Inside Opinion

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

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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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Too few primary voters, but they made good choices

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Sure, the Olympics are a distraction, many of us are on vacation and the weather’s been so sunny that perhaps it’s thrown Northwesterners for a loop. But does that explain the lower-than-expected turnout in Tuesday’s primary?

Going to an all-mail election statewide was supposed to boost turnout. After all, there’s no excuse for failing to vote when the ballot is right there on the dining room table.

Unless a whole lot of voters waited until the very last minute to return their ballots, it’s looking like turnout won’t reach the 46 percent that Secretary of State Sam Reed had predicted. That makes it hard to decipher what the results indicate about voter sentiment and what they portend for the Nov. 6 general election. Because this is a presidential election year, turnout is likely to be more than double what it was in the primary, possibly around 85 percent.
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Tidbits from the candidate

We often learn unexpected tidbits when talking with candidates for their endorsement interview. State Supreme Court Justice Susan Owens was in today and mentioned that she went to a concert Sunday by singer-songwriter Ben Harper at the Crocodile in Seattle. It was a benefit for Owens’ benchmate, Steve Gonzalez, who was appointed by Gov. Chris Gregoire in January and is running to retain his seat.

Turns out, Harper and Gonzalez are cousins; their mothers are sisters.

Owens also mentioned that she was one of the elected officials walking in the Seattle gay pride parade Saturday.

“I’ve never

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Impressive Supreme Court candidates

The editorial board is on the home stretch with our candidate interviews for endorsements. In the remaining days, we’ll be focusing on state Supreme Court and Pierce County Superior Court races.

Today we talked with the four candidates hoping to replace retiring Justice Tom Chambers on the state Supreme Court: former Pierce County Executive John Ladenburg, former Justice Richard Sanders, King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Hilyer and Bainbridge Island attorney Sheryl Gordon McCloud.

There was a lot of legal and cerebral firepower in the room, and we were impressed with the cases they made for themselves. We haven’t talked

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It’s not too early to start focusing on the Aug. 7 primary

This editorial will appear in Wednesday’s print edition.

Campaign season won’t last forever; it’ll just seem that way as election signs sprout like weeds on roadsides and snarky ads start dominating television ad nauseum.

On Nov. 7, we’ll all sigh with relief, even if our favorite candidates lose, simply because it will all be over.

While much of the election season sturm und drang will be generated by the presidential race, voters should start focusing on a host of important state and local offices – including the entire U.S. and state House of Representatives – that also will be on the ballot.
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Citizens United bodes ill for Washington’s judicial races

This editorial appears in Wednesday’s print edition.

Washingtonians beware. The incentives to buy justice with campaign dollars are so great that it’s only a matter of time before the new super PACs come shopping for Supreme Court seats in Olympia.

The Washington Post reported last week that jurists in some states are preparing to defend themselves against unprecedented barrages of media attacks funded with unprecedented war chests. The stage was set in 2010 by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which eradicated long-standing restrictions on campaign contributions from corporations and unions.

The decision provided for no firewalls between political and judicial elections. In states that insist on using popularity contests to pick their judges, the threat to an impartial judiciary is obvious. Read more »


Court ruling aside, traffic camera foes still have options

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

The Washington Supreme Court has spoken, and opponents of red-light cameras don’t like what it had to say.

The court ruled last week that local initiatives can’t be used to block or remove traffic-enforcement cameras – such as the ones that photograph the license plates of red-light runners in several South Sound cities. State law gives only city councils authority over those cameras, the court said.

The response from camera opponents – most notably Tim “Mr. Initiative” Eyman – was fast and furious. The decision, he said, sounds “un-American.” Critics say they are disappointed and angry that the citizens have been muscled out of the decision-making process.

But they haven’t been really. Read more »


Judges can – and should – protect rape victims

This editorial will appear in Sunday’s print edition.

“In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to . . . be confronted with the witnesses against him.” – Sixth Amendment, U.S. Constitution

That phrase – known as the Confrontation Clause – has been interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court over the years to mean that defendants have the right not just to face witnesses but also to question them if they are acting pro se, or as their own attorney.

That can lead to brutal experiences in court when the witness being questioned is also the victim, which often happens in all kinds of cases, including domestic violence, assaults and robberies.

The fear and anguish can be overwhelming when a rape victim is cross-examined by the person on trial for raping her. In cases like that, the victim can be victimized all over again by an intimidating, manipulative predator.

Nobody – except perhaps a guilty defendant – wants to see that. And it’s why state legislators have proposed House Bill 1001. Supported by sexual assault victims’ advocates, it asks the Washington Supreme Court to better protect victims of sex crimes by adopting new rules regarding pro se defendants’ interrogation of witnesses.
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