Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Dec. 2010

Dec.
29th

A get well card for a couple of cops

Motorcycle cops are a tough breed. They ride in the daylight and dark, the heat and the cold, and in every manner of wet and windy weather imaginable.

Most people would prefer to never meet one. Their job is to handle traffic issues, and yes that includes writing tickets. Sometimes lots of tickets. This may seem like a bitter job, and often it is, but there’s a particular motivator for the guys on motors: crashes.

Traffic officers investigate all manner of collisions from minor fender benders to multi-car pileups. They are often first on the scene to render first aid to

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Dec.
29th

Good news and bad on key issues in 2010

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Looking back at what we’ve written in this space over the past 12 months, we saw the principle of yin and yang at work. On most any big topic, we found things that went very right and things that went very wrong.

University of Washington Tacoma graduate Ashley Walker embraces her daughter Rion, 2, after UWT’s 20th commencement ceremony June 11. Walker, a single mother, was the student speaker at the ceremony. (Staff file photo)

The battle over open government, for example, brought the usual setbacks – especially on the local level, where too many officials just don’t get the state’s open meetings and open records laws. Take Tacoma’s new City Council and mayor who took office in January. Right off the bat, they gave in to the governmental impulse toward secrecy while filling two council vacancies created by the November election results.

They should have discussed the merits of the 44 applicants for those vacancies in public, but it became obvious that most of it had been done behind closed doors. The News Tribune filed suit, and Pierce County Superior Court Judge Bryan Chushcoff found a “reasonable inference” that the council had violated the law and that future executive sessions should be taped.

In the end, it was a victory for the public. A superior court decision doesn’t have the weight of precedent, but this one was another affirmation that the public’s business must be conducted in public.

A far bigger victory came out of the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled 8-1 in June that – except in rare cases – petitions for initiatives and referendums are public documents. In this case, Protect Marriage Washington sought a referendum to repeal civil unions for gay couples and argued that those who signed the petitions had a constitutional right to keep their identities secret.
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Dec.
28th

‘Death panels’ are back, and patients will profit

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

President Obama appears to have slipped “death panels” back into federal health care law via executive authority. Good for him.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, there are lies, damn lies and the death panel scare. The ever-inventive Sarah Palin came up with the term last year in a drive to whip up fears about health care reform.

Section 1233 of the health care bill, she said, would allow “Obama’s death panel” to judge whether “my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome” are “worthy of health care.”

Others took up the cry – Section 1233 made a convenient target – and they were so successful that Congress eventually dropped the measure from the reform bill.

Back to the world of facts. Only a certified paranoid could have read the actual text of the section and concluded that someone was trying to pull the plug on grandma. It simply allowed Medicare funding for discussions, every five years, between doctors and patients about their end-of-life options. That’s it.

These conversations happen all the time right now. Patients dying of cancer, for example, already consult with their doctors about what treatments are available, whether they want aggressive medical intervention, what life-sustaining measures they are willing to accept, the value of advance directives and the appointment of health care “proxies” – typically family members – who can make decisions on their behalf if they are incapacitated.
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Dec.
28th

State shouldn’t be national champ in paying damages

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

When a person is injured on a state highway, when a foster child is abused or when a released prisoner commits a horrible crime, sometimes it’s because state employees were negligent in performing their jobs. In those cases, it makes sense that the state would pay damages.

But should it pay more than any other state?

That’s the case now because Washington exposes itself to more liability than any other state in the Union. In fact, compared to states of equal population, Washington paid out four to 12 times the amount in judgments last year.

Take Massachusetts and Arizona, for instance. With comparable populations of about 6.5 million, they only paid out $13 million and $8.5 million, respectively, in 2009. Washington paid out more than $50 million – plus spent another $19 million in legal costs fighting the lawsuits. Read more »

Dec.
27th

Wishing you had a Merry Christmas

Did you have a Merry Christmas? I suppose that answer depends on your point of view.

If you’re a retail corporation then you certainly did. Economists predict a very healthy shopping season, up at least 3-4 % locally and as much as 5% nationally over last year. Not bad for a legal entity that lacks even Ebeneezer’s shred of a soul. I say good for you.

If you’re a soldier spending Christmas night deployed in a volatile area, it is possible you did not. I can only hope you were warm and surrounded by friends. May you be home soon.

If

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Dec.
27th

User fees: The price we’ll have to get used to paying

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

If you ride a ferry; hike, hunt, fish, camp or kayak on state land or waters; visit state parks; water crops; or develop land, get out your pocketbook. New user fees or increases to existing ones are on the horizon.

Sadly, that appears to be the wave of the future, or at least the near future. The alternative – discontinuing services and closing state lands to public use – must be avoided. If user fees can prevent that, then so be it.

Those fees are part of Gov. Chris Gregoire’s proposed state budget and are likely to be in the final budget package after the Legislature meets in 2011.

The fees reflect what she thinks the electorate was trying to say Nov. 2: Don’t tax me. Voters rejected a small tax on candy and soda pop and approved an initiative making it virtually impossible for the Legislature to raise taxes. They rejected an income tax on the wealthy. It’s hard to interpret that as anything but a no-taxes message. Read more »

Dec.
27th

Want to be a community columnist?

Since 2000, we’ve reserved a spot on our Monday opinion page for contributions from a selected panel of four to six local reader columnists. Now it’s time to invite readers to apply for our 2011 roster of guest writers.

We are looking for contributors who represent the geographic and ethnic diversity of South Sound residents – urban, suburban and rural, young, old and in between. These columns must be personal or community-oriented, and based on firsthand experience or observation. Leave musings on national issues to our syndicated columnists.

To apply, readers should submit two freshly written sample columns (not

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Dec.
26th

With fixing, DREAM Act could still come true

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It’s a shame the DREAM Act failed in the closing days of Congress even as other major bipartisan measures made it through under the wire.

But a few strategic revisions to the bill would give it a better chance of succeeding, even after Republicans take over the House in January.

The idea behind the DREAM Act is to offer legal residency – and citizenship, far down the road – to young illegal aliens on condition that they serve in the military or make substantial headway in college.

As a matter of humanity, a 20-year-old whose parents smuggled her across the border at, say, age 3 shouldn’t be set packing to a “native” country whose language she can’t speak and whose culture is foreign to her.

The current form of the bill rebuts most of the complaints about earlier versions.
It is not “back door amnesty” for 1.2 million illegal aliens. The number of young people likely to qualify is much lower. An in-depth analysis by the Migration Policy Institute concludes that only about 260,000 of those eligible would make it all the way to permanent legal status under the bill.

The bill creates high hurdles. The college requirement would screen out many of the poor. An English proficiency requirement would screen out those who can’t speak it.
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