Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Archives: June 2009

June
30th

Ready for your closeup, your honor?

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition:

U.S. Supreme Court: Not ready for prime time?

Fourteen years ago, the Supreme Court of Washington heard arguments in a death penalty case, live on TVW. It has never looked back.

Today, all of its court proceedings are broadcast and archived online (tvw.org) for future viewing – providing a valuable resource for teachers, attorneys, historians and everyday citizens interested in how the justice system works.

The U.S. Supreme Court is a different story. Despite individual justices proclaiming in their confirmation hearings that they’d have no problem with cameras in the courtroom, it hasn’t happened yet. But an opportunity has arisen. The strongest opponent of televising – Justice David "over my dead body" Souter – is retiring, and senators questioning nominee Sonia Sotomayor during the confirmation process should get her opinion of televising on the record.

Read more »

June
30th

Credit U.S. troops for Iraq’s great day

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Let’s forget for a moment that U.S. troops didn’t leave Iraq on Tuesday, only the streets of its cities.

Let’s forget that their combat role in the countryside and on the borders is likely to continue for more than a year.

Let’s also forget that Americans will be supporting Iraqi security forces from behind the scenes until the end of 2011.

That’s a lot of forgetting to do. Still, Iraq’s newly declared "National Sovereignty Day" left everyone with a lot of celebrating to do.

In the United States, the disappearance of American soldiers from the cities of Iraq on Tuesday seemed almost a footnote to the death of Michael Jackson. That says much about America’s short memory and self-absorption.

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June
30th

Washington using gift cards to balance the books?

An interesting story in the Wall Street Journal today: Financially strapped states are going after unused gift cards. Even more interesting: The paper’s interactive graphic makes it seem like Washington state is one of the most aggressive states in that regard.


But, alas, it’s not true. Mike Gowrylow at the Department of Revenue said the graphic is in error. The Legislature changed the law way back in 2004 to allow companies to keep the money from gift cards in exchange for prohibiting expiration dates or inactivity fees that eat into the balance.


Gowrylow

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June
30th

No casinos royale for Putin

And Lakewood thought its anti-casino people were hard core:

Putin tells Russian casinos to cash in their chips

By CATRINA STEWART
Associated Press Writer

MOSCOW (AP) — Nearly two decades after the Soviet collapse set Russia’s roulette wheels spinning again, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is calling in the chips on the gambling industry — a symbol of the glitz and excess of Russia’s oil-fueled boom.

It’s all part of a Kremlin crusade to clean up a country that has long had a fascination with games of chance — and to rein in an industry seen as a breeding ground for corruption and organized crime.

The government ordered the closure of all casinos and gambling halls Wednesday — confining gambling to four special zones in far-flung regions of Russia, most thousands of miles and half-a-dozen time zones away from Moscow.

There is a downside, though. It deprives the federal budget of billions of dollars a year in taxes, while leaving more than 400,000 people without work amid the country’s economic crisis.

"They’ve killed the industry overnight," said an embittered Michael Boettcher, the British founder of Storm International, a casino group that includes the gaudy Shangri-La in central Moscow.
"It’s like closing all the five-star restaurants in London because you’re eating too much, and saying that if you do want to have them, you’ll have to relocate to North Wales," he said. "Who’s going to go? Nobody."

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June
30th

For Wednesday: Iraq on its own, cameras at the Supreme Court

A long-awaited milestone in Iraq has arrived: No more American soldiers on the front lines.


The Washington Supreme Court has been televising its proceedings for 14 years now. It’s time for the U.S. Supreme Court to allow TV cameras into the court, too.


If you have comments or questions about these topics, please email them to patrick.ocallahan@thenewstribune.com. Editorials represent the consensus view of The News Tribune’s editorial board.


Want to sit in on a daily ed board meeting? Email cheryl.tucker@thenewstribune.com to make an appointment.

June
29th

Washington drivers still yakking it up behind the wheel

A year after Washington made driving while celling illegal, anyone who spends any amount of time out on the road can tell you the law is having little effect. Plenty of drivers are still trying to juggle their phone and the wheel (and sometimes a stick shift and a breakfast sandwich to boot).


NPR reporter Austin Jenkins reports that the State Patrol is also not impressed. It wrote 1,600 tickets for talking on a cell phone and another 230 for texting while driving during the past year. But troopers say drivers are still largely ignoring the law.


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June
29th

A wish for a safe and sane Fourth

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Tacoma police say this is the year that they really will get tough with the pyromaniacs who turn neighborhoods into war zones.

Law-abiding city residents who already have spent too many nights worrying about stray rockets and too many mornings searching for their terrified cats want to believe them.

Past experience would advise against holding out too much hope. Despite the Tacoma City Council’s declaration in 2007 that the city was serious about its fireworks ban, the police department’s follow-through has been disappointing.

Ten tickets were issued that first year, and 25 in 2008 – progress to be sure, but not the kind of crackdown that fireworks-frazzled Tacomans know it will take to quiet the nightly barrage.

Now, Capt. Mike Miller, who oversees the city’s fireworks enforcement, says police hope to make this the breakthrough year. They’re aiming for "a lollapalooza type of change," he says.

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June
29th

Pierce County’s hydra-headed 911 ‘system’ needs a pruning

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

If you were starting from scratch designing a 911 system for Pierce County, you’d never get the system the county is saddled with.

To devote every possible dollar to fast action on emergency calls, any needless duplication of overhead costs would be ruthlessly cut. Not a penny would be spent perpetuating local fiefdoms that actually hurt the efficiency of the overall system.

In Pierce County, however, piecemeal decisions over the years have produced five "primary call centers" – Puyallup, Sumner, Buckley, Fife and the giant Law Enforcement Support Agency. LESA – which is already strained and facing further budget cuts – handles the police calls from about 90 percent of the county.

Even that understates the duplication. Because LESA doesn’t handle fire and emergency medical dispatching, any calls for those emergency services are transferred elsewhere. The Tacoma Fire Department, for example, is a "secondary" center that handles that city’s fire and EMS calls. According to a recent performance audit, the TFC does so at much higher cost than LESA – $31.61 per call as opposed to $11.10.

That’s $31.61 in addition to $11.10 for any calls that first go to LESA.

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