July 30, 2014 at 6:23 AM
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.
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.
And anyone who walks the empty streets snapping pictures of the devastation and damage -- the burned-out foundations, the melted mailboxes, the toppled power poles -- can imagine the chaos of that night, and perhaps feel a bit uncomfortable, as the sense of human tragedy sinks in.
Check out The Seattle Times editorial published on July 23: "State’s wildfires a reminder of nature’s force"
July 30, 2014 at 6:20 AM
When voters ended marijuana prohibition in Washington, we didn't end the civic duty not to be a public jerk.
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.
Natalie, editor of Parent Map magazine, said she didn't ask them to put out their joint because they planned to stay for just a few minutes. But she stewed about it, and posted this yesterday (emphasis is mine):
As a society we need to have the expectation that adults will carry themselves responsibly — new rights mean new responsibilities. Or maybe it's a reminder of old responsibilities -- expectations that really haven't changed for 100 years: Setting examples for young people; holding as our collective societal responsibility the mandate to keep young people safe and healthy even when they aren't our own children; behaving with common courtesy in public.
I voted to approve legal pot, in order to relieve our legal system from its ridiculous burden to criminalize marijuana use (and am half kicking myself now, because what's best for the state might not turn out to be best for my own family). Legal pot doesn't mean that on a summer afternoon I want my 7-year-old to get a contact high because some supposed adults cannot contemplate that puffing pot her way might violate an unwritten social code of decency.
Couldn't have said it better myself. Last winter, my son's middle-school ultimate frisbee match at Cal Anderson Park came to a sudden halt when the kids turned their noses to the marijuana smoke wafting from the nearby skateboard park. I yelled at the tokers to put it out, and was ignored. I support Initiative 502 for the same reasons as Natalie, but left the park wondering what we'd actually done.
I'm not a prude. I've been known to discreetly pour a beer into a cup in a public park, and would like to see Washington move further away from its puritanical alcohol laws. The issue of marijuana smoke is the nuisance. As with cigarettes, a person's vice shouldn't be foisted onto others, be it on a sidewalk or in a park. It's all about discretion, and being a good citizen.
We're also in a new era of legal marijuana, and the public is still coming to grips with its consequences. Blowing pot smoke toward a bunch of elementary-age kids at the beach is an excellent way to chip away at public support. (Check out last week's Seattle Times guest column: "Legalization did not give people the right to smoke marijuana in public.")
One response to public pot smoking is for stiffer enforcement. Seattle Police wrote just 82 tickets for public marijuana consumption in the first six months of 2014, which tells me they're very sporadically enforcing the new law. I'm fine with that low number, because the law is still being levied more heavily against blacks. Enforcement isn't the simplest answer to those who light up next to families.
Civic responsibility is. If you're the one smoking, find a nice quiet corner by yourself to exercise your new legal right. Hot box your car. Slip into the woods. Whatever. Just not right in the middle of the kids.
When I asked Natalie why she didn't confront the smokers at the beach, she said she didn't want to come off as a "raging prude," seeming to protect "precious snowflake children." She said she'd expect to find marijuana smoking at Golden Gardens at dusk. But the experience at the beach changed her reticence, and next time, she said, she'd probably confront them.
I feel the same. I don't want to be the fun fuzz, but parenting in the age of legal marijuana is tricky. (The University of Washington has a web page to help.) If you force parents to choose between their political views of drug law reform and preserving their kids' innocence (for a few more years), it's a no-brainer.
How about making it a little easier, Seattle. Don't be a jerk.
July 29, 2014 at 6:17 AM
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 email@example.com or let me know on Twitter @sharonpianchan
Northwest Asian Weekly: " 'Yellowface' controversy over the 'The Mikado' — Gilbert & Sullivan opera incites protest"
WQRX, the New York classical music rado station, news story: " 'Asian blackface' in 'The Mikado" stirs controversy in Seattle"
Statements by community groups:
Seattle Repertory Theatre announced community dialogue for Aug. 18: Artistic freedom vs. artistic responsibility
Japanese American Citizens League: JACL Objects to Usage of Yellowface and Stereotypes in Seattle Production of The Mikado
Chinese American Citizens Alliance: "Yellowface in 2014? Is It 2014 or 1914?"
Mikado cast member and KIRO Radio host Dave Ross and I debated the issue on his show: "Seattle Times editorial columnist and Dave Ross go head-to-head over "yellow face" in "The Mikado"
Ron and Don Show on KIRO Radio: "Seattle Times columnist says opera starring Dave Ross is racist"
Seattle Times guest opinion by Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society Producer Mike Storie and Board member Gene Ma: " 'The Mikado' is worth performing." (Editorial Page Editor Kate Riley and I personally invited supporters of the show to submit guest opinion offering a different perspective from my column.)
Seattle Times guest opinion by artistic director Rick Shiomi, who created a 2013 Minneapolis version of "The Mikado" without stereotypes or yellowface acting: "Making 'The Mikado' without Asian stereotypes"
Letters to the editor representing multiple perspectives in our Northwest Voices blog. Ken Narasaki, who co-wrote a play called "The Mikado Project," contributed one of the letters.
CNN.com guest commentary by Jeff Yang: "Yellowface staging of 'Mikado' has to end"
Angry Asian Man blog: "Real-life yellowface! Now playing in Seattle"
Seattle Times commentary by theater critic Misha Berson: "The ‘Mikado’ controversy: A call for calm discourse"
International Examiner editorial board: " ‘The Mikado’ controversy an opportunity to create and educate"
Atlantic Media's Quartz commentary by Gwynn Guilford: "It’s time to stop using 'exoticism' as an excuse for opera’s racism"
Stranger commentary by Brendan Kiley: The problem with The Mikado
ReAppropriate guest post by Sean Miura: "Undoing 'Mikado': Japan is not an imaginary place, and I am not a metaphor"
The You Offend Me You Offend My Family blog has a humor take (I approve of the KKK and apocalypse scenarios in this humor post): "6 Times When it’s OK for white people to don yellow face"
Actress Erin Quill writes her own lyrics for a song from "The Mikado" on her blog: "I have 'A Little List' too — buckle up"
Actress Lucy Sheen, on a personal blog, responds to the KIRO Radio debate with Dave Ross where he asks whether Japanese actors who wear kabuki-theater makeup are playing Caucasian roles: "Kabuki is NOT white face"
Bo Lim, an associate professor of Old Testament at Seattle Pacific University, used "The Mikado" to discuss about stereotypes still used in evangelical teachings in a post for the Sojourners website: "Why Evangelicals Should Care About 'The Mikado' Controversy If They Care About Reconciliation in the Church"
July 28, 2014 at 6:09 AM
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?
We have made it clear that sewage treatment will happen,” she says. “That is not up for debate. Failure to comply with these obligations would result in the possible loss of provincial and federal funding, as well as other potential penalties under federal and provincial laws.
Thank you again for writing, and I am pleased to provide you with this response.
So much for that. The greater Victoria area, home to 300,000 people, is the last major metropolitan area in North America — some say the Western Hemisphere — to dump its raw sewage at sea. Washington officials see nothing quaint and charming about those backward island ways. They shamed the provincial government into taking action as B.C. bid for the 2010 winter Olympics. For a time it looked like a plant might actually be built — first in 2016, then in 2018. But the plan seemed to go down the drain three months ago when the town council in Esquimalt nixed a plan to build a $721 million (U.S.) sewage treatment plant. So far, no plan B has emerged.
Clark's letter really adds nothing new to the debate. Significantly, she stops short of announcing that she will overrule the Esquimalt town council. The letter merely reiterates a warning provincial government officials have put forward numerous times during the debate. If islanders don't bring the plant online by 2018, they risk losing financial support from the provincial and federal governments, which were going to pick up two-thirds of the tab. It is hard making much of that threat. If the cost of sewage treatment was too high for islanders when they were paying only one-third of the cost, it is hard to imagine them enthusiastically paying 100 percent of the bill. It is equally hard to imagine them voting for politicians who would force them to do it.
From these shores it seems easier to ask the big question: When will the Canadians ever do anything? It is a question that rankles, as state and federal regulators in this country seek to impose water-quality standards so stringent they can't be measured and contemplate regulations that would prevent boaters from flushing treated sewage into the Sound, even one tank at a time. Many Canadians continue to argue their massive disposal-at-sea poses no harm at all. America's position is sounded in a formal way in the letter of complaint from Washington's congressional delegation. But there might be a better way to put it: Oh, poo.
Below is the text of the June 13 letter, signed by Washington’s eight House and Senate Democrats: U.S. Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, and Reps. Suzan DeBene, Rick Larsen, Derek Kilmer, Jim McDermott, Adam Smith and Denny Heck.
Dear Premier Clark:
We are very disappointed to learn that the development of a new sewage treatment facility at McLoughlin Point has been delayed. For the last 20 years, American citizens have waited for solutions to water quality issues linked to British Columbia’s sewage discharge. Unfortunately, while Canada has acknowledged the importance of addressing this concern, there is now no plan to mitigate the persistent water pollution from Victoria, British Columbia.
The strength of our economies in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia depends on the health of our waterways and natural resources. Washington state supports more than 67,000 commercial fishing jobs, in addition to our vibrant recreational fishing, boating, watersport, and tourism businesses. The practice of discharging this type and volume of waste violates environmental standards commonly held by our two nations. Furthermore, while significant treatment efforts have been made on the United States side of our maritime border, the effectiveness of these efforts is undermined without cross-border collaboration, treatment, and restoration activities.
