Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: June 2011


Injuries, fires are sad scourges of 4th festivities

Charlene Peyton stands by her burned house in the Gig Harbor area. Errant fireworks ignited it while she was away last July 4. (Peter Haley / Staff photographer)

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

You don’t need a calendar to know that the Fourth of July is soon upon us.

Fireworks stands have popped up like weeds all over the South Sound, and some customers are indulging in premature “celebration” – even though it’s illegal altogether in some cities and restricted in most others as to which kind of fireworks can be shot off and when.

For some folks, the Fourth – and several days before and after – is an opportunity to indulge their inner pyromaniac under the guise of being patriotic Americans. They gleefully plop down a wad of cash at fireworks stands for goods that can blow off a finger or two, put out an eye or set the neighbor’s roof on fire.

For the rest of us, though, the Fourth often means disturbed nights, frazzled nerves, fear of accidental fire, and pets that might need to be medicated and restrained so they don’t run away  in fright. Some people dare not leave town if the weather is dry, but instead stand ready with hoses in case the neighbor’s fireworks display gets out of hand.
Read more »


How many lattes is that new tax?

Here’s a case of deja vu.

The Seattle Times’ editorial about the proposed $20 car-tab tax in King County to fund its Metro bus agency sounds a lot like what we were saying earlier this year when Pierce Transit sought a sales tax increase.

We editorialized in January that PT hadn’t done enough to keep salaries and benefits under control during the recession. And we worried that the tax – which would max out the agency’s taxing authority – would have been a permanent one.

Pierce Transit’s tax went down to defeat, and if the Seattle Times’ editorial is any indication, a new tax for transit in King County won’t be popular there either.

Here’s the editorial. I particularly like the “latte” reference toward the end. Public officials seeking a new tax or increase to an existing one are always framing it like, “It’s the cost of one latte per month.” As the Times notes, those lattes can add up.

King County Metro needs overhaul, not a tax to cover past unsustainable decisions

KING County Executive Dow Constantine proposes an annual $20 car-tab tax to prevent cuts in bus service. The tax, another county official suggested, is only worth the price of five lattes and will last for two years.

We are not convinced. Read more »


Make it easy for people to pay for using state parks

Beachgoers at Dash Point State Park in June 2010. (Peter Haley, staff photographer)

This editorial appears in Thursday’s print edition.

The price goes up Friday for motor vehicle access to state parks – $10 per visit or $30 for an annual Discovery Pass.

That’s the bad news for residents who have enjoyed free day use of parks. The good news, at least for those who like their privacy when they use the state parks and land run by the departments of Fish and Wildlife and Natural Resources, is that they won’t have to share them with many people.

Attendance is expected to be quite a bit lower after the price of admission becomes more expensive and people are expected to buy their passes in advance. Some estimates say it will take five years for attendance to fully recover.
Read more »


Hempfest came to the wrong city for a wink and a nod

This editorial appears in Wednesday’s print edition.

Marijuana advocates have to stop mistaking Tacoma for Seattle.

Sure, Seattle police may “walk past miles of glass” pipes at that city’s Hempfest, as the attorney for a legalization group told a Seattle reporter.
But that is no reason to expect that Tacoma cops would also ignore obvious drug paraphernalia at a knockoff festival in Wright Park last weekend.

Tacoma hasn’t gone anywhere near the lengths that Seattle has to make itself a safe haven for pot smokers. Yet that hasn’t stopped Hempfest festival organizers from demanding the same kid-glove treatment. They are complaining because police confiscated pipes and bongs and shut down several booths at the Saturday event. Read more »


U.S. defense budget needs Gates-style scrutiny

Robert Gates

This editorial appears in Wednesday’s print edition.

The Cold War ended in 1980s after leaders of the Soviet Union realized they weren’t buying more security with unsustainable military spending – just more antagonism abroad and poverty at home.

The United States isn’t in the same hole, but a growing number of defense advocates – people who genuinely care about the nation’s military strength – are recognizing that something’s got to give.

Foremost among them is Robert Gates, who’s stepping down this week as secretary of defense. Serving under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Gates has skillfully outmaneuvered Pentagon power blocs to kill or curb immensely expensive weapons programs – the F-22 Raptor, example – designed to fight large conventional wars.
Read more »


Lakewood’s uncontested council races

I live in Lakewood and noticed campaign signs by City Council candidate Paul Bocchi in my neighborhood. Which I thought was a little odd since no one filed to run against him for the open Position 7 seat (Walter Neary bowed out after two terms). For that matter, no one filed against incumbent Don Anderson or against businesswoman Marie Barth for Claudia Thomas’ open Position 6 seat.

I emailed Bocchi – a budget analyst for the Pierce County Council – asking why he was putting up signs when he didn’t have an opponent and why he thought the three races were uncontested. In the past, Lakewood council races have drawn plenty of candidates. I don’t think the city has ever had three races without at least two people filing.

Here’s his response: Read more »


Puyallup council skirts law with small-group meetings

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The Puyallup City Council is flirting with trouble under the guise of efficiency.

Council members meet monthly with the city administration in closed-door meetings designed to avoid a council quorum – and therefore the state’s open meetings law.

City Manager Ralph Dannenberg says he began the small-group sessions – no more than three of the city’s seven council members attend at a time – after taking over last year. The goal, he says, is to improve communication between staff and the council.

Insert eye rolls here.

How many times have citizens in Puyallup and elsewhere heard the claim that government must work in secret to work better? Too many.

Read more »


Aviation biofuel plans could be a boon for the Northwest

Camelina plant shows promise as the source of aviation biofuel. (MCT)

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

A humble plant grown in ancient times for its oil is making a welcome comeback – as a source of jet fuel. And the Pacific Northwest is well poised to be a leader in this growing and important industry.

Camelina, a flowering plant related to mustard, is being tested as a biofuel for military and commercial aviation.

A 50-50 blend already has been used successfully by the Air Force’s Thunderbirds squadron. And Boeing’s 747-8 freighter that flew trans-Atlantic into the Paris Air Show last week used a mixture of 85 percent kerosene and 15 percent camelina oil to power its four new General Electric engines.

Camelina-based biofuel is exciting for a number of reasons. It produces about 80 percent less carbon emissions than conventional jet fuel. It can be grown with little water or nitrogen fertilizer. And it doesn’t displace food crops, as is the case with corn used to produce ethanol.
After the oil is extracted from the camelina seeds, the residual meal can be used as feed for livestock and poultry. (Bonus: Research shows that turkeys fed the camelina meal produce meat rich in omega-3 fatty acid.)
Read more »