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Opinion Northwest

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

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 9, 2014 at 6:25 AM

Should a new Seattle waterfront include a Viaduct park?

The airbrushed sketches for a glittering new Seattle waterfront lack rain, authenticity (as Crosscut’s Knute Berger notes) and maybe (as the Times’ Danny Westneat joked) a few Disney princesses. They also lack any hint of the Alaskan Way Viaduct that has dominated the waterfront for 60 years. That’s why my ears perked when Seattle…

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0 Comments | Topics: alaskan way viaduct, parks, Seattle waterfront

April 8, 2014 at 6:45 AM

More wise flight from the Pebble Mine project in Alaska’s Bristol Bay

A proposed gold, copper and molybdenum mine for Alaska’s salmon-rich Bristol Bay is a truly bad idea. Yet another investor apparently agrees, and is heading to the exit. Rio Tinto, described in a Wall Street Journal article as a “mining titan,” is handing off its 19 percent share of the proposed Pebble Mine project to two Alaskan…

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0 Comments | Topics: Pebble Mine, rio tinto, salmon

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 7, 2014 at 7:10 AM

Should Snohomish County landslide site be memorialized?

The scope of the Snohomish County mudslide is difficult to grasp. Aerial photographs lack the scale of a one mile-square disaster scene. Up close, evidence that an entire missing neighborhood – a red child’s hat, a twisted metal stair railing, the torn American flag now hanging in a command tent ­– have been so chaotically mixed in with fallen cedars and piles of mud that it’s equally easy to lose the scope.

Jonathan Martin / Seattle Times

Photos by Jonathan Martin / Seattle Times

What should the site look like in the future? Should Highway 530, which is still under 20 feet of mud in spots, be rebuilt, or moved? What of the Steelhead Haven neighborhood? The rescue and recovery efforts focus on the fringe; the force of the slide was so great it shoved everything out there, leaving 75 foot-high haystacks of mud dotting the former neighborhood.

Should the entire site be memorialized into something like a park?

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0 Comments | Topics: oso mudslide

April 7, 2014 at 6:14 AM

Meet Erik Smith, the newest Seattle Times editorial board member

They say everything happens for a reason, but back in 2005 I would have had a hard time seeing it. I was spending my days trudging back and forth across the blacktop at a used-car lot in Spokane, shoving my hands deep in my pockets to ward off the chill, watching like an army sentry for any sign of movement at the perimeter. You never knew when a customer might come along.

Erik Smith

Erik Smith

But mostly, when I allowed myself to think about it, I spent my time wondering what on earth I was doing there. Like many a newspaper reporter I found myself in the cold during the downturn of a few years back. I can look back on it now, though, and realize that what I went through probably was one of the most valuable experiences of my life – albeit a rather painful one. And it’s that experience I bring to The Seattle Times editorial board as I take my seat as its newest member.

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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 3, 2014 at 6:42 AM

$15 makes Seattle outlier compared with other cities that raised minimum wage

Nine city or county governments across the country have increased their minimum wage. A University of California, Berkeley study commissioned by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s income inequality committee concludes that a higher wage floor can increase productivity and reduce turnover, cushioning the macro-economic cost. Based on studies, it suggested companies could “adjust to higher…

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0 Comments | Topics: business, economy, minimum wage

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

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