In fact, scientists in both of our home countries have seen perpetually decreasing dissolved oxygen levels in our waters—an outcome linked with untreated sewage discharge. These changing dissolved oxygen levels endanger sensitive aquatic habitats vital to the Puget Sound’s marine economy. Together, we must work to ensure that we have adequate wastewater treatment facilities so that we can improve dissolved oxygen levels and the overall water quality in the Salish Sea to protect human health and the marine ecosystem.
Our countries have worked hard to coordinate international collaboration on major environmental problems in the past and we hope to work together to solve this problem. Since its inception in 2003, the U.S. and Canada have established the largest, most comprehensive ecosystem conference in the region – the biennial Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference. This conference is a great example of how the U.S. and British Columbia have collaborated to bring together experts from interdisciplinary fields to discuss scientific research and chart a course for protecting and restoring the Salish Sea ecosystem.
The Salish Sea is an economic and cultural lifeline for the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia. In fact, Washington state’s maritime economy supports $30 billion in economic activity each year and provides 148,000 jobs. Due to the importance of these waters to both our countries, we ask that you work promptly to resolve this issue. Furthermore, as we continue to work towards restoring the Salish Sea for generations to come, we welcome ongoing collaboration on restoration, research and preservation efforts to best serve our people and our waterways. We hope you will stand with us as we work to improve the quality of our waters and reduce unnecessary pollution.
July 28, 2014 at 6:05 AM
In its Sunday editorial, The New York Times editorial board called for the repeal of the federal prohibition on marijuana, adding an important national voice to the movement being led by Washington and Colorado. A series of editorials on the topic will run through the week. In the clip above, NYT Editorial Page Editor Andy Rosenthal explains the board's decision, noting that his staff has been watching what has been going on in Washington and Colorado and the many states that have legalized medical marijuana or reduced penalties. The lead editorial reads:
There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.
This is a significant development. Washington and Colorado, as the only states to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, have been making the case that the federal government should not stand in the way of the states' efforts to make these changes work. The conflicts between federal and state law remain serious. For instance, it was unclear whether marijuana businesses would be able to get services from a federally insured bank. In February, the federal government issued rules to encourage banks to provide banking services to marijuana businesses in Washington and Colorado. How this rolls out remains to be seen.
And, in a May 4 editorial, The Seattle Times called for the U.S. Justice Department to give the agency that regulates dams in Eastern Washington's Columbia Basin Project the go-ahead to allow its water to be used on cannabis crops.
The New York Times editorial board adding its influential voice to the national debate will be a boost for this movement led by the states.
The NYT's reasoning mirrors that of The Seattle Times editorial board when it published a February 2011 editorial calling for the legalization of marijuana. Retired Seattle editorial columnist Bruce Ramsey famously wrote about smoking dope on a camping trip for The Seattle Times Opinion pages three years before NYT columnist Maureen Dowd wrote about trying a candy bar made with cannabis on a research trip to Colorado.
July 27, 2014 at 5:04 AM
Want to talk about Proposition 1 to create a Seattle Park District? The proposition on the Aug. 5 ballot would create a Seattle Park District to fund the city's park system.
Join us for a live chat on Tuesday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. with panelists who support and oppose the Proposition.
Don Harper, part of the Our Parks Forever campaign, opposes the passage of Proposition 1.
Brad Kahn, the board chair of the Seattle Parks Foundation, is a volunteer on the Seattle Parks For All campaign that supports the passage of Proposition 1.
Thanh Tan, multimedia editorial writer, who has covered Proposition 1 for the editorial board.
Others who will be on the chat:
Sharon Pian Chan, associate opinions editor, will moderate the discussion.
Nikolaj Lasbo, producer/editor for digital opinion engagement, will produce the chat.
All readers are also welcome to comment, ask questions and answer the questions on the chat. Our goal is to create an online forum for civil debate.
July 25, 2014 at 12:01 PM
Editor'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.
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:
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 actually college- or work-ready.
This translates into an almost unfathomable 82 percent failure rate from our K-12 system.
Early Education (pre-K):
The research is unequivocal. The majority of brain development takes place before children enter school. Yet, this year we failed to fund more than 25,000 qualified 3- and 4-year-olds for even the most basic early learning.
That’s 25,000 of our toddlers we have kicked to the curb for a lifetime of unemployment, minimum wage and even jail. We repeat this year after year, knowing that quality preschool is the basic foundation of a functional education system and the evolution of a successful adult citizen.
Hallelujahs to Seattle City Council member Tim Burgess and to Mayor Ed Murray for their courage in providing leadership for Seattle to become a model for the state and nation in how to develop a high quality, outcome-based, egalitarian pre-K system.
College and Post-Secondary Education
Our state’s college system is a great irony. Our 32 community and technical colleges and our six four-year baccalaureate universities all boast strong quality and excellent graduation rates.
- We have severely restricted access through unconscionable state disinvestment and underfunding.
- We have invoked unacceptably high student taxes — so-called tuition
- And we have fostered unbearable student debt.
The consequence is that our production of baccalaureate degrees is among the worst in the nation — 46th worst, to be precise.
How we got to these terrible outcomes is a sad, several-decade saga of:
- Legislative disinvestment
- Public disinterest
- And voter lethargy
The bubble economy preceding our 2008 financial collapse blinded us to any number of serious public policy issues, including the steady deterioration of our state’s public education system.
The subsequent "new reality economy" we now live in is forcing us to face up to our broken public education system, and how that system is fueling the ever-growing, wealth and opportunity gaps — gaps that undermine democracy and stability as well as economic vibrancy.
A $15 minimum wage makes for good Seattle Times headlines. Unfortunately, it will not stop growing inequality, or fix a sluggish and uncertain economy.
Education is the one proven way to create jobs, reduce unemployment and begin to close our wealth and opportunity fault lines.
The good news? Is there good news? Do we have time to right the sinking public education ship?
Yes, we do. But first, it takes awareness of the crisis and an understanding of the unacceptable outcomes. This is a matter of the long-term well-being for every one of us and our families. It is the moral obligation we have to make this again the land of opportunity — to make Washington state an economic juggernaut where an individual's future is determined by the individual and the quality of the public education system and not by the zip code they are born in or live in.
The first step is awareness and acknowledgement. That is the easy part. The tougher part is the will to change. Can we embrace the current unacceptable outcomes with the outrage they deserve? Let’s hope so — the window is short.
From today through the end of the 2015 legislative session is a critical period.
Here is what you need to know:
The Supreme Court
Two years ago our state Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in a case, which has come to be known as the McCleary decision. The Seattle Times cautiously agreed with their ruling that the Legislature needs to spend more money on education. Indeed, we hoped this would become a catalyst for spending in the two areas of serious underfunding: early education and higher education. And that it would accelerate the reforms needed to improve our abysmal K-12 outcomes.
However, we were uneasy because of our belief that the Supreme Court made two errors:
- That our constitution limits our paramount education responsibilities to only K-12, which is certainly not the case in terms of providing an adequate education in today’s world.
- That they seem to be indicating money is the only thing that matters in K-12, and not outcomes.
Unfortunately, our caution at that time has proved well-founded. Subsequently, the court has embarked on a dangerous path by insinuating itself into the job of the Legislature with an erroneous message that only money and only K-12 matters.
The Washington Education Association
You also need to know about the Washington Education Association.
The vast majority of K-12 teachers are thoughtful, caring professionals who deserve far more admiration then they receive. And deserve far better representation than the WEA gives them. Instead of representing teachers as true professionals, the WEA has been the defender of the status quo, which means perpetuating the bad K-12 outcomes that fail to graduate or prepare 82 percent of our kids for college or work.
Three recent examples:
- The WEA is suing to overturn the voter-approved charter-schools initiative, just as the first charter schools prepare to open.
- Earlier this year, WEA officials goaded lawmakers into a decision that caused Washington to become the first state in the nation to lose its waiver under the No Child Left Behind law and to cause school districts to lose control over $41 million to help children most in need.
- The final example is the WEA’s misguided Initiative 1351, which is on this fall’s ballot.
On the surface, I-1351 looks like a good thing — reducing class size. However, the research is clear: After the first three grades, across-the-board reduction in classroom size would not improve our lousy outcomes. What would improve is the dues coffer of the WEA, by several million dollars a year.
McCleary, plus 1351
If the Supreme Court is successful in its McCleary effort and the WEA is successful with their dues-expansion program, the consequences are truly devastating. Our state biennium general fund is about $33.8 billion. K-12 already receives about 45 percent, or about $15 billion. (Higher education receives about 8 percent or $2.7 billion; early education receives less than 1 percent.)
Each of these two actions would cost about $3.5 billion, resulting in about $7 billion in increased taxes and diversion of funding from other parts of the budget.
This would devastate funding for early education, post-secondary education and much of our social-service system, including our critical needs in foster care and mental illness.
But another irony:
Even if all this came to fruition and we could actually pump $7 billion into K-12, the bad K-12 outcomes would not change, and the destructive lack of access to early education and post secondary would continue.
Is this the Washington we want to live in? I don’t think so.
We should be proud that ours is the only state in the union whose Constitution declares that education is the paramount duty of the state and that the state must provide an "adequate" education for all of its children.
