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Opinion Northwest

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

October 8, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Shaping Seattle’s understanding of Latinos through film

Many people in the Northwest tend to equate “Mexican” with “Latino,” but that’s a limited perspective. As a Mexican-American, I see that dynamic play out on a regular basis like when people think all Latinos wear sombreros and eat spicy food. Even so, many people have a superficial view of Mexican culture based on chips,…

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Comments | Topics: film festival, latinos, movies

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.

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

October 6, 2014 at 6:34 AM

Washington’s economy makes gains while household incomes were better off in 1999

Talking about the “good old days” often seems like a waste of time to me, but when looking at household incomes, it turns out the days past were actually better.

Fifteen years ago, households in Washington made more money: the state’s median household income dropped to $58,977 in 2013, an 8 percent decrease compared with $64,009 in 1999 (adjusted for inflation), according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

During the same period, Washington’s per capita gross domestic product, which measures economic output based on population, rose to $54,654 per person in 2013 from $50,472 in 1999, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That represents an 8.3 percent increase with various fluctuations over the years.

The top chart shows how median household income for Washington residents has fluctuated since peaking in 1999.  The bottom chart shows how the rate changes year to year. SOURCE: WASHINGTON BUSINESS ALLIANCE.

The top chart shows how median household income for Washington residents has fluctuated since peaking in 1999. The bottom chart shows how the rate changes year to year. SOURCE: WASHINGTON BUSINESS ALLIANCE.

The point is that the state economy is doing better now than in 1999, but pocketbooks are not.

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Comments | Topics: economy, median household income, washington

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…

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

October 3, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Washington lawmakers don’t need to use Hobby Lobby ruling to drum up votes

Months after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the controversial “Hobby Lobby” ruling allowing privately held corporations to deny payment for certain types of birth control for female employees, Washington lawmakers are finding ways to fight back. This is to be expected. Washington is one of the most progressive states on protecting reproductive rights. Just weeks before election day, some Democrats are using this issue as a strategy to put them back in control of the state Senate, led by the Republican-dominated Majority Coalition Caucus since 2012.

Voters should look deeper before they take the bait.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 2 at Bitter Lake Community Center, two blocks from a new Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open on Friday. Standing behind him, from left to right, are Democratic state Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Karen Keiser, Kevin Ranker, and David Frockt.

Gov. Jay Inslee speaks at a press conference on Thursday, Oct. 2 at Bitter Lake Community Center, two blocks from a new Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open on Friday. Standing behind him, from left to right, are Democratic state Sens. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Karen Keiser, Kevin Ranker, and David Frockt. (Credit: Thanh Tan / The Seattle Times).

On Thursday, a group of Democratic lawmakers announced they are planning to file legislation — a “work-around” — next session to ensure employers do not deny women the full range of birth control options available to them through the Affordable Care Act. Joined by Gov. Jay Inslee, state Sens. David Frockt, Kevin Ranker, Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Karen Keiser said they are drafting a bill that would likely use the state’s anti-discrimination and Human Rights Commission rules.

The press event was staged at a community center two blocks from a Hobby Lobby store scheduled to open Friday in Seattle at 13200 Aurora Avenue North. Good to know they are doing their homework, but this was clearly also a bid to secure the women’s vote ahead of the November general election.

In a press release distributed to reporters, the Democrats warned their efforts to fight the Hobby Lobby decision might be hindered if they do not take back the majority in the upper chamber. In particular, they targeted Republican Sens. Andy Hill, Steve O’Ban and Democrat-turned-Republican candidate Mark Miloscia. If “elected or re-elected this year, it is unlikely that any progress on ensuring individual reproductive choices will be achieved,” they warned.

Again, voters should be skeptical. There’s no bill in place yet to be opposed, or supported, by members of either party.

Washington State has long supported a woman’s right to privacy and access when it comes to reproductive health care, including abortion care. Even before Roe v. Wade became the law of the land in 1972, this HistoryLink story explains how Washington voters passed Referendum 20 in 1970 legalizing abortion in the early months of pregnancy. In 1991, voters passed Initiative 120, which guarantees that every “individual has the fundamental right to choose or refuse birth control” and abortion (with few exceptions) and the “state shall not discriminate against the exercise of these rights in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.”

