Inside Opinion

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

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Tag: Pierce County

June
20th

Help – not jail – for Pierce County’s mentally ill

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

They’re called the Top 55, which sounds like a good thing. It’s not.

They’re revolving-door customers of the Pierce County Jail – repeat offenders who have also had contact with the mental health system. Many have a history of substance abuse.

As a group, the Top 55 puts an inordinate financial strain on the jail, which is facing a $4.2 million shortfall. Each has gone to jail at least five times in the past 12 months, and in 2012 they accounted for 5,499 days in the facility.

Because of their mental health

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June
16th

Heroin: Unintended consequence of meth, Rx drug crackdown

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Think of a heroin user and what comes to mind? A gaunt addict in some flophouse with a needle hanging out of his arm?

How about an Oscar winner? Or a billionaire’s grandson? Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman just got out of rehab for a heroin addiction, and the heir to financier T. Boone Pickens died of a heroin overdose earlier this year.

Do an Internet news search of “heroin,” and one fact becomes clear: The opiate — which can be smoked, snorted or injected — is making a comeback. In cities across

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June
10th

Thumbs up for anti-distracted driving patrols

Recent emphasis patrols in the South Sound region ticketed more drivers for texting than did similar patrols in 2012. (LM Otero, The Associated Press)
Recent emphasis patrols in the South Sound region ticketed more drivers for texting than did similar patrols in 2012. (LM Otero, The Associated Press)

This editorial will appear in Tuesday’s print edition.

The figures are in from last month’s distracted driver emphasis patrols, and the verdict is: Plenty of us are, indeed, driving distracted.

During the week of May 20, patrols in many communities statewide focused on pulling over drivers who were illegally using handheld cellphones or texting. They nabbed 1,448, compared with 1,059 in 2012 — a 36 percent increase. If drivers are at all intimidated by the prospect of a $124 ticket, it’s not showing.

Here’s a hero of the emphasis patrols: the Gig Harbor police officer who single-handedly ticketed 101 of the 139 drivers the department caught using their cellphones.

Another shout-out to the Puyallup Police Department, which employed a tag-team approach on busy Meridian Avenue. One officer on the street served as a spotter, alerting another to make the stop and issue the ticket. In the first two days of the department’s three-day emphasis patrol, 79 tickets were issued for texting or talking on handheld phones. Read more »

June
2nd

Farewell, Sen. Carrell; hello (we hope) to Sen. Muri

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Few Pierce County lawmakers have grown as much in office as state Sen. Mike Carrell of Lakewood.

His death Wednesday deprived his 28th Legislative District of a distinguished legislator — and also deprived the Republican Party of a vote it needed to retain control of the Senate.

Carrell might not have been so widely missed in Olympia in the 1990s, after he was first elected to the House of Representatives. He charged into office as a hard-edged ideologue chiefly known for leading a campaign to reduce fathers’ child support obligations. He could be abrasive in dealing with people he disagreed with.

Even then, though, he proved capable of winning passage of a landmark law, the Becca Bill. Named after a 13-year-old runaway girl found beaten to death in Spokane, the law expanded the power of courts and parents to detain and rescue youths on a self-destructive trajectory.

The Becca Bill also transformed the state’s truancy policies, requiring fast intervention when students started to skip classes without excuses. It became the foundation of many different efforts to save minors from the streets. The law’s tough love was a big improvement on permissive 1970s policies that had bestowed upon kids the freedom to jump off cliffs.

By the time Carrell was appointed to the Senate in 2004, the hard edges were softening. Most notably, he collaborated with then-Sen. Debbie Regala — a Tacoma Democrat — to fix the way the state Department of Corrections released felons from prison.

Their “fair share” bill helped protect Pierce County from the state’s penchant for dumping ex-cons here — a practice that saddled the county with an intolerably high crime rate. The legislation also provided more assistance to those released inmates to help them transition to life outside prison.
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April
23rd

Tragedy led to positive public changes

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Ten years ago Friday, the South Sound was stunned by news that Tacoma’s police chief had fatally shot his estranged wife and then himself – with their two young children nearby.

The tragedy was an intensely personal one for the families of Crystal Judson and David Brame, leaving two children orphans and loved ones distraught. But it was also a very public crime, taking place in a Gig Harbor parking lot and involving a high-ranking police officer.

It touched off weeks of investigation and soul-searching by city officials and police seeking the answers to two overarching questions: Read more »

April
14th

Reality check on Pierce County health: Not so good

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The results are in for Pierce County’s annual heath exam, and there’s no diplomatic way to put this: We’re in bad shape.

Of Washington’s 39 counties, Pierce ranked 26th and fared worse on almost every health metric in comparison to state and national results. This is according to the annual County Health Rankings by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin.

Pierce rated worse than the other urban-suburban Puget Sound counties, far behind King (ranked sixth), Thurston (ninth) and Kitsap (15th). We fare more poorly than both the state and national measurements in such categories as rates for low-birth-weight babies, adult smoking and obesity, sexually transmitted diseases, teen births, higher education, violent crime and access to healthy food.

Compared to state and national results, we have more premature deaths and more poor physical and mental health days. More of us are unemployed, and we have more children in single-parent households – a key risk factor for poverty and a host of other problems.

About the only category Pierce County excels in is access to fast-food restaurants: 50 percent of us have access, compared to 46 percent statewide and 27 percent nationally. It’s a dubious achievement that – combined with less access to healthy food – could be playing into our higher obesity rate.

So what’s the takeaway here? Unfortunately, it’s not a good one. The results show the need for more public health outreach to low-income and underserved populations at a time when budget cuts probably will mean less will be done. For instance, nearly half of the county’s 12 walk-in family support centers face possible closure due to cuts in Medicaid administrative matching funds.
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April
4th

State Farm expansion would be a big deal for Tacoma

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

‘Like a good neighbor”? For downtown Tacoma, State Farm might be “like the best neighbor ever.”

Still stinging from the loss of Russell Investments, which had 1,100 employees at its peak about a decade ago, Tacoma now stands to gain about 2,000 jobs if State Farm expands on its existing presence in DuPont.

According to The News Tribune’s Kathleen Cooper, the insurance giant is finalizing plans to take over Read more »

April
2nd

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 www.experiencewa.com, 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

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