Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: July 2010


Seattle viaduct replacement: Is it politically impossible?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

If Seattle isn’t serious about replacing the quake-damaged Alaskan Way viaduct, how serious should the rest of Washington be about it?

Next year will bring the 10th anniversary of the Nisqually earthquake and the 10th anniversary of the engineering report that the viaduct had to be rebuilt or replaced – lest it collapse in the next big shake.

Despite nearly a decade of facing what some would consider a dire threat, Seattleites seem poised for yet another Big Dither.

Mayor Mike McGinn is doing his utmost to unravel a hard-won agreement between the governor and the city leadership to reroute state Route 99 through a tunnel beneath downtown Seattle.

He makes an easy target with his ecotopian vision of a bottlenecked surface corridor whose engineered congestion would force commuters onto bicycles and buses. But a lot of other greenish Seattleites also think that’s a spectacular idea, and some are threatening a city initiative to stop the tunnel and start the arguments all over again.
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Gun Talk

“Go ahead, make my day.”

That wasn’t Dirty Harry talking. That was his gun talking.  Talking real cool.

As a good, orthodox Liberal, I like the usual bleeding-heart stuff — stuff like peace rallies, the public option, Gay rights, taxing the rich and, according to Glenn Beck, I like destroying America with my liberal agenda.

But, when it comes to one issue, I admit to veering right of my liberal agenda to destroy America.

To my liberal peers, I apologize, but must admit, I don’t mind the 2nd Amendment.

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Bill Hall’s close call

Our Saturday columnist, Bill Hall – one of the nicest people I’ve never met in person but have had a long-running e-mail relationship with – came perilously close to going to that big newsroom in the sky.

In his column tomorrow, he writes about going into cardiac arrest last week as he was about to be operated on for a “tattered gall bladder.” He was airlifted 100 miles to Spokane for heart surgery. Everything turned out OK and he’s recuperating. I sent him this note upon receiving his column:

Wow! I’m so glad you’re doing well, Bill. Kudos to your surgeon. I would not want to have to break it to your TNT fans that your column would not be running anymore.

However, I’m trained to look for holes in stories. So, whatever happened to the tattered gall bladder? Cheryl

Bill’s reply: Read more »


Memo to Teamsters: Park volunteers aren’t scabs

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Teamsters Local Union 117, which represents Pierce County’s park maintenance workers, knows one set of rules by heart.

If its leaders think the county is breaking those rules, they know the drill: Parse their contract language. File grievances. Feed unfair labor practices claims into the machinery of the state Public Employment Relations Commission.

They did that this month over perceived contract violations by Pierce County Parks & Recreation.

But there’s a bigger set of rules that involve public goodwill and the devotion of volunteers. The union trampled those rules when it decided to fight the efforts of neighbors who stepped forward to clean up and maintain the Gonyea and Dawson playfields in Parkland and Midland.

Those two parks – and many others – had been all but abandoned by Pierce County as a result of its dire financial crisis. Funding has gotten scarce, and Parks & Recreation has been forced to stop watering grass, picking up trash and operating restrooms at many of its properties.

The neighbors weren’t content to stand by and watch their playfields rot. They took on some of the maintenance work on their own initiative. The Teamsters raised a stink: The work belonged to them, and Parks & Recreation was letting volunteers do it for free.
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South King voters should OK fire benefit charge

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Voters in the South King Fire & Rescue service area are being asked to go where few voters in this state have gone before: to approve something called a “benefit charge.”

This funding formula – one that isn’t based solely on the taxpayer’s property value – has been available to fire districts since the late 1980s but is in use in only a few, including Central Pierce Fire & Rescue.
The advantage of this diversified formula is that it provides more stable funding than one based solely on property values.

During the recession, with property tax collections plummeting, fire district funding took a hit. Assessed valuations in the Federal Way and Des Moines area served by the department dropped 14.6 percent, decreasing the fire district’s revenue by $3.7 million in 2010. Districts using a benefit charge for part of their funding have been better able to weather the downturn. Read more »


Pierce County voters have clout

It’s easy to have an inferiority complex here in the South Sound, where stories seem to be covered by the big media outlets only if they involve a crime of some sort.

But Pierce County gets some positive attention Wednesday in the Seattle Times. Editorial writer Joni Balter writes that voters here have a lot of clout in statewide elections and may even hold the key in close votes. They likely are the voters who are keeping Dave Reichert in office and made Dino Rossi’s first run for governor such a close race, she writes.

Read her column here.

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Race to the Top: Who needed the money, anyway?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It would be giving Washington way too much credit to say the state was an also-ran in Race to the Top.

“Pathetic wannabe” would be more accurate.

Last year, Gov. Chris Gregoire pulled Washington out of the first competition for $4.35 billion in federal education money. The money was put up as a prize for the states most serious about retooling their schools for high performance; Washington could barely budge the needle on the Obama administration’s reform meter.

In round two this year, well, at least Gregoire sent in the entry form. Washington didn’t get far; it washed out Tuesday – on the first cut.

No one who’s been paying attention can claim surprise. Washington’s education establishment – meaning its lawmakers, school districts and teachers unions – is so resistant to reform that not even the prospect of $250 million in the middle of a severe recession could persuade it to accept the necessary painful changes.

The 2010 Legislature took some baby steps toward more rigorous accountability for schools and educators, but nothing close to what the Department of Education and education pioneers have been advocating.

For example, lawmakers flirted with using student performance measures to evaluate teachers and principals, but did not require districts to connect hard data to job evaluations. Other states did, some with the cooperation of more enlightened teachers unions.
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