Our Voice: Thumbs up for Franklin County for helping the homeless

Franklin County commissioners recently approved a handful of agreements with local agencies that provide services to the homeless.

The move includes money for Therapeutic Innovations & Recovery, which operates a drop-in day shelter on West Clearwater Avenue in Kennewick.

The shelter is looking for a new site that can accommodate more clients. The shelter is serving more than double the number of people originally anticipated.

An average of 50 people a day drop in to take showers, do laundry, use a computer or get connected to services. The center doesn't just make life more pleasant for homeless Tri-Citians, it also provides services that are essential to finding a job and a home.

Don't pave paradise

Thumbs up to Benton County commissioners for asking a national conservation group to provide some expertise on protecting open spaces.

The Trust for Public Land will prepare a feasibility report on protecting natural areas and wildlife habitat in the county, including ways to pay for preservation.

The nonprofit has a foundation that is covering the cost of the study, so Benton County gets the service free.

Preserving open spaces requires proactive leadership. You can't conserve something that's been destroyed. It's encouraging to see that the commissioners get it.

"I think it's important for us to get with our (conservation community) here locally, analyze the inventory, what we have, talk about what we want," said Commissioner Jim Beaver during a recent meeting. "If we don't do something, then it's gone. We've already seen that here locally."

Kudos also are owed to members of groups such as Tapteal Greenway and Friends of Badger Mountain for raising public awareness about the benefits of open spaces.

It's clear that at least some political leaders are listening.

Brains imperiled

Thumbs down to the Hermiston School District for leaving its middle school students woefully unprepared for the zombie apocalypse.

The district's Armand Larive Middle School had been offering an extra-curricular, after-school "zombie survival skills" course.

Anyone with a passing interest in youth culture could predict that the class would be wildly popular. A web search for "zombie apocalypse" on Friday produced 60.9 million results.

The course -- remember, this was extra-curricular -- was packed to capacity with students volunteering to read and write in their spare time -- and learn about survival skills that could come in handy even before the dead start walking the Earth.

Superintendent Fred Maiocco pulled the plug after the East Oregonian newspaper ran a story on the course's popularity.

Maiocco said he "couldn't believe that would actually be a class."

Maybe he should consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that its zombie preparedness material was an effective way to attract new audiences to a more serious message.

Dr. Ali Khan, director of CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, put it this way, "If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake or terrorist attack.

Or maybe even prepared to take state-mandated reading and writing tests.

Food for thought.