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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.

April 15, 2014 at 12:07 PM

Interactive: Where do your federal taxes go?

William Brown / Op Art

William Brown / Op Art

Happy Tax Day.

Did you get a refund this year? Or were you like me and surprised you did not withhold quite enough in 2013 to avoid having Uncle Sam shake you down for a bit — or maybe a lot — more?

For many, Tax Day is a mindless ritual. We get that refund and spend it, forgetting it was our money all along. But admit it: When some citizens are forced to pay more by April 15, all those headlines about waste and fraud in government programs become a little more relevant. Even the most bleeding-heart liberals might think twice about where their dollars are going, and whether that money is being spent wisely.

No matter your feelings about this day, check out the taxpayer-receipt interactive below from the White House. Input your

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0 Comments | More in Interactives | Topics: federal government, tax day, taxpayers

April 14, 2014 at 6:21 AM

Forum: The gender pay gap is real. Have you been affected?

The wage gap between men and women is pervasive. Whether the national average difference is 77 percent, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, or 84 percent, according to the Pew Research Center, male employees still have an advantage.

That’s just wrong. Women deserve equal pay for doing the same work as their male peers and an equal shot at climbing up the success ladder.

The gap has closed over the years, but as Pew notes in the video below, progress is slowing down. Take a look:

Have you personally experienced pay inequities in your career? What do you think is the cause of this? Do you have ideas for solutions to close the gap? Scroll down to the form at the end of this post and tell us.

First, take a look at Saturday’s Seattle Times editorial supporting the city’s efforts to close inequities within its own ranks. The narrative is a familiar one. Many lower-wage jobs tend to be held by women, while most of the higher-paying jobs and leadership positions are held by men.

The same trends apply nationwide. The current system limits upward mobility, but there’s hope for change as employers start to analyze the root causes of pay inequity, women continue to outpace men in earning college degrees and bosses allow more flexible hours.

Alas, many of us demand changes now and lament the reasons why inequities persist in this post-”Mad Men” world.

Here’s a few reasons, culled from various news reports:

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0 Comments | Topics: city of seattle, discrimination, gap

April 10, 2014 at 6:23 AM

A ride-service fan’s doubts about uberX, Lyft and Sidecar petition

Within the last couple weeks, I’ve used taxicabs, Lyft and uberX. The drivers were all nice, the prices comparable, the cars clean. This consumer is convinced the increased competition in Seattle has helped to improve service quality. There’s room in Seattle for many transportation options.

So why are the ride-service companies taking advantage of their popularity and scaring people into thinking they’re going to be put out of business? The three have formed a coalition to circulate a petition to repeal the Seattle City Council’s new regulations, which include insurance requirements, driver training and a limit on each network to 150 drivers at any given time.

If the referendum passes, the new law would be suspended until voters have their say. In a March 28 press release, coalition spokesman Brad Harwood says, “The ordinance passed by the City Council would severely limit transportation options for Seattle residents and visitors alike by making it extremely difficult if not impossible for services like Lyft, Sidecar and uberX to continue serving the city.”

Screen shot of Craigslist ad for drivers posted by uberX on April 8.

Screen shot of Craigslist ad for drivers posted by uberX on April 8.

Again, I’m a fan of these services. But it’s hard to believe that they’re going anywhere when Lyft has been posting ads looking for drivers on Facebook. Sidecar posts ads on Craigslist. UberX, too. (See the photo to the left.)

The council’s cap does seem arbitrary and unfairly protects the taxi industry. But the other provisions passed by the council last month are important for consumer safety in this burgeoning market. Why rock the boat when the council has already told the companies they would be willing to revisit the limits? Seems to me Lyft, uberX and Sidecar should be sharing more of their data with the council and cooperating to develop commonsense regulations, not vilifying their entire effort to ensure safety.

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0 Comments | Topics: lyft, ride-service, ridesharing

April 8, 2014 at 6:22 AM

U.S. Senate passes unemployment insurance extension, House should follow

U.S. House Republican leaders continue to make themselves easy targets for ridicule on issues that should have bipartisan support. Last year, they nearly derailed the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. For months, they have refused to consider comprehensive immigration reform. And now, they appear ready to deny unemployment benefits to more than two million Americans in desperate need of help as they continue to seek jobs.

