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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
July 30, 2014 at 6:23 AM

Photos: Picturing the devastation of fire country

Scorched earth lines Highway 97 between Okanogan and Brewster.

Scorched earth lines Highway 97 between Okanogan and Brewster. (Photo by Erik Smith / Seattle Times)

Southern Okanogan County, devastated by wildfire over the last two weeks, has the look of a war zone right after the combat has finished. The front has moved on, leaving ruined homes, blackened earth and the smell of smoke.

A ruined chimney is all that remains of a Pateros home.

Ruined chimney is all that remains of a Pateros home. (Photo by Erik Smith / Seattle Times)

I took a drive through the area last weekend and found plenty of evidence of the pitched battle that raged after lightning July 14 touched off the Carlton Complex fire. Worst-hit is the town of Pateros, at the confluence of the Methow and Columbia rivers. Approximately 25 percent of the homes within the city limits and the area immediately surrounding the city were destroyed. Devastation was near-complete at the Alta Lake Golf Course just outside the city, where Okanogan County Sheriff Frank Rogers counts 52 homes burned. He counts another 30 within the city limits, and a county-wide total of 300, from the Methow Valley to Brewster. He cautions that his numbers are neither precise nor complete: The complete picture of devastation is only beginning to emerge. “It’s so hard,” he says.

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July 30, 2014 at 6:20 AM

Marijuana, parenting and toking in public

When voters ended marijuana prohibition in Washington, we didn’t end the civic duty not to be a public jerk.

Not the place to light up. (Greg Gilbert/Seattle Times)

Golden Gardens in Ballard: not the place to light up. (Photo by Greg Gilbert/Seattle Times)

That message hasn’t gotten through. Nearly every parent I know — myself included — has a story similar to one posted on Facebook by my friend Natalie Singer-Velush.

She took three kids — two 8-year-olds and a 7-year-old — for a quick mid-afternoon trip to Golden Gardens on Sunday. Pails, shovels and ice cream in hand, they set up camp… and were enveloped in a cloud of marijuana smoke from three adults sitting upwind just a few feet away.

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Comments | Topics: marijuana

July 29, 2014 at 6:17 AM

MSNBC coverage of ‘The Mikado’ and stereotypes on stage

If you missed it on Sunday, MSNBC aired a news segment about the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of “The Mikado” and the controversy about its use of yellowface, using non-Asian actors to portray all 40 Asian roles.

The MSNBC segment is worth watching if you were not able to attend a show before it ended its run on July 26.  Anchor Richard Lui covered the story from Seattle, capturing footage of the performance and the protest outside the Bagley Wright Theatre before the show began. He interviewed producer Mike Storie and a member of the Japanese American Citizens League.


The controversy began after my July 14 column, “The yellowface of ‘The Mikado’ in your face.” I later blogged about the experience of watching the show in an Opinion Northwest post. Our letters to the editor blog Northwest Voices published perspectives from many readers.

If this makes you go, “Hmmmmm,” and you want to dive deeper into the topic, here is more reading than you could possibly handle in a single sitting, sparked by the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of “The Mikado.” If you spot other writing worth sharing, please let me know at schan@seattletimes.com or let me know on Twitter @sharonpianchan

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Comments | Topics: arts, asian americans, mikado

July 28, 2014 at 6:09 AM

B.C. premier vows sewage treatment for Victoria — someday

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark.

It took more than a month, but the premier of British Columbia in Canada has finally answered a letter from Washington’s congressional delegation about the million gallons of raw sewage the city of Victoria flushes every hour into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

And somehow that seems fitting, since it has been more than 20 years since Washington started beating the drum about Victoria’s plumbing problems. No one north of the border seems to be in any particular hurry.

The Democratic members of Washington’s congressional delegation wrote B.C. Premier Christy Clark June 13 to urge that the province find a sewage solution “as soon as possible.” Clark’s rather tardy response promises to hold the southern end of Vancouver Island to a requirement that it develop a new sewage treatment plant. But she fails to address the key question. When, exactly? Will she even be in office? Which century?

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Comments | Topics: bc, congressional, poo

July 25, 2014 at 12:01 PM

When we fail to educate our children, our future is bleak

Head shot Frank Blethen, publisher, SEditor’s note: These are remarks Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen made to the Rotary Club of Seattle, which is also known as Rotary Club No. 4, on Wednesday.

Good afternoon.

As a former member and program chair of Rotary No. 4, speaking to you is a privilege. A privilege that brings with it an obligation to use this forum constructively, which is precisely what I intend to do.

I will address the most important public policy issue in my 34 years as a newspaper publisher in Washington state: the sad condition of our state’s public education system,  a system that fails a shocking number of our children, and imperils our state’s economic future and quality of life. It is a system that fails us at every level: K-12, early learning, post-secondary.

Consider these unacceptable outcomes:

K-12:

We graduate only 18 percent of our high-school students work-ready or college-ready. Let’s break that number down: One-quarter of our high school students fail to graduate.  Of those who do graduate, barely half enter post-secondary education, such as college or workforce training. Of those, half of them require remedial help. The result?  Only 18 percent are

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July 25, 2014 at 6:16 AM

‘The Mikado,’ yellowface and seeing the Seattle show

Mikado Seattle

Actress Alexa Jarvis in the role of Yum-Yum in the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s “The Mikado” (Photo by Ray Welch / Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society)

After seeing the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society’s production of “The Mikado” on Sunday, it’s clear why so many people enjoy this opera. Anyone who likes a Disney musical would appreciate the pretty melodies. The slapstick comedy drew lots of laughs. The acting, singing and production were all high quality.

But this production of “The Mikado” is still racial caricature. It is still a show where an all-white cast (including 2 Latinos) plays 40 Japanese roles.  Every snap of the fan was a slap in the face.

