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Opinion Northwest

Join the informed writers of The Times' editorial board in lively discussions at our blog, Opinion Northwest.

November 20, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Are King County taxpayers ready to fund levy focused on early childhood?

Seattleites just voted overwhelmingly to fund universal preschool. Will King County taxpayers supplement that effort next August or October by passing the Best Starts for Kids levy? This measure being floated by King County Executive Dow Constantine would fund early childhood programs and youth services. During a phone interview this week, Constantine said details are yet…

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Comments | Topics: brain development, early childhood, early learning

November 19, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Critics should wait for Inslee’s carbon plan before bashing it

 

You don’t have to strain your ears to hear the steady drumbeat of politicians and policy advocates wailing about Gov. Jay Inslee’s imminent low-carbon emissions proposal.

Gov. Jay Inslee viisited the Green River in Auburn, Oct. 28, as part of his climate tour of the state.

Gov. Jay Inslee visited the Green River in Auburn, Oct. 28, as part of his climate tour of the state. (AP Photo / Elaine Thompson)

When Inslee appeared in Seattle Monday to accept recommendations from his Carbon Emissions Reduction Taskforce on a market-based carbon pollution plan, state Senate Transportation co-Chairman Curtis King, R-Yakima, and Energy and Environmental Chairman Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, wasted little time expressing “serious concerns” over his policy direction and process.

“We also strongly encourage you to consider our substantive comments on your proposals, as the economic ramifications of those policies will ultimately determine their fate in Washington,” the legislative leaders wrote in a letter to Inslee.

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November 19, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Task forces: a place where “good ideas go to die”

A major problem for special education is the term “special education.”

A new report examining Washington’s special education programs calls for the governor to establish a 12-person commission to revamp the current system. But, steer clear of the terms “special education” or “task force,” the report insists. “Blue Ribbon Commission” sounds much better.

The recommendation comes from representatives of 138 social, health, educational, parent, student and child advocacy groups with a stake in special education that provided input for the report.

They determined that using special education or task force in the name of the new commission could keep the the group from effectively carrying out its mission. (Read more about that here.)

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Comments | Topics: blue ribbon commission, special education, washington state

November 18, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Clapper on lessons learned after North Korea’s release of Kenneth Bae

Kenneth Bae has been reunited with his Lynnwood-area family for a little more than a week now, and the details of his rescue continue to fascinate.

James Clapper, the U.S. intelligence director, detailed his secret trip to North Korea on Sunday’s “Face the Nation.” Watch the video below:

Here’s the takeaway: This was not exactly a slam-dunk mission. The Obama administration had good reason to keep it a secret until the two Americans, Bae and Matthew Todd Miller, were safely on board a flight back to the U.S.

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Comments | Topics: diplomacy, face the nation, james clapper

November 17, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Stop saying Washington ranks 47th for class size

Don’t believe the hype. Washington does not rank 47th for class size. I’ve heard numerous people cite that statistic to explain why they voted for Initiative 1351, a measure that called for limiting class sizes in Washington. Voters narrowly approved the initiative in the recent election by 50.7 percent. After all, 47th out of 50, that’s outrageous! Well,…

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November 14, 2014 at 6:20 AM

Yet another flashing light at state Department of Social and Health Services

The budget slashing of human services during the Great Recession is coming back to bite Washington.

The $90 million cut from the state’s mental health system from 2009 to 2013 directly led to a state Supreme Court’s ruling in August banning very sick patients from being warehoused in hospitals, and probably will lead to a similar ruling next year regarding a lack of treatment in jails. A wavering financial commitment to court-ordered foster care reforms in the same era resulted in an extension of court oversight.

In a column tallying up the “flashing red lights” in state human services, I included a less-noticed new red light at Lakeland Village, an institution for people with developmental disabilities near Spokane. The problems there also flow directly from Great Recession budget cutting: as described in a Seattle Times story, a $1 million cut in 2011 forced dozens of patients into cheaper care that to me veers toward simple warehousing of patients.

