On the plus side
As a journalist, I’ve never subscribed to the concept of “good news” versus “bad news,” or “positive stories” versus “negative” stories. Most information consumers would probably be surprised that those are not terms we typically use in our coverage discussions. News is news whether it pleases you or not, stories are stories in their own right.
That said, sometimes it’s good to just stop and take stock of some things that seem to be going in the right direction. For instance:
• Spring’s aggressive onset suggests that we may see an early opening of Highway 20 over Washington Pass. Experience shows that visitors will start coming that way (and valley residents will start going that way) as soon as they can.
• The Hotel Rio Vista in downtown Winthrop is being sold to a couple who intend to live here and make it their livelihood.
• A long-vacant commercial building in downtown Twisp has been purchased, and we can hope for renovations and new tenants.
• Contentious as they were, the negotiations between the Town of Twisp and Okanogan County Fire District 6 have at last resulted in a fire protection contract.
• Winthrop is getting a new police officer, one with considerable experience who sees the valley as the right place to be at this point in his career.
• The Kiwanis is ambitiously upgrading the sports complex at the Twisp Airport, a big plus for local kids.
• All of the Methow Valley’s proposed projects remain intact in Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposed capital budget, which includes $75.5 million for the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program.
Taken singularly, events and developments can be positive in and of themselves. Lump some of them together and they can create a sense of optimism. Along with the brilliant spring weather, it’s a nice way to ease out of winter.
Getting at the cause
Last week, Okanogan County District Court Judge Heidi Smith unveiled plans for a DUI Court, a specialized treatment court with the goal of targeting repeat drunk drivers in the county. It’s an effort to take a more direct approach to keeping drunk drivers off the roads and getting them into programs that can actually make a difference in their lives – and ours.
Just days before Smith’s May 27 column in the News, a repeat DUI offender drove through a crosswalk in Seattle and killed two people. His blood alcohol content was staggering. He was supposed to be using a lockout device on his car but was not, and was driving with a suspended license.
Unfortunately, that’s not an unusual story. Repeat offenders are not necessarily deterred by prison time, treatment requirements, or strict rules. The only thing that rules them is their disease. That’s what the DUI court is intended to take on.
This is not about coddling or undue sympathy. It’s about addressing the issue directly and insisting on accountability. Treatment can not only save lives, it can also be salvation for the individuals who so desperately need it.