Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Jan. 2012


Tacoma streets need new revenue – responsibly spent

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

A citizen’s advisory committee has come up with ideas for addressing Tacoma’s dire street infrastructure needs. They can be boiled down to two words: more money.

Given the city’s $32 million budget hole, that’s probably the only road the committee could go down. The alternative – doing nothing and letting Tacoma’s streets get into even worse shape – is intolerable.

The 13-member committee recommended not cutting existing revenue going to transportation needs, imposing a $20 car-tab fee to fund a new Transportation Benefit District and asking voters to raise their property taxes by almost $1 per $1,000 of assessed valuation for six years.
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My brother, Paul Horan

“Good writing is always about things that are important to you, things that are scary to you, things that eat you up.” John Edgar Wideman

I am a writer, a columnist for this regional paper for over ten years. I have written about life, its challenges, losses and lessons. Yet I have not been able to write about my brother. Too important, too scary.

But, time has passed. And the time has come.

My younger brother, Paul, died last summer of a sudden heart attack. He was 59 years old.
When I think about him, these words come to

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Meltdown, flood threat show why new district is needed

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The flooding threat posed by the meltdown of last week’s snow and ice is timely ammunition for the Pierce County Council’s attempt to create a flood-control taxing district.

Even areas that aren’t close to major rivers have experienced problems caused by too much water. Overtaxed storm drains and catch basins present surface-water issues for county residents who don’t live anywhere near rivers like the Puyallup or Nisqually.

That’s why the council’s new approach makes sense: Give communities that aren’t threatened by river flooding access to some of the flood district’s revenues for stormwater control. For cities that aren’t near rivers, that kind of sweetener should be attractive.
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Draw the line between legal pot and bogus medicine

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Initiative 502 has given the Legislature a big fat opening to separate medical cannabis from the legalization of recreational marijuana.

I-502 proposes to authorize and regulate the use and sale of marijuana in Washington. It’s an initiative to the Legislature, which means that lawmakers have three options: They can adopt it as is, ignore it and let it go to the ballot, or come up with an alternative measure to put on the ballot alongside it.

The issue belongs to the voters, though legislators may well be able to improve on the initiative as written.

With the legalization option out in the open – and cleanly contained in its own bill – lawmakers ought to be able to craft a medical marijuana policy that doesn’t amount to sneaky, corrupt pseudo-legalization.

They could get two-thirds of the way there with one simple step: explicitly outlawing clinics and medical practices that do virtually nothing but hand out so-called green cards to almost anyone who walks in the door.

The proliferation of pot docs and retailers in this state over the last few years has made a mockery of the 1998 initiative that carefully authorized the therapeutic use of marijuana for the genuinely ill within a doctor-patient relationship.

The law forbade sales of the drug and restricted its use to suffering patients who couldn’t be helped by ordinary treatments.

Those restrictions remain in force but are routinely flouted. Potheads and partiers claiming “intractable pain” can easily find practitioners who will legalize their habits for $100 or $200 – often promising them the money back if they don’t get authorization papers. In Tacoma, the situation is such a sham that police say they’re running into gang members who’ve been “medically” authorized to smoke dope.
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After routing SOPA, Web giants must protect creators

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

America saw political history made Wednesday. Think colonial Minutemen decimating formidable redcoats – but firing from the Web, not fences and trees.

The British army in this case was a powerful alliance of film makers, music labels, media companies and artists – creators and copyright-holders whose films, recordings, software and products have been getting plundered or counterfeited by Internet pirates.

They had the lobbyists; they had the money.

The colonials were such Internet upstarts as Google, Yahoo, Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia, and countless Web enterprises that depend on user uploads and links.
The creators desperately wanted Congress to approve the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act, a measure that would have made it far easier for them – too easy – to threaten even websites unintentionally linked to thieves. Lawmakers looked all but certain to send the president a version of SOPA or its Senate cousin, the Protect Intellectual Property Act.

No bills so well-greased may have been smacked down so quickly. SOPA and PIPA were demolished by an online onslaught that culminated Wednesday when popular websites staged blackouts and Google steered its users to condemnations of the legislation.

Some of the bills’ most fervent supporters suddenly discovered reasons to back down: “Not ready for prime time,” said Sen. Orrin Hatch – one of PIPA’s original cosponsors.
The clash demonstrated the muscle and reach of the Web’s new giants – and their power to push around the old media giants of Hollywood, music and publishing. And now, Congress itself.
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Police union concessions welcome, but are they enough?

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Tacoma police union members did the right thing Monday. They voted – in “overwhelming” numbers, according to their president – to approve concessions they hope will preserve jobs in the face of an estimated $32 million budget shortfall.

The city’s firefighters should do the same when they vote Jan. 26 and 27 on budget savings their bargaining unit says it has identified.

Although neither union disclosed what concessions it is prepared to make, it’s probably safe to say they involve a combination of things, perhaps including compensation givebacks and lower pension contributions. Interim city manager Ray Arellano will decide whether to accept the concessions. Read more »


Click owes the ratepayers; give it a shot at repaying

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

From the start, back in the 1990s, Tacoma’s Click Network was a weird hybrid of a venture – a public utility selling cable television, a commercial commodity.

The hybrid now looks to get bigger as the leaders of Tacoma Public Utilities move to turn the faltering Click into an Internet service provider and a telephone company.

This deeper plunge into the world of private commerce gives us jitters, but it’s like running alongside a moving train: You’ve got to be all in or all out.

Long term, the best strategy might be getting all in, then getting all out. In other words, beef up Click to the point that it looks healthier to investors – then sell it to one of them, moving the enterprise to where it arguably belongs: in the private sector.

Short term, there’s no choice but to keep Click strong enough that the big public investment that built it – tens of millions of dollars – doesn’t get kissed off.
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New museum great for kids (and OK for adults, too)

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Tacoma’s museum district just got a whole lot more kid-friendly.

Sure, the other three museums in the neighborhood – the Tacoma Art Museum, the Museum of Glass and especially the Washington State History Museum – all have elements that reach out to children. But with the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, which officially opened Saturday just up Pacific Avenue from TAM, the name says it all: This is a place for kids, where they can get down and – if not necessarily dirty – at least a little wet.

At about 8,000 square feet, the facility is more than double the size of its previous incarnation in the Theater District. It is a kid’s dream come true, with four themed “playscapes” and an art studio.
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