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Outlook Columnist Sharon Nesbit calls out bright spots as we bid adieu to 2021.

Government.

People like to gripe about it. Me, too. But every time I drive into Troutdale and turn right from the Historic Columbia River Highway up Buxton Hill, I think how good government can be.

NESBITThat intersection was an increasing pain in the neck. Cars lined up in all directions waiting to turn. People were expressing concern that we might – gasp – have a traffic light. I have lived on Buxton Hill for more than 60 years and remember the days when you could lose traction on ice and shoot right across the historic highway with no harm done.

Recently Multnomah County folks, who are in charge of roads out here, came up with a three-way stop to cope with the increasing traffic. Everybody pauses a moment, then moves ahead. Each time I go through the intersection quickly and efficiently, I tell myself that I must thank the people who figured it out. And now I have.

I have also been meaning to write the county's public relations guy, Mike Pullen, about how pretty the Wood Village hill, Northeast 238th Drive, is since it was remodeled. There are walking paths and rows of street trees on both sides and a barrier wall on the steep side.

Of course, the first ice sent vehicles skidding in all directions and it has been closed a couple of times, but what can you do? You can't take the hill out of a hill.

I peek occasionally into those neighborhood websites where people seek information from the equally uninformed. I have two answers: Read a local newspaper, or go to the agency or source and inquire directly. If they don't know, they won't make something up.

I know, first hand, that newspapers are not what they used to be because of the pandemic and loss of advertising. But real reporters still go out from our papers everyday gathering news and checking it at least twice.

Quinton Smith, former editor of The Outlook, now supposedly retired in Yachats, has started an online service there supplying news in that stretch of the coast. People need good information. It keeps them from doing dumb stuff, like storming the U.S. capitol.

One way to fight misinformation is to get involved. Every city, county, community is looking for volunteers to serve on committees to advise government agencies. Sign up to work in the parks. Or be in a budget committee. The thought makes my head hurt, but here are people who are good with numbers.

The firefighters from Corbett who did the tricky rope work to rescue a woman dangling from the cliff at Multnomah Falls recently are volunteers. I am too old for that, but I serve on a historic landmark commission. Oddly, the pandemic made ZOOM meetings possible and we can now participate from our kitchen tables with no more effort involved than combing our hair.

And speaking of tables, at mine over New Year's weekend, an idea came up that deserves consideration. While we cannot end homelessness overnight, we can improve unsightly camps with garbage service. We all agreed we would kick in an extra dollar a month to pay for it.

It's a new year. Let us begin again.

Sharon Nesbit is a retired news reporter. Her column appears weekly in The Outlook.


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