Speaker John Boehner and his lieutenants, including U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane, are in no rush to provide temporary assistance to those trying to re-enter the work force. Meanwhile, struggling job-seekers such as Calvin Graedel of West Seattle find themselves spending their life savings and selling their homes to make ends meet.

Watch Graedel share his story in the video below, which was shot last month. (View the editorial board’s page featuring previous editorials, more videos, reader views and resources.)

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed a bill to extend emergency unemployment insurance benefits. All Democrats and six Republicans signed on. But according to The Huffington Post, the bill’s future in the House is bleak.

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0 Comments | Topics: congress, extension, unemployment

April 4, 2014 at 6:02 AM

Ignore Jenny McCarthy. Local measles cases prove importance of getting vaccinated

Were you in King, Whatcom or Pierce counties this past weekend? Did you go to the Kings of Leon concert? Or downtown Seattle?

I hope you’ve got your measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) shot. Because this press release from King County is a powerful reminder that not getting vaccinated could really endanger public health:

A person who was confirmed with measles traveled to several Western Washington public locations while contagious. Most people in our state are immune to measles, so the public risk is low except for people who are unvaccinated. The woman traveled to Seattle for a Kings of Leon concert at Key Arena on March 28, when she also was at the Best Western Loyal Inn and the Wasabi Bistro. The next day, she was at Beth’s Café, Aurora Suzuki, Starbucks at First and Pike, and the Pike Place Market.

The Washington State Health Department has posted the full details of the unidentified woman’s time in each location. State officials also report one confirmed measles case in San Juan County. Between March 21 and 22, a traveler going through SeaTac was also diagnosed with the disease, which is highly contagious.

This undated photo shows a child with a classic day-4 rash with measles. (Photo courtesy of CDC/NIP/ Barbara Rice)

This undated photo shows a child with a classic day-4 rash with measles. (Photo courtesy of CDC/NIP/ Barbara Rice)

The lesson? Protect your kids. Protect yourself. Get immunized. Read an Aug. 31, 2013 Seattle Times editorial, too, about the state’s embarrassing seventh place ranking among states where parents demanded vaccine exemptions for their kindergarten-aged kids.

In 2000, CBS News reports measles was close to being eradicated. Today, there are two measles outbreaks in New York City and Orange County. No surprise: many of the victims are unvaccinated children. I can’t stop thinking about those parents who refuse to protect their kids from deadly illnesses because they’ve been led to believe vaccines cause side effects such as autism. This  misguided belief places the rest of the community at risk.

Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle Children’s Hospital pediatrician and author of the Seattle Mama Doc blog, has some answers to explain the madness.

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0 Comments | Topics: Autism, measles, public health

April 2, 2014 at 6:03 AM

5 things to know about local TV news consolidation — and what you can do about it

In Wednesday’s edition of The Seattle Times, the editorial board commended the Federal Communications Commission’s decision this week to crack down on media consolidation by ending the practice of joint sales agreements (JSAs). A majority of commissioners agreed that waivers should be granted only in cases where station leaders can prove that partnerships truly serve the public interest through quality and diverse programming on public airwaves, and not just to to increase profits for private companies.

L to R: Commissioner Ajit Pai, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Chairman Tom Wheeler, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. Commissioners Group Photo, November 2013

Members of the Federal Communications Commission in a November 2013 photo. Left to right: Commissioner Ajit Pai, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, Chairman Tom Wheeler, Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Commissioner Michael O’Rielly. (Photo provided by the FCC)

Are you one of the millions of Americans still getting your information from your local television news? Here are five things you should know:

1. Media consolidation is real.

Fewer owners nationwide control what viewers see and hear. Imagine what that means for communities and American democracy, which relies on many perspectives to maintain a self-governing, informed electorate. Look at the interactive graphic featured in a Oct. 29, 2013 Opinion Northwest blog post.

