Inside Opinion

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

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Our choices for Federal Way City Council and School Board

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Federal Way voters have some superb candidates for their City Council and School Board on the Aug. 6 primary ballot. The top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.

The City Council races are for two seats currently filled by candidates who were appointed in January and now are seeking election in their own right.

In Position 2, the appointee is Kelly Maloney, a marketing executive with good ideas for improving the city’s image and bringing in more investment. She’s pushing to lure a private four-year

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For Zimmerman, ‘not guilty’ does not equal innocence

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

Trials are supposed to provide closure, at least for someone. A Florida jury’s decision to acquit George Zimmerman on Saturday won’t come close to doing that.

Too many people want more satisfaction from the verdict than any jury could have delivered. The unprovable murder charge didn’t address what could be proven: the aggressive and reckless course Zimmerman took when he set in motion the fatal confrontation.

There were two different cases here – one that played out in the justice system, another that played out in the court of public opinion.

In the initial media narrative, a white man arbitrarily gunned down a black kid for doing nothing more than walk through the neighborhood with a package of Skittles in his pocket. It sounded like a reprise of the 1955 Emmett Till atrocity, in which a 14-year-old Chicago boy was beaten to death in Mississippi for no reason beyond the color of his skin.

The actual criminal proceedings kept spitting out complicating details. Martin turned out to be a good-sized young man who could handle himself in a fight. There was evidence – including head wounds – consistent with Zimmerman’s account of being beaten by Martin. A credible eyewitness put Martin on top of Zimmerman, throwing punches.

It was important that the trial be held. Black Americans in this country – such as Emmett Till – have been targeted and killed by vigilantes too often to count. Justice had to take its course.

But in the courtroom itself, Zimmerman, like anyone charged with murder, deserved the presumption of innocence. The prosecution turned out to have a wobbly case that was undermined by some of its own witnesses.
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With port on an even keel, keep Bacon on commission

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

When things are going well, it’s not a good idea to rock the boat. That maritime analogy is appropriate to the Port of Tacoma commission race on the Aug. 6 primary ballot.

Although three port commissioners are up for election, only one drew opposition, four-term veteran Connie Bacon in Position 1. Commissioners Don Meyer and Dick Marzano are unopposed.

Running against Bacon are former Port of Tacoma security director Eric E. Holdeman of Puyallup and engineer Dave Dormier of Gig Harbor. The two top vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 5 general

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Quebec oil train disaster must not be repeated here

Black tank cars full of crude oil sit at the Tacoma train yard June 20. The cars comes from the same North Dakota source as the ones that exploded July 6 in Quebec. (Staff file photo)
Black tank cars full of crude oil sit at the Tacoma train yard June 20. The cars comes from the same North Dakota source as the ones that exploded July 6 in Quebec. (Staff file photo)

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Even a minimal risk becomes a serious risk if multiplied enough. The improbable — but catastrophic — explosion of tank cars in Quebec should have us thinking about the oil trains headed for our corner of the continent.

The crude oil that flattened a section of Lac-Megantic and killed dozens of its citizens July 6 had come from North Dakota, where new drilling technology has turned the Bakken geologic formation into a Persian Gulf-scale bonanza of petroleum.

New pipeline construction hasn’t caught up with that bonanza, so North Dakota’s oil industry has been shipping out immense quantities of crude on long trains.

The Port of Tacoma saw its first such “rolling pipeline” from North Dakota last November. Oil trains with be pulling into Tacoma and other Washington cities with increasing frequency, and the potential size of this black tide is staggering.

The Sightline Institute, an environmentalist research group, recently did a survey of the places where petroleum companies are moving to expand petroleum capacity in this state. In addition to Tacoma, those destinations include terminals and refineries in Vancouver, Hoquiam, Anacortes and Ferndale.

The group estimates that Tacoma could see an average of a train a day when current oil-by-rail plans are completed; it estimates that Vancouver could see an average of 10 a day with a large new crude oil terminal at the Port of Vancouver.

Emphasis on “could” — environmentalists have been known to overstate their cases. But even if Sightline is highballing the numbers, there’s no question a whole lot more tank cars will be rolling this way in the next few years. This on top of a potential surge of long Montana coal trains that threaten to bisect cities in Western Washington.
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Johnson for Bonney Lake mayor, Stuard for Sumner City Council

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Many incumbents on local city councils and school boards are facing no primary opposition this year — and some are even running unopposed. Not so in the East Pierce County cities of Bonney Lake and Sumner, where every incumbent up for re-election has at least one opponent.

However, only two races will be on the Aug. 6 primary ballot because they have at least three candidates running. The top two vote-getters will advance to the Nov. 5 general election.

In Bonney Lake, Mayor Neil Johnson is being challenged by longtime City Councilman

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A choice of superlatives for Puyallup School Board

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Only one seat on the Puyallup School Board is up for election this year. It’s a shame there aren’t three — one for each of the hyper-qualified candidates competing for Position 4.

That’s how good Karen Edwards, Margie Silver and Kathy Yang are. For the Aug. 6 primary, we favor Edwards in a very tough call, but the district’s students would come out ahead with any of them.

Puyallup’s schools have a single overriding problem: space. The district already crams more of its students into portables than any other district in the

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Simpson’s our choice for Lakewood City Council

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

The leadership in Lakewood must be doing something right. Of the four City Council seats up for election this November, only one – the sole open seat – is being contested.

Three first-term council members – Mike Brandstetter, Mary Moss and Jason Whalen – are unopposed. That’s a far cry from years past when Lakewood often saw fiercely fought campaigns against incumbents.

The open Position 5 seat was vacated by Doug Richardson when he was elected to the Pierce County Council. Former council member Helen McGovern-Pilant was appointed to fill the position,

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Levy swap is critical to state K-12 funding

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

On public school funding, lawmakers are right and their critics are wrong. The 2013 Legislature made a big step toward ample funding of public education by earmarking an addition $1 billion for the K-12 system.

Compliance with the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary decision will require more, of course, but all the money was never going to materialize overnight.

One remarkable thing has been going unremarked.

The Legislature and supreme court are co-equal branches of government. Lawmakers conceivably could have brushed off McCleary the way Andrew Jackson once brushed off an 1832 ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court: Enforce your own damn decision.

Lawmakers instead worked in good faith to satisfy the Washington Constitution’s mandate that the state “make ample provision for the education all children rising within its borders.”

But Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn makes a fair point when he says the Legislature picked the “low-hanging fruit” to come up with that $1 billion.

The easiest fruit to grab was $354 million from the state’s public works account, which provides local governments with cheap loans for local water, sewer and street projects.

That’s one-time money. The Legislature must come up with something better for future bienniums.

One obvious place to go is the levy swap. The basic theory:

• Many districts are currently being forced to come up with 20 percent or more of their budgets from property tax levies that pass or fail depending on the mood of the taxpayers.

• The McCleary decision says all basic education money should come from the state – from a reliable source. Levies don’t count as reliable. (Raids on the public works account aren’t reliable, either.)

• Under the swap, the state would increase the property taxes it collects for schools, and districts would be required to decrease their levies accordingly.

• The switch would be roughly revenue-neutral. Taxpayers as a whole would pay no more, though there’d be some shift from the wealthiest districts (largely in King County) to poor ones.

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