Maybe Madras is pushing through the economic wall that it, and nearly every place else on the planet, hit back in mid-2008.

Housing, the all-important harbinger of how an economy is doing, seems to have regained a pulse in Madras.

Consider this: According to Madras Community Development Director Nick Snead, the city saw seven housing building permits in 2008. Compare that to the dark cloud we’ve been living under for the past few years. In the four years from 2009 through 2012, there were only a total of seven. So far in 2013, though, there have been three home construction permits, with more expected.

Not a huge sea change, but positive movement nonetheless.

One tracking measure that would indicate the potential for residential construction is a very tight rental market.

According to reports, the rental market in the Madras area is near capacity. There aren’t a lot of properties needing renters. That market will likely push rents up, maybe push more renters into ownership, putting positive pressure on the housing market, and inspiring more home construction.

Another positive aspect of the local housing market — and wonderful to see — is the recent development in Yarrow, Madras’ signature residential development. A couple of beautiful homes are currently under construction. Many of the lots have been purchased and could see houses in the not-too-distant future. This is a far cry from the state of the development a few years ago, at the onset of the housing crisis/recession. It seems Yarrow, like Madras itself, has emerged from that aforementioned dark cloud.

All-star mania

It’s on to Irvine, Calif., and the Regionals, for the state champion Madras Intermediate all-star team. Congratulations to the boys and coaches.

I believe this team is only the fifth local Little League all-star baseball squad to make a regional tournament. A 2006 squad featuring University of Portland standout and Bend Elk Turner Gill won state in 2006, and in 1999 a team that empoyed an outfieder named Jacoby Ellsbury won state titles and made Regionals.

The junior girls softball team, as of Tuesday, was still alive in the state tournament as well. Two local squads in the regionals? It could happen.

This year’s state champ baseball team in the new-this-year intermediate level — played on fields with pitching mound and bases that are between youth and high school distance — contains players from Madras and Warm Springs.

A few years ago, Little League leaders from both Madras and Warm Springs went their separate ways, creating separate leagues that had separate all-star teams. In doing so, they turned their back on a long, proud, positive history of Jefferson County Little League. And it wasn’t just that the unified teams enjoyed more success — it was much more than that. The Little League baseball and softball program was one of the few things that Warm Springs, Culver and Madras kids did together as one unit. That was important in unifying our communities, which are too often much more distant than the few miles separating us would suggest.

Soon, Warm Springs will have its own K-8 school. The chasms between the children of the communities will certainly widen, if aggressive countermeasures are not taken. I would expect the school district (which will oversee the Warm Springs school) will employ a busy interactive schedule with the students, including elements like joint field trips, plenty of visitations and shared educational programs.

For a ton of reasons — certainly to ease the transitional merge into high school as freshmen — it’s vital that our Madras and Warm Springs youths interact as young kids. They need to get to know each other before high school, and sports is an excellent vehicle. And, when possible, they need to be teammates, not opponents. Little all-star teams are an obvious platform. The local boards of directors should reconsider their split, fully vet whether it’s been positive or negative, and see if they can’t re-engage. The kids wouldn’t have a problem with it — and the parents shouldn’t.

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