Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Sep. 2010


The 25th district should send Dammeier, Morrell back to Olympia

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Incumbency has become a dirty word in some circles this year. We hope that’s not the case in the 25th Legislative District, whose two sitting House representatives are among the region’s best lawmakers.

In the 25th – the Puyallup area – state Rep. Bruce Dammeier is running for a second term in Position 1. Dammeier, a Puyallup Republican, is one of the South Sound’s strongest new legislators.

A Naval Academy graduate, he been a volunteer leader in many community organizations and institutions, including Good Samaritan Hospital and the Mel Korum YMCA. He served on the Puyallup School Board from 2001 to 2009.

Dammeier is a smart, congenial conservative with a keen interest in public education. He’s precisely the kind of presence this area needs in the House Republican caucus.

His Democratic opponent, John Thompson of Edgewood, has had an exceptional career as a union negotiator, local president and leader of the Pierce County Central Labor Council. Like the incumbent, he’s has an impressive record of community service. We just don’t think there’s a case for replacing Dammeier.
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Bail amendment a measured response to massacre

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

This year’s general election ballot would most certainly be one question shorter had Maurice Clemmons not killed four Lakewood police officers in cold blood last fall.

On Nov. 2, voters will decide Engrossed Substitute House Joint Resolution 4220 which proposes to give judges greater leeway in denying bail to defendants.

The measure – also known as the Remember Lakewood Constitutional Amendment – probably would have never made it out of the Legislature but for the fact that Clemmons murdered cops six days after bailing out of jail.

But its origin in the crimes’ angry aftermath isn’t a strike against it. Much debate and compromise went into crafting the proposed amendment, which is far more measured than proponents’ opening offer.

Law enforcement and Gov. Chris Gregoire first wanted to give judges sweeping authority to deny bail whenever they deemed the public at risk – a standard similar to the federal system’s. The Legislature pushed back with proposals to target only those dangerous defendants charged with the most serious crimes.

Legislators and the governor met in the middle with a proposed amendment that would apply only to those defendants charged with the most serious felonies.

Sponsors estimate the amendment could affect roughly 4,100 of the more than 53,000 criminal defendants prosecuted each year in Washington state – but only if a judge first finds “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant has a “propensity for violence” and poses a “substantial likelihood” of danger to the community.

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Agreed: Merit pay no quick fix for public education

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Critics of school and teacher accountability are finding a little too much validation in a recent study of merit pay.

The study, conducted by Vanderbilt University’s National Center on Performance Incentives and billed as the first scientifically rigorous test of merit pay, was the result of a three-year experiment in Nashville schools.

About 300 middle school math teachers volunteered for the trial. About half were paid a set stipend for participating. The other half had a crack at bonuses of up to $15,000 if their student’s test scores improved.

The result: On the whole, students in the control group’s classrooms didn’t learn more than the students taught by teachers eligible for the extra money.

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Maj. Witt’s legal win no remedy for ‘don’t ask’

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

A skilled Air Force flight nurse got the justice due her in a Tacoma courtroom Friday, but military order took a beating in the process.

Maj. Margaret Witt of Spokane won her fight to be reinstated four years after the military discharged her for being gay. U.S. District Court Judge Ronald Leighton ruled that her presence did not adversely affect unit morale or cohesion.

It was the first judicial application of the so-called “Witt standard,” established by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2008 as a caveat to the military’s 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Witt easily met her namesake standard: Several members of her squadron testified that her firing hadn’t preserved unit morale, cohesion and troop readiness – it had hurt them.

Her legal win was, in Judge Leighton’s words, a victory in gays’ long fight for civil rights. It also was a setback for equal treatment and military discipline.

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Roach v. Richardson v. Bunk? If only

The reconstituted Seattle Post-Intelligencer editorial board has weighed in on a race that’s flummoxed many editorial writers, not to mention voters: the 31st district contest between state Sen. Pam Roach and Sumner City Councilman Matt Richardson.

Calling the race a choice of “Vulgarity vs. Obscenity,” the P-I board says it couldn’t bring itself to endorse either of “these seriously flawed candidates.” Instead, the editorial board suggests, voters should write in the name of Raymond Bunk, a Democrat who was eliminated in the primary election.

Bunk, a Federal Way police officer, is an excellent choice; we endorsed him

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An income tax to throw good money after bad

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Initiative 1098 is the most slickly packaged measure on the November ballot.

It would enact a new income tax on wealthier Washingtonians – 5 percent on individuals earning more than $200,000 a year or couples earning more than $400,000. If the idea of soaking the rich doesn’t quite close the deal, the initiative throws in two other sweeteners: a 20 percent cut in the state property tax and a higher exemption from the state business and occupation tax.

The latter two provisions allow its supporters to tout I-1098 as a tax cut. Which it is – except for the fact that it raises four times as much in taxes as it cuts.

In fact, the “middle class tax relief” it would deliver to homeowners would be barely perceptible: Because the state’s share of property taxes is small, a reduction of 20 percent would translate into savings of about 4 percent.

Clear away the clutter, and I-1098 is an attempt to create a tiered income tax without benefit of an amendment to the Washington Constitution. The state supreme court has forbidden that in the past; the initiative’s sponsors are hoping today’s justices will have different ideas when I-1098 inevitably hits the courts.

The measure has several strikes against it: It may be illegal; it would target wealth-creation in the middle of a recession, and it would enact an income tax with no constitutional limits or corresponding constitutional caps on other state taxes.
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Something for everyone in Lake Tapps water deal

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Lake Tapps has long been a regional recreation asset; now a pending water-rights package could help cement its status as a truly regional water supply.

The state Department of Ecology announced plans last week to allow a consortium of King County cities and water districts to use the 99-year-old man-made lake as a source of drinking water.

Pierce County communities would benefit too. In addition to assurances that the lake’s boaters and homeowners won’t be left high and dry, surrounding cities would gain a well-connected partner to help them meet their own water needs.

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