Inside Opinion

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

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Tag: open government

March
12th

Government operates best in the light of day

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

This week is Sunshine Week, when newspapers and civic watchdogs remind public officials that their paramount duty is to the citizens, not to their own self-interest. That duty is best carried out openly and transparently, not hidden behind closed doors and secret documents.

That reminder is badly needed, if action in the Legislature is any indication.

Proposed bills that would have made state and local government more transparent have already died. Now  the Washington Coalition for Open Government is just playing defense against several bills designed to obstruct the public’s right to know.

The bill with the most life in it is Read more »

Feb.
27th

Don’t chip away at public disclosure

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

For public officials, laws requiring government transparency can be a royal pain. We get that.

Those laws mean they have to publicize meetings and allow in citizens who might be quarrelsome or reporters who might ask uncomfortable questions.

And those laws mean they have to respond to citizens and media representatives requesting public records – even requests that might be time-consuming or seem unreasonable.

But open government laws are on the books for a reason: Read more »

Jan.
5th

Agenda for action in 2013

This commentary will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

Again this year, The News Tribune’s editorial board has identified what we believe should be fundamental priorities for Washington state, this region and our communities.

The agenda below reflects the values and concerns that will guide our commentary through 2013.

At the top is education. With Washington’s economy recovering from five years of distress, this state should finally be able to invest more in its public schools and colleges. The state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision is more than enough reason to expand the opportunities we owe our children and grandchildren.

Our 2013 civic agenda:

FUND EDUCATION

Public education needs a radical rethinking this year.

For decades, the Legislature has been evading its responsibility to fully fund the state’s schools, expanding other programs while forcing school districts to rely on local levies to pay for such basics as textbooks, school nurses and bus drivers.

That’s got to stop, said the Washington Supreme Court last January in its landmark McCleary decision. The court demanded that the Legislature comply with the Washington Constitution, which states that “ample provision” for basic education is the “paramount duty of the state.”

Nor does basic education consist of harried teachers in overcrowded classrooms. As common sense and the court defines it, “ample” means far more the bare bones. Every child, even in poor school districts, must be offered the high-end academic skills needed to succeed in a complex, technology-intense world.

This means the Legislature must appropriate hundreds of millions of dollars more per year to the K-12 system. That’s going to require some very tough choices in Olympia, probably including more taxation.

REFORM EDUCATION

The Supreme Court has no authority to raise taxes or micromanage legislative budgets. Budget-writers are accountable to the voters, which means that the public holds the ultimate power to demand or deny adequate funding for schools.

The public understands that simply dumping more money in an underperforming school system will produce only a more expensive underperforming school system. But Washingtonians can be persuaded to invest more in the system if they see greater accountability in their schools, high academic standards, and science-based teaching and administrative practices.

Voters will pay for results. They won’t pay for the status quo.

PRESERVE HIGHER ED

College opportunity doesn’t fall under the constitutional definition of basic education, but few students will find success in tomorrow’s economy without vocational or academic training beyond high school.
Read more »

July
30th

Washington’s political map must be drawn in public

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

T o come up with something more partisan than Washington’s new voting districts, you’d have to splice together the platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties.

The boundaries of the state’s new legislative and congressional districts are precisely crafted to keep incumbents in office and look after the interests of the two big parties. The Washington State Redistricting Commission and its staff even calibrated the map to protect officeholders from prominent citizens who might run against them.

One problem. As Peter Callaghan reported in Sunday’s News Tribune, the whole process was a blatant and shameless assault on Washington’s open public meetings act.
Read more »

Sep.
12th

Obama still has work to do on reversing federal secrecy

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Here is some news to cheer supporters of open government: The feds made considerable progress last year in paring what had been a chronic backlog of public disclosure requests.

Consider it an upside – perhaps the only upside – of having a dwindling number of watchdogs covering federal agencies. As fewer reporters file new Freedom of Information Act requests , federal workers have more time to process old ones.

But as of last fall, 77,377 requests were still pending, according to a new report from OpenTheGovernment.org, a coalition of more than 70 open-government advocates. The oldest request – a petition to the Department of Defense – dated from 1992.

The coalition’s Secrecy Report Card also found a decline of new national security secrets. But the reflex to hide information remains strong: Fewer pages were declassified governmentwide in 2009.

Read more »

March
6th

State government clings to double standard

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

Is it any wonder that city and county officials clamor for relief from open meetings and records laws when they see their counterparts in state government behave as they do?

State officials profess a belief in public disclosure. They’re just not sure it always applies to them.

Lawmakers in particular hold themselves apart from the state’s sunshine laws. They caucus in secret for any reason and insist that their correspondence is somehow constitutionally protected from public dissemination.

They also apparently reserve the right to skip public process in the interests of expediency.

Read more »

Feb.
17th

Special records access for media? No thanks

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

A curious thing is happening in the state Legislature. It seems lawmakers believe they can pick off public disclosure supporters by granting some of them special privileges to information.

Twice now, legislators have answered concerns about denying access to public records by establishing a new class of citizens: members of the news media.

Read more »

Feb.
9th

Bad bill exploits officers’ deaths

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

State Rep. Lynn Kessler’s bill to seal information about people who work in the criminal justice system got absolutely nowhere last legislative session.

This year, it’s sailing through the House as lawmakers scramble to assist law enforcement in the wake of six cop killings.

The only problem: House Bill 1317 wouldn’t do anything to protect police officers from killers. It would, however, protect law enforcement agencies from public accountability.

The legislation is billed as a way to keep gangs and organized crime from compiling databases of law enforcement personnel. Even if that were happening – sponsors and supporters can’t cite any cases – HB 1317 would do nothing to prevent it.

Read more »