If this were Texas, where I used to report on women’s health politics from AustinI’d say go all out. Fight the good fight. But it’s Washington, the friendliest state in the nation when it comes to reproductive freedom and lack of barriers to birth control and abortion. NARAL Pro-Choice America gives the state an A+ grade for choice-related laws. We don’t have lawmakers demanding transvaginal ultrasounds, slashing family planning funds or passing policies to force abortion clinic closures. Vigilance is appreciated, but state legislators’ priority during the next session must be to tackle the other urgent task of preserving the state’s fragile social safety net and funding public education.

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Comments | Topics: abortion, birth control, hobby lobby

October 2, 2014 at 6:05 AM

Love craft beer? Thank a farmworker, and pay them better

While sitting at many bars, I often picked up a pint of craft beer and proclaimed that beer is made with hops, most of which come from the same place I did: Eastern Washington.

Jose Chavez hauls in Tomahawk-variety hop vines during the final days of the 2014 hops harvest at Loftus on  Sept. 24, 2014 in Yakima.

Craft beers depend on hops. Jose Chavez hauls in Tomahawk-variety hop vines during the final days of the 2014 hops harvest at Loftus on Sept. 24 in Yakima. BETTINA HANSEN / THE SEATTLE TIMES

“Washington is the largest producer of hops in the world,” I told friends or random strangers dozens of times during the 15 years I lived out of state. “We don’t just grow apples, you know.”

Many people were surprised to learn that Washington is the globe’s top source for hops, and this should be a source of pride especially as the craft beer movement is exploding nationwide.

But like many other crops that make up this state’s $49 billion agricultural industry, the workers who pick the crops often reap the least rewards — they deserve better wages.

As The Seattle Times reported Monday, the booming hops business is now suffering from worker shortages that have hit other major Washington crops, like apples and asparagus, in recent years.

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Comments | Topics: agriculture, beer, farmworkers

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…

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Comments | Topics: juvenile justice, racial disparity

September 30, 2014 at 1:18 PM

Another delay for the Burke-Gilman’s ‘missing link,’ and an alternative

The long-delayed end to the Burke-Gilman Trail’s “missing link” will be delayed again. The Seattle Department of Transportation has pushed back the timeline by “eight or nine months” for completion of an environmental impact statement (EIS) on route options for the recreation trail superhighway through Ballard, according to SDOT spokesperson Rick Sheridan. The draft EIS will…

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September 30, 2014 at 6:02 AM

‘Last Days In Vietnam’ film premieres in Seattle on Friday, reopens old wounds

Growing up, my parents never revealed details about their experiences living through the Vietnam War. I knew they had survived the conflict, but I never associated them with old news footage of helicopters flying over rice paddies or combat scenes in Oliver Stone films such as “Platoon.” After having the opportunity to recently screen American Experience’s “Last Days In Vietnam,” I wish I had been more curious about my parents’ story, and those of so many other Vietnamese immigrants who fled after South Vietnam fell to communism on April 30, 1975.

I highly encourage Vietnamese immigrants and American veterans in the Seattle area to head to the Varsity Theatre in the University District to see the film, which runs for one week from Oct. 3 to Oct. 9. Directed by Rory Kennedy, the daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, this theatrical run is a chance to see the film before its national broadcast on PBS in April 2015.

Here’s the trailer:

I was in elementary school when my nerdy computer programmer father revealed he’d once been a lieutenant in the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, otherwise known as the South Vietnamese military. He promised proof once my mother returned from her first visit to Vietnam in 1994. She came back with disappointing news: My dad’s family had burned his military photos after he and my mother escaped in October 1978. Under the new regime, having such images around placed the family at risk. My father had already served six months in a re-education camp, and they did not want to relive that nightmare.

Years later, a family friend gave my parents a couple of undated photos that were snapped in Vietnam (most likely after the Tet Offensive in 1968). I scanned one of them below.

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Comments | Topics: documentary film, rory kennedy, vietnam war

September 29, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Seattle, the affordable city

HOME SALES

Nancy Ohanian / Tribune Content Agency

Affordable housing has morphed into a loaded term in Seattle. Many residents and city leaders say it’s disappearing or there isn’t enough of it.

The idea that affordable housing is endangered in Seattle is misleading, however, because it depends on what how you define “affordable.”

Keeping housing affordable means spending 30 percent or less of household income on housing, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“Affordable housing” as a technical term in general refers to housing developed with subsidies like tax dollars or grants reserved for residents based on income.

For the average person, affordable housing means not feeling like too much of your money goes to paying rent or a mortgage.

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Comments | Topics: affordabe housing, housing, Seattle

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