Inside Opinion

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

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Tag: Fife

May
31st

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 »

Feb.
6th

Digital signs on state highways? Don’t go there

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Here’s something you don’t hear a lot of Washington residents saying:

“Sure wish we had more billboards cluttering up the landscape – especially the big, really bright kind you can hardly take your eyes off of.”

These signs don’t have a lot of fans among the public, who tend to view them as visual blight. So it’s hard to figure out who, exactly, state lawmakers are trying to please in sponsoring House Bill 1408 and Senate Bill 5304, which would let cities approve electronic billboards along state highways that cross their boundaries. (State Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, is the only South Sound legislator among the co-sponsors.) Read more »

June
12th

Many courts need a refresher on open records rights

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.
Location seems to be a key factor in determining whether citizens can successfully obtain public records they’re entitled to by state law.

At least that what News Tribune reporter Sean  Robinson discovered when he requested public documents regarding cases adjudicated in 22 district and municipal courts in the South Sound.
The cases were routine ones that Robinson knew should be made available under state open records law – for free. He asked for the documents as a private citizen to see how the courts’ staffs would respond.

Those responses were all over the map. Hats off to the ones that provided the requested documents in timely fashion: Pierce County District Court and municipal courts in Tacoma, Puyallup, Federal Way, Olympia, Gig Harbor, Buckley and Fife.
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Aug.
21st

Pierce County and cities should seek consistent fireworks laws

"Safe-and-sane" fireworks were on sale at a Thurston County stand in 2010. (Staff file photo)

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Pierce County Councilman Dick Muri recently summed up what’s wrong with the county’s lax fireworks law:

“It’s not Independence Week that I know of,” he said, referring to the fact that residents of the unincorporated county can legally set off “safe and sane” fireworks for 11 hours daily during the eight days between June 28 and July 5. Muri is part of a County Council committee exploring whether to reduce the hours and days fireworks can be set off or to ban them outright.

If shooting off fireworks truly is an expression of patriotic fervor, celebrating July Fourth’s role in the nation’s history, why allow it more than a week before Independence Day? Or the day after?

“We could maybe at least keep the carnage down to one day,” Muri sensibly suggests.

That would be more in keeping with neighboring counties. Fireworks are limited to July 4 in unincorporated King County and to July 3 and 4 in Thurston.
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May
25th

Fife PD’s eruption of bad behavior has heads shaking

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Night shift at the Fife Police Department apparently was quite a lively scene at times. At least one assumes that the past tense is appropriate.

According to an outside investigation, 17-year veteran Lt. Jeff Westover exposed himself on numerous occasions to a female subordinate and had sex with her once in the police station while they were working the night shift.

The woman and several other female employees also claim that Westover showed them pornographic images on his cell phone – highly inappropriate behavior by anyone in the workplace and especially a supervisor.
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