In today’s world, an adequate education is 3 to 23 and beyond.
- Early education is the foundation of later school success and a productive, healthy adult life.
- A healthy K-12 system with great outcomes for all is essential for our state’s future, as we increasingly compete against other states and other countries.
- Affordable access to post secondary, from our production of baccalaureate degrees to technical training is absolutely essential in today’s world.
There is simply no investment the state could make with a greater return than education at every level. But at every level, it is critical that those precious tax investment dollars have transparency, accountability and are tied to outcomes — outcomes that can put us on the path for long-term prosperity and well-being.
Back to the question: Do we have the will? This Rotary Club and everybody in this room has the power to make a difference. But the time is running short.
Rotary No. 4 has always set a standard for "service above self." Stepping up to this issue — quality public school outcomes — is the most important service Rotary No. 4 could provide.
There is a lot of rhetoric and misinformation about education these days. Stay focused on the handful of outcomes that matter.
- All children should start kindergarten ready to learn.
- Children who fall behind, at whatever grade level, must get the help they need.
- All students should graduate high school ready to go to college or vocational training.
We should not fail a single one of our children.
Use your influence and your megaphone to help inspire and motivate our community. Ask informed education questions of candidates for the Legislature. Stay in touch with your elected representatives and consistently express your concern. This is about our future, and it’s about our children.
Will Washington state maintain the failed status quo? Or will we become a national/world model for creating a high-functioning successful public-education system?
The choice is yours.
July 25, 2014 at 6:16 AM
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."
Since then, the Seattle show has provoked criticism from the Japanese American Citizens League, the Chinese American Citizens Alliance, OCA of Greater Seattle and the International Examiner's editorial board. Asian Americans across the country who have written commentary, including Phil Yu at Angry Asian Man, Jeff Yang on CNN.com, Gwynn Guilford at The Atlantic's Quartz, Sean Miura at ReAppropriate.com and many blogs. NBC News covered the controversy in a news story.
A small group of protesters demonstrated outside the shows last weekend with signs saying: "My culture is not a costume," "Yellowface in your face — not OK," and "Titipu isn't real. Bainbridge internment was."
In keeping with The Seattle Times Opinion section's goal of creating a space for civil debate, my editor and I invited supporters of the show to submit a guest column. On Wednesday, our section published an opinion piece by show producer Mike Storie and Gilbert & Sullivan Society board member Gene Ma, "Why 'The Mikado' is worth performing." Our letters section has also featured reader perspectives from all sides.
Mikado cast member and KIRO Radio host Dave Ross and I debated the issue of yellowface in a radio interview.
Seattle Repertory Theatre, which runs the Bagley Wright Theatre at Seattle Center, plans to continue this dialogue in person by holding a community conversation event on a to-be-determined date. This is an encouraging step. (The Rep clarified in a statement that it did not rent the performance space to the Gilbert & Sullivan Society. It is required to provide the space to the Society under its lease agreement with the city's Seattle Center department, an arrangement which can be traced back to 1962.)
Mike Storie said the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society also planned to have a community dialogue about it. A date has not been set.
Incidentally, the Society's show won't be the only production of "The Mikado" in Seattle this summer. Seattle Opera and Seattle Public Theater are doing a youth performance of "The Mikado" from Aug. 1 to 3. Unlike the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society's faithful historical reproduction, the youth production will be done anime style, like Japanese cartoons. The set will look like the fantasy world of manga graphic novels with blocky colors and sharp angles. Characters will wear white, blue and pink wigs and costumes inspired by cartoon characters. The cast draws from diverse backgrounds.
"If you do put certain pieces on as a museum piece and you don’t update it to what the current world looks like, you’re going to run into all kinds of issues whether it’s this piece or another piece," said Kelly Tweeddale, executive director of Seattle Opera.
This is how Barbara Lynne Jamison, youth programs manager, said she explained "The Mikado" to the kids in the cast: "When it was written, Japan was this far out place that nobody knew anything about and just this distant thing. And now we know about Japan, and we have friends and allies in Japan, so it’s not that way anymore and that’s why we’ve taken it into cartoon," Jamison said.
"They said, 'Yeah, we like that better, we like that setting.' "
July 24, 2014 at 6:11 AM
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.
No on Prop. 1
Installing this permanent taxing district takes away our ability to vote on how much we are taxed and how the monies are spent. I've voted for every levy but I will not allow my voice to be taken away by a (Metropolitan Park District). It's undemocratic.
— Alyne Fortgang, Seattle
I support a levy and not an MPD. There are too many unanswered or partially answered questions surrounding an MPD. Why not pass another levy that targets the deferred maintenance as a priority item? While that levy is being collected, perhaps we could approach the State Legislature about fixing the MPD statute so voters could have a voice, say, every five or six years. Then, voters would have an ability to decide if the MPD should be continued or if it should be terminated. That is the kind of check we need — not the blank check the City Council is looking for with Prop. 1.
— Rex Wardlaw, Seattle
Parks are a core function of the city. We shouldn't have to pass any special levies much less a parks district to fund them. It should come from the general fund at the cost of other, non-core functions of city government, and those non-core functions should instead be subject to special levies. Special levies are a game of fungible tax revenues and bait-and-switch tactics by the City Council and I think too many people vote for them without thinking about what the Council is really doing. Sure, these special levies fund the programs they are stated to support, but they facilitate the shifting of general funds away from core functions of city government to other, non-core functions that most likely would never pass a ballot measure. Think before you vote!
— Jeff Flogel, Seattle
Parks and Recreation should be funded by a levy because then you know exactly what the money is being spent on and what it is going to cost. If you look at how the money is going to be spent in the investment initiatives proposed by the citizens' advisory committee, you will see that they are vague, redundant and overlap.
Plus more than 30 percent of the money they are asking for will go to buy more land, develop more parks, hire more people and create new programs. The reason the parks department has a backlog of maintenance is because they chose to spend the money elsewhere.
And you do not mention the fact that because the City Council has put the parks in a position where they have to borrow $10 million dollars the first year, the city will make a million-and-a-half in interest off of parks.
City Council wants to save the levy money for other projects such as the pre-school program and the new waterfront park, and that is one of the reasons they are pushing an MPD. Another reason is that this gives them a new source of tax revenue with them in control of how the money is spent.
— Vicki Koeplin, Seattle
With the construction boom all over this city, property tax revenues must be gushing in. With more than a dozen cranes in South Lake Union alone, the city needs to prioritize general fund money to maintain parks.
— Michael Keyes, Seattle
I wish that the Seattle City Council and Mayor [Ed Murray] would stop thinking that the levy system is broken for our parks system. Prop. 1 for a Metropolitan Park District (MPD) is not good governance and would allow the city council to make the major decisions without citizen review that a levy would provide. The levy system for parks has been used for over 100 years and has been approved by voters every time.
This city council used Bridging the Gap funds for a transportation project in South Lake Union that had not been pre-approved and was very slow in helping the replacement of the South Park Bridge that could have fallen. Only after King County moved forward to save this bridge, did the Seattle City Council take action and participate in the shared funding for this bridge between the county and city. South Park businesses and residents had to make do with construction for more than 12 months. If this is how levy transportation funds for Bridging the Gap are spent by the city council, look at what fun citizens have to look forward to with a park district.
The levy system is not broken. The decision-making oversight at City Hall is broken and needs to be changed. A 'no' vote is a vote for responsible governance. Do not write a blank check for city council. Bring back the levy process for parks and more checks and balances, with proper citizen review.
— Joan Paulson, Seattle
I support the viewpoint of the Times' editorial advocating for voters to NOT pass Prop. 1 for an independent park district. I was listening to KUOW when Mr. [Ken] Bounds made his very spurious "If this fails, there is no funding" comment. I am all for giving the parks the resources needed — through a levy, not through a non-refundable, non-negotiable entity which will make its own rules. I have voted for every park levy in the past twenty years. As a homeowner who pays assessment fees, I know the meaning of levies, but I have a say in the process. With the proposed park district, all other property tax payers and I will be locked in to an ever-increasing property tax. The demographics of Seattle are changing to a more mobile, younger population in which owning property is not the ultimate goal. Funding for all the city's needs CANNOT be placed onto property owners. It's an outdated funding model, but the answer for the parks' needs is not the formation of an entity which would not be accountable to citizens. It's very disappointing that the City Council would even let such an entity be proposed, let alone put on a ballot measure. Council members and Mayor Murray, what were you thinking?
— Patrick Cone, Seattle
Yes on Prop 1.
My experience as city budget director and superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation has led me to conclude that we are all kidding ourselves if we think general funds and eight-year levies will solve our park funding problem.
The State provides one option for local jurisdictions to fund parks with a fund source that is exclusively dedicated to parks — and that's the Metropolitan Park District. Sixteen other jurisdictions use this tool. Why not Seattle? An MPD is head and shoulders above any other available approach.
Proposition 1 uses that tool and molds it to fit Seattle's needs. The ordinance passed unanimously by the city council and signed by the mayor — i.e. the law, which the Times does not even acknowledge — does the following: identifies how the funds will be allocated; establishes the most robust citizen oversight of any prior levy (and I was involved in implementing three of them in 1991,1999 and 2001); guarantees that the current level of general fund (adjusted annually for inflation) will continue to be allocated to Parks, therefore no reduction in current funding (again, no prior levy did this); obligates the City to conduct annual audits of the MPD; and simply transfers the revenue collected by the levy to the city to be governed by the City Charter, ordinances and Parks Administrative Code.