In Seattle, the commercial stations are all owned by out-of-state conglomerates. Last year, Sinclair Broadcast Group bought KOMO-TV and Gannett purchased KING-TV. KIRO-TV is owned by Cox Media Group. KCPQ-TV’s parent company is Tribune. They are staffed by local (and beloved) news producers and reporters, but their financial interests are in the hands of owners who do not have close ties to the community.

That’s not to say the quality of news has gone down the drain, but the loss of local ownership is something to keep in mind next time you notice there’s a dearth of quality, local content and more packages stories from other markets.

2. Broadcasters have used JSAs to skirt federal rules and control more than one station in various markets.

Last October, The Wall Street Journal’s Keach Hagey wrote a comprehensive report about the use of “sidecar” agreements, in which broadcasters such as Sinclair skirt federal limits and operate more than one station in some markets by outsourcing management duties. As noted in Wednesday’s Seattle Times editorial, the FCC should force broadcasters to disclose all shared-service agreements.

3. The consolidation is sweeping the country.

The graphic below, by the media watchdog group Free Press, shows where JSAs and other forms of shared-service agreements are in place around the country. Free Press calls these partnerships “covert consolidation.” (Read more about the ways broadcasters have violated federal rules on Free Press’ blog.)

(Source: Free Press)

(Map: Free Press)

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0 Comments | Topics: free press, journalism, media consolidation

April 1, 2014 at 6:06 AM

As Wash. extends financial aid to ‘dreamers,’ Congress should reconsider immigration reform

One of the few controversial measures to pass the Washington state Legislature with bipartisan support this past session is now in effect statewide. The REAL Hope Act is a shining example of how states can take small steps to reform immigration policy — with or without congressional action.

Screenshot of the website where students can find out more about the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA).

Screenshot of the website where students can find out more about the Washington Application for State Financial Aid (WASFA).

A Monday press release sent to the media from the Washington Student Achievement Council included a catchy subject line: “Calling all dreamers” — application for state financial aid now available.

This is a special moment for bright students — known as dreamers — who are

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0 Comments | Topics: dream act, immigration reform, Washington Legislature

March 31, 2014 at 6:02 AM

FCC should curb TV media consolidation by closing loophole

Watch what the Federal Communications Commission does on Monday. For the first time in years, the panel should move to slow down media consolidation by closing a loophole that has allowed a handful of the nation’s largest broadcasters to skirt laws limiting station ownership.

No surprise, the broadcast industry is vehemently opposed to ending the practice of Joint Sales Agreements, but this sort of business tactic (covered in-depth by The Wall Street Journal) has diminished local ownership and allowed a small number of big players to control the flow of information over huge swaths of the country.

Local television news is at risk of becoming more about profits for out-of-town corporate bosses than about informing communities with quality news. Why should viewers care about any of this? The fewer owners there are in broadcast news, the fewer perspectives will be featured on the public airwaves. Some argue it makes business sense for the industry to combine operations to be more efficient. But at what cost? With consolidation, women and minority ownership has dropped.

The Seattle Times weighed in on the JSA issue in a March 3 editorial, and encouraged the FCC to follow the advice of the U.S. Department of Justice’s anti-trust attorneys:

Federal attorneys advised the FCC to better scrutinize every deal that comes before its five-member panel. The regulators should force companies to report when they operate multiple stations jointly in the same market, as they already do for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Failure to account for the effects of such arrangements can create opportunities to circumvent FCC ownership limits and the goals those limits are intended to advance,” Justice Department officials wrote.

Consolidation shrinks newsrooms and deprives viewers of in-depth journalism that speaks truth to power. The FCC has failed miserably to protect the integrity of the public’s airwaves through promoting competition, local ownership and diverse viewpoints.

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0 Comments | Topics: fcc, free press, joint sales agreements

March 28, 2014 at 9:07 AM

World Vision’s reversal on marriage policy for gay workers is start of a conversation

For a mere 48 hours this week, World Vision stood up for the legal rights of gay people to be married and to work for its international humanitarian mission. Finally, here was an example of how a faith-based charity could respond and adapt to a controversial social issue such as same-sex marriage.

Screenshot of World Vision's web site, which includes the option for donors to sponsor a child from various developing countries.

Screenshot of World Vision’s web site, which includes the option for donors to sponsor a child from various developing countries.

