Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: March 2010

March
31st

A criminal gang merits criminal conspiracy charges

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

There’s never been a spectacle quite like it in a state court.

Thirty-two accused criminal conspirators – alleged members of the Hilltop Crips – crowded into one courtroom, with 30 defense attorneys, four prosecutors and more than 20 law-enforcement officers. Outside, sheriff’s deputies patrolling the lobbies and exterior of the County-City Building.

That’s what a major conspiracy case against a street gang looks like. Other states have successfully pursued such cases, as have federal prosecutors, but this is a first for Washington’s criminal justice system.

The strategy is promising, and the target looks well-chosen.

The Hilltop Crips – whose origins go back to the 1980s – have been described as Tacoma’s oldest criminal gang. A police offensive devastated them in the 1990s, but they’ve been mounting an aggressive comeback in recent years.

It must be emphasized that the “Hilltop” in the gang’s name is an anachronism. The Hilltop, once plagued with gang violence, is now one of the safest parts of Tacoma. For the most part, these thugs live elsewhere and commit their crimes elsewhere.
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March
31st

DoD dropped the ball on military spouses’ tuition

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Military spouses trying to take college or trade school classes often face hurdles many other students don’t face – like moving around a lot and dealing with the stresses of a loved one’s deployment.

But for the last year, they’ve had one good thing going for them: the Defense Department’s Military Spouse Career Advancement Account program (MyCAA). Since March 2009, the program has provided up to $6,000 in tuition assistance to any of the 1.3 million spouses of active-duty military or reservists called to active duty.

For spouses of lower-ranking military members, that money’s been more than helpful; it’s been critical to getting the education or skills needed for careers that are as mobile as they are. But in February, the military abruptly pulled the plug on the program – because it was proving too popular. Read more »

March
31st

Nature red in tooth and claw

In a doomed attempt to upstage PETA, the Global Anti-Hunting Campaign is staging “the first of 50 funeral motorcades for the animals” on Friday; it will proceed from Seattle’s Volunteer Park in Seattle to Bellefields Nature Park in Bellevue.

Description:

Funeral Motorcade for the Animals is a solemn event, conducted in the same spirit as a funeral for a loved one. It is for all the non-human sentient beings that have died at human hands, through the ages and right now. In our grief we speak, that all killings of sentient beings must end!

I’ve always been

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March
30th

A trip at the Race to the Top finish line

This editorial will appear in the Wednesday print edition.

It’s report card time for Race to the Top: “A” for theory, an “A” for effort but a shaky “B-” on the final exam.

The Obama administration set out to shake up the educational status quo last year when it put up $4.35 billion in prize money for states on the front lines of school reform. So far, it has partially succeeded, even among some foot-draggers like Washington.

Proof lies in the education bill Gov. Chris Gregoire has just signed into law. For Washington – an important qualifier – the bill is a big move. For the first time, the state will be able to intervene in schools and districts that just can’t seem to deliver a decent education. New teachers will remain on trial for three years, not two. Read more »

March
30th

Adoptees shouldn’t have to fight for citizenship

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Tara Ammons Cohen’s biggest crime isn’t a drug trafficking conviction. It’s being adopted.

The 37-year-old wife and mother wouldn’t be in federal custody awaiting deportation if she were the biological child of Darwin and Jean Ammons. She would likely be back in Omak, having done her prison time for the drug charge.

But because Cohen’s American parents adopted her from Mexico when she was 5 months old – and then relied on faulty legal advice – Cohen could be barred from the United States forever.

Cohen is not a U.S. citizen. She’s not even a permanent legal resident. In 1972, when the Ammonses rescued her from a Mexican orphanage, citizenship didn’t attach at adoption; adoptive parents had to apply for it.

The Ammonses were told differently, and it wasn’t until just a few years ago that Cohen found out she wasn’t a citizen.

Read more »

March
29th

Drug laws should matter, even with pot

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Imagine a drug company manufacturing and selling uncontrolled doses of its pharmaceuticals right in the owner’s house.

Imagine the owner bringing in a doctor on Saturdays and paying them to pass out prescriptions for his product to lines of customers. Both owner and doctor haul in large sums of cash in this tidy little arrangement.

The quantity of drugs on hand violates state law, as do the sales themselves. Both the cash and drugs are crime magnets. Burglaries have become routine. The neighbors aren’t happy.

Were this some normal, FDA-approved prescription drug, most everyone – especially medical oversight bodies – would be screaming to high heaven.

The drug is non-FDA-approved marijuana, though, and the operation is in King County. So lots of people seem cool with the whole thing. Attach the word “medical” to “marijuana,” and it’s pure humanitarianism.

Read more »

March
29th

Stalemate creates bigger state budget hole

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The governor is disgusted, and she’s not alone.

The legislative special session that was supposed to last seven days greets its 16th dawn today with little to show for the extra time.

Sightings of House Speaker Frank Chopp crossing the Capitol building to speak to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown about a budget deal are what pass for news these days. As the House and Senate remain locked in a battle of wills over a tax package, most lawmakers have been sent home to await word of a compromise.

Legislative leaders beg for understanding, noting that this is the largest budget hole they’ve ever sought to sew up in a short 60-day session.

But the size of the shortfall hasn’t changed significantly since November. The gap was $2.6 billion late last year when Gov. Chris Gregoire released her all-cuts budget proposal; it has since inched up to $2.8 billion.

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March
29th

Congratulations, SOTAbots

Once again, Tacoma’s School of the Arts shows it’s about science, too.

SOTA’s robotics team went to international competition in 2008, and it’s going again this year. The SOTAbots team is one of six that made it through the 2010 FIRST Robotics Competition: Microsoft Seattle Regional at KeyArena Friday and Saturday. Next stop: April in Atlanta.

Other local high schools that competed with soccer-playing robots were Foss, Wilson, Bellarmine, Puyallup, Emerald Ridge, Bonney Lake, Spanaway Lake, Graham Kapowsin and teams from Mount Tahoma and Tacoma Schools Career and Technical Education Programs. A TNT article about the competition appeared Saturday.

Read more »