Repaying a debt
Thumbs up to all involved in opening the Walla Walla Vet Center, making some important services accessible to veterans in the Mid-Columbia.
The center provides counseling to help veterans readjust to civilian life. It can include treatment for mental health issues, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as support for family members.
The center is designed to serve up to 300 veterans from Walla Walla, Columbia, Garfield, Asotin, Benton and Franklin counties in Washington, and Umatilla, Morrow, Union and Wallowa counties in Oregon.
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But it won't turn away any combat veteran who walks in looking for help.
Thumbs up to the 28 recipients of this year's Hispanic Academic Achievers Program scholarships -- and to all the other students honored at the annual awards ceremony.
Ramses Valdovinos, a senior at Chiawana High School in Pasco, was this year's top scholarship winner, earning $12,000 to attend Central Washington University.
Acknowledging accomplishments is a great way to encourage future success. HAAP has been doing exactly that for 23 years.
About 4,000 people filled the TRAC center in Pasco for this year's event. That's quite a cheering section.
The 28 scholarships to Mid-Columbia high school seniors totaled $92,500, more than double the amount available last year. That's something to cheer about.
Thumbs up to the Mid-Columbia's resilient economy, which has sheltered most of us from the recession plaguing much of the nation.
Taxable sales figures for 2011, recently released by the state Department of Revenue, confirms our good fortune.
Benton County saw an 8.4 percent increase in total taxable sales, reaching almost $3 billion last year, while Franklin County saw a 4.4 percent increase, reaching a little more than $1 billion.
In the Tri-Cities, Richland saw the largest increase at about 9.4 percent to $954.9 million.
Kennewick's numbers confirm the impression left by any visit to Columbia Center. The city continues to claim the largest portion of total taxable sales at almost $1.6 billion, which was a 5.4 percent increase from 2010.
Pasco's total taxable sales climbed by about 1.7 percent to $839.2 million. Only West Richland failed to see a sizable increase, with $71.6 million in taxable sales, just 0.3 percent more than 2010.
Phenomenal growth is getting to be a familiar story in the Tri-Cities. Just last month, the Census Bureau listed our community as the fastest-growing metro area since 2010.
One word of caution -- let's not take it for granted. Staying on this growth path, or anywhere near it, will require a lot of hard work and skilled leadership.
Thumbs down to residents of an unincorporated "doughnut hole" in west Pasco who want to form their own city.
The folks promoting the idea even have a tentative name -- Riverview City -- but no real plan for providing services to the 4,000 residents, other than to hire the work out to Franklin County and Pasco.
Pasco has the power to annex two large parts of the doughnut hole because at least 60 percent of the residents in those tracts signed agreements to join the city in trade for access to city services.
Such agreements are inherently fair -- if you want the city to provide sewer and water, be prepared to become part of the city.
The residents' concerns about whether annexation into Pasco would threaten the neighborhood's rural character are valid, and the city should do more to address them.
But we shudder at the idea of creating another government in the Tri-Cities. We need another political division like a doughnut hole in the head.