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Ed cetera

Join the informed, opinionated journalists of The Times' editorial staff in lively discussions at our blog Ed Cetera.

September 16, 2014 at 6:12 AM

Big expectations for Port of Seattle's new CEO Ted Fick

The Port of Seattle installed a new CEO last week in what is proving to be one of the highest-profile public positions in the greater Puget Sound area. Ted Fick’s $350,000-a-year salary isn’t bad for government work – but he will face some rather big expectations to match. And eventually he’s going to have to deal with some pretty tough questions.

By now Fick knows what they are. He heard a fair number of them at the press conference that followed his appointment by the Seattle Port Commission. What are the prospects for a merger with the Port of Tacoma? What can the region do to maintain its current market share in container shipping? What about the challenges being posed by Canadian port developments, at Vancouver and Prince Rupert? By an expanded Panama Canal? By proposals to plunk high-traffic basketball arenas and “entertainment districts” right at the port’s front door?

Executive Fick offered a most political answer: “It is only my first day, and I look forward to understanding the issues better.”

Port commissioners said they wanted someone with solid business credentials, and experience leading large organizations. Fick has logged 30 years in transportation, logistics and manufacturing businesses – PACCAR, Goodyear, Ingersoll-Rand, among others. A Tacoma native, Fick got his undergraduate degree at the University of Washington and his MBA at the University of Puget Sound. He replaces Tay Yoshitani, who retired in June after seven years.

Clearly, it is a challenging job. Add to the immediate issues a few others, like the accommodation of ever-larger container vessels in a limited area. And in an age of rising property values, the creation of a community-wide awareness of the importance of preserving the port, together with the surrounding district of warehouses, factories and rail facilities. There aren’t many ports with the natural and man-made advantages Seattle enjoys – a deep-water harbor, mainline rail service, the intersection of two of the country’s busiest freeways, Interstate 5 and I-90.

Fick wasn’t making any bold promises. “I’m ready to dig in and roll up my shirt sleeves and get to work,” he said.

But if he does everything he needs to, he might be worth that $350K.

September 15, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Slideshow: Mayor Ed Murray walks through Seattle's Chinatown International District

On Saturday, The Seattle Times published my editorial notebook on Seattle Mayor Ed Murray's "Find It, Fix It" community walk through Chinatown International District. Well over 100 people showed up to take a stroll through the neighborhood, pointing out their concerns along the way.

Here's a slideshow from the event, which began at 6 p.m. last Thursday and ended around 7:30 p.m. 

http://storify.com/thanhtan/photo-slideshow-seattle-mayor-ed-murray-leads-find

Here's how Murray responded to the experience of being nearly mobbed by Asian elders, business owners and local residents, as well as other ethnic groups:

As the walk wound down, Murray told me the city needs to change the ways it communicates with diverse neighborhoods.

“If folks here have been overlooked, we need to correct it,” he promised.

Head to this link on the mayor's website to see how previous walks in other neighborhoods have resulted in fixes a few weeks later.

 

September 15, 2014 at 6:32 AM

Rare good news for state mental health system

Since the state Supreme Court’s “psychiatric boarding” ruling last month, the news has been all bad for the state. The ruling requires Gov. Jay Inslee's administration to find at least 145 new beds, or else patients who need involuntary psychiatric care could be cut loose, without treatment, to the streets.

That task is so big that the Department of Social and Health Services had to get an unusual 120-day stay on the court’s ruling. And it’s so expensive that Inslee authorized $30 million in un-budgeted mental health funding, just to get through 2014.

Last week, the state finally got some good news. DSHS got word that it obtained a waiver from what’s known as the “IMD exclusion,” an arcane 1960’s-era rule that bans Medicaid from paying for psychiatric hospitalizations in facilities larger than 16 beds.

Getting the waiver, in short, means that addressing the Supreme Court psychiatric boarding ruling will cost “significantly less” than expected, said Jane Beyer, DSHS's mental health division director. Initial estimates of  $100 million or more for the 2015-17 biennium will now be lower.

King County – where boarding is most common – benefits the most, because it has several psychiatric facilities – including Fairfax in Kirkland and Navos in West Seattle – that are excluded from getting Medicaid under the IMD exclusion.

In a letter sent to lawmakers last week, DSHS laid out the rest of its plan. New short-term “evaluation & treatment” facilities are authorized for King and Pierce counties, and for the mental health network from Snohomish County to the Canadian border. In addition, the state wrote new rules to encourage community hospitals that don’t currently have psychiatric units to add psychiatric beds. Discussions are in the works to reopen beds at Western State Hospital, provided enough trained staff – particularly psychiatrists – can be hired.

The challenge for lawmakers will be putting together a long-term plan that adds enough inpatient beds to end boarding while ensuring enough preventative care to reduce the need for hospitalization. The financial part of that job, for now, gets a bit easier.

September 12, 2014 at 6:35 AM

About Blanca Torres, new editorial board member and columnist

Hello, readers! I'm joining the Times as an editorial writer and columnist after nine years in the San Francisco Bay Area. Disclaimer: I'm not a Niners fan and even wrote a column about my dual love of San Francisco and Seattle. With more than a decade of experience as a business reporter, I’m shifting gears toward editorial and opinion writing and am looking forward to questioning, agitating and exposing the region’s top issues, events and people.

My new job is a homecoming of sorts for me. I loved living in the Bay Area and wasn’t chased away by the high cost of living, but chose to return to the Pacific Northwest. I was born and raised in the Tri-Cities and left home to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, where I was something of an anomaly. Not only did Vanderbilt attract few students from Washington, but people were shocked to find out a Mexican-American could come from a state other than Texas or California.

My love affair with journalism sprouted when I created a school newspaper when I was in middle school and few years later, my hometown paper, the Tri-City Herald brought me on as a news clerk when I was a sophomore in high school. My job was to write up briefs and digest columns that reporters were too busy to do, but I ended up also writing articles – that’s when I knew newspaper journalism was it for me. My career has taken me to a variety of places such as Detroit, Kansas City, Fort Worth, Texas, and Baltimore.

Ten years ago, I came to the Seattle Times as an intern on the business desk for six months covering mostly careers, workplace issues, small business, and retail. Next, I covered workplace and general business stories for the Baltimore Sun. The East Coast is lovely, but not the place for me, so I headed to the Bay Area where I wrote about retail and consumer issues for three years for the Contra Costa Times, a suburban daily newspaper, and then covered real estate for six years for the San Francisco Business Times, a weekly publication with a daily online audience.

I went from writing about foreclosures and half-built condo projects as the Great Recession took hold to writing about a building boom of new offices, apartments, houses and state-of-the-art warehouses coming out of the ground and companies leasing space for thousands of new employees as the Bay Area’s economy – and real estate prices – roared back to life. I gravitated toward business writing because I’m fascinated by how money and the economy shape society and people’s individual lives and decisions. What I loved most about covering real estate was writing about how communities grow, change and adapt to the economy and broader discussions about sustainability and how to accommodate future population growth.

