Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: 2011


Voters should be willing to pay cost of initiatives they approve

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The state’s current budget morass makes at least one point all too obvious: The pot of money available to fund services is a finite one. Add a new service to be performed, and something else has to be cut.

When state legislators enact a new program, they have to find the funding for it – either by cutting something else or paying for it with a new tax or user fee. That’s because the state constitution requires them to balance the budget.

Unfortunately, state voters are under no such obligation. When they approve an initiative, they essentially toss the ball to the Legislature to figure out a way to pay for it.
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Way too much crackdown for a few days of bad air

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

On about 10 days a year, Tacoma and much of Pierce County fail to meet federal standards for “fine particulates.” That kind of air pollution is created by motor vehicles, as well as by burning wood in old, uncertified stoves, fireplaces and the open air – and it can pose a health threat for people with respiratory problems.

Those 10 or so days of poor air quality have given the region an unenviable distinction: It’s the state’s only “non-attainment area” for fine particulate standards.

Because the 10 days are most likely to fall during cold weather, when more people are burning wood to keep warm, wood-burning is the main target for regulators charged with improving the area’s air quality. The air police also know it’s easier to get people to burn less than to drive less.
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From start to finish, conflicted feelings about war in Iraq

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Even as the U.S. formally ends the Iraq war and combat troops prepare to exit by Dec. 31, it’s safe to say that many Americans remain conflicted about the nine-year war waged in that country.

They’re proud of the job done by our military – often under tremendously dangerous and uncomfortable conditions. Despite the fact that no weapons of mass destruction were found, few were sad to see the demise of Saddam Hussein and his thuggish dictatorship. And it’s possible to trace the stirrings of the Arab Spring to the fledgling democracy in Iraq.

Yet many can’t help but wonder if it was all worth the high price paid in blood and treasure.
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The reckoning arrives for Tacoma’s wastrel council

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Members of the Tacoma City Council can’t be blamed for wanting an outside look at the haunted ruin their budget has become.

The Earth seems to have opened and swallowed $31 million from the city’s general fund. In response, interim City Manager Ray Arellano has proposed layoffs that would leave public safety staggering. Of the 167 employees who’d lose their jobs under his plan, 100 would be members of the police and fire departments.

In the Fire Department, four engine companies would go. The Police Department faces shocking losses, including its gang unit and its entire community-policing program. Front-line officers would be reduced to racing from one crisis to the next; the department would likely be forced to sacrifice its lifesaving strategy of working with citizens to make their neighborhoods safer.
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Coal in the stocking for a do-nothing Legislature

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

It turns out this Washington has its own version of the other Washington’s spectacularly indecisive supercommittee. We call ours the Legislature.

The congressional supercommittee, you will recall, failed to make the hard decisions on tax increases and spending cuts the nation needs to escape the fate of Greece. Partisan gridlock was blamed.

In Olympia, though, there is no partisan gridlock. The governor is a Democrat. The state House of Representatives and the Senate are run by Democrats.

They’ve all known since September that the 2011-2013 budget had a $2 billion crater in it. Despite meeting in special session since Thanksgiving weekend, though, lawmakers haven’t come up with any real solutions and plan to leave town without one. Read more »


Police perjury taints criminal justice system

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

A slap on the wrist. With a feather.

That’s what two Pierce County sheriff’s deputies got Friday from the very criminal justice system they betrayed by testifying falsely under oath last year at a pretrial hearing last year.

Convicted of first-degree perjury in September, 48-year-old Rex McNicol and 36-year-old Jeff Montgomery will have to serve three weekends in jail – they can skip Christmas weekend – plus 79 days in home detention and 40 hours of community service.

Granted, McNicol and Montgomery were first-time offenders, and Superior Court Judge John Hickman’s lenient penalty was within the state’s sentencing guidelines.

But their prosecutor, assistant state attorney general Melanie Tratnik, pointed out that they were not common criminals, and their falsehoods were not common crimes. The sworn lies of police officers send ripples of damage through the legal system.

Most criminal cases stand or fall on the credibility of the police. Officers make judgments on probable cause, request search warrants, arrest suspects, gather evidence, write official reports and testify in court. The entire process assumes that the police are honest.
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What the Tacoma Dome needs: Lather, rinse, repeat

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It’s embarrassing. You roll into the state’s second city on Interstate 5 and there stands its most visible landmark, the Tacoma Dome. And it’s filthy.

The grime’s been accumulating on the Dome’s roof since 2005, when it was last given a bath. It looks like pond scum without the pond. If the coating of exhaust pollutants weren’t so noxious, you could almost plant wheat in.

Tacoma has a lot of nice landmarks, including Union Station, the Museum of Glass and Old City Hall. (OK, let’s not look too closely at that last one.) But the Dome ­– right there on the West Coast’s busiest thoroughfare – is what hundreds of thousands of Americans and Canadians see as they approach Tacoma.

It’s the city’s welcome sign, visual signature, architectural calling card, self-advertisement. It’s Grit City’s blue-collared version of McCaw Hall.

Moms and dads journey there from all over the state to watch their kids’ basketball tourneys and Gridiron Classics. The Dome has been featured on “Saturday Night Live.” It hosts bull riders, horse shows, Holiday Food and Gift Festivals, Tacoma Home Shows, Disneys on Ice.
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Why the rush to hire Tacoma’s next city manager?

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Slow down, council members. Slow down.

The Tacoma City Council appears poised to hire a city manager Tuesday night – a long-term decision made in a few short weeks. The four finalists might be credible candidates for this immensely challenging job; the council’s apparent hurry to close the deal is not so credible.

This is as important a vote as most members of this council are ever likely to make. The city manager is the CEO of an immense organization with multi-billion-dollar budgets. He – all the finalists are men – could make the difference between a city on the move and a city just hanging on.

Has the council really thought long enough and hard enough about this decision? Would it hurt to do another week or two or three of detective work? Here are some questions that ought to be answered about anyone seeking to run this large and complex city:

• Is he a wide-screen thinker? Does he have a panoramic vision for Tacoma’s future?

• Has he been tested? Has he shown skill and creativity in dealing with a major crisis – like the fiscal crisis the City of Tacoma now faces?

• Has he run open governments? Does he hide the public’s business from the public? Is his first impulse to include or exclude citizens?

• How broad and deep is his executive experience?
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