Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Jan. 2011


Health mandates need a hard look from lawmakers

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It shouldn’t need pointing out, but this is hardly the time for lawmakers to be squeezing another benefit into health plans that hundreds of thousands of Washingtonians already can’t afford.

State Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, has the best of intentions. He proposes to require all state-regulated health policies to cover smoking-cessation treatment, including at least two cessation courses a year and coverage for over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

The idea is to curb the enormous health care costs that tobacco inflicts on society and help the smokers themselves escape an addiction that often leads to horrifying diseases and death.

The problem is doing it in the midst of the worst economic distress in generations.

As mandates go, this is one of the better proposals out there. But it’s part of a much larger context: Washington already mandates more treatments for more classes of people by more kinds of professionals than the vast majority of states.

Mandates always mean that people who would never use particular benefits – the services of naturopaths, midwives or massage therapists, for example – are required to help pay for others’ use of those benefits.
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Civility and symbolism at the State of the Union speech

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

When President Obama gives his State of the Union address tonight, something will be a little different: Dozens of Republicans and Democrats will be sitting with each other, not with their own party.

It’s a symbolic but nonetheless welcome gesture, one meant to help defuse the highly partisan atmosphere that has often tainted this annual speech and others when the president addresses a joint session of Congress (remember last year when Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., yelled “You lie!” when Obama spoke to Congress about his health care plan).

The president’s speech is usually met with cheers, applause and even standing ovations from members of his own party and stony silence from members of the other. With legislators sitting by party, the division isn’t just apparent, it’s glaring. Only occasionally – say, when the president praises the military or makes some other “Mom and apple pie” comment – does everyone applaud, regardless of party affiliation. Read more »


Good news for South Sound families with young children

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Kids may not appreciate the generous gift they got from the KeyBank Foundation, but their parents sure will – especially those trying to stretch their household budget.

When the Children’s Museum of Tacoma opens in its new, larger digs on Pacific Avenue next January, it won’t cost parents a cent for kids to enjoy all the amenities, many of which are sneakily designed to be educational in a playful way.

Thanks to a $250,000 KeyBank gift, the $6 admission fee will be waived for the first five years. The facility will be the only private nonprofit children’s museum in the nation to eliminate its admission charge. Read more »


A Cheech and Chong ‘medical’ marijuana bill

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It must have taken some doing, but advocates of “medical” marijuana have come up with a bill that would actually invite more abuse of the drug than straightforward legalization.

The “medical” belongs in quotation marks here, because the measure in Olympia would junk a key rule designed to prevent common drug seekers from getting marijuana on medical pretenses. And once recreational users or addicts got their pseudo-medical authorizations to use the drug, they’d enjoy more privileges than simple legalization would give them.

They’d be protected, for example, if ex-spouses objected to leaving children in their care; judges would not be permitted to consider marijuana use as a factor in custody arrangements except in extreme cases involving “long-term impairment” – whatever that means.

The bill would bring down the hammer of discrimination law on companies with anti-drug policies. Employers who refused to hire or employ marijuana users – the drug stays in the body long after use – could be investigated and sanctioned by the state Human Rights Commission.

That’s just scratching the surface of this amazing piece of legislation. It would also legalize large-scale commercial marijuana grow operations and wholesaling – no specified limits on quantity. Cities and counties would not be permitted to ban grow operations in their jurisdictions; the measure leaves all control over licensing to the state.

Growing, processing and selling could be conducted in secrecy. Call this one the Home-Buyer’s-Surprise Provision.
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On second thought

An advantage we writers have is to be able to speak from different sides of a perspective. Sometimes, we comment; sometimes, we agree; sometimes, we object. Sometimes, we even change our minds.

Let me revise a previously stated view.

Sometimes estrangement in a relationship can be the right—and healthy—thing to do.

Shortly before Christmas, I posted a blog—in the wake of an untimely death of a loved one—that urged forgiveness, reconciliation, burying the hatchet (not in each other), and goodwill toward others. I quoted: “Death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to families. Estrangement can be worse.”


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Higher ed, higher expectations in Federal Way

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Advanced Placement for all? The Federal Way School District gets credit
– make that college credit – for a promising innovation.

Beginning in September, the district began automatically enrolling its sixth- through 12th-graders in AP classes, rigorous courses that can pave the way to a four-year degree. The curriculum is designed to prepare students for national tests that confer university credits prior to entering college.

Enrollment in AP calculus, physics, Spanish, etc., is normally an option exploited by ambitious, high-achieving students. For kids who’ve passed the state’s standardized tests, Federal Way has reversed things: They must opt out instead of opt in. And they need their parents’ permission to evade the clutches of an AP class.
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A day in Olympia to talk about gangs

The O’Brien building, next to the State Capitol in Olympia, was the location for Wednesday’s legislative reading of HB 1126: the Gang Injunction Bill. I was there for an opportunity to testify in favor of the measure.

The place was packed.

The crowd and chaos was a refreshing example of our democratic system in action. The chairman of the committe, Mr. Hurst, seemed pleased at the interest in this bill. He explained that the number of speakers (40) required that each person would have no more than two minutes at the mike.

The gang injunction was the most significant portion

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Come back, Pierce Transit, with a tighter Plan B

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

As they’re eyeing the sales tax increase Pierce Transit wants them to approve on Feb. 8, voters should understand that this is not a last-chance proposition.

The measure’s supporters say its failure would result in a devastating 35 percent cut in bus and van service. Maybe, maybe not.

The fact is, Pierce Transit has enough cash in reserve to buy the time it needs to return to the ballot with a more realistic proposal. We think the voters ought to wait for a less expensive Plan B – and Pierce Transit ought to give them one.

Let’s acknowledge up front that mass transit is an essential public service. It gets people with disabilities or low income to jobs, doctors’ offices and stores. When people of higher income take buses instead of driving their own cars, transit takes traffic off the road and keeps pollution out of the air.

Those who believe that transit has a paramount claim on the available sales tax – in a dire economic climate – ought to vote for Proposition 1.

In our view, Pierce Transit has not yet fully grasped the fact that this downsized economy demands doing more with less.

Its board and administrators are asking for a 0.3 percent addition to the 0.6 percent sales tax it already collects in Pierce County, which would translate into a $30 million-a-year, 50 percent increase in revenue. That would max out its potential taxing authority; the idea is to offset the decline in sales tax revenue it has suffered since the recession began in late 2007.

Pierce Transit in effect is asking taxpayers to largely insulate it against the harsh economic realities that are forcing other organizations to ruthlessly cut expenses and reinvent themselves in order to survive.

The agency has imposed some economies on itself, including a substantial squeezing of its administrative costs. But its employee compensation packages – by far the largest part of its budget – bear no relationship to reality. Its standard health plan falls into the “Cadillac” category, and most of its workers have enjoyed generous pay increases right on through the worst economy in 60 years.
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