Longview Police are checking out reports of arson incidents that have been taking place near the Twin City Center. Around 10:50 Friday night, Officers and fire crews were called to the 700 block of Ocean Beach Highway, where a fire was discovered after a “large bang” was heard. Police arrived on the scene and found evidence that a number of items had been stacked up, and then were set on fire. The 911 callers reported seeing three juveniles running from the area at about the same time that the fire was discovered. Later in the weekend, an employee of a nearby business reported finding that their dumpster had been burned to the ground. No suspects have been identified in any of these incidents.
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The final day of Filing Week 2016 saw a flurry of activity, with several people making last-minute decisions to run. Marilee McCall is looking to move up from the Woodland City Council, filing to run for the District 1 County Commission seat currently held by Mike Karnofski. Curtis Hart, Jim Hill and Arne Mortensen are also running for that seat. Shawn Nyman of Longview is also filing for County Commission, running for the District 2 seat held by Dennis Weber. She joins Frank Morrison and Kevin Hunter in running for that position. There was also another late entry in the PUD Commission race, as former Cowlitz PUD Operations Director Dan Quinn files for the seat that Ned Piper is vacating. He joins Mike Kayser, Lonnie Knowles and Dan Clark in vying for that position. There’s also a judicial race, as local attorney Joshua Baldwin files against incumbent Superior Court Judge Gary Bashor.
Washington Secretary of State Kim Nyman reports that more than a million ballots have been returned for the Presidential Primary, for a statewide return rate of 26.1 percent. Cowlitz County is ahead of that rate, with 19,753 ballots returned as of Friday, or a participation rate of 32.5 percent. Ballots must be postmarked or dropped off by 8 pm tomorrow to be valid for counting.
Results of the Presidential Primary Mock Election are also out, with schoolkids from kindergarten through 12th grade participating. Washington’s school children are “feeling the Bern,” with 70.6 percent of the more than 3,200 ballots cast. Hillary Clinton received 29 percent of the tally on the Democratic side. Donald Trump got the win on the GOP side, with 57 percent of the tally; Ted Cruz was second with 21.7 percent, Ben Carson got 10.8 percent, and John Kasich got 10.5 percent. Almost 6,900 students took part in the mock election last week.
The citizens committee that’s working on Kelso’s Charter is putting on a public input session this afternoon, going from 4:30 to 6:30 pm at the Kelso City Hall. This is the Charter Review Committee’s third meeting since being appointed in March. Those involved say that they have completed their review of the Charter document, which was first adopted back in 1993. It was last amended in 2006. This committee is charged with reviewing the Charter, and then to provide recommendations to the City Council in June. The Council will then decide if amendments are needed, which would then go to a vote of Kelso citizens in November. The full Kelso City Charter is available on the City of Kelso web page, or you can get more information from the Kelso City Manager at 577-3301.
Be aware that the City of Kelso plans to flush water mains over the next few weeks, starting today and going through June 23rd. This flushing session will involve only East Kelso, with work planned between 8 pm to midnight, Mondays through Thursdays. Advisory signs will be posted in work areas, and you can get the daily location update on the city’s Facebook page. Be sure to flush out your own pipes after this flushing work is done.
Heading toward the Memorial Day holiday weekend, the national “Click It or Ticket” seat belt emphasis patrols start today and run through June 5th. The theme for this year’s campaign is “Buckle Up! Your Family is Waiting for You!” The Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office and all local police agencies in the area will be participating with the State Patrol in extra patrols during this time, especially on the lookout for seat belt violations, along with aggressive and impaired drivers, also focusing on the “Target Zero” goal of having zero traffic fatalities in Washington by the year 2030.
The folks with the Lower Columbia School Gardens are also working to raise up some green, as the organization is presented with a $30,000 challenge grant from the Health Care Foundation. Leaders with the School Gardens say that this would be a great infusion for the group, which would help to pay for new gardens at Catlin, Cascade, Robert Gray and Kessler, while also helping to expand after-school garden clubs, summer programs, cooking classes and other events. This challenge grant is also conditioned on the LCSG raising all $30,000. They only get the money if they hit the challenge goal. All donations are tax-deductible. Go to the Lower Columbia School Gardens web page for more information.