When people of other races don costumes and makeup to play the role of an Asian person, that’s yellowface. Racial caricature — even when done with the purest of artistic motives and sincere love of other cultures — is still racial caricature.

It is difficult to spend three hours watching people of another race mimic its idea of what your own race is supposedly like. It’s an emotionally wrenching, viscerally exhausting experience. If you don’t feel that discomfort, consider yourself privileged.

The show makes sense as satire about Victorian British Society. It makes zero sense why this satire about the British is set in Japan. If it’s not about Japan, then why does it need to be set there at all?

If librettist W.S. Gilbert intended, when he wrote “The Mikado” in the late 1800s, to set an opera in a place no one knew, then it’s now time to reset this opera in the “Game of Thrones” kingdom of Westeros, in the inscrutable offices of the NSA or the Marvel kingdom of Thor. It’s not just the racial caricatures that are disappointing. The production lacks innovation. It reflects little of the creative, cutting-edge theater for which Seattle is known. It’s an embarrassing anachronism in a global city in a trade-dependent state on the Pacific Rim.

This conversation began with my July 14 column, “The yellowface of ‘The Mikado’ in your face.”

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Comments | Topics: arts, asian americans, mikado

July 24, 2014 at 6:11 AM

Proposition 1 enrages, divides Seattle parks supporters

An increasingly fierce debate over Proposition 1, the Aug. 5 ballot measure that would create a Seattle Park District, is pitting parks supporters against one another.  This diverse group agrees parks are valuable. They just disagree on exactly how to fund them.

Tensions flared after Mayor Ed Murray hosted a press conference on Monday in support of the Yes on 1 campaign. As PubliCola reports, the event turned into an unruly spectacle. See the tweet below by KOMO TV Reporter Gaard Swanson.

A few citizens who support parks but oppose Prop. 1 called and emailed this week to say they did not intend to cause problems or raise their voices until they heard city leaders at the press conference accuse them of being anti-parks and likening them to members of the Tea Party movement. (Some said they are proud liberals who just disagree with this particular issue.)

The Seattle Times opposes Prop 1, and published an editorial Wednesday arguing it is not the only option to save parks. The League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County urge a ‘no’ vote because its members take issue with Prop. 1′s proposed governance model, which replaces the current parks levy with a new taxing district overseen by the Seattle City Council.

The Municipal League of King County recently came out with a ‘yes’ recommendation, though it noted that “as a matter of good governance, parks operations should be funded through the City’s General Fund. The Municipal League believes a YES vote is the best practical measure available for addressing parks funding shortfalls, but is concerned that approving this measure will result in a continued practice of reducing allocations for essential city services from the General Fund.”

What do readers think? Opinion Northwest featured several viewpoints in a previous post. Additional responses since then have been equally thoughtful and civil. Whether you’re decided or confused about this issue, scroll down to get a sense of why some voters are so fired up about Prop. 1.

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Comments | Topics: august primary, prop 1, Seattle

July 23, 2014 at 6:02 AM

School supply drive update: Workplace giving helps students in need

In Wednesday’s opinion section, the editorial board shined a spotlight on Hopelink, one of the three beneficiaries of The Seattle Times’ annual school supply drive.

Donated backpacks are filled with supplies and displayed in the waiting room at Lake Hills Orthodontics, which is hosting a school supply drive to benefit Hopelink's Kids Need School Supplies campaign. (Photo by Thanh Tan/The Seattle Times)

Donated backpacks are filled with supplies and displayed in the waiting room at Lake Hills Orthodontics in Redmond, which is hosting a drive to benefit Hopelink’s Kids Need School Supplies campaign. (Photo by Thanh Tan/The Seattle Times)

This year, Hopelink’s Kids Need School Supplies campaign is trying to collect enough tools of learning to assist at least 2,000 students. One way readers can help is to simply make a donation through the Times’ Fund for the Needy. A sturdy backpack filled with the basics costs about $40.

Another way to assist Hopelink, which reaches families through its service centers in north and east King County, is by hosting a workplace or community supply drive. The organization is requesting donations be dropped off at any of its service centers by Aug. 1 so that volunteers have a few weeks to sort and stuff backpacks before the new school year begins.

On Tuesday, Lake Hills Orthodontics in Redmond showed me how they are working with Hopelink to collect back-to-school supplies.

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Comments | Topics: eastside, poverty, school supply drive

July 22, 2014 at 6:02 AM

State’s editorial boards: Some praise, some snort at Inslee’s fish-consumption proposal

Salmon steaks in a market. (Source: Wikipedia creative commons.)

Salmon steaks in a market. (Source: Wikipedia creative commons.)

Washington’s editorial writers seemed pretty much of one mind before Gov. Jay Inslee announced his “fish consumption” proposal two weeks ago. Now that the state’s chief executive has spoken they’re all over the map.

The issue has provoked one of the biggest policy debates in recent years, as federal regulators, Native American tribes and environmental groups pressured the state to adopt a higher estimate of individual fish consumption. Worried business interests and local governments have been in a state of high alarm because the estimate drives the state’s water quality standards. Every editorial page that opined on the subject prior to the announcement urged the governor to show moderation, with the exception of The Herald of Everett. But now that Inslee has come up with a plan, there seems to be a bit of disagreement.

An editorial in The Olympian calls it a “reasonable middle ground,” while the Tri-City Herald snorts, “flat-out ridiculous.”

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July 21, 2014 at 6:45 AM

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski leads again on ALS

Corrected version Those who suffer with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, need lots of care and attention. They have a powerful ally in U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and once again she has stepped forward to help those with a debilitating illness and grim prognosis. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a medical mystery with work under way…

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