There will be no new bureaucracy. No new way of managing parks as the opponents state and the Times seems to conclude. It's simply not true. If you truly do love parks, like the Times and the opponents of Prop. 1 say they do, then you will vote Yes on Prop 1 August 5. There really is no viable alternative. We know levies, combined with general fund, equals inadequate maintenance, limited hours at our community centers and a growing backlog of major repairs throughout the system. Remember, the Times has opposed the last two levies. Don't be hoodwinked into thinking they actually will support one in the future. As superintendent, I experienced Seattle citizens loving their parks. I'm confident they will see through the fog and vote yes on August 5th.
— Ken Bounds, Former Seattle Parks Superintendent
There's unfortunately no magic source of money to pay for our parks and community centers. The city is allowed by the state to rely primarily on four sources of funding — sales tax, property tax, Real Estate Excise Tax, and B&O taxes — to fund its obligations. This revenue must cover demands for police, fire, health, housing, human services, transportation and more. During the recession, money was tight and Parks has been at the bottom of this list.
I agree with many readers that we should fund our parks and community center from the general fund alone if we could. But there simply isn't enough revenue from approved resources to cover all the city's needs and residents' expectations.
What we can do is use all the tools that are available to us under state law. The Mayor and City Council — after nearly three years of conversations with experts and a citizen's advisory committee — recommend that we smartly use an authorized state tool to help us fund our parks allowed in Ch. 35.61 RCW — the Seattle Park District. This is neither new or complicated. Tacoma has been using this approach successfully for over a century.
The Seattle City Council recommends a 'yes' vote for the Seattle Park District, Proposition 1. It's a step in a very solid direction to keep our parks well maintained, keep the doors open in every community center, and to make sure everyone can safely enjoy a neighborhood park.
— Sally Bagshaw, Seattle City Councilmember
A citizen-led committee was tasked by the mayor and city council to answer some big questions: How can we take care of neighborhood parks and community centers over the long-term? How can we be sure our parks and community centers meet the needs of America’s fastest-growing city? How can we be accountable to our kids, their kids, and their kids?
After nine months of study and an exhaustive public review process, the committee recommended the formation of a Seattle Park District, which now awaits our vote in the form of Prop. 1.
If approved, Prop. 1 will provide a new, ongoing source of revenue dedicated exclusively to parks while also guaranteeing the current level of funding for parks from the city’s General Fund (adjusted annually for inflation). If we vote YES, we will have secured the most substantial and progressive financial commitment to Seattle parks in the system’s 150-year history.
The citizens committee also insisted on significantly enhanced, ongoing citizen-led planning and oversight, annual external audits of the parks department, and citizen-led strategic reviews of and recommendations for major investment initiatives every six years.
This will be a big win for all of us.
— Thatcher Bailey, Seattle Parks Foundation President
Seattle Parks have faced significant budget cuts, leading to decreased hours for community centers, cutting of affordable programs for kids, seniors, and people with disabilities, and decreasing the ability to properly maintain our parks, facilities, and urban tree canopy. The inability for revenue to keep up with inflation and population growth is leading to reduced access to safe spaces, and it should come as no surprise that crime is increasing in our neighborhoods.
Is the Park District perfect? Of course not. But, as noted by the Municipal League, it is a far better option than levies to ensure long-term, sustainable funding for parks and programs, ensuring equitable access for all Seattle residents, regardless of income or geographic location. Parks opponents have no solution other than cuts that will continue to allow our system to deteriorate, leaving an even costlier mess for future generations. Vote YES for parks, vote YES on Proposition 1!
— Michael Maddux, Former member of Seattle Parks Legacy Plan Citizen Advisory Committee
July 23, 2014 at 6:02 AM
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.
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. Treatment Coordinator Roshelle VanDorien says her office chose to participate for the first time this year because "it was an easy way for us to get involved in something super-local. We want the kids to succeed and to get through school without being the odd kid out."
To do this, the office has set up a jar for cash donations, put up posters throughout the clinic, and hung up backpacks in the waiting room. Staffers also come up with an ingenious idea to engage young patients using a rewards passport system. Kids can earn an extra stamp for every five items or $5 they donate to the supply drive. The incentive? Once the passports are full, they get a chance to pick from an assortment of prizes that would make any kid's eyes open wide.
"We had one kid who needed two stamps, so his mom gave $10 to the supply drive," VanDorien said.
The suburbs of King County are filled with affluent workers in the high-tech industry, but they also remain a destination for struggling families who can no longer afford to remain in Seattle's urban core.
"They're here and just because we're functioning doesn't mean they're not having a hard time," VanDorien reminds us.
Well said. Let's encourage more community members to join the cause.
Readers are invited to send a donation to The Seattle Times School Supply Drive, P.O. Box C-11025, Seattle, WA 98111. To donate online, visit seati.ms/edschoolsupplies. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for debit and credit card questions.
July 22, 2014 at 6:02 AM
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.”
The governor will propose a regulation that gives the feds, the tribes and the environmentalists precisely what they asked for – a dramatically higher fish-consumption estimate, about 25 times higher than at present. That prospect had business warning industrial development would be shut down, because a 25-fold increase in water-quality standards would make them so stringent they could not be met with current technology, much less be measured, and billions would be spent for practically no discernible improvement.
But in a solution the Times described in its editorial as “the right one for a healthy Washington economy,” Inslee ratchets down another element of the calculation, the cancer-risk level, by a factor of 10. So instead of getting water quality standards that are 25 times more stringent, most requirements will merely double or triple; none will be allowed to decrease. Inslee also will seek legislation next session that will give the state Department of Ecology greater authority to regulate toxic substances in the environment, a troubling prospect for some, but one which might achieve some result, and which might help quell environmental-group opposition.
Not the easiest thing to explain – and that probably explains the wild divergence in editorial views. The Herald of Everett has yet to weigh in on Inslee's proposal. But every paper that has expressed an opinion so far about Inslee's proposal has remarked either on the absurdity of the new fish-consumption estimate, or on the idea that everyone got a little of what they wanted and economic disaster was averted.
What galled some writers was the lack of scientific justification for the rule change. “The consumption rate OK’d by the governor seems to be derived from political calculations rather than science,” says an editorial in the Union-Bulletin of Walla Walla.
As the Times pointed out last week, no studies show the state’s current standards are inadequate. Nor do they show any state regulation would improve human health – an important point, given that so many fish caught in Washington spend most of their lives in the ocean. Studies do show tribal members eat more fish than the general population, however, and so the state’s estimate will rise from 6.5 grams a day to 175 grams to reflect tribal consumption, not a state average. That’s about 12 pounds a month.
“That’s about one serving of fish,” says the editorial in the Tri-City Herald. “Per Day. Per person."
“Think about it. Even if you are a fish lover who eats a lot of it, you’re likely not eating local fish often unless you’re the one catching it. If you’re buying salmon from Costco, for example, it’s likely Atlantic farm-raised or Copper River from Alaska when it’s in season. Neither is affected by Washington’s environmental standards.”
The Daily News of Longview published an editorial equally unimpressed with the science:
“[A] study of how much fish Washingtonians actually eat and where those fish come from hasn’t been funded by the Legislature, so Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and everyone else are left to speculate.”
Such a study might be a good place to start, it says.
Other papers noted that Inslee has a fine line to walk. His solution “may not satisfy every interest group, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency least of all,” says an editorial in The Spokesman-Review of Spokane. It adds that Inslee “owns this issue as he has owned no other in his administration, and he cannot let the debate get out of control.”
In its editorial, the Times noted that business is wary of the coming proposal on toxics reduction, as it ought to be. But so far, so good. The state may have dodged a hugely expensive bullet. “The details will be important, but potential for much greater benefit is clear. There still isn’t much science, but Inslee’s plan is a promising compromise. Anyone who pays a sewer bill in Washington should cheer.”
July 21, 2014 at 6:45 AM
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 to identify causes, treatments and therapies. Last week, the senator used her position on the Senate Appropriations Committee to focus some of the federal funding in ALS research on the link between military service and the disease.
The fiscal year 2015 defense budget appropriates $247 million to the Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program, which covers a broad range of science and medicine, with an underlying goal of enhancing the health and well-being of uniformed service personnel, their families, and the veteran population.
Murkowski pointed $7.5 million toward further research on the link between military service and this muscle-wasting disease. The senator points out the Veterans Affairs has regarded ALS as “presumptively service connected” since 2008, and provides for a minimum 100 percent disability rating for veterans diagnosed with ALS.
She also notes that men and women in the service are understood to have a 60 percent better chance than the civilian population of developing the disease.
ALS has touched the senator’s extended family, so she knows of the courage and love that also sustain those who suffer with ALS. Keeping the funding and science focused in a setting of intense competition for scarce resources takes leaders and leadership. Murkowski fills those roles.
This post, originally published at 6:45 a.m. on July 21, 2014, was corrected at 4:33 p.m. on July 21, 2014. Due to incorrect information provided on the senator's website, an earlier version of this post incorrectly referred to the Department of Veterans Affairs as the Veterans Administration.
