Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: July 2009

July
29th

Enough with all the hot air

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

There’s hot, and then there’s ridiculous

Hot enough for you? Why, yes, it is, and thanks so much for asking. The record-setting heat is starting to make even the coolest of customers a little, well, hot under the collar.


Even editorial writers, so accustomed to applying heat, are feeling the effects. To avoid overworking in this stressful environment, we’re resurrecting an editorial that first appeared here July 29, 1998.

After intensive fact-finding and deliberation, the editorial board of The News Tribune feels compelled to take a firm stand against the present spell of excessive heat.

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July
29th

Driver distractions: Nibble on this


Our editorial today looks at the dangers of using a cell phone or texting while driving. But they aren’t the only activities that can increase your chance of getting into an accident.


DWE is a big problem, too. Driving While Eating, that is.


We all do it. I pick up a mocha at least once a week at my favorite drive-thru and commit DWS (Driving While Sipping). I’ve also guilty of DWM (Driving While Munching), usually on sunflower seeds while on long road trips.


I draw the line

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July
28th

Sounder service to Lakewood: Get on with it

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

At some point, a train has to close the doors and move out of the station. Even if more people want on board.

Sound Transit has reached that point as it prepares to lay commuter-rail tracks from Freighthouse Square through Tacoma’s Dome District and over Pacific Avenue.

Many of the district’s advocates are bitterly opposed to the transit agency’s plan to build a berm to carry the tracks through the neighborhood. They favor a "post-and-beam" design. Unlike the berm, the post-and-beam structure would be open underneath, not an impenetrable earthen wall.

This controversy quickly becomes very arcane.

For example, Sound Transit planners say the path of the sloping berm could be beautified like a parkway – and the post-and-beam alternative could wind up as a gathering place for transients and derelicts.

Opponents counter that the berm would likely become a neglected, weed-ridden eyesore, and a post-and-beam design would lend itself to vibrant commercial development.

The conflicting claims – some based on hypotheticals – are hard to sort out.

But this isn’t merely a local dispute over the future of a few blocks in downtown Tacoma.

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July
28th

Cell phones: What were safety officials thinking?

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Safety officials missed a golden opportunity

The federal agency charged with protecting the public’s safety on our nation’s highways has failed in that mission for the past six years – at least when it comes to warning drivers about the danger of using their cell phones while behind the wheel.

Back in 2003, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had research pointing to the significant dangers posed when drivers use cell phones. It estimated that those drivers caused 955 deaths and 240,000 accidents in 2002.

But the NHTSA withheld those findings from the public, and agency officials refused to do a large-scale study of cell phone risks. Why? Because officials at the Department of Transportation didn’t want to antagonize members of Congress who controlled the highway budget.

Keeping legislators happy vs. saving lives. How could "traffic safety" officials get that one so wrong?

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July
28th

What, exactly, is the problem with judging teacher performance by student performance?

“Bob,” below, made this snarky comment (below) on our Tuesday editorial about missing out on federal grants to states that lead in school reforms.


Bob’s point (as I understand it) is a good one: How can you fairly use student performance to evaluate teachers when there are such wide disparities in students – some wealthy and well-prepared, some disadvantaged, etc.?


I have always understood that the data would be used to measure what the teacher is doing with his or her own students – i.e., how much did a particular class learn relative to where it started

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July
28th

Some like it hot? Really?

Well, Al Gore was right after all.

Global warming is upon us, at least here in the Pacific Northwest, at least here in my kitchen. Personally I thought GW was going to be a more gradual process, a degree every century sort of thing. I didn’t think it would come this fast. Truth be told, I haven’t been this hot since I was twenty-two years old. That was the year I drove from California to Texas in a Toyota Tercel with no air conditioning and only one window that could roll down.

So it’s not as if I have never known heat. I am a former military spouse. I have lived in the South, but in the South there is little that air conditioning doesn’t touch. Those people practically put Freon in their under garments and who can blame them? The same cannot be said of our little corner of the world.

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July
27th

Whence the "Blue Dogs"?

Since House "Blue Dog" Democrats might actually save the nation from financial ruin —by nixing or dramatically altering Obamacare and Ecocapitalism—it behooves us to review the historic origins of this august group of conservative Democrats.

Conservative Democrats?

The context of Blue Doggism is complex; please bear with me, for politics makes strange bedfellows.

Before the Civil War, it was Democrats, not Whig/Republicans, who favored states’ right and fiscal conservatism. Moreover, in the decades immediately following the Civil War, both political parties developed "liberal" and "conservative" wings. Today’s Blue Dogs are descendants of Democrat conservatives (on the Republican side, John McCain, for example, descends from progressive Republicans like Teddy Roosevelt, Early Warren, and Nelson Rockefeller).

After the Civil War, Democrats began a century-long effort to cleanse their party of the stain of its pro-slavery origins. In the South, "Redeemer" Democrats reluctantly accepted Emancipation while simultaneously ousting Republican African Americans and white GOP leaders; they "redeemed" the South by enacting Jim Crow segregation laws. Fiscally conservative, militant, and staunchly loyal, the "Solid South" became a key to national Democrat resurgence.

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July
27th

Educational pioneer? Not this state

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

In case you missed it, Washington just flunked the test for school reform.

The failure will sting. States that pass the test are eligible for a piece of $4.35 billion in federal education funding. It looks like Washington’s schools aren’t even in the running.

The money is part of an initiative called "Race to the Top." Congress and President Barack Obama have charged Education Secretary Arne Duncan (see his commentary on the opposite page) with disbursing it to states that can serve as showcases for what works in public education.

Obama and Duncan told the country Friday how they planned to identify those states. Essentially, a state would have to demonstrate that it can implement successful, student-focused reforms in the face of political obstacles, hidebound K-12 establishments and teachers unions.

Some of their core expectations:

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