Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: Oct. 2012


Superstorm Sandy leaves questions in its wake

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

The Northeast is only starting to clean up and assess the damage caused by the most devastating, costly storm to hit the region in many years. But it’s not too early to start seeking answers to some of the questions left in Sandy’s aftermath.

• Will this finally get the presidential candidates to talk about climate change? And what can be done to better protect coastal populations?

Many scientists have linked the increasing number of extreme weather events to global warming. It’s unclear if Sandy is one of those events, but with melting polar ice and rising seas, what is more clear is that coastal cities like New York will be increasingly vulnerable to future such storms.
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6 days from election, the scariest Halloween of all

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print editon.

Witches, zombies, ghosts and ghouls. Lions and tigers and bears. Dare we venture out after dark with election day so close at hand?

A pall of horror shrouds the ballot from top to bottom.

It begins with revelations of Barack Obama conniving with top advisers to let terrorists kill his ambassador to Libya – perhaps in expiation for any sins he didn’t cover in his apology tour of the Middle East.

Mitt Romney is no less spooky: He said “binders of women” instead of “binders of names of women,” a telling omission that betrayed his plot to put half the human race in manacles.

But let’s not forget about Obama gutting the Navy by having fewer ballistic-missile warships than Woodrow Wilson had gunboats.

Washington’s elections are haunted by frightful apparitions. Put on the “Shriek” masks, everyone.

Charter schools are fluttering in the twilight, poised to feast on the blood of public education. Just ask the Washington Education Association.

Jay Inslee, running for governor, has exposed a terrifying truth about his rival, Rob McKenna. As attorney general of the nation’s most plaintiff-friendly state, McKenna actually settled lawsuits against the government.

In the race for attorney general, it’s Alien vs. Predator.

According to Democrat Bob Ferguson, Republican Reagan Dunn bought a $707 rug for his office.

According to Dunn, Ferguson bought a $707 table skirt for meetings.

According to Ferguson, Dunn has been charged with a “serious crime.” Which appears to consist of doing doughnuts in a Camaro on a snowy parking lot – at age 17.

According to Dunn, Ferguson once – as a law student, 20 years ago – helped a death row inmate get an attorney. Two would-be attorneys general, both steeped in criminality.
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Another mental health breakdown, another family tragedy

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Doctors released Jonathan Meline from Western State Hospital in January, deeming him “no longer an imminent threat to himself or the community.”

But now we know that he was a threat to his father, a respected teacher in the Bethel School District. On Thursday, prosecutors say, the 29-year-old brutally killed Robert Meline in his Tacoma home. The son told investigators he had been planning the murder for months.

It’s easy to second-guess the decision to release Meline now that he’s shown himself to indeed be a threat – if not exactly an “imminent” one. But Meline does appear to have shown plenty of warning signs before he was criminally committed to WSH from October 2010 to May 2011 and civilly committed from August 2011 to Jan. 12 of this year.
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At least tell us who’s behind those big-money hits

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The first election campaign in the post-Citizens United era is nearing an end, and it won’t be quickly enough for most Americans.

They’ve been bombarded by billions of dollars worth of TV ads, most of them negative. That’s especially true in critical swing states. At least Washington residents can thank the fact that this state’s electoral votes for president are all but sewn up, sparing us the national ad onslaught plaguing battleground states like Ohio, Florida and Colorado.

Still, plenty of outside money – from the so-called super PACs, interest groups, unions, corporate donors and wealthy individuals – has poured into Washington to buy ads trying to influence statewide and congresssional races. How to tell which ones they are? Generally the tipoff is that they don’t end with a candidate saying, “I’m so-and-so, and I approved this message.”
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Two-year colleges: Stimulus tool No. 1 for higher employment

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

There are two explanations for last year’s 6 percent drop in community college enrollment.

One is worth a party. According to the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, more Washingtonians are finding jobs and drifting away from school.

The other is disturbing. Marty Brown, executive director of the board, says that rising costs are likely scaring off would-be students.

That’s pretty much self-evident, given that tuition has risen by 12 percent each of the last two years. It now costs $4,000 a year to attend a community college – about what it cost to attend the University of Washington 10 years ago.

The Legislature has been busily dismantling Washington’s public colleges and universities since the Great Recession hit. As in past recessions, lawmakers have treated the higher education system as a piggy bank – something to break and raid to spare other state services. They’ve reduced appropriations to colleges by an estimated $1.4 billion since 2009.

Yes, higher education must suffer its share of cutbacks when money gets scarce. But few if any states have cannibalized their colleges the way Washington has; the Legislature has cut direct funding to its universities by as much as half, to its community colleges by roughly a quarter.
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Today’s psychiatric hospitals: Jail, the street, the courts

Once again, a severely delusional man has been charged with murder. The victim, Robert Maline, was a respected teacher and the accused killer was his own son.

The killing reminded me of a piece a former Connecticut lawmaker published in The Washington Post last week. Paul Gionfriddo was in that state’s House during the 1980s, “when many of the state’s large mental hospitals were emptied.”

“I jumped at the opportunity to move people out of ‘those places,’” he wrote. But Gionfriddo and others made what he called “a series of critical misjudgments.”

Among them: “We didn’t adequately

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A small rate cut reflects a big trend in natural gas

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Washingtonians are in for some good news on their natural gas bills – just in time for cold weather.

On Thursday, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission cut the gas bills of roughly 2 million people. Puget Sound Energy’s customers, for example, will pay 7.1 percent less – slicing $6 dollars off an $85.50 monthly bill.

The reason: The wholesale price of natural gas has been falling. Although it has risen since last spring, when it hit a historical low, it is still very low. (Fine print: The unit price is the “therm.” A therm was running between $4.50 to $5 last fall; in April, it hit $1.60; it’s now around $3.10.)

A 7.1 percent drop is something short of a bonanza. The better news is that it’s part of a long-term trend that promises to curb natural gas prices for years.

Part of the same trend was Tuesday’s startling prediction by the Associated Press: America may soon overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s leading oil producer.

The U.S. Department of Energy predicts that the United States will produce a record 11.4 million gallons of hydrocarbons (including biofuels) a day in 2013. Saudi Arabia pumps 11.6 million barrels a day. One forecast has the United States hitting at least 13 million barrels by 2020.
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Approve amendments and maintain tax actions

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Voters can be excused if they’re scratching their heads over four measures on the Nov. 6 ballot. The ballot language can be confusing, especially on the two advisory vote measures.

We’ll make it easy for you. The News Tribune editorial board recommends that you vote “approved” on the two constitutional amendments (ESJR 8221 and SJR 8223) and “maintained” on the two advisory votes. Here’s why. Read more »