with the guilty.

But the industry doesn't do itself any favors by pursuing a course that looks more like an effort to cover up problems than deal with them.

Some bills would make it illegal to take photographs at a farming operation. Others would make it a crime for someone such as an animal welfare advocate to lie on an application to get a job at a plant, The Associated Press reported.

It's doubtful such measures will pass constitutional muster once they face the inevitable court challenges.

Investigations by animal welfare groups have led to criminal convictions and even uncovered evidence of fraud in the federal school lunch program because animals too sick to walk were being slaughtered for children's cafeterias.

When these amateur investigators quit finding abuses, they'll stop looking.

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