Opinion

Thumbs up, thumbs down

Lower aspirations

Thumbs up to the Boy Scouts of the Blue Mountain Council and the members of the Tri-Cities' six Rotary clubs for making Mid-Columbia's ridges accessible to more people.

After the Scouts completed a lot of initial digging, 30 to 50 Rotarians finished a new one-mile loop trail at the base of Badger Mountain, providing an alternative for people who can't hike the steep, nearly 1,600-foot trip to the top.

More than 160,000 reportedly hiked on Badger Mountain last year. The new trail is certain to bring thousands more to this scenic point.

Something to cheer about

Thumbs up to Gov. Chris Gregoire for focusing attention on the state's agricultural industry during a recent swing through the Mid-Columbia.

Her remarks recognized the incredible diversity among Washington's crops. "We're known for Starbucks, for Boeing, for Microsoft. But make no mistake about it: We're known for our agriculture," Gregoire said.

But Washington's thriving wine industry got most of the attention, with stops at Red Mountain, the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser and the site of a $20 million wine distribution center south of Burbank on Gregoire's itinerary.

The support of the governor and the Legislature have played key roles in all three projects, leading to investments of state money for each.

"She is clearly our best cheerleader, our best supporter, our best salesperson," said Dan Newhouse, director of the state Department of Agriculture, Sunnyside farmer and former Republican state representative.

My donation went where?

Thumbs down to former U.S. Sen. Larry Craig for claiming his infamous July 11, 2007, visit to a Minneapolis airport bathroom was part of his official Senate business.

Craig is hoping to avoid repaying $217,000 in campaign funds the Federal Election Commission claims he misused to defend himself against charges he went into the airport bathroom to solicit sex.

Because traveling between Idaho and Washington, D.C., was part of his official duties, the diversion of campaign funds to his defense are legitimate, Craig maintains.

"Not only was the trip itself constitutionally required, but Senate rules sanction reimbursement for any cost relating to a senator's use of a bathroom while on official travel," Craig's lawyer wrote in court documents.

But Craig pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct a few weeks after his arrest, which is an admission he was up to something besides official Senate business.

Follow your nose

Thumbs down to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to regulate pollution from the nation's livestock farms because they can't find them.

According to The Associated Press, the lax enforcement includes mega-farms, "many capable of generating more waste than some cities."

Some farmers share in the blame for vowing to fight any proposal to require that livestock farms report their existence to the EPA.

The federal agency dropped the proposal, citing the fact that states are already collecting most of the information needed.

The problem is, EPA regulators aren't getting enough data to actually find the farms.

Maybe they should try Google Earth.

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