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Opinion Northwest

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

October 1, 2014 at 6:19 AM

Critics of juvenile justice racial disparities win minor victory in Seattle City Council

Opponents of a new King County juvenile detention facility may not feel like it, but they won a significant victory at the Seattle City Council Planning, Land Use and Sustainability Committee meeting Tuesday. Before they expressed passionate concerns that minority youth are disproportionately locked up, the council’s procedural go-ahead for the new $210 million King County…


Comments | Topics: juvenile justice, racial disparity

September 30, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Another delay for the Burke-Gilman’s ‘missing link,’ and an alternative

The long-delayed end to the Burke-Gilman Trail’s “missing link” will be delayed again. The Seattle Department of Transportation has pushed back the timeline by “eight or nine months” for completion of an environmental impact statement (EIS) on route options for the recreation trail superhighway through Ballard, according to SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan. The draft EIS will…



September 30, 2014 at 6:02 AM

‘Last Days In Vietnam’ film premieres in Seattle on Friday, reopens old wounds

Growing up, my parents never revealed details about their experiences living through the Vietnam War. I knew they had survived the conflict, but I never associated them with old news footage of helicopters flying over rice paddies or combat scenes in Oliver Stone films such as “Platoon.” After having the opportunity to recently screen American Experience’s “Last Days In Vietnam,” I wish I had been more curious about my parents’ story, and those of so many other Vietnamese immigrants who fled after South Vietnam fell to communism on April 30, 1975.

I highly encourage Vietnamese immigrants and American veterans in the Seattle area to head to the Varsity Theatre in the University District to see the film, which runs for one week from Oct. 3 to Oct. 9. Directed by Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, this theatrical run is a chance to see the film before its national broadcast on PBS in April 2015.

Here’s the trailer:

I was in elementary school when my nerdy computer programmer father revealed he’d once been a lieutenant in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, otherwise known as the South Vietnamese military. He promised proof once my mother returned from her first visit to Vietnam in 1994. She came back with disappointing news: My dad’s family had burned his military photos after he and my mother escaped in October 1978. Under the new regime, having such images around placed the family at risk. My father had already served six months in a re-education camp, and they did not want to relive that nightmare.

Years later, a family friend gave my parents a couple of undated photos that were snapped in Vietnam (most likely after the Tet Offensive in 1968). I scanned one of them below.


Comments | Topics: documentary film, rory kennedy, vietnam war

September 29, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Seattle, the affordable city


Nancy Ohanian / Tribune Content Agency

Affordable housing has morphed into a loaded term in Seattle. Many residents and city leaders say it’s disappearing or there isn’t enough of it.

The idea that affordable housing is endangered in Seattle is misleading, however, because it depends on what how you define “affordable.”

Keeping housing affordable means spending 30 percent or less of household income on housing, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Affordable housing” as a technical term in general refers to housing developed with subsidies like tax dollars or grants reserved for residents based on income.

For the average person, affordable housing means not feeling like too much of your money goes to paying rent or a mortgage.


Comments | Topics: affordabe housing, housing, Seattle

September 26, 2014 at 11:48 AM

Do city growth strategies subtly discourage car ownership?


Drivers and traffic enforcement officials struggled to deal with vehicular congestion on Mercer Street in this August 2012 photo. (Jordan Stead / The Seattle Times)

After a long evening of revelry while attending a soccer tournament in Portugal a few years ago, I was more than ready to grab a taxi home.
But that very American inclination to pay someone to do for me what I could do for myself was quickly rubbished by my new friend-in-football Jürgen Meier from Munich.

“No Robert,” I remember Jürgen protesting in a slightly lubricated Bavarian accent. “We can walk it!”

Not wanting to appear narrow-minded, I relented and I unhappily scaled a few miles of Lisbon’s undulating topography.

Sure, Jürgen insisted we walk home because it saved money, but his core motivation — like most Europeans — was that he came from a walking culture.

Americans, conversely, have an emphatic driving culture. We’ll drive three blocks to a convenience store. I know this because I’ve done it … many times.

And we’ve always liked our cars proportionate to our hedonistic appetites. American motorists proudly sported battleship steel monstrosities in the 1970s, and bogarted cramped roads with Hummers 20 years later. But in rapidly growing cities, the cult of the car is


Comments | Topics: congestion, Seattle, traffic

September 25, 2014 at 6:25 AM

Policing cars, and bikes, on Seattle’s Second Avenue bike lane

Attorney Bob Anderton of Washington Bike Law looked down from his window at the new Second Avenue bike lane striped just beneath his his window. “It warms my heart,” he said.

The 2nd Avenue bike lane at University St. (Mike Siegal / Seattle Times

The 2nd Avenue bike lane at University St. (Mike Siegal / Seattle Times

It also may cost him business. The new protected bike lane through downtown Seattle should reduce accidents on the notorious corridor, where Sher Kung, a young mother and lawyer, died just a week before it opened. 


