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Opinion Northwest

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

Category: Uncategorized
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 17, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Stop saying Washington ranks 47th for class size

Don’t believe the hype. Washington does not rank 47th for class size. I’ve heard numerous people cite that statistic to explain why they voted for Initiative 1351, a measure that called for limiting class sizes in Washington. Voters narrowly approved the initiative in the recent election by 50.7 percent. After all, 47th out of 50, that’s outrageous! Well,…

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November 14, 2014 at 6:20 AM

Yet another flashing light at state Department of Social and Health Services

The budget slashing of human services during the Great Recession is coming back to bite Washington.

The $90 million cut from the state’s mental health system from 2009 to 2013 directly led to a state Supreme Court’s ruling in August banning very sick patients from being warehoused in hospitals, and probably will lead to a similar ruling next year regarding a lack of treatment in jails. A wavering financial commitment to court-ordered foster care reforms in the same era resulted in an extension of court oversight.

In a column tallying up the “flashing red lights” in state human services, I included a less-noticed new red light at Lakeland Village, an institution for people with developmental disabilities near Spokane. The problems there also flow directly from Great Recession budget cutting: as described in a Seattle Times story, a $1 million cut in 2011 forced dozens of patients into cheaper care that to me veers toward simple warehousing of patients.

A resident at Lakeland Village near Spokane, in a 2003 photo (Torsten Kjellstrand / Spokesman-Review)

A resident at Lakeland Village near Spokane, in a 2003 photo (Torsten Kjellstrand / Spokesman-Review)

But the response since then by the Department of Social and Health Services — to dispute and fight these red flashing lights — is exacerbating the problems. Federal auditors and disability advocates have now objected annually at least three years now, including an astonishing 41,231 separate violations of Medicaid rules in 2013, as described in a Seattle Times story. Patients who are in the most expensive type of care the state offers were parked in front of “The Jerry Springer Show” with the blinds folded.

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November 14, 2014 at 6:15 AM

LBJ events should steer Seattle toward a greater society

Seattle is being treated to a flourish of LBJ activity, and I can’t get enough.

Lyndon B. Johnson was a man of great ambition, bold vision and stark contradictions. (L.B.J. Library)

Lyndon B. Johnson was a man of great ambition, bold vision and stark contradictions. (L.B.J. Library)

Much of the hoopla is focused on 2014 being the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which President Lyndon Baines Johnson was instrumental in passing.

School children are taking up the subject, as Seattle Times colleague Jerry Large wrote Thursday. But some historic figures have as well.

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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 12, 2014 at 6:32 AM

Why Washingtonians should care more about trade

Most people don’t think much about trade. Sure, we all know the goods we buy at the store had to come from somewhere, but do most people stop and think about where that somewhere is or how the movement happened? Probably not often.

I spent several hours Monday hearing from a variety of experts, business executives and politicians (including U.S. Sen. Patty Murray), discuss the role of trade in Washington and how to strengthen what is a vital industry in the state. The Washington Trade Conference pulled together a few hundred people who care, and know, a lot about trade.

A container ship entering the Port of Seattle. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

A container ship entering the Port of Seattle. (Ken Lambert / The Seattle Times)

Let’s face it, trade isn’t the most riveting topic. But, here is a juicy tidbit gleaned from the conference: In Washington, about 40 percent of jobs are related to trade. That means close to 850,000 jobs in the state involve production of goods from apples to airplanes as well as transportation, handling and shipping of goods to other states or countries.

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Comments | Topics: jobs, Port of Seattle, trade

November 11, 2014 at 6:40 AM

Lighting Seattle’s Green Lake park for safety

    The 2.8-mile paved trail around Green Lake makes it Seattle’s most-used park. But in the low-light winter months of the sun-deprived Pacific Northwest, the trail, which is not lighted, is dark for up to 15 hours a day. I was reminded how dark the trail gets from dusk til dawn when my wife, a frequent Green Lake runner, came across…

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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 10, 2014 at 6:06 AM

Helping Latino parents help their kids

Corrected version In the south Seattle neighborhood of White Center, parents, many Spanish-speaking, are learning how to teach their children years before they enter the classroom. A trend of training parents to be better first teachers for their infants and toddlers is gaining momentum nationwide in the push to improve early education. But, that type of training is…

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Comments | Topics: early education, latinos, parents

November 7, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Gov. Inslee should have revealed ‘no’ vote on Initiative 1351 sooner

Leaders shouldn’t be afraid to influence their constituents – that’s part of the job. I’m disappointed to hear that Washington Gov. Jay Inslee voted against Initiative 1351, but didn’t reveal his preference until after the election.

Supporters of I-1351 billed the law to limit class sizes and for Washington schools to hire 25,000 new workers, about a third of which would be teachers. If it passes — and it’s too close to call right now — the law could add a $4.7 billion burden on the state budget over the next four years.

“I did have concerns about financing, so I did not support it,” Inslee said in a post-election interview with TVW.

Gov. Jay Inslee.

Gov. Jay Inslee.

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