I became a journalist because I love writing, asking questions and telling stories. I strive to tell the untold story and give readers information no one else has or can that is relevant to their lives. Working as a journalist is a privilege and an honor to engage with readers. As an editorial writer, my goal is to take that a step further and write about what the news means, why readers should care and how to make sense of what happens. I plan to carefully examine how our society could be better and hold people and organizations accountable. My intention is not to tell readers what to think, believe or feel — you can make those decisions for yourselves ­— but instead to serve as guide to better understanding, discussions and change. What good are our words if they don’t inform or compel anyone to take action?

My colleagues in San Francisco often joked that Seattle was my second home or that I commuted to the Bay Area from here since I visited so often and talked about the Emerald City so much, but now I can actually call Seattle my home. It’s the first time since high school that I’ve lived in the same city as my older brother and sister. This return to Seattle is different in that I bring with me California’s best export: my husband Ramon whom I married just last month. Much of life is changing, but as I hope my writing will demonstrate to you, I stay on the hunt for new experiences, perspectives and challenges. What’s next, Seattle?

September 12, 2014 at 6:30 AM

Are cities being racially discriminatory in banning legal marijuana?

The growing number of cities and counties in Washington opting out of Washington's marijuana legalization experiment is eating away at the foundation of Initiative 502, as a Seattle Times editorial in Thursday's paper suggested. The lack of stores in widening swaths of the state perpetuates the black market and maintains underground access of youth.

A new lawsuit filed in Benton County Superior Court against Kennewick's ban takes the argument further: Bans are also racially discriminatory. The suit, filed on behalf of a would-be marijuana company, suggests that Kennewick's ban (as well as similar prohibitions in all three Tri-Cities and Franklin County) push the underground marijuana trade to poorer neighborhoods. Since marijuana is a cash cow for gangs, they'll continue to battle for turf.

Quoting from the lawsuit:

"Gang warfare is a natural consequence of cannabis prohibition in Kennewick and the Tri-Cities region. Gangs engage in street warfare to protect their 'turf,' the physical location, often a public street corner or park, or territory in which they sell drugs."

The lawsuit makes some broad assumptions, including that white marijuana users primarily buy from "friends," and most transactions occur in private homes. "Hence, no need for violent turf war."

"Minorities and minority children, who reside in racially segregated, high poverty rate neighborhoods in Kennewick, where black market transactions do not occur in private between friends, but instead on the public streets, are therefore disproportionately subjected to violence as a product of the black market trade as compared to whites."

Attorney Liz Hallock, who filed the suit on behalf of American Weed LLC, summed it up: "This is white people who don’t see the effect of a ban on their street corners."

The case is schedule for a hearing next week. Whether it is successful or not, the legality of these municipal bans is likely headed to the state Supreme Court, as another lawsuit, against Fife, is being directly appealed to the high court.

These cases will hinge on a lack of specific authority in I-502 for cities and counties to opt out. Attorney General Bob Ferguson issued a non-binding opinion in January that they have an implied right under the state Constitution, which spurred jurisdictions queasy about marijuana to drop the curtain on I-502.

The ACLU's Alison Holcomb, the architect of the initiative, believes the question about the bans falls to the Legislature: "Are we going to allow opt-out (from I-502), and under what circumstances?" State liquor laws, for example, require an alcohol ban to be put to voters. If state law now treats marijuana like liquor, shouldn't voters get a say on pot bans?

The Legislative debate is likely to center on whether cities and counties get some of the 25 percent marijuana excise taxes in exchange for accepting state-licensed I-502 businesses. Holcomb said municipalities should have to justify their costs, because legalization, in theory at least, would lower criminal justice costs. "Cities and counties need to make the case and tie the request to the needs," she said.

Until the Legislature, or the court, acts, the bans are here to stay.

September 11, 2014 at 6:01 AM

Seattle takes bold and necessary stand for net neutrality

The online homes for the City of Seattle and Mayor Ed Murray became protest sites on Wednesday, part of the nationwide "Internet slowdown" effort to oppose proposed federal regulations that would create a two-lane highway on the Internet — fast for those companies that can afford premium prices and slow for everyone else.

As seen in the screenshot below, a buffering icon signifying slower speeds was added to the Office of the Mayor's website. In a blog post, Murray called on the Federal Communications Commission to preserve an open Internet that is equitable.

Do you agree with the mayor's stance? The Seattle Times editorial board does, as stated in numerous editorials over the past year.

Here's an excerpt from a July 19 editorial:

Washington’s U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell support an open Internet, that in Murray’s words “does not pick winners and losers at the expense of innovators and consumers.” Cantwell has noted “this misguided proposal could mean the end of the Internet as we know it.”

For more background, read Seattle Times reporter Brier Dudley's Q&A with Congress' most ardent proponent of net neutrality, Democratic U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon.

In July, this Opinion Northwest post examined the type of comments sent in to the FCC. Seattle ranked 5th on the list of cities where comments originated.

Wednesday marked the deadline for the second public comment period. Politico reports the FCC has received some 1.4 million public comments. This breaks the previous record set following Janet Jackson's notorious wardrobe malfunction during the 2004 Super Bowl.

Readers can still get involved and keep the pressure on lawmakers by visiting battleforthenet.com.

September 10, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Good arguments from Washington lawmakers on Export-Import Bank

The current argument in Congress over the Export-Import Bank isn’t just the biggest show of the September session, or even a matter of particular importance to trade-dependent Washington state. It’s also a chance for two Washington members to practice their debating skills.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Olympia, are rightly calling the latest proposal to emerge from U.S. House Republican leadership an act of political cowardice — a proposal to kick the issue ahead a few months, sometime after the election. Postponement would make it harder for American exporters to compete for overseas customers. And that’s at best, maintains Heck, prime sponsor of the House Democrats’ proposal to continue the bank for another seven years. Those who wish to delay debate “ought to be courageous enough to talk about what their very-short-term proposal is about,” he said. “It’s about killing Ex-Im.”

Shutting down the Export-Import bank isn’t quite as big a deal as shutting down the federal government, but there are plenty of similarities between last fall’s battle and the current end-of-the-fiscal-year fight -- the deadline for a decision is Sept. 30. And a conservative faction of the House Republican majority — though not all conservatives, and certainly not a majority of the House — is taking a hard line. Opponents say the bank’s loans, loan guarantees and credit insurance represent a “subsidy” for large corporations, which is a rather unusual use of the word, given that the money is paid back and the bank turns a profit, meaning taxpayers don't put up a dime. Nor is it entirely correct, because 20 percent of the bank’s trade by dollar value supports exports from businesses with fewer than 1,500 employees. That rises to 90 percent by number of transactions.

The Seattle Times has editorialized numerous times in favor of the bank’s continuance, including on Tuesday. Businesses in this state benefit in a big way, from Boeing on down. Deferring debate is a way to punt on a matter that surely would pass if House Republican leaders would allow a vote.

Cantwell, cosponsor of a bipartisan Senate bill that would reauthorize the bank for five years, was among senators who spoke in favor of the Ex-Im Bank on the Senate floor Tuesday. She called the postponement “ridiculous.” Already there are anecdotal reports that American firms are losing business, she said, because end purchasers cannot be sure financing will be available.

 “We have 21 days left to get this right and to help our economy continue to grow, but we have to do something here in the United States Senate,” she said. “We have too much of a supply chain in the United States of America — with manufacturing in aerospace, in agriculture, and in automobiles — to give it all away by simply not reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank in a timely fashion.”