What a disappointment on Wednesday to see this venerable global relief organization buckle under pressure from its conservative faction. As The Seattle Times’ Lornet Turnbull reports in this Thursday news story, World Vision apologized profusely to its supporters as it re-implemented its policy of refusing to employ gay Christians in same-sex marriages.

One would think that most people could overlook a minor HR rule and coalesce around World Vision’s human rights causes. Every year, the Federal Way-based Christian agency helps 400 million people around the world struggling with poverty, natural disasters, and sex trafficking.

Instead, the backlash was swift and sometimes mean-spirited.

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0 Comments | Topics: gay rights, same-sex marriage, world vision

March 25, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Taxi industry sues Uber; readers respond to ride-service regulations

The war between taxis and  ride-services continues following last week’s unanimous decision by the Seattle City Council to limit app-based networks such as Sidecar, Lyft and uberX to 150 drivers per company at any time.

From left, Parmjit Singh, an owner-driver of a FarWest taxicab, and Said Fatah, a flat-rate driver, cheer as the Seattle City Council approves a cap and stronger regulations on Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like uberx, Lyft and Sidecar in a standing-room only meeting packed with supporters from both the TNCs and taxi/for-hire drivers at Seattle City Hall Monday March 17, 2014. (Photo by Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)

From left, Parmjit Singh, an owner and driver of a Farwest taxi, and Said Fatah, a flat-rate driver, cheer as the Seattle City Council approves a cap and stronger regulations on Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) like uberX, Lyft and Sidecar in a standing-room only meeting packed with supporters from both the TNCs and taxi and for-hire drivers at Seattle City Hall on March 17. (Photo by Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times)

On Monday afternoon, Geekwire reported that the Western Washington Taxicab Operators Association has filed a lawsuit against Uber for operating illegally throughout the region. According to the story, the lawsuit claims Uber “engages in an unlawful and deceptive business practice which harms the economic interests of taxicab drivers.”

Soon after, Brooke Steger, Uber’s general manager in Seattle, emailed a brief response to the media: “Uber remains focused on connecting people with the safest and most reliable transportation options in Seattle and protecting the thousands of small business jobs created by our technology platform. It is unfortunate that the taxi industry is not similarly focused on what really matters: safety of riders and opportunity for drivers.”

Quiet support during the March 17 hearing is made by this person of Lyft with a small, pink mustache. (Photo by Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Quiet support during the March 17 hearing is made by this person of Lyft with a small, pink mustache. (Photo by Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

In other news, Crosscut writes that a nonprofit called Democracy Workshop filed an initiative last Friday with the city of Seattle to remove the caps. Seems like a premature, knee-jerk reaction. The better course is to let the city figure out how it’s going to enforce the limit in the first place Also, the ride-service companies should just cooperate with the city and prove whether that 150 figure is too low. Lawmakers have indicated a willingness to change the cap according to whatever the data say.

The Seattle Times’ March 14 editorial called on Mayor Ed Murray to overhaul the city’s outdated taxi rules, which coasted along for years before the onslaught of app-based transportation services. Last Wednesday, he responded to the council’s vote by promising a “long-term solution.” Good.

Here’s an excerpt from Murray’s blog:

I still believe that capping the number of TNCs is not workable over time, and that the specific number set by council is unreasonably low. I still believe that the existing regulatory framework as applies to taxis is unfair and in need of reform. And while the council’s proposal makes important progress by mandating insurance for TNCs at parity with taxis and slightly easing the existing mandates for taxis, I believe that these mandates are still overly burdensome.

But, in politics, as in life generally, the perfect can often be the enemy of the good. While the council’s proposal is far from perfect, it does make necessary progress on an issue that we cannot afford to ignore and which is too urgent to start all over on. There is still more progress we can and must make on this issue.

I plan to immediately begin working with stakeholders and council to build on their diligent efforts of the past year and arrive at a more long-term, comprehensive solution.

And what about the public’s reaction to all this? According to the unscientific results of a poll posted in this March 18 Opinion Northwest blog post, most responders agreed with the council’s vote. Vote again below to see the latest results.

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0 Comments | Topics: lyft, ridesharing, Seattle City Council

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