Inside Opinion

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

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Archives: May 2013


Stealing the good bad guys from the Pierce County Jail

As our news staff reported Wednesday, the Pierce County Jail – which is to say, the Pierce County government – is taking a big hit from Tacoma’s decision last December to pull its petty crooks out of the downtown slammer.

Tacoma was the jail’s biggest customer. We’re talking the loss of millions of dollars a year (the city paid $6 million in 2012). The financial crisis is forcing Sheriff Paul Pastor to lay off jail staff, shut down 160 beds and do something creative with the resulting bed shortage. He promised there’d be no Fall-of-Baghdad-style mass release of mad sociopaths.

Pastor, county Executive Pat McCarthy and Council Chairwoman Joyce McDonald were in this morning to lay out the dismal facts.

“We don’t fault Tacoma,” McCarthy said, for sending its misdemeanants to Fife’s relatively cheap penal system and leaving its high-maintenance felons – whose incarceration the city doesn’t pay for – in the Pierce County Jail.

But McCarthy really wasn’t delighted with Tacoma. She proceeded to elaborate on the ill consequences of the city’s “shopping around” for jails and the way it let Fife “cherry-pick” the nicer, healthier, less dangerous small-timers.

This is something like the adverse selection that health insurers worry about – getting stuck with the sick, older people when the younger, healthy people decide they don’t want to subsidize all those heart attacks and strokes with their premium dollars. The City of Tacoma is a rational actor. It’s in a budget crisis of its own, and it’s not passing up a chance to save hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in criminal justice expenses.

The City of Fife’s creative entrepreneurialism should be noted. Its jail has a scant 36 beds, but it’s negotiated for jail space in cities from Des Moines to Sunnyside in Eastern Washington. It then markets these beds to its own customers, now including Tacoma and Lakewood.

Another rational actor. Somebody should be working on Wall Street, not 23rd Street East.
Read more »


Make special sessions special again

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

What’s true about the weather holds for special sessions as well: Everyone complains about it, but nobody does anything about it.

In fact, special sessions are no longer very special at all; they’ve become par for the course as the Legislature routinely takes extra weeks after the regular session to hash out a budget every two years – as it is doing now.

So can anything be done to change that?

As it turns out, one simple change could make it less likely that a special session would be needed: Read more »


Carrell was a staunch defender of his district

Our condolences to the family of state Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood, who died Wednesday at age 69.

We always enjoyed talking with the straight-shooting lawmaker when he met with the editorial board. We didn’t always endorse him for election (mainly in his early years as a candidate), but we came to respect his gutsiness in fighting for his district, the 28th. His particular interest was in making sure Pierce County wasn’t the dumping ground for released convicts – a cause we strongly support.

I was looking back at our editorials and blog postings that mention Carrell and came across one

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China’s cyber spies could compromise US defense

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

China has an ingenious way of saving billions in military research and development: Just steal it from other countries, primarily the United States.

The Washington Post reports that Chinese military hackers have accessed data from 37 American weapons programs and 29 other defense-related technologies. Some observers think the stolen information is why China’s J-20 stealth fighters are so similar to the U.S.’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The Post’s report comes on the heels of accusations earlier this month from the Obama administration that China has also hacked into computers of U.S. government

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Cartoonist Chris Britt on free speech

Syndicated editorial cartoonist Chris Britt – formerly of The News Tribune – was one of the speakers May 3 at the TEDxTacoma conference at Theatre on the Square. He talked about free speech and the role of editorial cartoonists while showing slides of some of his work.

I knew Chris did a lot of speaking gigs but had never seen one; he’s pretty entertaining. I liked how he described his job as “lobbing graphic grenades.”

Watch his talk here. The clip is just over nine minutes long.


Farming: Poster child for immigration reform

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Despite all the complaints about partisan gridlock in Congress, Senate Republicans have joined Democrats to produce an artfully negotiated immigration reform package.

The country needs this legislation — but that doesn’t guarantee it will clear the House. Hard-line Republicans in that chamber are still grumping about amnesty and demanding a hermetically sealed border before they’ll consider giving some kind of legal status to the estimated 11 million people living in this country illegally.

There’s common ground to build on, though: Even in the House, many Republicans recognize the need to legalize the status of the workers who harvest crops, slaughter livestock, cultivate nurseries and otherwise keep American agriculture in business.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, roughly half of America’s farm labor force is illegal. Washington – one of the nation’s leading farm states – is especially dependent on unauthorized workers.

At least two-thirds of the people who harvest this state’s apples, cherries, grapes and pears could theoretically be deported. In other words, enforcing the current law would destroy entire industries — proof that the law has to be adjusted to reality.

At some point in the near future, even nonfarmers are going to realize what a godsend those workers are. Mexico — where most illegal farm labor comes from — is getting wealthier and exporting fewer low-wage laborers. Harvesting is backbreaking work; even in the Great Recession, few unemployed Americans from other industries were willing to endure it.

A country looking at a scarcity of farm workers had best figure out how to hang on to them. Threatening to kick them out is not the way to do it.
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UW professor predicts tea party bump won’t last

The tea party has gotten a boost from reports that it was targeted for special scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service. Support has increased from 28 percent in March to 37 percent in a poll released May 20.

But Christopher S. Parker, the Stuart A. Scheingold Professor of Social Justice and Political Science at the University of Washington, doubts the bump will be long-term. In a new article written for CNN, he says that to remain viable in coming years, the tea party likely will have to play up two issues that resonate with its core: immigration and same-sex marriage.

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Taxpayers shouldn’t subsidize sugary sodas

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

How much sugary soda pop is purchased with food stamps? Good luck trying to find out.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture — the federal agency that administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps — doesn’t give out that information. Estimates range from $2 billion a year (a 2010 Yale University study) to $4 billion (a 2010 Center for Science in the Public Interest).

If even the lower estimate is true, it’s no wonder that soft drink makers spend millions of dollars each year lobbying against efforts to

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