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Opinion Northwest

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

November 25, 2014 at 6:04 AM

A needless attack on TVW detracts from real need for more transparency

TVW provides an important service for Washington state, airing raw video of legislative meetings and policy-oriented events that no other channel does. Not even close. Thanks to tvw.org, busy people like you and journalists like me don’t have to drive all the way to the state Capitol to see what’s going on. We can view most proceedings over the air or on streaming online video —  in real time, or days, months and years later.

(Screenshot of TVW.org's website)

(Screenshot of TVW.org’s website)

The Olympia-based public access channel does its work on a limited budget. Equipment should have been replaced years ago, but the Legislature has failed to help. Last March, The Seattle Times editorial board highlighted TVW’s significance as an important tool to ensure government is transparent.

So I’m disappointed to read a Nov. 21 news story by The (Tacoma) News Tribune, which reports the state Senate’s top Republican and some of his caucus are not so happy with TVW. Last Thursday night, they expressed dismay over two meetings that were recorded months ago in committee hearing rooms. State Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, called these “pretend hearings, and TVW carried them with the credibility of a hearing.”

Schoesler questioned whether TVW’s decision to document those events was an “appropriate use of TVW or the Legislature.” Why? Because they featured only Democrats? Or because they featured Democrats getting the spotlight and a public airing over at least one measure — the Reproductive Parity Act — that the Republican-dominated majority would not allow a hearing on?

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Comments | Topics: olympia, streaming video, transparency

November 24, 2014 at 8:45 AM

Should Woodland Park Zoo elephants go to zoo or sanctuary?

Woodland Park Zoo officials pleasantly surprised me when they announced a plan on Wednesday to phase out the elephant exhibit. I’m sure a lot of people were ready to give them a round of applause.

Chai, a 35-year-old Asian elephant, holds a pose as she waits for a zookeeper to place hay in a box in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Chai, a 35-year-old Asian elephant, holds a pose as she waits for a zookeeper to place hay in a box in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

And then they blew it. Bamboo and Chai are likely headed to a different zoo on this list of accredited institutions by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

Bamboo, a 47-year-old Asian elephant, walks in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Bamboo, a 47-year-old Asian elephant, walks in her enclosure at the Woodland Park Zoo on Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The Seattle Times editorial board published an editorial Wednesday evening calling on Seattle leaders to give these animals a break. They have worked hard enough for decades. Let them retire and roam free somewhere.(If you want to have your say, scroll to the poll at the bottom of this post.)

Here’s an excerpt:

Details are yet to be ironed out, but the Seattle City Council — which also serves double duty as board members of the Seattle Park District — should require the zoo to retire these animals. Make no mistake: This is now an election issue for City Council races.

On Thursday, I asked each of the nine Seattle City Council members to respond to this question: Do you support the elephants going to another zoo or sanctuary?

As of Friday morning, every member of the council had responded except Nick Licata. Find out where they stand below.

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Comments | Topics: elephants, Seattle City Council, woodland park zoo

November 24, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Thanksgiving is for eating, not shopping

When I heard that more retail stores plan to open on Thanksgiving this year, I felt dismayed that shopping was tainting the purity of one of my favorite holidays.

Then I remembered I live in a nation of consumers and that Americans vote more with their dollars than they do at the ballot box.

Retailers began experimenting with Thanksgiving Day shopping a few years ago with stores like Macy’s, JC Penney, Best Buy and Target launching Black Friday sales a day early. The experiment is now a full-fledged trend, but of course, not all shoppers or merchants are joining in – many are outraged.

Shoppers at Best Buy in Northgate Mall in Seattle on Thanksgiving evening in 2013. (Marcus Yam/The Seattle Times)

Shoppers at Best Buy in Northgate Mall in Seattle on Thanksgiving evening in 2013. (Marcus Yam/The Seattle Times)

Instead of enjoying turkey and all the dressings with their loved ones, some people will be forced to work next Thursday. And what about those helpless shoppers who can’t resist a good deal? Are greedy retail companies taking advantage of them?

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Comments | Topics: black friday, Nordstrom, shopping

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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