July 19, 2014 at 5:03 AM
Replay our Wednesday live chat discussing "Is Amazon the bully or the hero?" in the contract dispute with publisher Hachette Book Group. Want to find out more about what's going on in this battle of the titans?
Check out our guest columns featuring opposing views from authors Frank Schaeffer, who says Amazon has liberated him from publishers, and Nina Laden, who says Amazon is bigfooting her children's book.
Here is a July news story from Bloomberg: "Amazon offers e-book proceeds amid Hachette dispute." The dispute began back in May when Amazon went public in its contract dispute with Hachette Book Group. Check out this news story from Bloomberg in May.
Frank Schaeffer is an author based in Salibury, Mass. His latest book is "Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God: How to give love, create beauty and find peace."
July 18, 2014 at 6:03 AM
The humanitarian and refugee crisis involving migrant children now extends far beyond the border states.
As of Friday morning, Joint Base Lewis-McChord remains on a federal shortlist of military bases that might become a host site for some of the more than 54,000 migrant children caught entering the U.S. illegally since October.
If they come to the local base, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services must follow through with its promise on Wednesday to provide appropriate resources to help these children remain safe as they await hearings to determine their legal status. (In a Thursday Opinion Northwest blog post, I argued that many of these children likely are qualify for refugee or asylum status.)
Here's something to keep in mind: the government could expedite the process by providing more legal representation for these children. A coalition of immigrant rights' advocates, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Seattle-based Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, filed a lawsuit July 9 (read the Associated Press news story) arguing that every child deserves representation. Federal law requires they are given a fair hearing, but not an attorney. That's troubling when you consider foreign children are trying to fend for themselves in court against adult attorneys.
"It's complex, adversarial and what's at stake is tremendous — indefinite family separation, violence, etc.," says Matt Adams, legal director for Northwest Immigrants Rights PRoject. Under the status quo, he says he fears too many kids are "just being ground up through the machine and deported back to countries where horrible things have happened."
Last month, I blogged about the potential economic savings for taxpayers when alternatives to detention are considered for adult immigrants. One idea that's working well in New York City is a pilot program in which these individuals are provided with legal representation. Attorneys so far have found that having a trained professional to help immigrants navigate their rights appears to increase efficiencies. Other benefits include lower welfare costs.
Adams says migrant children are in a disparate situation. Five of the eight plaintiffs in the coalition's suit reside in Washington state. He described the inherent disadvantages faced by three siblings from El Salvador under the age of 15 who saw their father murdered in front of them for running a rehabilitation center for people trying to leave the gang life.
"The juvenile mind is not developed or mature in so many aspects, and it's ludicrous to assume they can (seek asylum or special immigrant juvenile visas) by themselves," he says.
Of course, attorneys cost money. Pro bono and nonprofits can't do all the work alone. President Obama's recent request for $3.7 billion in emergency aid to address the border crisis, including millions to provide the kids with some legal assistance, is stalled in Congress. Lawmakers can't shove this problem aside. They must do something now.
July 17, 2014 at 6:04 AM
Much has been written over the past few days on the question of whether those immigrant children illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border are refugees.
Many of them are because they come from Central American countries such as Honduras and Guatemala, which have some of the highest murder rates in the world. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) defines a refugee as "someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so."
This week, The Seattle Times reported that Joint Base Lewis-McChord is being considered as a possible host site for migrant children awaiting legal hearings. Already, neighbors and surrounding city leaders are sounding the alarm about potential problems. According to a Thursday blog post by the news side, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck is trying to ease fears as federal officials guarantee that any kids sent here would be separated from the general population.
Fear of the unknown should not prevent the Western Washington community from providing safe haven, at least for now. There are laws in place to determine which of these children are legitimate refugees, and which might be considered for deportation. Why rush the process and place their lives at risk?
Back in March, the UNHCR issued a report calling on the global community to protect Central American youth from rampant violence in their home communities. The agency based its findings on interviews with 400 kids.
Here are two chilling anecdotes excerpted from the UNHCR's press release:
A 17-year-old boy who fled Honduras told the UNHCR interviewers, "My grandmother is the one who told me to leave. She said: 'If you don't join, the gang will shoot you. If you do, the rival gang will shoot you, or the cops. But if you leave, no one will shoot you.'"
A 14-year-old girl from El Salvador cited in the report, stated: "There are problems in my country. The biggest problem is the gangs. They go into the school and take girls out and kill them . . . I used to see reports on the TV every day about girls being buried in their uniforms with their backpacks and notebooks. I had to go very far to go to school, and I had to walk by myself. There was nowhere else I could go where it would be safer. I lived in a village, and it was even worse in cities."
A New York Times guest column by author Sonia Nazario offers even more harrowing first-hand stories that illustrate why escaping to the U.S. for many of these children is not a choice, but a tool of survival.
By sending these children away [from the U.S.], “you are handing them a death sentence,” says José Arnulfo Ochoa Ochoa, an expert in Honduras with World Vision International, a Christian humanitarian aid group. This abrogates international conventions we have signed and undermines our credibility as a humane country. It would be a disgrace if this wealthy nation turned its back on the 52,000 children who have arrived since October, many of them legitimate refugees.
Americans citizens have extended a helping hand to refugees before, dating back to the resettlement of 400,000 displaced Europeans following World War II. (I alluded to my own Vietnamese family's refugee roots in a previous Opinion Northwest post.) Let's not extol this country's history of compassion, then forget what that means when more than 50,000 desperate and innocent children show up at our border.
July 16, 2014 at 12:06 PM
Voters this week are receiving their ballots in the mail for the Aug. 5 primary.
This summer, Seattle Times editorial board members are interviewing candidates in select races for state and federal office, and in pro and con campaigns in statewide and local initiatives. We have published most of our recommendations for the primary in races where more than two candidates appear on the ballot. We will continue interviews for the remaining races that will also be settled by the November ballot.
If you have questions about King County Elections, call 206-296-VOTE or go to kingcounty.gov/elections.
If you have questions about Snohomish County Elections, call 425-388-3444 or go to the Snohomish County Election division website.
For questions about Washington state elections, go to the Secretary of State election website.
Here are our recommendations for selected races in King and Snohomish counties and for ballot measures. And read Editorial Page Editor Kate Riley explain how these election endorsements are made.
Seattle ballot measure:
Prop. 1, Seattle’s Park District measure
The same city government that neglected parks for years now wants voters to approve a new tax that gives them twice as much money and the power to raise rates without voter approval. Voters should reject Proposition 1, a measure to create the new Seattle Park District. Vote against the formation of a metropolitan park district.
State legislative races:
Legislative District No. 1, Representative Position No. 2
Edward Barton, Republican Edward Barton, first-time candidate for office, displays the intellect and moderation to be a strong lawmaker from the 1st Legislative District, which straddles the King-Snohomish line. He is the better option for voters over the incumbent, state Rep. Luis Moscoso, D-Mountlake Terrace.
Legislative District No. 5, Representative Position No. 2
Chad Magendanz, Republican After two years representing Eastern King County’s 5th Legislative District, state Rep. Chad Magendanz easily has earned another term. Magendanz brings much-needed moderation and intellectual rigor to Olympia. His professional and civic résumé — U.S. Navy submarine officer, Microsoft manager and Issaquah School Board president — is impressive.
Legislative District No. 21, Representative Position No. 1
Scott Whelpley, Democrat Scott Whelpley is a former Navy aviator who has served in Afghanistan and Iraq and was awarded a Bronze Star. The Mukilteo Democrat who holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Washington would be learning on the job. But he holds the clear potential for independence from powerful interest groups and his Democratic caucus.
Legislative District No. 21, Representative Position No. 2
Lillian Ortiz-Self, Democrat Lillian Ortiz-Self is reluctantly recommended for election. Ortiz-Self has an academic and professional background in education and counseling, and in management of programs. She says she is cautious about not just dumping money into the K-12 system without ensuring effectiveness, but demonstrated no independence from teachers union positions in an interview.
Legislative District No. 31, State Senator
Cathy Dahlquist, Republican State Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, the longtime lawmaker best known for her fiery temper, faces a sharp and seasoned opponent this year from within her own party. State Rep. Cathy Dahlquist is the easy choice for the 31st District Senate seat.
Legislative District No.31, Representative Position No. 1
Drew Stokesbary, Republican For the open state House seat in the 31st District, Republican Drew Stokesbary of Auburn is the candidate most likely to be a voice for fiscal responsibility. The incumbent, Cathy Dahlquist, is vacating the seat to run for state Senate.
Legislative District No. 32, State Senator
Chris Eggen, Democrat Shoreline Deputy Mayor Chris Eggen, a Democrat, is the better choice over the incumbent, state Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, who is seeking a second term. Challenger Eggen is rated “very good” by The Municipal League of King County, compared to Chase’s “good” rating. Eggen knows what is ahead, especially with education.
Legislative District No. 33, State Senator
Karen Keiser, Democrat Karen Keiser, the longtime Democratic state senator from Kent, faces two challengers this year in her bid for re-election in the 33rd Legislative District. Keiser is better qualified than both and has earned another term. After 18 years in the Legislature, Keiser is known as a faithful supporter of labor and an advocate for health-care reform.
Legislative District No. 33, Representative Position No. 2
Mia Su-Ling Gregerson, Democrat Mia Su-Ling Gregerson’s record demonstrates her potential to be a thoughtful lawmaker. Despite her near-perfect voting score with the Washington State Labor Council in her first session, Gregerson displays indications of independence.
