Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: April 2011

April
20th

The birther conspiracy Kool-Aid flows uphill

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Normally we’d wait for Donald Trump’s “presidential campaign” to die a natural death, but his embrace of the birther lunacy makes for too sweet a target.

Trump’s taken to trumpeting his doubts about Barack Obama’s citizenship and demanding that the president produce his birth certificate. Obama – who appears to relish the spectacle – has turned the pseudo-controversy into comedy material.

Trump is one of a handful of Republican leaders (if that’s what he is) willing to sound like an actual birther. Michele Bachmann prefers artful coyness; all she wants is that Obama “just answer some questions” and produce his original birth certificate. Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee have alluded darkly to the president’s supposed Kenyan background. Read more »

April
19th

Congress must help Quileutes escape tsunami threat

The Quileute Tribal School is located just yards away from the Pacific Ocean in the Quileute community of La Push. (Tony Overman/The Olympian)

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

The Quileute Tribal School in La Push is probably unrivaled for its scenic setting, looking out on crashing surf, islands and the kind of picturesque sea stacks that make photographers swoon.

But when the Cascadia subduction zone 80 miles offshore generates a massive earthquake – as it does every couple of hundred years, most recently in 1700 – it will almost surely create the kind of devastating tsunami that recently struck Japan after a similar subduction zone event.

And that schoolhouse – along with a senior center and homes on the Quileutes’ square-mile reservation – would be at ground zero. The ocean that makes La Push such a beautiful setting could be the death of it.
Read more »

April
18th

Military families worthy subjects for first lady’s campaign

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

When it comes to bully pulpits, it’s hard to beat the White House.

First ladies have a highly visible position from which to advocate for causes – think Lady Bird Johnson’s push for highway beautification and Laura Bush’s for literacy.

Michelle Obama is already leading a high-profile campaign against childhood obesity – a worthy cause given the fact that too many children are exhibiting weight-related health problems such as diabetes and clogged arteries that normally aren’t seen until later in life.

But now she and Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, are taking on an equally significant campaign: military families. Their new Joining Forces initiative aims to create a nationwide support network of individuals, businesses, schools, and civic and religious organizations with a single goal: help military families handle their often stressful lives. Read more »

April
18th

Tacoma elementaries can’t duck closures forever

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

In 2006, then-Superintendent Jim Shoemake offered to buy the Tacoma School Board a few months. Little did he know his reprieve would end up stretching five years.

Shoemake advised the board on the eve of a crucial operations levy vote to hold off on closing elementary schools to avoid stirring angry voters. He told the board, “I think one more time, I can find a million dollars” in cuts elsewhere.

Five years and several millions of dollars in cuts later, the school board can no longer put off the inevitable. The board spared Franklin Elementary School last week, but Wainwright and McKinley schools are not apt to be so lucky.

The bottom line is that the Tacoma School District has lost 4,000 students in the last 10 years. That’s more than 10 percent of its enrollment. Together, the district’s elementary schools are underenrolled by 3,000 students.

Such declines would force tough choices in good times. When they coincide with sharp reductions in state dollars, they are calamitous.

Read more »

April
17th

State House should move debt-limit measure

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Old habits die hard, especially in Olympia.

The state capital budget has long been the Legislature’s candy store, a seemingly limitless supply of goodies that leaders dole out to help lawmakers prove their worth to voters.

Legislators didn’t fret too much about the bill since they were paying with the state’s credit card and could easily make the minimum payment without putting much of a dent in the general-fund budget.

That dent is becoming a crater. Debt payments are now one of the fastest growing parts of the operating budget. Ten years ago, paying principal and interest on state bonds consumed 4.8 percent of operating revenues. This year, the take is 6.1 percent for a total cost of nearly $2 billion.

The national median is 3 percent. The money Washington spends on debt payments is money that other states can use to pay for schools, social services and criminal justice.

Read more »

April
16th

A rude federal awakening for medical pot dreams

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

The feds have come down – hard – on the Legislature’s plans to expand medical marijuana far beyond the voters’ original mandate. Marijuana enthusiasts have only themselves to blame.

Gov. Chris Gregoire did the state a favor Wednesday by trying to clarify how the U.S. Department of Justice might react to the free-wheeling dope industry many lawmakers having been pushing to legalize with a new bill.

The two U.S. attorneys who cover Washington quickly spelled out their likely response: fines, property forfeitures, lawsuits and possible criminal prosecutions. Individual state officials might be targeted if they licensed grow operations and dispensaries, as the measure proposes.

Later Thursday, Gregoire said she would veto the legislation as written.

Read the U.S. attorneys’ letter and you’ll see where they’re coming from. The Justice Department, they said, isn’t interested in pursuing “seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law.”
Read more »

April
15th

Coming Sunday: Why Obama will win in 2012

In our Sunday opinion section, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Dick Polman writes that there are seven reasons why – short of some unforeseen event – Barack Obama is pretty much a shoe-in for re-election.

Here’s one reason:

Incumbency: Care to guess how many Democratic presidents have been defeated for a second term in the last 120 years? A grand total of one. That fact alone has prompted Matthew Dowd, the Republican pollster for George W. Bush, to conclude that “the odds heavily favor President Obama.”

Incumbents are tough to beat, and this one will be raising and spending roughly $1 billion.

Read more »

April
14th

Senate budget delivers on promise of bipartisanship

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

In the state Senate, Washingtonians are getting a timely reminder of why bipartisanship matters.

Republican Sen. Joseph Zarelli – usually relegated to providing budget commentary from the sidelines – instead is front and center this year alongside the Senate’s chief budget writer, Democrat Ed Murray.

That the two men teamed up to write the Senate’s budget proposal this year was a bow to political and fiscal realities. The Senate Democrats don’t have enough votes to get their way, and state government doesn’t have the luxury of leaving moneysaving options on the table.

Whatever the practical considerations that brought them together, Murray and Zarelli have demonstrated the worth of lawmakers working across the aisle.

Their plan spends less than the House Democrats have proposed, doesn’t depend on accounting gimmicks or money not yet in hand, makes painful pay cuts more equitable and looks to head off future budget shortfalls.

Read more »