Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Feb. 2010


Tacoma stands to benefit from school shakeup

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

A “dash for cash?” Perhaps. But the Tacoma School District’s plan to overhaul its poorly performing middle schools may be just the kind of radical change students need.

What is certain is that the status quo isn’t working. The children who attend Hunt, Giaudrone, Stewart and Jason Lee consistently score as groups in the bottom 5 percent statewide.

Poor performance in middle school is a good predictor of failure in high school and beyond. Doing more of the same won’t get those kids where they need to be.

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Economics make it hard to keep polls open

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

For the third year in a row, lawmakers from other parts of the state are trying to force Pierce County to conduct all-mail elections – like the other 38 counties already do.

Sadly, passing House Bill 1572 is probably the right thing to do. This newspaper has supported keeping an in-person option for voters, but that doesn’t look feasible anymore.

Given the cost involved with keeping polling places open – about $75,000 per election – it doesn’t make sense to spend that when the county is cutting money to law enforcement, laying off some employees and forcing others to take furloughs.

Most voters have already made the switch. Only about 10 percent of county voters cast their votes at polling places in last November’s general election, and only 3 percent in this month’s schools elections. It costs the auditor’s office about $1,500 per polling place (there were 58 in the November general election, 27 in this months’ school election).
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Cleaner heat, free (or nearly free) for the asking

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

To the wood-heat holdouts go the spoils.

Tacoma-area homeowners who haven’t yet replaced their outdated wood stoves have the best opportunity yet to switch to a more efficient heating source. But time is running out.

As of Friday, the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency still had nearly two-thirds of the $650,000 it received from the state last year to get rid of old wood stoves – and the agency has only days to spend it.

The current incentives are the most generous offered since state and federal agencies began making the push to clean up Tacoma’s air a few years ago. Low-income households could get a new wood stove for little or nothing out of pocket.

Wood stoves are a big part of the reason why the Tacoma area has Washington’s sootiest air and ranks among the 31 most polluted places in the country. About 63 percent of airborne particulates in this area come from fireplaces and wood stoves during the winter, when pollution levels are at their highest.

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State colleges can’t afford bargain tuition

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Make no mistake: No matter what the Legislature does this year regarding funding for Washington’s public universities, students will pay a price.

State coffers simply don’t have the money to hold higher education harmless. Lawmakers must decide between sacrificing bargain tuition or educational quality.

The right choice is clear. True college opportunity depends on strong colleges. Giving top schools more leeway to price themselves will help ensure that students continue to get the classes they need and the rigor they deserve.

Without that flexibility, universities are at the mercy of the state budget – and the outlook is alarming. Students once paid a third of the cost of their education; now they pay more than half. The current $2.8 billion shortfall is likely to further the trend of declining state support.

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Frequent letter writer passes away

I was sorry to see in Sunday’s obituaries that one of our frequent letter writers, Frank Shappee, passed away recently.

I could always count on his letters to be well-written, thoughtful and topical – three qualities that are why some writers seem to get published more often than others. Apparently Mr. Shappee enjoyed writing his letters as much as we did running them. From his obit:

Dad was also proud to be featured in this very publication over the years with insightful letters to the editor.

His most recent letter appeared last July, regarding

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A split decision on two petition bills

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Two bills still alive in the Legislature take on the state’s initiative/referendum petition-gathering process. Lawmakers should pass one and do some major surgery on the other.

The one that makes sense is Senate Bill 6754, which would clarify that the names and addresses of people signing initiative or referendum petitions are public records and may be released as part of a public records request.

That information has long been available. But it’s an issue now because of the legal challenge surrounding Referendum 71 petitions in 2009 aimed at overturning the state’s “everything but marriage” domestic partner law. R-71 sponsors claimed release of petition signers’ names would open them up to harassment. Read more »


Deficit panel can’t fix budget alone

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

President Obama says his federal deficit commission is designed to “rise above partisanship.” We’d be more hopeful if the panel also came with a guarantee of political courage.

Partisanship isn’t what killed a more promising proposal to address the government’s budget problems last month. It was timidity.
The Senate’s roll call on establishing a deficit commission with the power to send recommendations to Congress for an up-or-down vote was, in fact, decidedly bipartisan: 22 Democrats, 23 Republicans and one independent voted nay.

Lawmakers on both sides know the national debt isn’t going away with the recession, and they don’t want to have to fess up to the hard choices that face the country.

The return of economic growth will certainly ease the near-term deficits, but entitlement spending – Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – is simply unsustainable.

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A tax package to stir debate

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Someone had to go first, and Gov. Chris Gregoire apparently drew the short straw.

The governor took the lead for lawmakers Wednesday, offering a tax package to help fill the $2.8 billion hole in the state budget. Her plan: raise $605 million in targeted tax increases and recapture $154 million more by effectively invalidating a recent court ruling that favored out-of-state businesses.

Gregoire had previously retreated from offering a second version of the all-cuts budget she proposed in December. But it had become apparent that Democrats in the Legislature, deeply divided over the size of a tax package and rightly fearing a backlash, weren’t going to make the first move.

“At the end of the day somebody’s got to step off the curb,” Gregoire told reporters.

And so she did, right into the path of a moving bus. Several of them, actually. Republicans and businesses say her plan is irresponsible for raising taxes. Liberal Democrats say it’s irresponsible for not raising more taxes.

At least Gregoire got the debate started.

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