Heck bristles at arguments raised by Delta Air Lines, the only prominent American business raising opposition to the Ex-Im Bank, as outlined in a recent op-ed piece in the Times. Delta’s beef is that Boeing is able to procure financing for overseas airlines that directly compete with Delta. But Heck points out that Delta gets plenty of government support itself. The airline dumped its pension obligations on the federal government, at a cost of nearly $1 billion; it got direct payments from the federal government after 9/11; and it is protected from foreign competition by rules prohibiting foreign carriers from flying domestic routes. A Brazilian airline gets Ex-Im financing for Delta maintenance services, he said. And he notes that Delta has used other countries’ export-credit agencies to purchase regional jets from Bombardier, a Canadian company, and Embraer, a Brazilian company. Delta flies nearly two dozen routes into Canada, where it competes with Canadian airlines that cannot tap that country's export assistance.

Heck said, “All of this reminds me of the ancient wisdom: airlines that live in houses made of taxpayer-subsidized glass shouldn’t throw stones.”

September 9, 2014 at 12:01 PM

Mayor Ed Murray should engage with Nickelsville and Little Saigon

Mayor Ed Murray is a man on a mission to make this city work, shepherding through legislation on contentious issues from raising the minimum wage to successfully pitching for a Seattle Park District and negotiating a compromise between ride-services and taxi drivers.

He could be even more effective by taking advantage of the opportunity before him to foster a positive, lasting relationship with the ethnic community in the Chinatown-International District. This is not the most politically active community in the traditional sense, but it could be.

A first step would be to listen to and address the concerns of Little Saigon business leaders, who are on their own as they figure out a culturally sensitive way to respond to Nickelsville's move from the Central District to a temporary space at 1351 South Dearborn Street. The interim site was erected last week. Residents plan to move to nearby 1010 South Dearborn Street pending approval of a permit from the city.

The Seattle Times published an editorial on Aug. 28 calling on the city to find shelter for the roughly 40 residents living in the Nickelsville homeless encampments. Murray responded to a Times inquiry on the situation last Thursday by announcing the formation of a Housing Advisory Committee to come up with long-term plans to address the shortage of affordable housing in Seattle. This is a good thing, but it does not address the short-term confusion caused by Nickelsville's move to Little Saigon's perimeter.

As of Friday, Nickelsville residents had taken over state-owned land on South Dearborn Street between 12th Avenue South and 13th Avenue South. This is intended to be a temporary home as the city reviews Nickelsville's request to move the encampment to 10th Avenue South and South Dearborn Street. (City officials have expressed concerns about the possibility of landslides in the area.)

Deputy Mayor Hyeok Kim said the encampment is not breaking any laws, which is true.

The problem is the general lack of communication and sensitivity to an area that has worked hard to clean up its image and where business owners, residents and patrons have limited English speaking skills. This is a population that needs some extra help understanding the dynamics of Nickelsville, which is an organized homeless community with strict rules in place for its residents to maintain safety.

Since learning about the move late last month, the business group Friends of Little Saigon has asked Nickelsville and its current neighbor and advocate, the Low Income Housing Institute, to provide details on how they should educate their community about the encampment, as well as respond to any potential negative activities. They have asked for due process to include an assessment of the risk to their businesses if about 40 homeless residents set up sheds and tents on a section of town that greets visitors driving into the district and toward the stadiums.

This is not an unreasonable request. I suspect any other neighborhood would demand the same level of transparency and information.

Friends of Little Saigon President Tam Nguyen says they were surprised yet again last Friday to learn Nickelsville had set up in the temporary location.

"Right now, everyone in our community is concerned and they don’t know how it’s going to affect them," he said. "Business is already hard. It’s going to be even harder."

What's the rush, anyway? In an email to me on Aug. 27, LIHI Executive Director Sharon Lee said construction was not set to begin on the current Nickelsville site in Central District for another six months. Over the phone, she said she had offered to let Nickelsville stay on land next to the Ernestine Anderson Place. However, the Nickelsville residents wanted to honor a promise to not wear out their welcome after one year on the site. Hence, the move to South Dearborn.

In time, this might all work out just fine. Nickelville has a solid track record and an organized community that provides residents with safe shelter and a place to store their belongings during the day.

However, the roll-out was clearly botched —  and the hasty move to the International District sets a negative tone.

Little Saigon business owners are struggling to establish their political voice and fear being labeled as anti-homeless. The City of Seattle is not going to intervene. The homeless have nowhere else to go.

There are no winners here, unless someone stands up.

That person should be Mayor Ed Murray. This is a golden opportunity to engage a community that has long been fearful of government, from the time many of its inhabitants escaped an oppressive regime in Vietnam in the 1970s and 1980s.

In recent years, business owners in the International District have faced the challenges of streetcar construction, attempts to increase parking fees and a new plan to increase the minimum wage that ignored their concerns.

Murray should help them to gain some confidence in the system by working with them, not ignoring them.

On Tuesday morning, his office sent out a news release announcing a "Find It, Fix It" Community Walk in the ID on Thursday at 6 p.m. starting at South King Street and Maynard Avenue South. Murray will participate, along with Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O'Toole, City Councilmember Bruce Harrell and other department officials. The walk is scheduled to end at 12th Avenue South and South King Street.

This is definitely a good move on the mayor's part, since these events are intended to improve Seattle neighborhoods and to "identify physical disorder and solve it." Local patrons and businesses should take him up on this opportunity to engage in a meaningful way.

September 9, 2014 at 6:09 AM

NBA gaffe 2.0 may help Seattle get a team, but won't improve race relations

Seattle is stirring about another prospect for regaining professional basketball.

This time the inkling comes from Atlanta, where majority Hawks owner Bruce Levenson is selling his controlling interest in the NBA team after he acknowledged sending emails questioning the team’s economic viability because of its predominantly black fan base.

Specifically, Levenson worried that “the black crowd scared away the whites and there are simply not enough affluent black fans to build a significant season ticket base.”

On the surface, it sounds just like former LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling expressing a personal distaste for racial minorities. In response to the cultural backlash, the NBA forced Sterling to sell the team last month to Seattle businessman Steve Ballmer.

But Seattleites should resist the temptation to paint Levenson with the Sterling brush, no matter what affect it has on repatriating that NBA franchise.

Sterling expressed personal animus, while Levenson engaged in an admittedly objectionable internal discussion about his business.

His sin is reminiscent of former odds maker Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder’s career-ending observation that black athletes were faster because their slave ancestors were bred for physical prowess. Snyder’s conclusion can be debated, but slave owners’ attempts to breed physically powerful slaves cannot.

The observation was cringe-worthy in 1988 when Snyder said. It’s cringe-worthy now. But it's a cringe-worthy fact.

Then as now, it was much easier for the nation to turn into a bloodthirsty mob and attack the truth-teller than to confront the discomfort he caused by discussing facts.

The same argument could be made of Levenson’s thorny business-thinking.

A pro sports team situated in a city like Atlanta that has a black majority will likely have a predominantly black fan base. The question comes when examining whether that fan base – made up of a demographic that's been economically and socially oppressed – can provide the same local revenues as cities with more affluent white majority populations.