A resident at Lakeland Village near Spokane, in a 2003 photo (Torsten Kjellstrand / Spokesman-Review)

A resident at Lakeland Village near Spokane, in a 2003 photo (Torsten Kjellstrand / Spokesman-Review)

But the response since then by the Department of Social and Health Services — to dispute and fight these red flashing lights — is exacerbating the problems. Federal auditors and disability advocates have now objected annually at least three years now, including an astonishing 41,231 separate violations of Medicaid rules in 2013, as described in a Seattle Times story. Patients who are in the most expensive type of care the state offers were parked in front of “The Jerry Springer Show” with the blinds folded.

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November 14, 2014 at 6:15 AM

LBJ events should steer Seattle toward a greater society

Seattle is being treated to a flourish of LBJ activity, and I can’t get enough.

Lyndon B. Johnson was a man of great ambition, bold vision and stark contradictions. (L.B.J. Library)

Lyndon B. Johnson was a man of great ambition, bold vision and stark contradictions. (L.B.J. Library)

Much of the hoopla is focused on 2014 being the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which President Lyndon Baines Johnson was instrumental in passing.

School children are taking up the subject, as Seattle Times colleague Jerry Large wrote Thursday. But some historic figures have as well.

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November 13, 2014 at 6:04 AM

King County Council wisely steps up to save public health, women’s health services

Hats off to the King County Council for unveiling a proposed 2015-2016 budget this week that keeps the county’s 10 public health clinics open — at least for now.

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott

King County Councilmember Joe McDermott

“The council recognized the importance of these services, especially maternity support services and the [Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children] that are unique to the county and that others don’t provide,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, chair of the Budget and Fiscal Management Committee.

Faced with a $15 million annual shortfall, Public Health — Seattle & King County has been scrambling to find partners to take over some or all of the direct services provided at its clinics, including primary care, family planning, maternity support and supplemental nutrition for infants. An Oct. 30 Seattle Times editorial commended efforts by cities and local health care partners to keep sites open in Federal Way and White Center. Public health employees even agreed to wage concessions, but it wasn’t enough to close the funding gap.

Before this week’s announcement, two sites were slated for closure in January — the Northshore Public Health Center in Bothell and the more heavily-used Auburn Public Health Clinic. (I profiled one of the clinic’s patients in a Nov. 3 blog post.) Last week, I followed up on a community effort to save the Auburn site, which included pledges from various groups totaling about $700,000. That amount fell short of the $1.6 million needed to prevent closure.

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Comments | Topics: birth control, king county, public health

November 12, 2014 at 6:32 AM

Why Washingtonians should care more about trade

Most people don’t think much about trade. Sure, we all know the goods we buy at the store had to come from somewhere, but do most people stop and think about where that somewhere is or how the movement happened? Probably not often.

I spent several hours Monday hearing from a variety of experts, business executives and politicians (including U.S. Sen. Patty Murray), discuss the role of trade in Washington and how to strengthen what is a vital industry in the state. The Washington Trade Conference pulled together a few hundred people who care, and know, a lot about trade.

A container ship entering the Port of Seattle. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

A container ship entering the Port of Seattle. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Let’s face it, trade isn’t the most riveting topic. But, here is a juicy tidbit gleaned from the conference: In Washington, about 40 percent of jobs are related to trade. That means close to 850,000 jobs in the state involve production of goods from apples to airplanes as well as transportation, handling and shipping of goods to other states or countries.

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Comments | Topics: jobs, Port of Seattle, trade

November 11, 2014 at 6:40 AM

Lighting Seattle’s Green Lake park for safety

    The 2.8-mile paved trail around Green Lake makes it Seattle’s most-used park. But in the low-light winter months of the sun-deprived Pacific Northwest, the trail, which is not lighted, is dark for up to 15 hours a day. I was reminded how dark the trail gets from dusk til dawn when my wife, a frequent Green Lake runner, came across…

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