Comments | Topics: 2nd Avenue bike lane, bikes

September 25, 2014 at 6:12 AM

Initiative 1351: For a multi-billion-dollar budget-buster, not much opposition

State Sen. jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle.

State Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle.

State Sen. Jamie Pedersen, D-Seattle, raised eyebrows last week when he spoke up at a meeting of the 43rd District Democrats. He hadn’t been planning to say anything about Initiative 1351, the Washington Education Association’s proposal to force smaller class sizes in every grade. But when a WEA representative got up and asked for an endorsement, and said the teachers’ union basically was doing the Legislature a favor by forcing it to do the right thing – Pedersen couldn’t help himself.

“It probably wasn’t politically smart to speak out against it, but I felt I had to say something,” he explains.

He talked about the programs that would have to be cut to pay for the measure, and the lack of evidence that 1351 would do any good.  By the time he got done, he not only had defeated the endorsement, he convinced most of the room the initiative is a multi-billion-dollar menace. Some 57 percent of the Democrats who were there voted to oppose it; two more votes and the 43rd-district Dems would have gone on record against it.

Certainly it was remarkable that Democratic-party activists in one of the state’s most progressive districts failed to stand with the teachers’ union. But more remarkable is that the argument took place at all. By no stretch could Pedersen’s impromptu remarks be called organized opposition, but this election season it is the closest thing to it. No one has launched a campaign to oppose Initiative 1351 – this in a state where even the most innocuous initiative can count on at least a token opposition effort.



September 24, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Putting an end to child homelessness

People don’t put a child’s face on the homeless, but there are plenty of homeless children on the streets of Seattle.

Mockingbird Society keynote speaker Roel Williams discusses being a foster child and being homeless during the luncheon fundraiser. (Robert Vickers / The Seattle Times)

Mockingbird Society keynote speaker Roel Williams discusses being a foster child and being homeless during the luncheon fundraiser. (Robert Vickers / The Seattle Times)

That point was hammered home Tuesday during a luncheon fundraiser for The Mockingbird Society, a local non-profit dedicated to improving foster care and ending child homelessness.

The society’s Youth Network Seattle Chapter Leader Roel Williams left the room riveted from his harrowing tale of being shuttled in and out of the foster system as a child and eventually ending up homeless.

The son of a Filipino immigrant, Williams watched his mother succumb to ovarian cancer the day before his seventh birthday. Family friends took him in for a year before dumping him into the foster care system without warning.

That started a rollercoaster existence that included abuse, aggressive use of medication by one foster couple to keep him sedated, and a school counselor encouraging him to drop out of high school.

“The one thing you need to know about foster care is this: For a lot of kids, healthy relationships are few and far between,” he said.


Comments | Topics: homeless

September 23, 2014 at 6:25 AM

Washington’s return to private prisons?

The view from Washington Corrections Center in Shelton. (Mike Siegel / Seattle Times)

The view from Washington Corrections Center in Shelton. (Mike Siegel / Seattle Times)

Washington had a decade-long flirtation with the private prison industry.

It ended badly.

There was at least one serious riot, vehement protests from inmates’ families and charges of shoddy mental-health care. When the last of 1,200-some inmates finally returned home in 2011, they brought the virulent connections to violent prison gangs and an unusual amount of contraband, including cellphones. 



September 22, 2014 at 6:08 AM

No deal in Congress on Ex-Im Bank points to problems in both Washingtons

Delaying a vote on the Ex-Im Bank will impact businesses small and large, creating uncertainty about the availabilty of credit for foreign purchasers of American-made goods. Airplanes, for instance. (Photo by Mike Siegel/ Seattle Times)

Delaying a vote on the Ex-Im Bank will impact businesses small and large, creating uncertainty about the availabilty of credit for foreign purchasers of American-made goods. Airplanes, for instance. (Photo by Mike Siegel/ Seattle Times)

Another nine months of limbo for the federal Export-Import Bank spells big trouble for Washington exporters, large and small. A decision by Republican House leaders last week not to debate the bank’s reauthorization and kick the matter down the road is every bit as much a failure as the squabbling last year that shut down the federal government. Alas, an argument that doesn’t happen never gets as much attention as an argument that does. So Washington state needs to be attentive and place the blame where it is due, for missed business opportunities, sales that go to companies in other countries, and the first step toward a unilateral disarmament that will wreak havoc on Washington’s largest business, Boeing. House GOP leaders last week decided not to permit a vote on bills that would have extended the nation’s export-credit agency for a longish term of five or seven years. Instead they slipped a more modest proviso into the usual “continuing resolution” that allows the federal government to continue functioning, keeping the bank alive until next June 30. Certainly it was better than allowing the 80-year-old institution to expire on Sept. 30, which is what would have happened otherwise. But it is an unwarranted genulflection by Republican leaders toward a faction within the party’s ranks that sees the bank as an affront to free-market principles.


Comments | Topics: Airbus, Boeing, ex-im

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