The Hawks ranked as the fourth least valuable NBA franchise earlier this year, partially because it lost $3.6 million last year before taxes.

The team earns $11 in revenue for each fan, according to Forbes. In comparison, the San Antonio Spurs – the current league champion and 10th most valuable NBA team – generates $58 per fan in a Latino majority city. Only Ballmer’s Clippers has worse fan revenue than the Hawks – $10 each.

The fan revenue relationship to race is debatable. But the Hawks' bottom line is not. So it’s understandable for a business owner to explore even misguided notions about why his or her business is suffering.

If they’re wrong, or their plans for the community asset are distasteful, the market will say so.

But the all too typical outrage to Levenson’s frank racial talk tells a different tale and provides a singular lesson: don’t talk about race – even privately.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said as much in a 2009 Black History Month speech: “In things racial, we have always been and I believe continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards.”

It would be cowardly to act as though race is not part of American thinking, or to ignore race when it surfaces.

A brave society, however, would embrace such opportunities.

At their core, the Levenson and Sterling episodes are not sports stories. They’re not even business stories. They are stories about this society.

Rather than rushing to judge, and causing resentment in some sectors, the earnest among us should use the situation to have an honest conversation about race – whether Seattle gets an NBA team or not.

It’s uncomfortable learning. But in matters of race, there is no other kind.

September 5, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Reader responses to newcomers to Seattle: Most vulnerable Seattleites have reason to fear change

My recent editorial notebook and solicitation for experiences of new Seattle migrants produced an assortment of tales and, not surprisingly, a good dose of resentment.

Several readers replied emphatically to my suggestion that newcomers could contribute to the city’s growth with strong suggestions that I go back to where I came from. One email’s subject line summed up the sentiment: “Who asked you?”

“We aboriginals have loved and lived and appreciated what we have, just the way it was,” the email read. It finished: “Leave us alone,  we were doing just fine. Who says we want to evolve?”

A more thoughtful respondent boasted the following:

“Yes there's a lot that can be made better, but not by you, who have no sense of place, people, or history. You have no investment, except perhaps financial, please take that investment with you and go.”

The authors may not have expected it, but I understand their reaction. Wherever this attitude surfaces, it usually comes from the most vulnerable with the most tenuous hold on an illusory stability.

Any change loosens their grasp on that already shaky stability, so it makes sense that any suggestion of change prompts fear.

When I said new arrivals could contribute to Seattle’s future – rather than be a drain on it – what some heard was that new arrivals “hate” Seattle and want to change what long-time residents cherish most about the city.

While Seattle certainly has an abundance of unique charms, it also has plenty to work on. And the folks brandishing pitchforks and torches at the city limits aren’t aiding that work, or expressing an attitude distinct to Seattle. In fact, they’re reacting just like people anywhere when confronted with the reality that their comfort zone cannot stay the same.

Ironically, many are also almost certainly descendents of migrants and immigrants to Seattle themselves.

There were other, more encouraging, responses. Plenty of folks expressed hearty welcomes and wishes for success.

Some were Seattle residents who moved here 10, 30, even 50 years ago. They spoke of a town thrust into modernity by economics, but of a people legitimately wary of what that modernity brings.

One respondent noted that despite Seattle being a tourist destination, many city residents aren't particularly welcoming to tourists. They also noted that the city’s laissez-faire attitude toward its concentration of downtown homeless and aggressive panhandling is hurting that economic sector.

“The many world travelers we serve have said they love the city and the area, but wouldn't come again to be hassled,” replied a downtown cruise line rep. “If New York can get rid of this problem in Times Square, why can't we?”

Others made the point that public transit works just fine – for them. But they’d be hard pressed to argue that the existing transportation infrastructure works fine for most Seattleites, or that existing public transit would work fine if most residents suddenly relied upon it.

These are observations of residents who’ve bought homes, raised children and retired here. Having invested their lives, they love Seattle enough to want to see the city improve. The wary among Seattle would be wise to remember that.

Providing more energy to address traffic congestion – Seattle has the fourth worst in the U.S. and the eighth worst in the Americas – and homelessness will benefit everyone in this community, not just newbies.

Better for Seattle to utilize the enthusiasm and perspective of all residents – including those who’ve lived elsewhere – to manage its inevitable change than to wallow in a limited notion of what that change ought to be.

Of course I could be wrong. I just got here.

September 3, 2014 at 5:50 AM

McCleary showdown: Two messages from the Washington Supreme Court

Latest coverage of Wednesday's McCleary hearing: Court hears arguments in McCleary school-funding case.

As the McCleary case becomes a showdown Wednesday afternoon at the state Temple of Justice, reading the mood of the state Supreme Court isn’t easy.  There seem to be two messages coming from the court of late.

The first message is the tough-talking one the court has sent to the Legislature and the governor’s office, in its formal court orders. The other is unofficial – the kinder, gentler explanation justices have offered as they have met with The Seattle Times editorial board this election season. Washingtonians might hope the latter is true. 

The court is overseeing implementation of its decision in McCleary v. State of Washington, which held that the state needs to beef up spending on K-12 education by the 2017-18 school year. On Jan. 9, at a point when the state is about a quarter of the way to the goal, the court declared lawmakers hadn’t made enough progress, stepped up the schedule and said lawmakers needed to change their procrastinating ways. The court directed them to come up with the rest of the multi-year, multi-billion-dollar plan to fund the K-12 schools, pronto. Lawmakers balked.

So the court issued an equally high-handed order on June 12, demanding that the other two branches answer for their failure in court Wednesday at 2 p.m. Lawmakers are supposed to explain, among other things, why the court should not impose contempt sanctions, impose big fines, order the passage of specific bills, or shut down the school system entirely. This message seems to trample on the idea that the court is just one of three separate and roughly equal branches of government, each of which deserves a bit of leeway to do its job, and requires the respect of the other two.

Justices presented the argument rather differently as they passed through The Seattle Times offices for endorsement interviews. Four are up for election this year. Three of them say they want to remind lawmakers that time is running out -- there are only three sessions left -- and if hauling the governor and Legislature into court seems a bit harsh, it is the only way they can do it. “I honestly don’t think anybody really wants to see us create a constitutional crisis where the court oversteps its boundaries," said Justice Mary Yu, who is running for a seat on the court after being appointed earlier this year. 

The justices note that hearings, directives and rulings are the way the court communicates. “This is how a court convenes the parties to address where we are,” said Justice Debra Stephens, author of the original McCleary order. “We can’t just walk across the street [to the Capitol] and talk one-on-one with the Legislature, or with individual legislators. The way a court can hear from the parties is in the context of a show cause order.”

So what’s with that list of possible punishments? The court was just following standard format, said Justice Mary Fairhurst. It took the list of suggestions from a brief filed by the plaintiffs, authored by attorneys representing the McCleary family and a bevy of education groups. The court said the state needed to “show cause” why those penalties should not be imposed. “It shows the urgency of the issue,” she said. “We’re just going to conversation about it on the third.”

All just a matter of routine?

No, not at all. The court might have accepted the arguments written by the attorney general’s office on behalf of the governor and the Legislature – that there is still plenty of time for the state to comply, the big debate comes next year when lawmakers will write a biennial budget, and it was unreasonable for the court to expect much from the Legislature in this year's short 60-day session. But the court didn’t do that. In its order, it declared the Legislature to be in “violation.”

