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Opinion Northwest

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

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You are currently viewing all posts written by Thanh Tan. Thanh is a multimedia editorial writer. Prior to joining the editorial board of The Seattle Times, she was a political and general assignment reporter with local TV stations in Boise and Portland, an Emmy-winning reporter / producer / host with Idaho Public Television, and a multimedia reporter with The Texas Tribune in Austin. She has also contributed to "This American Life" and The New York Times. Born and raised in Olympia, Thanh graduated with honors from the University of Southern California. She loves food, music, politics, films, yoga, the outdoors and journalism. She lives in Capitol Hill.

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 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 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 10, 2014 at 12:01 PM

A sweet and long-awaited homecoming for Kenneth Bae

This photo of Kenneth Bae greeting his mother, Myunghee Bae, speaks a million words.

Kenneth Bae, who had been held in North Korea since 2012, greets his mother Myunghee Bae after arriving, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., after they were freed during a top-secret mission by James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Kenneth Bae greets his mother Myunghee Bae after arriving Nov. 8 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

On the first anniversary of her son’s arrest on Nov. 3, 2012, the elder Bae wrote a Seattle Times guest column outlining her anguish over his imprisonment. Considering reports he had been hospitalized at least twice for health problems, Bae appeared robust Saturday night as he stepped off the plane at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

How sweet to witness this peaceful outcome for the Bae family. Imagine what these last two years have been like for them; not knowing when, whether and in what condition their loved one would be released by arguably the most unpredictable and secretive regime in the world.

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Comments | Topics: diplomacy, kenneth bae, north korea

November 6, 2014 at 12:12 PM

More community action necessary to save women’s health services in South King County

The race to find enough funding to keep the Auburn Public Health Clinic open just got a nice boost from local funders, but it’s not enough to prevent closure in January.

(Photo by Thanh Tan/The Seattle Times)

On Wednesday, Nov. 5, King County Executive Dow Constantine held a news conference at Auburn City Hall to announce those organizations that have stepped up to help Public Health — Seattle & King County keep the Auburn Public Health Center open. (Photo by Thanh Tan/The Seattle Times)

More cities, nonprofits and businesses still need to step up to help thousands of South King County’s most vulnerable women maintain access to family-planning services, as well as support programs for mothers and newborns.

On Wednesday, King County Executive Dow Constantine and other county leaders announced a coalition has come forward and pledged between $550,000 to about $700,000 total to help Public Health — Seattle & King County offset a revised shortfall of about $1.6 million to keep the only standalone family-planning clinic (and its two satellite offices) accessible.

Here’s the key date for the community to act: Nov. 17. On that day, the Metropolitan King County Council is set to vote on the budget for the next two years. A blueprint will be revealed about a week before.

The more funds can be identified before then, the less likely the county will have to consider peeling off resources from other critical service areas.

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

November 3, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Save women’s health, maternity support services in South King County

Dariia Leavitt, 25, is just one among thousands of clients watching closely to see if the Auburn Public Health Clinic remains open next January.

Dariia Leavitt signed up as a maternity support services client in 2011. (Photo courtesy of Dariia Leavitt)

Dariia Leavitt signed up as a maternity support services client at the Auburn Public Health Clinic in 2011. Today, she goes to the clinic for family planning services. (Photo courtesy of Dariia Leavitt)

Her story helps to make the case for why last Friday’s Seattle Times editorial called on elected officials, health providers and women’s health advocates to find about $1.7 million as soon as possible to keep the site open. Without that money or partners, the county will have to close a vulnerable section of South King County’s only standalone family planning clinic in January.

Leavitt first sought help three years ago after her daughter, Eve, was born. At the time, Leavitt had just arrived from the Ukraine, could not drive and spoke little English. After her mother-in-law learned about the Auburn clinic, Leavitt initially signed up as a client for Maternity Support Services (MSS). Thanks to this state program administered by King County, nurses conducted home visits to check on the baby’s health, offered Leavitt tips for better breastfeeding and answered her questions about being a first-time mother.

“It meant a lot to me,” Leavitt said earlier this month in one of the clinic’s meeting rooms, as Eve slept in her arms. The baby “got help when she needed it. We didn’t have to wait until I had insurance or could drive a car, and I didn’t have to borrow any money from anybody because I could afford paying the bill myself.