Legislative District No. 37, State Senator
Pramila Jayapal, Democrat In a crowded contest for Seattle’s 37th Legislative District state Senate seat, Pramila Jayapal stands out for the breadth and depth of her civic involvement. The Democrat is a passionate and effective social-justice activist, armed with an MBA and experience in the private financial sector. That said, her election would test her ability to balance a progressive streak with pragmatism and the ability to reach across the aisle to find compromise.
Legislative District No. 37, Representative Position No. 1
Daniel Bretzke, Republican The 37th Legislative District’s Position 1 needs a legislator willing to compromise and represent the best interests of a diverse district where many schools are struggling and persistent achievement gaps threaten to leave students behind. That means turning out the incumbent, Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, in favor of the promising political newcomer, Daniel Bretzke of Seattle.
United States Representative Congressional District No. 1
Suzan DelBene, Democrat U.S. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Medina, spent her first term in Congress operating at a level beyond her rookie status. She deserves re-election to continue her work on behalf of the 1st District.
United States Representative Congressional District No. 2
Rick Larsen, Democrat Voters in the 2nd District have only one credible choice, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett. He has worked hard on legislation that loops back to support jobs in his district and the state.
United States Representative Congressional District No. 6
Derek Kilmer, Democrat
Kilmer has made a promising start, securing $120 million in new investment for Naval Base Kitsap and working to support national defense and veterans’ programs. Kilmer’s most serious challenger is Republican real-estate broker Marty McClendon. McClendon says he is running because he supports limited government. He does not appear to have a grasp of congressional issues.
United States Representative Congressional District No. 7
Jim McDermott, Democrat
Twenty-six years in office is a long time, but U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, grasps issues important to the 7th Congressional District better than his four fringe challengers. Seattle voters would probably benefit from a fresh perspective in Washington, D.C., but with no viable challengers in this race, they ought to stick with McDermott.
United States Representative Congressional District No. 8
Dave Reichert, Republican
U.S. Rep. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, has consistently rated among the most moderate members of Congress. But voters should keep an eye on his willingness to remain independent. During the 2013 government shutdown, he lacked a strong voice calling out the House GOP’s disastrous tactic of tying a budget vote to repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
United States Representative Congressional District No. 9
Adam Smith, Democrat
Adam Smith is a nuanced thinker and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, which makes him a key advocate for this region’s military interests and an influential voice on U.S. involvement in armed conflicts abroad. Smith’s primary opponents, Democrat Don Rivers and independent Mark Greene, are perennial candidates. Republican challenger Doug Basler works in marketing, but has hardly waged a campaign.
United States Representative Congressional District No. 10
Denny Heck, Democrat
Heck has displayed the same hardworking competence he did as former Gov. Booth Gardner’s chief of staff, demonstrating more interest in policy than partisanship. He was this state’s lead on the marijuana-banking issue, helping convince federal regulators to ease banking restrictions. Last year, he won a bill reforming the reverse-mortgage market. Heck is leading the House fight to reauthorize the federal Export-Import Bank, critical to Washington exports.
Snohomish County executive
John Lovick, Democrat John Lovick’s endorsements and his campaign treasury point to strong support for his re-election. Snohomish County has budget stress from a natural disaster, and persistent management issues with the county jail. Lovick has the experience, leadership and temperament to lead Snohomish County government.
Nov. 4 general election races and ballot measures
The Seattle Times editorial board already has published its recommendations for two gun-related ballot measures, but they will not appear before voters until the November ballot. Those recommendations are below. Other select races and ballot measures will be published in the coming weeks.
I-591, is wholly inappropriate, unnecessary and potentially a reckless retreat. It’s hard to discern whether the mushy vague language of the brief initiative is a product of poor writing — or entirely the point. Vote no on I-591.
I-594 provides a practical expansion of background checks on all gun sales — clarity and consistency to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them. I-594 is no protective panacea against the kinds of public assaults Seattle has suffered in recent years. But it is a step forward. Vote yes on I-594.
Information in this article, originally published July 16, 2014, was corrected July 22, 2014. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that Edward Barton is a Democrat. He is a Republican.
July 16, 2014 at 6:01 AM
A call-out last week for readers to tell us how they would fund Seattle's expansive parks system so far has generated more than a dozen thoughtful responses. Highlights from some of those comments are featured below.
The Seattle Times editorial board recently advocated voting against Proposition 1, known as the Seattle Park District measure on the Aug. 5 ballot. As I blogged about in this Thursday post, several other organizations agree that parks are a valuable resource worthy of public investment, but creating a new taxing authority controlled by the city council is not the way to go at this time.
Election Day is just around the corner, so if voters are looking to understand the measure better, scroll down or read pro/con guest columns published in the Sunday edition of the Times.
Let's build up this community discussion, too. Have a thought to share? Go to the Google form at the bottom of this post and tell us how you think Seattle residents should pay to maintain more than 400 parks and recreational programs.
No on Prop. 1:
General fund money isn't enough to fix our parks and I don't support a park district. I've supported every park levy and will support every one in the future. I worked for Parks and think they're a defining feature of a civilized society, so I support our parks wholeheartedly.
Metropolitan Park Districts (MPD) are a tool from a vastly different time, the early 20th century. They just don't fit today's expectations of participation and accountability. We can do much better for our parks and the citizens who pay to support them.
The proponents of the MPD have been disingenuous. Their proposal goes way beyond a maintenance backlog, to acquiring new parks, newly developing undeveloped ones and establishing dozens of programs totally separate from capital needs. (Good programs, but slipped over in their messaging.) Taxing authority is given solely to the City Council acting as the MPD board. Confused? Exactly the point.
There are many options, including local legislation creating an updated, Seattle-style, park district. Look hard before you leap into Proposition 1.
As was said, "It's Godzilla disguised as Bambi."
Tim Rood, Seattle
Yes on Prop. 1
I think it high time we stop this incessant belief that government is bad or evil or that tax authority is somehow a bad thing. What is wrong with creating a professional position to manage our parks? No official, elected, appointed or hired is above public monitoring and, if necessary, change.
The altruistic idea that a committee of citizenry is competent or efficient to request, allocate or manage resources is misguided.
Parks need permanent funding, otherwise we run the risk of perfection being the enemy of goodness.
Marston Gould, Seattle
I strongly support a Seattle Parks District. Opposition to the Parks District has yet to identify a real issue with the mechanism; instead it is based on anti-tax rhetoric that ignores the needs and desires of our parks and citizens.
The City Council currently oversees a $4 billion-plus budget without specific citizen voter approval — how would adding $50 million in Parks funding to this be so unaccountable?
Do citizens have the ability to vote on the abolition of the Department of Transportation? How about Fire Department? No, of course not. So why all of a sudden is it critical that we have a vote in the abolition of Parks funding?
Weston Brinkley, Seattle
Protect what Seattle already has
I think general fund money should be used. And we shouldn't be buying more land for parks until we can maintain them. Developer impact fees should also be imposed and maybe used for roads and sidewalks so that the money spent on those could be used on parks instead. And we need to be aware of the ups and downs in the economy. Part of this maintenance backlog may be due to shortages in budget during the recession year. Slowly the tax base is increasing and so we should be catching up, and this should be taken into account. I wouldn't say a levy is a no-go but it needs to be reasonable, not the most expensive ever like I hear most of the parks levies are these days.
Sylvia Schweinberger, Seattle
Consider alternative forms of funding
I believe an additional option to funding the parks system would be to allow organizations the opportunity to sponsor individual parks or portions of parks. For example, individual soccer clubs should be given the chance to pay a sponsorship/maintenance fee which would allow it to have exclusive scheduling rights to the field. By doing so, it would allow the club to have a "home" field while providing the necessary upkeep to the facilities. It would have the added benefit that the parks system would no longer have to deal with any scheduling issues for that particular field. The city would benefit because funds which would normally have been allocated to the maintenance of the facility could be used for other purposes and the additional sponsorship fee would add to those available funds.
Steve Tanaka, Seattle
Bring back a levy measure
The method that has worked best is the tax levy. Each levy lists specific projects that will be financed and at the end of the levy, citizens have the opportunity to evaluate its success. Citizens can then help to prioritize projects for the next levy and can be assured their top priority projects will be actualized.
None of these "safeguards" are available with the MPD because the City Council will prioritize projects and allocate funds.
There will be no list of guaranteed projects for the voter to assess before the August 5th election. The voter will not know how his tax dollars will be spent
Inherent in that process will be the ability of wealthy, well-connected people to influence the projects that are to be funded such as the $400 million-plus, grand waterfront park that will benefit downtown property and business owners.
The informed citizen will vote "no" on the MPD proposition and tell City Council to put a levy on an upcoming ballot!
Sharon LeVine, SeattleInformation in this post, originally published July 16, was corrected on July 25. A previous version of this letter incorrectly stated the levy system has been used for over 100 years. The first parks-related levy passed in 1991. Voters passed the first park bond in 1906.
Keep current funding levels
There is enough funding at current levels. The financial management of the parks department is a mess. This is well known by city financial staff. The new mayor should now be aware of this by this time. An audit is needed because of the unwillingness to establish the tools to measure performance on existing programs and improve the use of parks money and resources.