There will be a “joyful noise” tonight at the Columbia Theatre for the Performing Arts, as choirs from six local churches meet up with the Portland Interfaith Gospel Choir for tonight’s “Sing-A-Round Gospel Choir Project.” It’s estimated that at least 225 voices will be involved in tonight’s event, which will start at 7 pm. This is a benefit for FISH of Cowlitz County. Call 575-TIXX for ticket information, or go to the CTPA web page.
He hasn’t actually filed yet, but Jim Hill of Kelso is now telling the Daily News that he’s back in the County Commission race for the seat that Mike Karnofski currently holds. Earlier this week, Hill said that he was dropping out, claiming that he wasn’t getting any backing after declaring that he was running as an Independent. In an e-mail to TDN, Hill says that he decided to get back in after receiving more than 70 phone calls supporting his candidacy. Hill has been an extremely outspoken critic of the county’s support for Love Overwhelming and its low-barrier homeless shelter; he also claims that more needs to be done to attract jobs. As soon as Hill formally files, it will be a four-way race, with Libertarian Curtis Hart and Republican Arne Mortensen going after the seat the incumbent Karnofski. The top two vote-getters in the August Primary Election will advance to the November General Election.
In other filing news, Mike Kayser of Castle Rock is joining in the race for the Cowlitz PUD Commission seat that Ned Piper is leaving. Kayser is no stranger to political races, having run campaigns for the Legislature in 2002 and 2003, along with a run for County Commissioner in 2014. Kayser currently serves as a Commissioner for Fire District 6 in Castle Rock, elected to that position in 2013. Dan Clark of Castle Rock and Lonnie Knowles of Castle Rock are also filing for this seat; Piper is stepping away from the PUD Commission after 24 years of service.
19th District Senator Dean Takko now has a challenger, as Sue Pederson of Aberdeen files for the position. In her filing, Pedersen says that she prefers the “Independent GOP Party.” Takko is running as a Democrat. Filing continues through 5 pm today.
Little Abigail Beutler now has a baby brother, as Third District Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler announces the birth of Ethan Beutler, saying that he was born Wednesday morning. Beutler posted the news of the birth last night on Facebook, posting a picture of the newborn and saying “It’s with great joy that Dan and I share that our new baby boy, Ethan Beutler, was born early Wednesday morning. Beutler says that she and the baby are a bit tired, but are otherwise healthy. That’s in marked contrast to the birth of Abigail, who came three months early, and was born without kidneys. Abigail Beutler is reported to be the first-known survivor of Potter’s Syndrome, and recently received a kidney from her father. The toddler came through that surgery with flying colors, and is reported to be “doing well.” Just prior to delivering her son, Beutler filed for her fourth term in Congress, and she’s being challenged for that seat by State Representative Jim Moeller of Vancouver, along with Democrat David McDevitt.
Hundreds of Search and Rescue volunteers and specialists are meeting this weekend at the Cowlitz County Expo Center, as the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office hosts the 47th annual Washington State Search and Rescue Conference. Nearly 100 separate classes will be offered during this conference, covering a wide spectrum of topics connected to Search and Rescue. Along with the seminars, demonstrations and workshops, Cowlitz County Search and Rescue is setting up “SAR Caches” around the area, which contain tickets to a special drawing that will be held on Sunday. Weather-permitting, helicopter landings are planned Saturday and Sunday in the 7th Avenue parking lot across from the Fairgrounds. There’s a Hospitality Night planned for this evening at the Kelso Red Lion, going from 7 to 10 pm; on Saturday, William Lokey will talk about the evolution of volcano emergency responses, going back to the 1970’s. Get details on registration by going to wasarcon.org. You can also get information on the Washington SAR Conference Facebook page.