And even if I didn’t have the money at that time, I could pay the next time,” she added. “You can’t do that at regular clinics. It really helped me. I didn’t have to get a credit card.”

About 10,700 clients in the Auburn area — including women, teens, children and infants — rely on Public Health’s nurses and staff to learn parenting skills and access supplemental nutrition programs.

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Comments | Topics: auburn, birth control, king county

October 23, 2014 at 12:34 PM

Bob Barker to Woodland Park Zoo elephants Bamboo and Chai: Come on down (to a sanctuary)!

When Mayor Ed Murray delivers his proposed budget Thursday evening at Seattle City Hall, he won’t be able to miss the elephant (advocates) in the room.

Members of the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants issued a press release Thursday announcing plans to pack the 5:30 p.m. meeting. They’ll “urge City Council members to withhold funding from Woodland Park Zoo until the Zoo’s two surviving elephants are retired to a sanctuary.” The mayor’s budget blueprint reportedly includes $7 million in taxpayer funding for the Woodland Park Zoo.

The Seattle Times editorial board, the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals are among the institutions that have advocated for sending Bamboo and Chai to a sanctuary where they can live out their days in a warmer climate and with more space to move around. The Woodland Park Zoo’s third elephant, Watoto, was euthanized in August after she fell and could not get up. As of 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, here’s the (very unscientific) results of an Oct. 13 Opinion Northwest poll asking readers what should happen to the two remaining elephants:

(Screenshot of poll featured in Oct. 13 Opinion Northwest blog post.)

(Screenshot of poll featured in Oct. 13 Opinion Northwest blog post.)

Murray and a few council members have indicated they are ready to take another look at the plight of the zoo’s elephant exhibit. Perhaps they need another strong nudge to move faster. Ahead of Thursday’s meeting, Friends co-founder and elephant advocate Alyne Fortgang emailed me a Sept. 30 letter from “The Price is Right” host and animal rights activist Bob Barker to zoo and city leaders. Here’s what that letter states:  

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Comments | Topics: bob barker, elephants, woodland park zoo

October 22, 2014 at 12:06 PM

Washington Supreme Court should not dismiss Backpage.com case

Just because no case law yet holds Backpage.com responsible for exploiting children, that does not mean the classified ad site should always be immune from liability. The fact is Backpage.com and other sites like it create an environment where pimps can easily post ads every night selling girls (and boys) for commercial sex work.  They do…

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Comments | Topics: backpage, backpage.com, national center for missing and exploited children

October 17, 2014 at 12:02 PM

King County, Washington state must remain at forefront of fight against sex trafficking and Backpage.com

Earlier this week, King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg joined with community groups and seven local law-enforcement agencies to announce a new effort to crack down on the commercial sex industry by focusing on the thousands of  johns who fuel the demand for this illicit trade.

On Wednesday, Seattle Times reporter Sara Jean Green wrote about how recent stings have led to 105 arrests within three months. That same day, a new coalition that includes the Organization of Prostitution Survivors outlined plans to catch more buyers, deter them from committing crimes and help them to understand the harm their actions inflict upon vulnerable women and girls. The editorial board commended the collaborative project as a meaningful step toward saving these victims from a life of enslavement and manipulation by pimps.

A high number of sexual encounters these days are initiated online via seedy adult classifieds ads on sites such as Backpage.com. (King County reports there are at least 100 sites frequented on a daily basis by about 27,000 men countywide.)

As King County and police officers in Seattle, Kent, SeaTac, Federal Way, Bellevue and Des Moines prepare to take a tougher approach toward arresting and prosecuting more buyers, keep an eye out for potential actions from the state Supreme Court.

Next Tuesday, the justices will hear arguments for a case in which three girls are suing Backpage.com for damages after their former pimps posted their photos and advertised them for sex services online. Once they were able to escape the life,

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Comments | Topics: backpage, king county, prostitution

October 14, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Charts: Wake up and fund public health, prevention services

“When public health is effective, the public isn’t thinking about it,” says Metropolitan King County Council member Joe McDermott, head of the panel’s budget committee this year. It’s true. Prevention is not sexy. Fewer people care when the system works. However, the Ebola scare sweeping the world should be a wake-up call. Why wait for an…

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Comments | Topics: ebola, family planning, funding

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