And the fourth justice, Charles Johnson, said he sometimes has thought the court ought to play a more confrontational role with the Legislature. It would be nice to believe the whole thing has been overblown; that the court sees the dangers ahead, it won’t do anything silly, and the whole thing has happened because the court can’t pick up a telephone and dial the statehouse and say "please don't forget." The Legislature could use a good scare, and an admonishment from a judge might do wonders, but it is a little soon to send the Gang of 147 up the river.

September 2, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Seattle's new police chief is an empathetic multitasker, but far from naive

At a time of national hand-wringing over police use-of-force, things are calm in Seattle thanks in part to the city’s new top cop Kathleen O'Toole.

Sworn in as Seattle’s first female police chief just two months ago, O'Toole immediately set out to not just build bridges with the city’s various

communities, but also with the department’s rank-and-file.

In her third day in office, she called on old contacts in Boston to help her open community channels here in Seattle. Those ties were so strong, she said, that some Boston associates flew to Seattle for her swearing-in.

"It’s the way I've always done business," she said Wednesday during a wide-ranging, candid interview.

O'Toole seems to multitask constantly, claiming she rarely spends more than 15 minutes at her desk each day.

While walking to a morning meeting Wednesday she conversed with an aide and spoke with me by phone about community engagement.

She credited others in the department for initiating a recent community forum with black leaders in the wake of the fatal Ferguson, Mo. police shooting.

"Given all that’s happened recently in the country and the discussion around Ferguson, it’s a reminder of how important these relationships are," O'Toole said. "We have to constantly work at those relationships, and reinforce those relations."

And she spoke up for the beleaguered SPD, and the progress it's made before she arrived addressing its federally diagnosed excessive use-of-force and biased policing.

"The vast majority of officers in this organization just want to move on," she added. "I also think we need to tell our story better. The community would want to know how much work has gone into this."

When O'Toole cut the interview short one minute before she was due to with the mayor, she apologized profusely.

Hours later, she called back.

“Sorry, I just want to apologize for being so abrupt earlier,” O'Toole said.

That’s the kind of accessibility and humanity any great city should have in its leading law enforcement official.

But O'Toole is more than an emotive executive. She also comes with a resume that could have put her in a federal cabinet post.

She’s been Boston police chief, served in the Massachusetts State Patrol and as Massachusetts Public Safety secretary. O’Toole also took her policing talents abroad, supervising best practices, and accountability reforms of the Irish national police service.

And her most pertinent credential for Seattle is being hand-picked by the Department of Justice to oversee a federal consent decree in East Haven, Conn. last year.

O'Toole's experience wielding the tool historically utilized to rehabilitate rogue police departments is relevant because the SPD has operated under a consent decree since 2012.

She was just beginning her confirmation process here in May when about 100 Seattle Police officers made national headlines by filing a federal civil rights lawsuit claiming Seattle’s consent decree was too restrictive.

“That was a shame,” O'Toole said. “It created a perception that the whole SPD is resisting change. That was a real setback for the organization because there is a commitment in the department to implementing this agreement, and there’s a lot of community support for it as well. I want to focus on that and hopefully marginalize any resisters out there.”

Resistance to the consent decree grew louder Wednesday when the suing officers claimed unnamed city, police, and union officials privately supported their lawsuit.

O'Toole doesn't dismiss their apprehensions. But, she says, she’s not naive as to some of their motives.

“I’ve talked to some of the officers in that suit and some have legitimate concerns,” she said, admitting there have been unanticipated administrative and operational consequences.

“But there’s been so much scrutiny lately that the good cops are demoralized,” she added. “They need to see some light at the end of the tunnel.”

O'Toole clearly shows promise for the post. Still, she'll need to be as shrewd as she is empathetic for those good cops she mentioned to have a real champion and for the city to know it has placed its public safety in effective hands.

September 2, 2014 at 5:22 AM

Times poll: 84 percent support elephant-exhibit closure

The Seattle Times’ poll last week on the future of the Woodland Park Zoo’s elephant exhibit demonstrated overwhelming support for its closure – 84 percent -- and perhaps even more telling, a high level of reader interest.

Nearly 5,500 people responded to the Times’ poll by 5 p.m. Friday, an indication of the way the death of 45-year-old Watoto has touched a chord with the public. Watoto collapsed sometime during the night of Aug. 22 and when she was discovered by keepers that morning, could not be righted. As her condition deteriorated zoo staff concluded the situation was hopeless; euthanasia followed.

The death occurred in the midst of a long-running debate over the zoo’s elephant exhibit, as activists call it inhumane and urge that it be closedwith the two surviving elephants sent to sanctuary. Zoo officials, meanwhile, have responded to criticism with plans to improve the elephant barn and acquire one or two more Asian elephants, to create a single-species herd.

Some 4,580 readers said the two elephants should go to sanctuary and the exhibit should be closed. Another 15 percent, or 802, favored keeping the elephants. About 1 percent, or 65, said they preferred other solutions.

Certainly the poll reflects a measure of self-selection – those who responded are those who care most deeply. But the heavy participation, largest of any blog-poll in the Times this summer, is an indication of the depth of public feeling.

So too are the 124 thoughtful comments posted by readers on both sides of the issue, which can be found in the Opinion Northwest comments section here. Supporters of the exhibit argue there is no evidence of mistreatment at the zoo, and that activists might better train their attention on saving elephants in the wild. But opponents say the cramped space and the Seattle climate are inherent problems that never can be resolved; one commenter, for instance, maintains the accommodations are "like cramming three people into a refrigerator and expecting them to stay there happily and comfortably for decades.”

August 27, 2014 at 6:04 AM

What it means for schools to lose control over Title I funds and No Child Left Behind waiver

No one should envy school district leaders right now. Many are in the process of sending letters to parents telling them their child's school is failing to meet adequate yearly progress. Plus, they've lost control over a total of nearly $40 million in Title I funds used to help poor students improve reading and math skills.

Things didn't have to turn out this way. Seattle Times' reporter John Higgins provides some important context on the "failing" label in this Sunday news report.

Also in Sunday's newspaper, the editorial board lamented the Legislature's failure to be more pragmatic last session. The refusal of many legislators on both sides of the aisle to make a simple change with regard to teacher evaluations — a change already adopted in Seattle Public Schools and many other state school districts — caused the entire state to be stripped of a key waiver under the No Child Left Behind Act. Washington is the only state in the country to lose its waiver.

Here is an excerpt from the Sunday editorial:

In previous years, Highline Public Schools Superintendent Susan Enfield said about $1 million in Title I funds helped the district add full-day kindergarten classes. Now, that money must be set aside to transport children to schools of their choice or to pay third-party tutors such as Kumon Learning Centers. The district could apply to be a provider, but there is no certainty. Only if parents don’t seek private tutoring for their children might the district be able to get the money later. Administrators say it’s hard to plan ahead without steady funding.

The right-leaning Washington Policy Center's Liv Finne is extra critical, in a center blog post, of the confusing nature of letters that have been sent out so far to parents.

As students get ready to head back to school next week, no one knows yet exactly how many low-income parents might take advantage of the opportunities now before them to change schools or give their kids private tutoring.