Steve Fields, Redmond
Want to join the debate? Fill out the form below. How do you think the city should fund its beloved parks system and address the growing backlog of maintenance problems? Is general fund money enough? Or do you support a park district? Another levy? Share your thoughts in the forum below. We'll post thoughtful, civil comments from all sides.
Real names, phone numbers and addresses are required. Contact information is just for verification purposes and not for publication.
July 15, 2014 at 6:45 AM
The headline is how U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Everett., describes the role and challenges facing the United States in the climate change evolving Arctic. The North Pole is rich with mineral resources, and the looming shortcut for shipping is attracting lots of attention.
The topic has even caught the attention of the National Journal, a distinguished source of political commentary in the nation’s capital. A recent article points out Larsen is leading the effort to refurbish the Polar Sea, a heavy-duty icebreaker that is languishing dockside in Seattle. The Polar Star, overhauled in Seattle, returned to duty in 2012.
The U.S. Coast Guard, and others, see a need for at least three heavy-duty icebreakers for the Coast Guard to carry out its duties at the top and bottom of the planet.
Larsen joined with U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., to introduce legislation to establish a U.S. ambassador at large for Arctic affairs. A June announcement of the proposal points out that Arctic-related issues are now spread across 20 federal agencies. The new post would coordinate those activities, and chair the Arctic Council when the U.S. will preside over the multinational panel for two years starting in 2015. The council has eight member states.
As the Arctic passage opens up with climate changes, a whole list of topics from sovereignty to law enforcement, resource acquisition to maritime safety come into play. The U.S. has a big stake in every issue. Larsen is paying attention. Thank the National Journal for helping get the word out about the duties and obligations to be managed.
July 14, 2014 at 8:36 AM
How much fish do you eat? Twelve pounds a month? If you’re like most people, the answer isn’t anywhere close – one of the reasons Gov. Jay Inslee’s judgment call on a momentous water-quality issue last week struck so many people as absurd.
The governor decreed Wednesday that the state shall use a figure of 12 pounds a month as it calculates new water-quality standards – a big increase from the current half-pound a month. He will soon propose a rule to this effect. Of course the average Washington resident doesn’t eat 12 pounds a month. State officials have never bothered to determine an exact number, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration tells us the national average is 14.4 pounds a year.
And the governor says people eat how much?
Believe it or not, Inslee’s decision is the most sensible pronouncement that has emerged to date from any government official during Washington’s long-running battle over fish consumption and water-quality standards. Count it among the top-ten most important state-government decisions of the last decade. Billions of dollars are riding on it, the possibility of costly pollution-control mandates that might sap the vitality of Washington industry, and sewage bills that might cost every homeowner $200 a month or more. Inslee found a clever way out, and while there are a thousand details that still might bollix things up, Washington ought to be grateful that the greenest governor turned out not to be so green as to bend to dictates that make no sense whatever.
What really ought to puzzle people is the fact that the state faces pressure from federal regulators and special-interest groups to adopt a “science-based” policy involving virtually no science at all.
For the last few years, the regional office of the Environmental Protection Agency has been pushing Washington to increase its water-quality standards. The office, an outlier among EPA offices nationally, promotes a theory of “environmental justice” – a matter of politics, not science. The argument is that minority groups may be may be more affected by pollution than the general population, so regulations should be written for them, not for the average Joe.
The trouble is that there never has been any reason to believe anyone is inadequately protected at present. There definitely are studies proving Native Americans eat more fish than most. But important scientific questions have never been asked. Like which fish are they eating? Could higher standards in Washington have much effect on fish that spend most of their lives in the ocean? And is anyone getting sick from eating fish in the first place?
Already the regional EPA office has convinced Oregon to adopt the 12-pound-a-month figure, giving it by far the highest water-quality standards in the country, 25 times higher than Washington’s. The result is general nuttiness.
Industrial plants, sewage treatment facilities and big blacktopped properties that require runoff permits now face regulations requiring them to clean wastewater to impossible levels -- cleaner than the background levels of lakes and streams, so clean that pollutants cannot be measured and no technology can do the job. Every time a permit is renewed, the latest and greatest technology can be required, yet it never will be good enough. Then environmental groups can sue to overturn any decision regulators make.
This nightmare is just beginning in Oregon, and EPA, environmental groups and Native American tribes have been doing their best to bully Washington officials into bringing it here, via the courts and regulatory action. Cost would be immense, benefit practically nil. The Association of Washington Cities estimates Puget Sound sewage customers would spend $7.4 billion to comply with PCB regulations alone. Yet PCB contamination in the Sound after 25 years would be reduced just six percent.
While Washington might be able to stand firm and fight, Inslee’s solution is an elegant one, embracing a suggestion that emerged during lobbying by business, local government officials and labor unions. His proposed rule will adopt Oregon’s high fish-consumption number, while ratcheting down another component of the regulatory calculation, the cancer risk level, from one-in-a-million to one-in-a-hundred-thousand. Standards for some pollutants will double or triple, but none will decrease and none will increase 25 times. They will be achievable. Inslee adds an element that has business on edge -- a plan to reduce toxics in the environment. Until details are revealed it is best to offer the benefit of the doubt. Such an approach stands a better chance of improving the environment than these draconian water quality standards ever did.
That really is the funny part. The change in the fish consumption rate and the cancer risk level will not make a whit of difference to the state’s 60,000 enrolled tribal members. It is possible to do the math. The number of additional cancers they might expect annually from eating fish has always been less than one. There lies an absurdity worth carping about.
July 14, 2014 at 6:20 AM
Interviewing Congressional candidates over the past two weeks, The Seattle Times editorial board kept a tally of vague but repetitive phrases. Top of the list: "secure the border first."
I asked candidate after candidate to define "secure," and got more vacuous rhetoric. Why is that so hard?
Because the candidates aren't saying what they really think. Christopher Wilson, a border expert at the nonpartisan Woodrow Wilson Institute says total border security (known as "operational control") essentially means sealing the border. "If that's your goal, sealing the border to all unauthorized traffic, I don't know if that's even possible. I do know it's extremely expensive."
It already is. The 2013 U.S. Customs and Border Protection budget was $11.9 billion, which is more than a half-billion more than 2011 and double the 2003 level.
Take just one aspect of border security. Between 2006 and 2009 alone, $2.4 billion was spent to build about 670 miles of pedestrian and vehicle-resistant fencing, plus 300 towers and nine drones. Proposals to expand the fence further along the 2,000-mile border was estimated by the General Accounting Office at $3.9 million per mile, but that demand persists.
None of the candidates I asked about the "secure the border" mantra — save Rep. Adam Smith, D-Bellevue — mentioned this fact: The U.S. has hit nearly every target from George W. Bush's 2007 immigration bill.
That law set a goal of 20,000 border agents; the U.S. Customs and Border Protection had 21,244 by 2011. It required 34,000 daily detentions at Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails, which is a very expensive give-away to private prison contractors, as a Seattle Times editorial noted.
All that surveillance has a worked: Apprehensions at the southern border in 2013 totaled 414,397, which is half the rate from 2007, and about the rate of the 1970s (and less than half the rate during the George W. Bush Administration). That data can be crassly interpreted as the Obama Administration de-policing illegal immigration, but it more likely reflects a reduced flow, thanks to the spending. And the Obama Administration's rate of deportations is more than 2.5 times the rate of 2002.
Wilson, the immigration expert, says border security has become narrowly defined amid the immigration reform debate. A truly secure border would mean stopping all terrorists and shipments of hard drugs, which both arrive through airports or ports. Not to mention arms trafficking, money laundering and human trafficking. "When we talk about border security, what we're really talking about is immigration control," said Wilson. "The border is not the place to do enforcement of everything."
If that's what candidates want — a sealed border — please say so. Because then the debate can shift from vacuous phrases to hard numbers. "How many times are we willing to double the size of border patrol and this aspect of border security before we decide we're going to stop doing it?" asks Wilson.
July 11, 2014 at 6:04 AM
The Seattle Times' annual school supply drive is in full swing. Want to help the cause? Make a donation at http://seati.ms/edschoolsupplies. All proceeds benefit Hopelink, the YWCA of Seattle-King County-Snohomish County and the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.
This week, volunteers for the Coalition's annual Project Cool for Back-to-School worked diligently to assemble supplies at the Columbia City Church of Hope in South Seattle. Once glue sticks, rulers, pens, pencils and backpacks were separated into massive piles, volunteers began the days-long process of filling more than 1,300 backpacks.
Here are some photos from the event via my Instagram feed:
Next week, their hard work pays off when case workers throughout the county pick up those donations and distribute them to students in need before the fall.
What makes the program unique is its focus on children from families in transition, living in emergency centers or on the streets.
One of the volunteers, Polly Jirkovsky-Gual, brought her 7-year-old daughter Unity Jane to help out.
"When I was growing up, my mom would buy school supplies for kids in need," she said. "I wanted to continue the tradition with my own kids, and it was really fun to work together."
By giving their afternoon to the cause, Jirkovsky-Gual says the kids were able to learn an early lesson on life's many challenges, including homelessness.
"A project like this is very concrete, so it's a good thing for the kids to do. They have their own school supplies, so they get how if you don't have pencils, it'd be hard to do your work," she said. "The goal is not that they know the specific child they're helping, but they get the sense they're helping other kids."
