Inside Opinion

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

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

Category: Taking notice


Let the sun shine in: Celebrate the summer solstice

Stonehenge is a favorite spot for ushering in the summer solstice. The ancient stone circle of Stonehenge is a World Heritage Site erected between approximately 3000 B.C. and 1600 B.C. and despite years of research the reason behind its construction remains a mystery. The summer solstice in the northern hemisphere occurs annually on June 21 and is the time at which the sun is at its northernmost point in the sky. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Stonehenge in England is a favorite spot for ushering in the summer solstice. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)

Summer sneaks in at 10:04 tonight for those of us on Pacific Daylight Time. Friday is the first full day of the season, with the most hours of daylight all year. We’ll have 15 hours and 56 minutes of daylight Friday, then it’s all downhill from there. On Saturday, we’ll have 15 hours and 55 minutes.

For most Northwesterners, summer is what we wait for, what we consider our reward for enduring all those dreary days between November and early June.

So enjoy. And learn a little about the solstice from the Old Farmer’s Almanac, here. The editors also offer 10 ways to celebrate summer and explain why the longest day of the year isn’t also the hottest day of the year.

Here’s an interesting article by Boston Globe columnist Alex Beam about the onset of summer. Read more »


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 »


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.


Tacoma’s Technical Institute comes of age

Few people – even at the University of Washington Tacoma – recall how intensely involved The News Tribune was in the creation of the campus.

In the 1980s, this opinion page ceaselessly hounded lawmakers to create the UWT. A former publisher, the late Kelso Gillenwater, helped plan the state system of branch campuses as a member of the state Higher Education Coordinating Board.

We got into fray again when Prof. Ed Lazowska, a computer science leader at the UW in Seattle, started talking about building an applied-science technical institute in Tacoma. Two redoubtable civic leaders, Herb Simon and Bill Philip, led the lobbying and fund-raising efforts that made the Institute of Technology a reality in 2001. I like to think that our barrage of commentary in favor of the plan did some good, too.

The infant of 2001 is now a 12-year-old, and how he has grown.
Read more »


Spanaway’s on the state’s tourism map, but not Lakewood?

We got an email notice today that the Washington Tourism Alliance has released its 2013 official Washington State Visitors’ Guide. The new print guide is linked to, the official state tourism web site.

Just out of curiosity, I wanted to see what the state website had to say about Lakewood, where I live. Needless to say, I was underwhelmed.

Go to the website, click on Regions and Cities, then on Metro Seattle (which includes King, Pierce and Thurston counties). Then click on Lakewood, and up comes a map – which designates the city with just

Read more »


Celebrate state parks Saturday – for free

We will editorialize Sunday on the dismal state of the state park system as it marks its centennial this month. Even so, there’s a lot to enjoy at the state’s 117 parks – and on Saturday you won’t need a $30 Discover Pass or have to pay the $10 day-use fee.

One of my favorites in the South Sound is Jarrell Cove State Park on Harstine Island in Mason County. It’s a marine park well-known to area boaters, but it’s also accessible by bridge (map). I think it’s a largely undiscovered gem.

The state park I most recently

Read more »


Why Michelle Obama’s Vogue cover matters

michelle-obama-vogueOne of our wire services provides articles from The Root, a daily online magazine featuring commentary from a variety of black perspectives. This article, on why Michelle Obama’s Vogue cover matters, came in too late to get in over the weekend but might get into the print edition next week. It’s by The Root political correspondent Keli Goff.

Why Michelle Obama’s Vogue cover matters

By Keli Goff
(c) 2013, The Root

Every presidential administration has one or two moments it is best remembered for – some good, some bad. President Nixon will always be better remembered for Watergate and his final farewell wave following his resignation than for any of his policies. President Obama will always be remembered for the night he made history by becoming our country’s first black president. But he will also be remembered for his wife. Read more »


Frequent contributor John Earl passes away

John Earl
John Earl

I was saddened to learn today – via a Peninsula Gateway obituary – that former reader columnist John Earl died last week. Our condolences to his wife Kathy and family.

Earl was one of our columnists in 2008. He was also a frequent letter writer and contributor to the newsroom’s BackTalk feature. He was very active in the Gig Harbor community, having served on the Peninsula School Board and the South Kitsap Parks Commission.

He was an opinionated guy, and his arguments were always cogent and respectful. His columns were thoughtful, usually humorous and always well-written, rarely needing an editor’s touch. He was fun to talk to, too.

His obituary fittingly concludes: “John will always be remembered for his loving heart, infectious smile, sense of humor and his love of wrestling.”

What a loss. Earl was only 51.

Here are some snippets from his reader columns: Read more »