What is clear is that losing flexibility in spending has consequences.

  • Some of the Title I funding in question is supposed to pay to transport kids to schools that are meeting federal standards. Since most schools are considered "failing," parents don't have much choice but to keep their kids where they are. Therefore, most of the set-aside funds will likely be spent on tutoring.
  • If administrators do their job right and notify low-income parents of their right to get their children free "supplemental education," then the private tutoring companies should see an upswing in business. It will be interesting to compare the cost and return on investment of sending a child to a Sylvan Learning Center or Kumon versus the cost of providing students with in-school programs such as after-school tutoring, extended kindergarten and professional development for teachers.
  • Highline School District spokeswoman Catherine Carbone Rogers says schools could try to qualify as tutoring providers, but the choice is up to parents. If they go with the private sector, the district cannot coordinate curriculum or hold those out-of-school programs accountable.

August 26, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Lakeside basketball and Steve Ballmer, just the latest symptoms of a bigger problem

It’s bad enough that many college athletes are callously manipulated in the money-saturated world of intercollegiate athletics. Society considers young adults old enough to advocate for themselves.

But when high school teens – inexperienced in self-advocacy – are used in the same exploitative manner, something has fundamentally broken in American society’s basic educational promise to its children.

That broken promise was laid bare last week when Seattle Times reporter Mike Baker detailed how area billionaire Steve Ballmer created a foundation to recruit talented minority child basketball players to play for Lakeside School’s basketball team.

According to the report, recruiting and academic standards were loosened in order to stock the team with high-level players. In some cases they were provided lavish accommodations. In others, child athletes weren’t even required to maintain a core level of classes.

The tactic paid dividends, with Lakeside going from a winless season in district play to the state championship game in five years.

But Lakeside, a Seattle private school known for educating Bill Gates and Paul Allen and for maintaining an impeccable academic reputation, and Ballmer, the former Microsoft CEO who indulged his hoops whimsy at his children’s school, are but sideshow attractions in the rampant athletic exploitation of children.

Other schools – public, private and coast-to-coast – have indulged in the flagrant use of children for sporting purposes.

Locally, Chief Sealth High School coaches violated recruitment rules to build a West Seattle girls basketball juggernaut in 2006, Garfield High fired its athletic director in 2011 for faking grades of star athletes including basketball player Tony Wroten Jr., Kent-Meridian High School was forced to forfeit a season of victories in 2013 for fielding an player who’d used up his athletic eligibility, and Jefferson High in Federal Way faced having 36 football players ruled academically ineligible in 2011.

In each situation, including Lakeside, scores of adults benefited from the exploitation of children for their athletic entertainment potential, but no grownup was there to defend or advocate for them.

Recruiters and sport camps get paid for identifying and coaching up talented kids, the grade schools and colleges the athletes attend use student athletes to create lucrative sport programs, and the NBA benefits by getting readymade players.

But the athletes, who’ve spent their lives training to entertain, have often been neglected a base level education in the process.

Renowned University of California at Berkeley sports sociologist Harry Edwards likens the process to a modern day slave trade.

“It’s an almost intractable situation, and everybody has hands on the tiller guiding this kids’ fate and telling him ‘As long as you develop as a basketball player, you’ll be ok, and there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,' ” Edwards said. “Usually, there’s no pot of gold. And there’s nobody saying ‘Academics are important’.”

It may surprise some that parents are among the first to feed from the child athlete trough, especially those from impoverished backgrounds. In such situations, it’s common for the parents to see the potential of their child athlete as a way out of poverty for the entire family.

And while it is true that just the path to and promise of becoming a professional athlete is far better than the environment many of these families are in, that promise rarely pays off and often comes at the expense of the child’s education.

Barring league expansion, there are never more than 360 players in the NBA at one time. And around 60 are taken each year in the draft. Conversely, the National Science Foundation reported that an average of 1,148 U.S. college graduates earned math Ph.D.’s each year from 1998 to 2008.

So a child is more likely to earn a Ph.D. in mathematics than make it to the NBA. And the unemployment rate for mathematics Ph.D.’s has got to be a shade better than that of poorly educated, failed professional basketball players.

Sadly, too many poor minority families feel compelled to serve their athletically gifted children up to a process that’s more likely chew them up and spit out than prepare them for a life of middle-class independence.

Left academically crippled and without a career, the children often end up as cultural refuse; more likely to become a burden on society than a contributor to it.

For every LeBron James – the high school-to-pro phenom who ranked last year as the third highest paid athlete in the world – there are dozens of Doug Wrenn’s, the below-average high school student and above-average UConn and UW basketball player who derailed his career with a series of off court infractions including shoplifting sneakers and brandishing a gun during a road rage traffic dispute.

And for every Michael Strahan – the loquacious former NFL player turned morning TV host – there are countless Dexter Manley’s – the former NFL defensive end who testified before Congress that he was illiterate.

If the country doesn’t want its streets littered with poorly educated, failed and frustrated would be athletes, it’ll prioritize education over entertainment, and stop baiting children with the biggest sucker bet in America – a career in professional sports.

August 26, 2014 at 5:13 AM

Poll: Should Woodland Park Zoo send its elephants to a sanctuary?

When African elephant Watoto collapsed last week at the Woodland Park Zoo and had to be euthanized, her death reenergized  a long-running debate over elephant exhibition in rainy Seattle. Today The Times asks for your opinion.

For years activists have contended that the exhibition of elephants is a matter of cruelty that can be considered separately from the display of other zoo animals. The world's largest land mammals are confined to a small space; in captivity they are prone to disease, and Seattle's climate cannot be considered hospitable. The Times editorial board supports their position, and it has called for the zoo's two remaining elephants to be sent to an elephant sanctuary.

The Woodland Park Zoo directors prefer to build a bigger and better elephant display. Even before Watoto's death, Woodland Park had been planning to transfer her to another zoo. Watoto is of the African variety, and her fellow elephants Chai and Bamboo are Asian. The zoo's plan would build a same-species herd, involving acquisition of at least one Asian female, and possibly a second — that one might be of breeding age. The five-year $3 million plan also involves the renovation of the elephant barn, outdoor rain shelter and timed feeders for night grazing.

One option ends elephant exhibition. The other continues it. Which do you prefer?

August 25, 2014 at 8:34 AM

Up, up and away! – first Superman comic sells for $3.2 million

Federal Way comic dealer Darren Adams now can boast – he really does own the world’s most valuable comic book. For a short time, anyway, until payment arrives and his pristine copy of Action Comics No. 1 goes to a new owner.

In a much-watched auction on eBay Sunday night, Adams’ copy of the most desirable comic book in existence sold for a record-breaking $3.2 million. That’s a little over $1 million more than the previous record, $2.16 million, for a slightly-more-yellowed copy of the same comic book. What’s special about it is that the June 1938 comic book is the first appearance of Superman – fewer than 100 are thought to survive – and Adams has the best copy known. Not a tear, crease or wrinkle.