To find out more about the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness' Project Cool and other programs for homeless students, go to this link.
July 10, 2014 at 6:04 AM
What happens if voters don't pass Proposition 1 on the Aug. 5 ballot? Contrary to supporters' claims, Seattle parks won't be doomed. Citizens might even get a chance to vote on a better measure in a future election.
Parks enthusiasts (myself included) shouldn't be bamboozled into thinking the formation of a metropolitan park district within city limits - operated and led by the Seattle City Council — is the only way to fix a daunting $270 million maintenance backlog.
As The Seattle Times makes clear in Wednesday's editorial, parks definitely deserve some TLC. But the board joins the League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County and the pro-parks/anti-Prop. 1 citizen group Our Parks Forever in opposing the proposed taxing authority outlined in Prop. 1.
Preserving parks is critical to quality of life and public health. The mayor and council members are understandably eager to create dedicated parks funding and free up room in limited levy capacity for other worthy programs, such as universal preschool. But they have failed to make a case for a Seattle Park District that gives elected officials so much additional, unfettered power to tax and spend.
By rejecting Proposition 1, voters send a strong message to city leadership: We love parks, but return with a levy or alternate measure that prioritizes park needs, holds officials more accountable and preserves citizen participation.
Three questions to keep in mind before you check off that ballot:
1. If everyone loves parks and levies pass so easily, what's the big deal with forming a metropolitan park district?
Mayor Ed Murray has posted some photos of dank conditions at various parks around the city. The Woodland Park Zoo has pictures of cute kids and cuddly animals asking for support. Seattle Parks for All calls for the community to invest in parks again. At issue is not whether parks need stable funding (they obviously do), it's how we do it. Once voters create a metropolitan park district, it would be irreversible unless 10 percent of voters petition the district to dissolve itself. Carol Fisher of the Our Parks Forever group asks, “How many politicians in this world would vote themselves out of a position and power and the ability to collect taxes? Come on, let’s be real."
2. Are voters ready to give the current and future city councils so much power and taxing authority?
Even if voters like and trust able-minded council members such as Sally Bagshaw on parks issues, will they feel the same about her successor? Because the language in Prop. 1 would make it a whole lot easier for future councils to do what they want with taxpayer money without voter approval.
3. Is urgent action really necessary?
Fixing parks is an urgent matter, but keep in mind Prop. 1 would not replace leaky roofs or boilers any faster than if voters were to approve an alternate measure next year.
Prop. 1 is a proposed replacement for the 2008 Parks and Green Spaces Levy that expires at the end of 2014. In the Prop. 1 spending plan, 2015 would be a ramp-up year and revenue would not be collected until 2016. The District would take out a $10 million loan to operate in 2015, in addition to about $89 million in general fund dollars. This seems to suggest there's time to put another measure before voters.
Seattle Parks and Recreation would not go broke if Prop. 1 failed, although its leadership would likely have to prioritize projects.
4. If voters don't pass Prop. 1, what happens next?
After speaking to numerous sources, here's a rough list of ideas to move the conversation forward.
- An independent audit of the parks department's finances and performance would help citizens understand how their dollars have been spent all these years, and how those funds could be invested more wisely in the future. It might even make the formation of a metropolitan park district more palatable.
- City leaders might consider drafting a district proposal that includes stronger options for citizens to hold the district accountable for its decisions. As proposed in Prop. 1, a 15-member citizens oversight committee would be confirmed by the city council. This model does not ensure independence and drowns out the voice of citizens who are used to having some say in how their money is spent every six years. A future measure might include a binding vote every few years.
- The deadline to put a levy measure on the November ballot is Aug. 5, but city officials could offer a levy measure in a special election as early as next February. Even if it's a stopgap measure dedicated to maintenance projects, it's better than giving the City Council so much unchecked taxing authority.
- John Fox of the Seattle Displacement Coalition suggests considering alternative funding sources, including developer impact fees.
In a Dec. 16, 2013 Seattle Times news story, Mayor Ed Murray said he is not "wedded" to creating a metropolitan park district. “Ultimately my goal is not getting my funding source passed, it’s getting our parks funded,” he is quoted as saying at the time.
How do you think the city should fund its beloved parks system and address the growing backlog of maintenance problems? Is general fund money enough? Or do you support a park district? Another levy? Share your thoughts in the forum below. We'll highlight some answers in an upcoming blog post. Real names, phone numbers and addresses are required. Contact information is just for verification purposes and not for publication.
July 9, 2014 at 6:45 AM
Pope Francis waited nearly 16 months after his election to lead the Roman Catholic Church to meet with six victims of sexual abuse by priests. Critics are upset he waited so long, but this pope might actually do something.
He met Monday with two victims each from Ireland, Britain and Germany. As The New York Times reported, Francis met with them together and individually after morning Mass in his private chapel.
This is a start, a slow start, but Francis has shown a willingness to act on other topics.
Healing the Catholic Church of this persistent pedophilia requires more than the pope’s expression of sorrow “for the sins and grave crimes of clerical sexual abuse committed against you.” Francis asked forgiveness “for the sins of omission on the part of church leaders who did not respond adequately …” to reports of abuse from families and victims.
Francis also should have begged forgiveness for sins of commission by the church. Decades, if not centuries, where the church actively covered up the hideous assaults by thousands of priest and bishops, who were protected from the law, and moved from parish to parish and diocese to diocese to abuse again, with bureaucratic impunity.
Perhaps only Wall Street executives can match pedophile priests for their capacity to avoid jail time, or any legal accountability. The puny numbers the Vatican offers are more insulting than reassuring.
This hideous, endless scandal is not about theology or the authentic mission of the church. This wretched history is about organizational hubris, social isolation and detachment, fraternal protection, and a sense of sanctimonious privilege above civil law. It's a use and abuse of authority to protect individuals and the institution regardless of how the innocent suffer.
Sexual predators, who could not pass a screening to coach a youth sports team, engage in grotesque acts during the week, and then stand Sunday as the pathway to the sacred. Shameless.
Pope Francis can and must change things.
July 8, 2014 at 6:25 AM
UPDATED, 8:40 a.m.: Brian Smith of the Liquor Control Board said said an emergency rule adopted by the board on June 25 requires products be homogenized (assuring the psychoactive THC is equally distributed), scored for individual dosage (such as the squares on a chocolate bar) and be submitted to the board for pre-approval. That could theoretically happen within weeks, although a shortage of marijuana from licensed processors could further delay the appearance of edibles.
ORIGINAL POST: When Washington's first legal marijuana stores open today, they'll lack a product that will eventually dominate the market. It would be like opening a liquor store by selling only gin.
But in choosing to temporarily not have marijuana-infused food and drink products in stock, the state Liquor Control Board made a smart gamble. At the risk of alienating some customers, the state avoids the potential health and public-relations debacle vividly described in New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd's now-famous "panting and paranoid" bad trip from a marijuana-infused chocolate bar.
It is a good call. Edible marijuana goes far beyond the brownies of old, ranging from sodas to pasta sauce to cotton candy. Enticing for the adventurous consumer, but edibles are tricky for all but veteran marijuana users. Dosage is hard to control, and psychoactive THC isn't always uniformly dispersed.
To belabor the liquor analogy, customers need to know if they're downing a shot of whiskey, a pint or a fifth.
Unable to be sure - and equally concerned about packaging that would entice kids - the Liquor Control Board will allow only dried flower marijuana for now, as quickly updates rules for the edible products.
Colorado, which opened stores earlier by building on its already-licensed dispensary system, offers a cautionary tale. It didn't take a rigorous approach to edibles, stories abound about children accidentally getting high, as well and cases of adults showing up in emergency rooms fearing they were having a heart attack on supercharged products.
The problem with consistency in edibles was documented in tests commissioned by The Cannabist, the Denver Post's marijuana blog. The results showed a huge variation between the label dosage and the actual THC content (albeit mostly on the low side).
Going on the, er, high side of the dosage is the real problem. Dowd wasn't the only marijuana novice who became a bad tripper. Forbes columnist Jacob Sullum stumbled around his Colorado hotel after eating "one sour gummy candy too many."
Philip Dawdy, a Seattle marijuana activist and long-time medical marijuana user, said he had a "really scary" experience with a supercharged brownie. He said he got double the expected dose, and ended up hallucinating and taking a four-hour stroll to walk off the effects. When he got back, he still had bed-spins. "I'm worried about younger users who don't really know what they're doing" with edibles, said Dawdy, who supports the Liquor Control Board's moratorium.
Medical marijuana entrepreneur John Davis also agrees. The Liquor Control Board needs to have a "careful discussion" about packaging, particularly that which is attractive to kids. "Children are the big issue," said Davis. "A cookie looks like a cookie to a five year-old," even one that is packed with THC.
"How are they going to make it so there's the least chance they'll get their hands on it."
The Liquor Control Board is taking a risk by temporary not stocking the enticing products. Board member Chris Marr, at a meeting last month, noted they're available at unregulated medical marijuana dispensaries. If the whole point of legalization was to quash the black market, is an edible ban the right approach?
That's a reasonable point. But the biggest priority for Washington on Tuesday shouldn't be helping businessmen - even ones licensed by the state - sell a bunch of marijuana. The state is laying a comprehensive, deliberate template for other states to follow. Do this right, and other states will see that marijuana legalization does not equate to THC-addled children showing up in the emergency room.
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