Follow us:

Opinion Northwest

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

Author archives

You are currently viewing all posts written by Erik Smith.

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.

More

Comments

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.

More

Comments | Topics: Airbus, Boeing, ex-im

September 16, 2014 at 6:12 AM

Big expectations for Port of Seattle’s new CEO Ted Fick

New Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick.

New Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick.

The Port of Seattle installed a new CEO last week in what is proving to be one of the highest-profile public positions in the greater Puget Sound area. Ted Fick’s $350,000-a-year salary isn’t bad for government work – but he will face some rather big expectations to match. And eventually he’s going to have to deal with some pretty tough questions.

By now Fick knows what they are. He heard a fair number of them at the press conference that followed his appointment by the Seattle Port Commission. What are the prospects for a merger with the Port of Tacoma? What can the region do to maintain its current market share in container shipping? What about the challenges being posed by Canadian port developments, at Vancouver and Prince Rupert? By an expanded Panama Canal? By proposals to plunk high-traffic basketball arenas and “entertainment districts” right at the port’s front door?

Executive Fick offered a most political answer: “It is only my first day, and I look forward to understanding the issues better.”

More

Comments | Topics: Port of Seattle, ted fick

September 10, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Good arguments from Washington lawmakers on Export-Import Bank

U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia.

U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia.

The current argument in Congress over the Export-Import Bank isn’t just the biggest show of the September session, or even a matter of particular importance to trade-dependent Washington state. It’s also a chance for two Washington members to practice their debating skills.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, are rightly calling the latest proposal to emerge from U.S. House Republican leadership an act of political cowardice — a proposal to kick the issue ahead a few months, sometime after the election. Postponement would make it harder for American exporters to compete for overseas customers. And that’s at best, maintains Heck, prime sponsor of the House Democrats’ proposal to continue the bank for another seven years. Those who wish to delay debate “ought to be courageous enough to talk about what their very-short-term proposal is about,” he said. “It’s about killing Ex-Im.”

More

Comments

September 3, 2014 at 5:50 AM

McCleary showdown: Two messages from the Washington Supreme Court

Washington State Supreme Court (Seattle Times Photo/Ken Lambert)

Washington State Supreme Court
(Seattle Times Photo/Ken Lambert)

Latest Times coverage of Wednesday’s McCleary hearing: Court hears arguments in McCleary school-funding case.

As the McCleary case becomes a showdown Wednesday afternoon at the state Temple of Justice, reading the mood of the state Supreme Court isn’t easy.  There seem to be two messages coming from the court of late.

The first message is the tough-talking one the court has sent to the Legislature and the governor’s office, in its formal court orders. The other is unofficial – the kinder, gentler explanation justices have offered as they have met with The Seattle Times editorial board this election season. Washingtonians might hope the latter is true. 

The court is overseeing implementation of its decision in McCleary v. State of Washington, which held that the state needs to beef up spending on K-12 education by the 2017-18 school year. On Jan. 9, at a point when the state is about a quarter of the way to the goal, the court declared lawmakers hadn’t made enough progress, stepped up the schedule and said lawmakers needed to change their procrastinating ways. The court directed them to come up with the rest of the multi-year, multi-billion-dollar plan to fund the K-12 schools, pronto. Lawmakers balked.

So the court issued an equally high-handed order on June 12, demanding that the other two branches answer for their failure in court Wednesday at 2 p.m. Lawmakers are supposed to explain, among other things, why the court should not impose contempt sanctions, impose big fines, order the passage of specific bills, or shut down the school system entirely. This message seems to trample on the idea that the court is just one of three separate and roughly equal branches of government, each of which deserves a bit of leeway to do its job, and requires the respect of the other two.

Justices presented the argument rather differently as they passed through The Seattle Times offices for endorsement interviews. Four are up for election this year. Three of them say they want to remind lawmakers that time is running out — there are only three sessions left — and if hauling the governor and Legislature into court seems a bit harsh, it is the only way they can do it. “I honestly don’t think anybody really wants to see us create a constitutional crisis where the court oversteps its boundaries,” said Justice Mary Yu, who is running for a seat on the court after being appointed earlier this year. 

More

Comments | Topics: mcleary, supreme court, Washington State Legislature

September 2, 2014 at 5:22 AM

Times poll: 84 percent support elephant-exhibit closure

The Seattle Times’ poll last week on the future of the Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant exhibit demonstrated overwhelming support for its closure – 84 percent – and perhaps even more telling, a high level of reader interest. Nearly 5,500 people responded to the Times’ poll by 5 p.m. Friday, an indication of the way the death of…

More

Comments

August 26, 2014 at 5:13 AM

Poll: Should Woodland Park Zoo send its elephants to a sanctuary?

When African elephant Watoto collapsed last week at the Woodland Park Zoo and had to be euthanized, her death reenergized  a long-running debate over elephant exhibition in rainy Seattle. Today The Times asks for your opinion. For years activists have contended that the exhibition of elephants is a matter of cruelty that can be considered separately from the…

More

Comments | More in Polls | Topics: elephants, woodland park zoo

August 25, 2014 at 8:34 AM

Up, up and away! – first Superman comic sells for $3.2 million

Federal Way comic dealer Darren Adams now can boast – he really does own the world’s most valuable comic book. For a short time, anyway, until payment arrives and his pristine copy of Action Comics No. 1 goes to a new owner. In a much-watched auction on eBay Sunday night, Adams’ copy of the most desirable…

More

Comments

August 22, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Superman reaches stratosphere as Action Comics No. 1 hits $2 million mark on eBay

Darren Adams of Federal Way shows off what likely will be the priciest comic book of all time.

Darren Adams of Federal Way shows off what likely will be the priciest comic book of all time.

For those of you keeping track of what is surely one of the most important stories of the summer, Darren Adams’ copy of Action Comics No. 1 has surpassed the $2 million mark on eBay. The Federal Way comic-book-and-sports-card dealer appears well on his way to setting a world record with the priciest comic book of all time.

I wrote about this one three weeks ago — the world’s most perfect copy of the world’s most desirable comic book. Action Comics No. 1  features the first appearance of Superman in 1938. Creamy white pages. Not a wrinkle, tear or dimple. Rust-free staples. The holy grail of comic books, and the sort of thing that might remind responsible citizens how much they once loved comic books, and wonder why they let silly business like adulthood get in the way.

More

Comments | Topics: action comic, auction, ebay

August 18, 2014 at 6:19 AM

Auditor Kelley makes a right move in Insurance Commissioner’s case

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley.

Washington State Auditor Troy Kelley.

State Auditor Troy Kelley made an unfortunate decision last May when he decided not to investigate a rather serious charge against a state agency — that the Office of Insurance Commissioner was pressuring a judge to rule in its favor. But since then he has come up with a pretty solid idea, a performance audit that will examine whether judges ought to work for state agencies in the first place.

It’s about time someone analyzed that question in a formal way. The charge from hearings officer Patricia Petersen calls attention to the fact that many state agencies conduct appeals hearings in their own offices, using judges who are subject to discipline and termination by agency managers. The arrangement raises doubt about the impartiality of hearings – as it certainly seems to in this case.

More

Comments

Next Page »