So ends a story told by the Times Aug. 1. Adams said he purchased the comic quietly for a seven-figure amount a number of years ago – he promised not to disclose details -- and somehow he managed to keep the secret until the sale was announced a month ago. In a statement released by eBay, Adams said, “I’m proud to have owned the most valuable comic book in the world. Working with eBay on this auction allowed me to share this rare treasure with their global community and ensure the next owner is just as passionate about its place in history.”

There may not have been many people with the wherewithal to place a bid, but at least the watching was free. Bidding started Aug. 14 at 99 cents and within 3 minutes hit $1 million. The biggest players waited for the clock to run out at 6 p.m. Sunday. With 90 seconds to go, the price stood at $2.4 million. Then $2.6 million. Then $2.7 million. Within the last couple of seconds came a bid of $3.2 million – and right on top of that, another that topped it by $100. The final gavel came down. Sold for $3,207,852, to someone with the monicker “S***p.”

An eBay spokesperson says name of the purchaser cannot be confirmed until the transaction is complete. By the way, Superman’s creators, cartoonists Jerome Siegel and Joe Shuster, sold the rights to their character in 1938 for $130. Now a single copy of that first Superman story has sold for 24,675 times that amount. As Clark Kent’s editor was fond of exclaiming -- great Caesar’s ghost!

August 25, 2014 at 6:06 AM

Seattle Times recommendations for the November 2014 election

This summer and fall, 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 published our recommendations for the August primary, and many of those endorsements are restated below. We are continuing interviews for the remaining races that will 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. Read how these election endorsements are made, explained by Editorial Page Editor Kate Riley before the August primary.

State ballot measures:

Initiative 591

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.

Initiative 594

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.

Read editorial endorsement for I-591 and I-594 -->

Initiative 1351

Endorsement to come

Advisory vote No. 8, SB 6505: a marijuana excise tax

Endorsement to come

Advisory vote No. 9, ESHB 1287: a leasehold excise tax on tribal property

Endorsement to come

Seattle ballot measures:

Propositions 1A and 1B: competing measures on early learning and universal prekindergarten

Endorsements to come

Proposition 1: a King County Metro Transit funding measure

Endorsement to come

Citizen Petition No. 1: monorail

Endorsement to come

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 5, Representative Position No. 1

Endorsement to come

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 11, Representative Position No. 1

Zack Hudgins, Democrat

Hudgins, a two-term lawmaker with Microsoft and Amazon.com experience, is running unopposed. He has been a leader on higher-education issues, including the Real Hope Act — which extends state financial aid to undocumented students — and extending in-state tuition rates to veterans.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 11, Representative Position No. 2

Steve Bergquist, Democrat

Bergquist, a small-business owner and substitute teacher, gets the endorsement because he is far more capable than his Republican opponent, Sarah Sanoy-Wright. She lacks basic comprehension of a range of issues. Bergquist has a somewhat sparse record in his first two-year term, but represents the interests of his district.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 21, State Senator

Marko Liias, Democrat

The editorial board recommends Liias reluctantly over his Republican opponent, Dan Mathews, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012. Liias is a veteran in Olympia from a supportive district, yet he is reluctant to assert any independence from powerful interests, such as the state’s teachers union. Liias is strong on transportation issues and supports job-creating incentives for high-tech, but he needed a stronger challenger, not a budding perennial candidate.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 21, Representative Position No. 1

Endorsement to come

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 23, Representative Position Nos. 1 and 2

Endorsements to come

Legislative District No. 30, State Senator and Representative Position Nos. 1 and 2

Endorsements to come

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 31, Representative Position No. 2

Endorsement to come

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 32, Representative Position No. 2

Ruth Kagi, Democrat

Kagi has served in the state Legislature since 1999, and from the beginning she has been a leader on issues for the state’s youngest constituents and struggling families. Kagi chairs the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee, where she is a strong, effective voice for child-sensitive foster-care reforms, family-support services and early learning. She is also on the Appropriations Committee.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 33, State Senator

Karen Keiser, Democrat

Karen Keiser is better qualified than her challenger 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.

Read editorial endorsement -->


Legislative District No. 33, Representative Position No. 1

Endorsement to come

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 34, Representative Position No. 2

Endorsement to come

Legislative District No. 36, State Senator and Representative Position Nos. 1 and 2

Endorsements to come

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 37, Representative Position No. 2

Endorsement to come

Legislative District No. 38, State Senator

John McCoy, Democrat

McCoy is one of the rare Democratic lawmakers who acknowledges a daunting and perilous link between the education and financing issues of the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision and Initiative 1351. The proposal for lower class size on the November ballot would add only more financial stress.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 38, Representative Position No. 1

June Robinson, Democrat

Robinson brings a career in public health, housing and human services to her new duties. She has signed the initiative to reduce class size, which comes with an unknown, unfunded price tag.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 38, Representative Position No. 2

Mike Sells, Democrat

Sells is a former teacher in the Everett School District, and a longtime officer of the Snohomish County Labor Council. Sells helped promote the Washington Aerospace Training and Research Center, which opened in 2010. The center draws on local education resources and aerospace employers to train people for industry jobs.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 39, Representative Position No. 2

Endorsement to come

Legislative District No. 41, Representative Position Nos. 1 and 2

Endorsements to come

Legislative District No. 43, Representative Position No. 2

Frank Chopp

After 20 years in elected office, Democrat Frank Chopp remains a relevant and effective representative of the 43rd Legislative District in Position 2.

Read editorial endorsement -->


Legislative District No. 44, State Senator

Steve Hobbs

During eight years in the state Senate, Lake Stevens Democrat Steve Hobbs has demonstrated a deep streak of independence, and a willingness to work with members of the opposing party.

Read editorial endorsement -->


Legislative District No. 44, Representative Position 1

Rob Toyer

Rob Toyer, a financial planner, is a Marysville City Council member. His immersion in municipal finance is good preparation for confronting the Legislature’s difficulties.

Read editorial endorsement -->


Legislative District No. 44, Representative Position 2

Mark Harmsworth

Mark Harmsworth, a tech consultant, is a Mill Creek City Council member and deputy mayor. He seem far more likely to be a problem-solver, at a time when problems number in the billions.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 45, State Senator

Andy Hill, Republican

State Sen. Andy Hill, a wonkish, moderate Republican from Redmond, was a calming force in the Legislature’s recent budget storms. He served as the Senate Majority Coalition’s lead budget-writer despite being a first-term rookie, and he helped channel $1 billion more into basic education without significantly raising taxes or doing damage to other vital state services. He deserves particular credit for drawing Democrats into the Republican-led Senate budgeting process.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 45, Representative Position No. 1

Roger Goodman, Democrat

Goodman has an admirable track record of working to end sex trafficking and combating domestic violence. As chairman of the Public Safety Committee, Goodman, an attorney, also has a prolific record of tightening state drunken-driving laws. Few lawmakers have passed as many bills as Goodman, who has represented the 45th District since 2006. Goodman’s acquiescence to his party’s hard-left positions on education funding are a serious concern.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 45, Representative Position No. 2

Larry Springer, Democrat

Springer, the owner of a Kirkland wine shop, is the House Democratic caucus’ voice of reason on business issues. Though a member of House Democratic leadership, he shows strong independence, particularly on education reform ideas that cut against the powerful state teachers union. Springer’s deliberative, welcoming style should be a model of legislative demeanor.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Legislative District No. 46, State Senator and Representative Position No. 2

Endorsements to come

Legislative District No. 47, State Senator and Representative Position Nos. 1 and 2

Endorsements to come

Legislative District No. 48, State Senator and Representative Position Nos. 1 and 2

Endorsements to come

State Supreme Court races:

Justice Position No. 1

Endorsement to come

Justice Position No. 3

Endorsement to come

Justice Position No. 4

Endorsement to come

Justice Position No. 7

Endorsement to come

Congressional races:

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Snohomish County:

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.

