Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: June 2012


Tidbits from the candidate

We often learn unexpected tidbits when talking with candidates for their endorsement interview. State Supreme Court Justice Susan Owens was in today and mentioned that she went to a concert Sunday by singer-songwriter Ben Harper at the Crocodile in Seattle. It was a benefit for Owens’ benchmate, Steve Gonzalez, who was appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in January and is running to retain his seat.

Turns out, Harper and Gonzalez are cousins; their mothers are sisters.

Owens also mentioned that she was one of the elected officials walking in the Seattle gay pride parade Saturday.

“I’ve never

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Use bullying incident as teachable moment with kids

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Few news stories have touched such a chord as the one about the New York grandmother bullied by four seventh-grade boys on a school bus.

Thousands of people, appalled by the YouTube video of the bullying, have donated money so that 68-year-old bus monitor Karen Klein could take a vacation or, as the fund mounted to more than $500,000, retire and never be abused again by such horrid little creatures.

There’s nothing new about the kind of cruel verbal onslaught the boys unleashed. Sadly, children often bully other children on school buses, in school hallways, on playgrounds – and it isn’t always limited to abusive language. Here we vividly recall when a disabled middle school student was beaten on a Pierce Transit bus in 2009 by another middle-schooler. Several Tacoma high school students either served as accomplices or did nothing to help the boy.
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Our hydro-powered state awaits the electric Model T

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s newspaper.

The recent plunge in oil and gas prices has hurt the bad guys and helped the good guys.

It has threatened Vladimir Putin, Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other petrocrats whose job security rises or falls along with their countries’ oil revenues.

It’s a godsend for undeveloped countries heavily dependent on oil imports. It’s great for the poor in general, who’ve already been slammed by the recession and can barely afford the gasoline they need to make it to their jobs – if they have jobs. In most cases, it’s also good for the businesses that employ them.

For Western Washingtonians, it’s been a blessed relief.

We’re finally seeing the fruits of the price collapse, now that the West Coast’s refineries are up and running again after six were off line – somewhat suspiciously – at the same time this spring.

The resulting shortage – compounded by the loss of output from the fire-stricken Cherry Point refinery near Blaine, Wash. – had gasoline prices approaching $4.50 a gallon at some South Sound service stations, even as prices were falling in the Midwest, South and Eastern states.

Out-of-state energy companies spent much of the spring siphoning money out of the pockets of Washington drivers – money that otherwise would have been spent sustaining jobs close to home.

Against this backdrop of volatile gas prices, another piece of automotive news – the much-anticipated rollout of Tesla’s luxury Model S in California last week – is especially notable. The Model S is a sign that Washington’s cars eventually will be powered by Northwest dams, not a fossil fuel whose prices fluctuate between larcenous and ruinous.
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Simpson Tacoma – a long way from the Big Stink

For a big, steaming chemical cauldron on a sensitive body of water, the Simpson Tacoma Kraft pulp mill gets some pretty good environmental reviews.

The Simpson Tacoma Kraft Company has spend fortunes cleaning up its heavily polluted corner of the Tideflats, reversing more than 50 years of contamination by the plant’s previous owner, the St. Regis Kraft Company. On Thursday, the U.S. deputy secretary of energy, Daniel Poneman, visited the plant to get a look at the mill’s renewable-energy plant, which burns biomass to generate enough electricity for thousands of homes.

Twenty-plus years ago, things weren’t so green. The mill then was a massive stinkpot that perpetuated Tacoma’s image as a post-apocalyptic urban armpit. It was the city’s misfortune to have a name that rhymed with “aroma,” hence the “aroma of Tacoma” sobriquet that lingers – inaccurately – to this day.

I looked up a few of the reviews we were giving the mill back then.

In 1993, for example, we editorialized:

The Simpson mill – and several other Tideflats plants, to a lesser extent – continue to spew malodorous chemicals into the atmosphere, perpetuating Tacoma’s image as a smelly, decrepit old mill town. … Noxious odors that foul entire communities are a form of air pollution and ought to be defined as such under state law.

In 1994:
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Impressive Supreme Court candidates

The editorial board is on the home stretch with our candidate interviews for endorsements. In the remaining days, we’ll be focusing on state Supreme Court and Pierce County Superior Court races.

Today we talked with the four candidates hoping to replace retiring Justice Tom Chambers on the state Supreme Court: former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, former Justice Richard Sanders, King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Hilyer and Bainbridge Island attorney Sheryl Gordon McCloud.

There was a lot of legal and cerebral firepower in the room, and we were impressed with the cases they made for themselves. We haven’t talked

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Combat pay changes proposed

I saw this short article on the Associated Press wire on proposed changes in combat pay and wondered what local military folks think about them.

Proposed changes in military compensation would base combat pay on the level of danger troops are in and could make them wait for annual tax refunds to get their extra pay.

The recommendations in a Pentagon review are likely to anger service members. They’re aimed at paying more to troops in the gravest danger and giving the best tax benefits to those who are paid the least.

The report is done every four years and

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USPS proposal plays favorites with mail customers

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle agree on at least one issue: They’re concerned about a U.S. Postal Service plan to offer special, monopolistic postage rates that seem designed to favor one customer – the giant Valassis Direct Mail company.

Those lawmakers – as diverse as Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California – have demanded to know why the USPS proposes to play favorites with its postal customers and give a huge competitive advantage to Valassis. The deal would give the company rebates ranging from 20 percent to 36 percent for new mailings containing ads by national retailers.

That could have serious consequences for the already struggling newspaper industry, which stands to lose more than $1 billion in revenue if direct-mail rates are reduced so drastically for a major competitor.
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Liquor privatization: Another negative consequence

After liquor sales were privatized June 1, a lot of people complained about the often higher prices, which incorporated new taxes required under voter-approved Initiative 1183. Others said the increase was well worth the greater convenience of more locations selling liquor virtually around the clock.

But one point hardly anyone is talking about is how privatization has narrowed choice and made it much harder to locate more obscure items.

For instance, before privatization went into effect, I was looking for a liqueur called Creme de Violette after reading an article about a famous old cocktail using it. The state liquor store I usually patronized didn’t carry it, but the clerk looked it up for me in the state database and said another store not far away carried it. He even offered to call over and have it held for me. Read more »