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October 20, 2014 at 12:02 PM

Dave Chappelle’s status as racial commentator-in-chief reflects loss of faith in leaders and institutions

There was a time when Barack Obama was the go-to figure in conversations about race for most of white America.

As a 2008 presidential candidate, he riveted the populous with an exploration of the nation’s “racial stalemate.”

Those days are over, thanks largely to the popularity loss that comes with being a two-term president. And Obama hasn’t helped his own case as the nation’s racial healer-in-chief.


Comments | Topics: barack obama, cdc, congress

October 15, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Poll: Is there a better way to select judges in Washington?

After spending two days listening to a parade of candiates from selected judicial races vying for The Seattle Times editorial endorsement, two motifs emerged for me: the majority of incumbents and challengers fear money is having an increasingly negative effect on judicial races; and while most candidates think there’s a better way to select judges,…


Comments | Topics: judicial elections

October 10, 2014 at 11:55 AM

Plainclothes Seattle police chief makes the case for more uniformed officers

Sipping on a honey nut smoothie in a downtown cafe Thursday morning, Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole didn’t act like the city’s top cop, or even dress the part.

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole poses for a selfie with Seattle Times editorial writer Robert Vickers. (Robert Vickers / The Seattle Times)

Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole poses for a selfie with Seattle Times editorial writer Robert Vickers. (Robert Vickers / The Seattle Times)

O’Toole, who took over the embattled department in July, wore civilian clothes, spoke in hushed tones when she used the word “police,” and conversed with a personal ease atypical of law enforcement officials – all that while her department was heavily deployed to secure Vice President Joe Biden’s visit.

As if to drive home the point that she’s not an everyday police chief, O’Toole proposed a selfie when I asked for a photo.

What big city police chief does that?


Comments | Topics: crime, downtown seattle, kathleen o'toole

October 7, 2014 at 6:07 AM

Dueling Columbus-Indigenous Peoples holidays obscure nuanced understanding of American history

Seattle City Council’s decision to commemorate the second Monday of October as “Indigenous Peoples’ Day” will be tough for some Italian-Americans and U.S. traditionalists to accept.

Aiden Eaglespeaker, 11 months (hand on sign) and her mother Jennifer (left of Aiden) listen to discussions about changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples' Day at a September 2014 Seattle City Council meeting. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

Aiden Eaglespeaker, 11 months (hand on sign) and her mother Jennifer (left of Aiden) listen to discussions about changing the name of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day at a September 2014 Seattle City Council meeting. (Ellen M. Banner / The Seattle Times)

The date is already set aside as the federal holiday commemorating Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ arrival in North America in 1492.

Even before the Catholic benevolent organization Knights of Columbus successfully lobbied for the holiday in 1934, celebration of Columbus’ arrival in the New World had been ritualized for generations in the U.S. to foment patriotism.

The holiday has also come to carry huge significance for many Italian-Americans, whose immigrant ancestors were greeted with hostility during their mass migration in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Comments | Topics: columbus day, holidays, indigenous peoples' day

October 6, 2014 at 6:13 AM

Hey Mr. President! Washington state has two good candidates for U.S. Attorney General

Rumblings from within the Beltway suggest that Washington State is getting short shrift as President Obama ruminates over who will replace Eric Holder as U.S. attorney general. Politico reported last week that Obama has narrowed the pool to former White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler, Labor Secretary Tom Perez and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. But that shortlist…


Comments | Topics: attorney general, barack obama, christine gregoire

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 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 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 19, 2014 at 6:16 AM

Take a tour with ‘da mayor’ of Seattle Dick Falkenbury

Few new arrivals to Seattle will get a more gilt-edged presentation of the city than the personalized tour I received Wednesday from former 20-year cab driver and 2003 city council candidate Dick Falkenbury.

Dick Falkenbury (Robert J. Vickers / The Seattle Times)

Dick Falkenbury during a tour of Pike Place Market. (Robert J. Vickers / The Seattle Times)

After learning of my newbie status, the lifelong Seattleite and Puget Sound gadfly offered to show me around town, and I eagerly accepted. The nearly three-hour outing left me with butterflies in my stomach.

But my assumption that I would reap the benefits of his encyclopedic Seattle knowledge exclusively that day was shortly dispatched as Falkenbury repeatedly paused to help random glassy-eyed tourists who’d lost their way.

These were my first clear indications that I was travelling with Seattle’s unofficial version of Ed Koch, the late New York City mayor who gained notoriety for walking his streets and querying city dwellers: “How’m I doin’?”

Falkenbury wasn’t asking, but plenty of folks treated him as though he was “da mayor” of the city despite his slightly disheveled appearance and proclivity to speak rather than breathe.

Such recognition about town, his undeniable passion for the city, and the eccentric twinkle in his eye was hard to resist. But more was to come.



September 9, 2014 at 6:09 AM

NBA gaffe 2.0 may help Seattle get a team, but won’t improve race relations

Danny Ferry, Hawks President of Basketball Operations and GM

Atlanta Hawks majority owner Bruce Levenson. (AP Photo/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnny Crawford)

Seattle is stirring about another prospect for regaining professional basketball.

This time the inkling comes from Atlanta, where majority Hawks owner Bruce Levenson is selling his controlling interest in the NBA team after he acknowledged sending emails questioning the team’s economic viability because of its predominantly black fan base.

Specifically, Levenson worried that “the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base.”

On the surface, it sounds just like former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling expressing a personal distaste for racial minorities. In response to the cultural backlash, the NBA forced Sterling to sell the team last month to Seattle businessman Steve Ballmer.

But Seattleites should resist the temptation to paint Levenson with the Sterling brush, no matter what affect it has on repatriating that NBA franchise.


Comments | Topics: bruce levenson, donald sterling, hawks

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