Our Voice: Thumbs up to filling stomachs

Our Voice: Thumbs up to filling stomachs

To everyone who stepped up to ensure Mid-Columbia Meals on Wheels won't have to reduce services in Benton and Franklin counties this year.

The program faced a $65,000 shortfall after a drop in state and federal money and some other factors, and officials feared they would have to cut about 9,000 meals this year by closing the seven dining centers one day a month and stopping home delivery on that day as well.

A letter was sent to volunteers and donors, and local media, including the Herald, also picked up on the story, which featured Meals on Wheels in its Holiday Wish List series that ran throughout the month of December.

About $50,000 was raised, with the rest of the gap filled by budget savings the program made last year, including closing on Christmas Eve, said Marcee Woffinden, Meals on Wheels director.

Meals on Wheels still will need help from the community to keep pace with the growing demand for services, Woffinden said. The program has been serving about 5,000 to 7,000 more meals each year for about five years. In 2013, the program served about 155,500 meals through home delivery and dining centers.

Breathing easier

Thumbs up to ex-smokers. Just when it seems like we can't get anything right, health officials have begun to predict the end of cigarette smoking in America.

Acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak last month released a 980-page report on smoking that pushed for stepped up tobacco-control measures.

His news conference was an unusually animated showing of anti-smoking bravado, with Lushniak nearly yelling, repeatedly, "Enough is enough!" "I can't accept that we're just allowing these numbers to trickle down," he said, in a recent interview with The Associated Press. "We believe we have the public health tools to get us to the zero level."

The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids is touting the goal of bringing the adult smoking rate down to 10 percent by 2024, from the current 18 percent. That would mean dropping it at twice the speed it declined over the last 10 years.

The bigger goal is to reduce U.S. smoking-related deaths to fewer than 10,000, from the current level of 480,000.

Pay your way

Thumbs down to Live Nation, concert operator at the Gorge, for failing to take responsibility for the burden it puts on the nearest rural hospital district.

Gorge concertgoers seeking medical help cost the Quincy Valley Medical Center more than $500,000 in 2013, The Associated Press reported.

The hospital is seeking financial help from Live Nation, but hospital officials say the company has not been responsive.

Officials have determined that they spent about $100,000 in additional hospital staffing because of concerts, and they have had to absorb $400,000 to $500,000 in deadbeat concertgoers' unpaid bills.

Grant County Commissioner Cindy Carter said that there is no legal way for the hospital district, or the county, to force Live Nation to contribute to the hospital district. Agreements in place with Live Nation involve such things as water, sewer and sanitation but not health care.

Live Nation might not have a legal responsibility to chip in, but it has a moral obligation to pay its own way. If profits can cover the costs, add a surcharge to ticket prices.

Ticket prices for the three-day Sasquatch Festival in May range from $216 to $960. It is unconscionable for people with that kind of disposable income to stick it to the hospital district's taxpayers.