Inside Opinion

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Tag: Chris Gregoire


Chris Gregoire: A good governor in bad times

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The best kind of attorney is honest, on top of the case, tough in the courtroom but ready to bargain.

The description fits Washington’s departing governor, Chris Gregoire, a lawyer to her bones.

We didn’t endorse Gregoire when she first ran in 2004, and her margin of victory, a freakishly minuscule five-thousandth of a percent, was a statistical tie – barely a win, let alone a mandate.

Her first term was impressive in some ways, disappointing in others. She abetted, for example, a massive expansion of casino gambling without pressing Washington’s Indian nations into sharing revenues with the state. The tribes won the jackpot; the public simply lost. Read more »


Gregoire’s DOA budget plan offers roadmap of possible routes

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Entering her last few weeks as governor, Chris Gregoire tied up one of her constitutionally mandated duties Tuesday. She presented a 2013-2015 budget that makes cuts, raises taxes and is, almost certainly, dead on arrival.

But there’s value in this $34 billion lame-duck proposal, if only to frame the huge challenge before incoming governor Jay Inslee, the Democratic House and the closely divided Senate as they try to reach consensus on a budget.

As in years past, they’ll face a deficit (just under $1 billion), a still-shaky economy and a voter-approved initiative that limits their ability to raise taxes. Add to that the directive in January from the Washington Supreme Court to make progress on addressing a serious shortfall in funding for K-12 education.

The urgency of doing that was reinforced Thursday when the court ruled that the Legislature is moving too slowly in finding more money for education. Although the state has until 2018 to solve its education shortfall problem under the McCleary lawsuit decision, the court wants to see more steady progress than it’s seen so far.
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Need a reason to fill out that ballot? We’ll give you 10

One reason to vote: You get to wear this snazzy sticker.

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Crunch time for voters arrives Tuesday. If you haven’t returned your ballot yet, remember that it must be postmarked by midnight on Election Day or put in one of many area drop boxes by 8 p.m. in order to be counted.

Not motivated enough this year? As a public service, we’ve come up with the top 10 reasons to return that ballot.

10. You get free license to complain if the candidates or ballot measures you voted for fall short on Election Day. There’s a little-known political etiquette rule that goes something like this: If you didn’t vote, then keep your yap shut.

9. Remember 2004. Even if you feel that your vote for president means little (the prognosticators tell us that Washington’s electoral votes are firmly in Barack Obama’s column), many down-ballot races and ballot measures need your vote. Read more »


A privilege mysteriously absent from the state constitution

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

The Olympia-based Freedom Foundation is forcing an issue that needs to be forced: whether a governor can conceal documents by invoking an unwritten executive privilege that overrides the state’s Public Records Act.

The Freedom Foundation, a conservative think tank, is suing Gov. Chris Gregoire to get six records of her office’s internal discussions about medical marijuana, the Alaskan Way Viaduct and salmon recovery efforts in the Columbia River Basin. The state Supreme Court heard the arguments last week.

Her attorneys say a governor needs “elbow room” to discuss sensitive questions with her staff with an assurance of privacy.

That’s a respectable argument – one that should be made to the Legislature. But Gregoire claims the Washington Constitution gives her power to withhold such internal documents – despite the constitution’s failure to mention this privilege.

Her argument largely relies on the U.S. Supreme Court’s recognition that the nation’s president possesses a “qualified privilege” to withhold certain records. We think the analogy between the governor and president is specious.

In Washington, executive authority is splintered into nine different offices; we elect an independent secretary of state and treasurer, for example. Our governorship is a pale shadow of the presidency. And unlike the president, the governor guards no state secrets.

The lack of an explicit executive privilege in the Washington Constitution is not a mere oversight. The constitution explicitly recognizes a corresponding privilege for legislators. The authors were aware of the issue and presumably knew what they were doing when they didn’t extend the same power to the governor.
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West Coast needs federal help with tsunami debris

A worker burns debris off a dock torn loose by the 2011 tsunami in Japan. The dock, covered with several invasive species, washed up June 5 on Agate Beach near Newport, Ore. (Oregon Parks and Recreation/The Associated Press)

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

West Coast states have been bracing for debris from Japan’s devastating March 2011 tsunami, and the vanguard is starting to arrive.

Objects ranging from soccer balls to a 65-foot-long floating dock have begun fetching up on beaches from Alaska to California. Just this week, kayakers looking for debris say they believe they found part of a Japanese house on an Olympic Peninsula beach.

It’s just the beginning. The main debris field is still far offshore, and flotsam is expected to keep washing up for years. Japanese officials estimate that 1.5 million tons of debris is floating in the Pacific Ocean; although some it will sink, much of it will end up on West Coast beaches. Read more »


Where are the women candidates?

Today’s centerpiece article on the opinion page about women candidates, “Don’t get mad, get elected,” got me wondering about the future of this state’s female leadership.

Washington has a woman governor and two women senators. The state Senate has a woman majority leader (Lisa Brown), and the state Legislature is full of women.

But now Brown has announced she’s not seeking re-election, and Gov. Chris Gregoire is stepping down, likely to be replaced by either Rob McKenna or Jay Inslee. If Sen. Marie Cantwell is defeated in November, the state will only have one woman elected statewide (Sen. Patty Murray). Read more »


Washington wines are winners

Waterbook wines are poured in the downtown Walla Walla tasting room. (Staff file photo)

Gov. Chris Gregoire gave Washington wines a plug Monday while signing the capital construction budget, which includes money for a wine research center in Richland. She recalls a trade mission to Europe when she responded to a question about California wines: “They make jug wine. We make fine wine.”

I’m not sure I’d go quite that far. Having visited many California wineries in Napa and Sonoma, I think there’s quite a lot of good wine being made there. California has far more wineries than Washington (about 3,500 to 740), and accounts for about 90 percent of U.S. wine production. But, as Gregoire implied, Washington wineries focus on quality, not quantity.

I recently returned from a very quick trip to Washington wine country, from Yakima, through Prosser and on to Walla Walla. Here are a few highlights: Read more »


Lawmakers must ensure state pension sustainability

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

All over the country, pension systems for public workers are in trouble. Many are woefully underfunded. Nationally the deficit was $1 trillion at the end of 2008, and it’s been widening since as baby boom workers retired in growing numbers and the recession battered investment funds.

Washington is in better shape than most states. As of 2008, according to the Pew Center on the States, it was one of only four states whose pension systems were fully funded.

But, according to Pew, “Washington needs to improve how it manages its long-term liabilities for both pensions and retiree health care and other benefits. The state has failed to meet its actuarially required contributions since 2001.”
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