Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Feb. 2010


Tracking system targets meth ‘smurfers’

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.


Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Something you might do on vacation with the kids at a theme park.

But in drug enforcement circles, it’s bad news. Smurfing is what meth cooks do get the ingredients they need for their product. They go from store to store, buying as many boxes as they can of cold medication that contains ephedrine and other meth precursors.

Earlier legislation sponsored by state Rep. Tom Campbell, R-Roy, was instrumental in drastically reducing the number of meth labs in Washington because it put over-the-counter drugs used by cookers behind the counter and limited the amount of these drugs that could be purchased. Still, cookers can get what they need by smurfing because the law only requires that sellers keep a written log.

But more is needed; the paper log is cumbersome for retailers and pharmacists, and it doesn’t provide “real-time” alerts that someone is going around trying to buy excessive amounts of precursors. Read more »


Putting a face on IRS tragedy

Vernon Hunter and wife Valerie

Some of the online comments – on our Web site and others – have been truly insensitive in the aftermath of the attack on the Internal Revenue Service office in Austin, Texas (see article today). Some commenters seem to imply that the attacker, Joseph Stark, was a hero.

What they forget is that a real person – not an IRS bogeyman – was killed. His name was Vernon Hunter, and he was a husband, father, grandfather and Vietnam veteran.

In a statement, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman had this to say about Hunter: Read more »


State lawmakers’ elusive ticket home

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Democrats who kicked off the legislative session energized by their license to tax are finding liberation hard to manage.

It’s been nearly 12 weeks since Gov. Chris Gregoire sounded the all-clear to raise taxes. Yet with just 11 days in the regular session to go, lawmakers remain far apart on how to proceed.

Gone is the resolve of early January, when lawmakers arrived in Olympia looking determined to talk turkey rather than make like the ostriches they impersonated last year. Today, legislators aren’t hiding so much as looking lost.

Their newfound freedom appears to have left them adrift. To tax or not to tax was never the hardest choice facing the Legislature. Deciding whom to tax is far trickier.

Read more »


Census may throw county a curve

Reader Emelyn McKay of University Place had an interesting question after reading our editorial about legislation that would force Pierce County to go to all-mail voting.

The editorial grudgingly concedes that economic realities make it less feasible to keep the polls open and noted that the county is expecting an additional expense after the 2010 Census results are in: “In 2011 the county likely will have to make election materials available in Korean and Spanish due to growth in those populations.”

McKay asks:

Requirements for citizenship state that applicants must be able to read, write, speak and understand English words in ordinary use. Also, an applicant must demonstrate knowledge of the fundamentals of U.S. history and certain principles of U.S. government. If these qualifications are met, why would a native language ballot be necessary?

I asked Auditor Julie Anderson to respond. Here’s what she had to say: Read more »


Be reasonable about port fine, EPA

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

File this under “No good deed goes unpunished.”

In 2003, the Port of Tacoma bought a piece of property – the former Kaiser Aluminum & Chemical Corp. smelter site – that no one else wanted because it had hazardous waste issues. The port has spent more than $5 million cleaning up the property and hauling out tons of waste, planning to put the site to work generating jobs as a shipping terminal. It plans to spend up to another $5 million to complete the cleanup.

But because the port missed some paperwork deadlines involving a fraction of the property, it faces a hefty fine – it could be $231,600 and possibly much more – from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Read more »


Senate, House closer than appears on bail bill

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

To hear state lawmakers tell it, the House and Senate are intractably split on how much latitude to give judges to deny bail in the wake of six cop killings.

The truth is the two chambers are closer than ever before to a proposal that pays due regard to both public safety and basic civil rights.

Senators and representatives started the session miles apart on the question of how to stop violent offenders from bailing out of jail and committing fresh crimes.

Law enforcement and Gov. Chris Gregoire wanted to give judges sweeping authority to deny bail whenever they deemed the public at risk. The House started there, then scaled back its bill to include only those defendants charged with crimes that carry potential life sentences.

The Senate later took another tack, targeting only those people accused of a crime that could land them in prison for life with no possibility of parole. The gulf between the two approaches was huge – by one estimate, the House version would have applied to nearly 40 times more defendants.

On Thursday, state Sens. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood and Adam Kline, D-Seattle, offered a third option that essentially splits the difference.

Read more »


Land of the free, home of the bikini barista . . .

This column will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Once upon a time, in the story that is America, Puritan law forbade any hint of sexuality. If a Puritan woman showed any signs of impropriety, she was scornfully called “light of carriage” and harshly punished.

If hers was a small offense, she may have gotten away with just having some rotten fruit thrown at her, but if the infraction was bigger, say, a shameless display of ankle or engaging in topics unbecoming, she was most likely strapped to a “ducking stool” and basically waterboarded in the closest river. Public shaming was the intention of such an exercise, but it was not always the result. As they might have said back in the day, “stuffeth happens.”

Fast forward 300-plus years and find that a woman allegedly stood outside a drive-thru espresso hut in Puyallup Washington giving little consideration to the fact that the equivalent of a string and two Band-Aids were all that stood between her and the elements. A mother, with child in tow, happened to be driving by the coffee establishment when she saw the nearly bare barista and called authorities.
Read more »


Finally, a sane involuntary treatment policy

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Give Isaac Zamora credit for something: His killing spree in 2008 is helping persuade lawmakers that it shouldn’t be next-to-impossible to get an obviously dangerous and unbalanced man into psychiatric treatment.

Before Zamora exploded and shot six people to death in Skagit County, his family pleaded repeatedly for professional intervention. Red flags had been waving for years. He was delusional, suicidal, aggressive and threatening.

Yet he couldn’t be detained long enough for successful treatment because Washington’s Involuntary Treatment Act sets such a high bar for involuntary commitment or enforced therapy.

The current trigger for commitment requires that a mentally ill person pose an “imminent” danger to self or others, or else be “gravely disabled.” As interpreted by the courts, the “imminent” standard almost requires that someone be chasing people with a knife – not two weeks ago, but right now – before he or she can be forced into therapy.
Read more »