Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Nov. 2011


Big-picture planning good for Tacoma, good for business

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Ask business people what single thing would make them more inclined to expand, develop or invest – and in the process create more jobs. Many likely would respond: certainty.

For instance, if they could be certain that the property they’re interested in had already undergone traffic and environmental review, that would make it a more attractive prospect. The money they would otherwise have spent doing their own review could be plowed into the project, making it more economically feasible.

That’s the rationale behind the new way of handling development in Tacoma’s south downtown area encompassing the Dome and Brewery districts, the University of Washington Tacoma and part of the Foss Waterway. The city is keen to develop the area, especially given its proximity to rail, bus routes and the interstate.
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With justifiable pride, Tacoma’s Hilltop reclaims its name

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

As a PR strategy, trying to recast Tacoma’s Hilltop as “Upper Tacoma” wasn’t really a bad idea, given the area’s notoriety linked to crime and gangs.

But the name just didn’t catch on much outside of the Upper Tacoma Business Association. The community still called the area Hilltop – almost as a point of pride.

And why shouldn’t they be proud of that name? They formed the Hilltop Action Coalition and worked hard, partnering with the city and police, to turn the community around. One of Tacoma’s most notable arts organizations is the Hilltop Artists, a private, nonprofit glass art program at Jason Lee Middle School.
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There’s a high price to be paid for moving SCC from McNeil

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Some lawmakers are considering whether to move the Special Commitment Center for violent sex offenders off McNeil Island as a way to help close the state’s $2 billion-plus budget gap. It has become more expensive to run since closure of the state prison on the island.

The only two choices for relocation being discussed, according to a report Sunday by The News Tribune’s Jordan Schrader, are Western State Hospital in Lakewood and the shuttered Maple Lane School in Ground Mound near Centralia.

Lawmakers should consider a few facts about those locations that make it hard to see where short-term savings could be made – and short-term is what the state needs right now.

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Black Friday: Shopping as brainsick cage fight

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

At the risk – nay, the certainty – of stating the obvious, Black Friday is giving American consumerism a Black Eye.

What can the rest of the world be thinking? Again, we provided the planet with its chief entertainment after Thanksgiving as shoppers camped in parking lots through the holiday and whole armies of them mustered at the big retailers in the wee hours of Friday morning.

No, make that midnight. No, make that 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day at some stores – a sacred hour once dedicated to nailing the leftover pumpkin pie and ice cream.

And after the vigils, the stampedes. There’s little Americans won’t do for staggeringly discounted Play Station 3s, Sharp 42-inch, XBox 360s, Dyson dog-hair-capable vacuum cleaners and whatnot.

So far, it appears that no shoppers were actually killed on Friday, but the occasion ignited the usual lunacy, especially at some Walmarts. Some of the lowlights:

• In Arizona, a grandfather was knocked to the ground, bloodied and jailed by police after trying to prevent his grandson from being trampled by other shoppers. (A big misunderstanding, it seems.)

• There were multiple shootings, mostly by very bad shots. But one Walmart shopper in Northern California was wounded and hospitalized after robbers demanded that he and his family hand over their door-busters.
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New tax – or wrecking ball for schools and colleges?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

One question for the people accusing Gov. Chris Gregoire of grabbing for new taxes instead of downsizing state government:

Where on Earth have you been for the last three years?

Faced with the worst fiscal crisis in a lifetime, she and the Legislature have been paring state services relentlessly.

The K-12 system has been squeezed. Washington’s public colleges have lost a third to a half of their state funding, depending on the school. Health insurance for the poor has been nearly strangled. Many state employees have had wages cut or been laid off. State agencies – large and small – have been turned upside down and had the change shaken out of their pockets.

Even assuming Gregoire got her half-percent sales tax increase, her plan would still inflict brutal new cuts on state social services. Tax increase or no tax increase, her budget kisses off health coverage for 55,000 poor people, for example. Much of the state safety net would be gone one way or another.

She’s proposing the half-cent sales tax – and several smaller increases – to prevent the additional loss of funding for property-poor school districts, another devastating hit to public colleges and the early release of felons, among other things.

Neither the governor nor the Legislature can raise taxes unilaterally; they must get approval from the electorate. If the ultimate choice is between new revenues and further damage to public education, the public ought to be given the chance to make that decision.
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Expanding gambling is no way to address budget woes

Of the ideas for raising revenue being bandied about in the runup to the special session that begins Monday, one of worst is an expansion of casino gambling.

The House Republicans’ scheme would give nontribal casinos – which now are limited to table games – the ability to offer the same video slot machines now available only in the state’s 28 tribal casinos. They claim that will raise about $150 million for the state, create jobs and bring in tourists.

Perhaps, but it would do that on the backs of those who can least afford it – problem gamblers and low-income people. Call it gaming, but it’s really a predatory tax on vulnerable people and their families.
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Thanksgiving: A healthy break from a bleak year

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Thanksgiving is a loaded word.

Who do we give thanks to? Most Americans would start out with God; less theistic souls might move directly to family and friends.

What do we give thanks for? That gets tricky.

These are not good times. Something like 17 percent of Americans – roughly one in six – either lack jobs, have stopped looking for jobs or have settled for part-time jobs that don’t remotely meet their needs. Many others have seen their incomes fall.

We’re calling it the Great Recession. As the saying goes, the difference between a recession and a depression depends on whether you or your neighbor lost the paycheck. But even those who’ve still got their livelihoods can’t escape the sense of malaise that hangs over their communities.

Plus, there are winds of malaise blowing our way from Europe, which seems more likely each week to make things worse on this side of the Atlantic.

No, this is not the happiest of Thanksgivings. Circumstances have been considerably worse before: in the depths of World War II, the Great Depression and the Civil War. But that’s no consolation in the here and now, especially for Americans who’ve grown up in relative prosperity and had no conception the U.S. economy could go this far off the tracks.
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Supercommittee’s failure bodes ill for nation

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Supercommittee? More like Sad Sack committee.

Today was the deadline for the 12 members of Congress charged with charting a path toward national solvency. By Thanksgiving, they were supposed to have produced a package of measures to reduce the U.S. government’s debt – which just exceeded $15 trillion – by $1.2 trillion.

The total reduction they came up with: $0.

All their fumblings and failures played out against a truly alarming background: the crumbling of Europe’s economy under the weight of unsupportable debt and many years of unsustainable spending by southern European countries. That crisis threatens to kill America’s weak, flickering recovery and drag us right back into recession.

You would think that the cataclysmic unfolding of Europe’s folly – that’s our future, folks! – would persuade Republicans, Democrats, anybody, to throw out the old partisan talking points and reach a serious deficit-cutting agreement. Instead we get partisan gridlock in Congress, which led to the creation of the supercommittee, which promptly settled into its own partisan gridlock.

Republican and Democratic leaders are frantically blaming each other for the collapse, hoping the voters will punish the other party in the 2012 elections. That tells you where their hearts are.

Within the supercommittee, there actually were moves toward compromise. On the Republican side, Sen. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania abandoned the GOP’s no-taxes-or-the-lady-dies posture and suggested $300 billion in revenue measures. Some Democrats were willing to pare back Medicare, Social Security and other entitlements.

In the end, though, the supercommittee – like Congress – didn’t have enough statesmen or stateswomen willing to put the nation’s interests above their party’s – or their own careers, for that matter.
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