Read editorial endorsement -->

Snohomish County Sheriff

Ty Trenary

Trenary should be retained with the same enthusiasm that won him the appointment in July 2013. He was the unanimous choice of the Snohomish County Council to replace John Lovick, who resigned to be county executive. Trenary has 23 years in the sheriff’s office, and his range of service and leadership roles are reflected in a smooth transition. His department draws praise for its tireless performance after the Oso landslide this past spring.

Read editorial endorsement -->

August 25, 2014 at 6:02 AM

3-minute recap: Video chat on problems, solutions for Washington's mental health system

In case you missed last Thursday's Google+ On Air Hangout on mental health care here in Washington state, here's a three-minute highlight video from the nearly 45-minute long online chat.

Watch the full replay and read The Seattle Times editorial board's week-long series of editorials, which shine a bright light on the successes and pitfalls so far of the mental health system in this new era of the Affordable Care Act.

The hangout — a live-streamed video conversation involving several local health care experts and the Times' Jonathan Martin — had a forward-looking bent, with ideas aimed at the next Washington State Legislature:

  • Washington State Hospital Association CEO Scott Bond addressed the immediate crisis with psychiatric boarding, recommending wards be reopened at Western and Eastern State Hospitals after years of downsizing. He also emphasized the potential of telemedicine (also known as HB 1448, which died in the 2014 Legislature) as a way to ease shortages of psychiatrists.
  • Sound Mental Health CEO David Stone recommended an expansion of the community safety net, including a controversial idea (which Martin has also blogged about) of Assisted Outpatient Treatment, which is a form of court-ordered outpatient care.
  • Cinda Johnson, an educator , author and the mother of a woman living with bipolar, suggested the creation of a “navigator” network to help families access the best care for their loved ones.
  • Editorial writer Jonathan Martin talked about the financial cost of the Supreme Court’s psychiatric boarding ruling, and why more robust funding should be considered a core function of government.

 

August 22, 2014 at 6:04 AM

Superman reaches stratosphere as Action Comics No. 1 hits $2 million mark on eBay

For those of you keeping track of what is surely one of the most important stories of the summer, Darren Adams’ copy of Action Comics No. 1 has surpassed the $2 million mark on eBay. The Federal Way comic-book-and-sports-card dealer appears well on his way to setting a world record with the priciest comic book of all time.

I wrote about this one three weeks ago — the world’s most perfect copy of the world’s most desirable comic book. Action Comics No. 1  features the first appearance of Superman in 1938. Creamy white pages. Not a wrinkle, tear or dimple. Rust-free staples. The holy grail of comic books, and the sort of thing that might remind responsible citizens how much they once loved comic books, and wonder why they let silly business like adulthood get in the way.

Bidding started at 99 cents on Aug. 14. Within three minutes it reached $1 million. At 4 p.m. Thursday the price had reached $2,050,100, just shy of the record set in 2011, for another copy of Action Comics No. 1, formerly owned by the actor Nicolas Cage. That one went for $2.16 million. Arguably this one is in just the teensiest better shape.

Final gavel falls at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The opinion here? Oh, in the professional judgment of this former 12-year-old comic-book fiend, Action Comics No. 1 is by far the coolest comic book of all time. Watching the bidding in the final minute is gonna be the most fun ever. And seeing as how this guy could never bid that high — whatever it sells for, it won’t be nearly enough.

August 21, 2014 at 6:13 AM

Should Obama go to Ferguson?

Whether President Barack Obama goes to Ferguson, Mo. in the wake of the police shooting of an unarmed black teen has become the question du jour among American politicos.

Obama’s liberal base and a righteously raw black community have clamored for the nation’s first black president to get directly involved in the latest episode of deadly violence meted out upon a defenseless black youth.

But visiting Ferguson would not only be a risky move for a president bogged down in political immobility, it would more likely inflame tensions than quell them.

And given his track record dealing with issues of race, it’s probably better that Obama maintain some distance while demonstrating an empathetic engagement.

His presidential performance in two previous race storms – the Henry Louis Gates racial profiling and Trayvon Martin shooting incidents – didn’t live up to his 2008 "More Perfect Union" campaign speech on race, or the country’s subsequent and wildly unrealistic expectation that he single-handedly improve America’s racial climate.

After Gates, a noted black Harvard University professor, was arrested on suspicion of burglarizing his own Cambridge, Mass. home in

2009, Obama conducted the infamous Rose Garden “Beer Summit” between the president, the professor and the white cop who arrested Gates.

Obama’s painfully awkward opening act in addressing the nation’s most enduring social issue achieved little more than to embarrass everyone involved.

But it left the president with a credibility gap in dealing with issues of race. That may explain why the usually detached Obama took the uncharacteristic step of emphatically wading into the next racial episode that captured public attention.

In 2012, an unarmed Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighborhood vigilante utilizing Florida’s controversial “stand your ground” self-defense statute. In the hypersensitive aftermath, the president remarked that the black teen “could have been my son,” or “me 35 years ago.”

He was criticized in some sectors for a simplistic statement on a complex situation.

Obama seems to have learned from these episodes. Asked Monday by ABC if he would visit Ferguson, the president was cautious.

“When they’re conducting an investigation, I’ve got to make sure that I don’t look like I’m putting my thumb on the scales one way or the other,” he said.

Six years into his presidency, Obama sounds like he’s adopting the well-established presidential practice of assuming an imperial posture on volatile domestic social crises.

President George H.W. Bush, for example, expressed shock when a jury acquitted Los Angeles police of beating motorist Rodney King, but was quick to call for law and order when riots erupted.

When presidents have stepped into social issues, as Bill Clinton did with his controversial “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy towards gays in the military, it often complicates the situation, rather than improves it.

So publicly wading into the Ferguson situation would be a bad move for the president.

What do you think?

August 20, 2014 at 6:03 AM

Continue the push for human rights in Vietnam

Remarkable changes are afoot in Vietnam, a country that Americans left in humiliating fashion nearly 40 years ago when Saigon fellto communist forces.

Last week, the U.S. Army's highest-ranking official visited Hanoi to mend old war wounds and to set the stage for a new, friendlier era that goes beyond diplomacy to possibly include arms sales to Vietnam. Here's what U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told USA Today in a Aug. 18 news report:

"That's not to say it won't happen without some effort. But I think there's a possibility that Vietnam could be a very strong partner. Look at our history with the British or the Germans or the Japanese. It could be like a phoenix rising from the ashes. That's what I hope happens here in this relationship."

For many in Seattle's large Vietnamese-American community, including myself, it's difficult to view any actions by Vietnam's government without skepticism. Overseas Vietnamese — predominantly made up of refugees and citizens of the former South Vietnam forced to flee after the communist takeover — have long staged protests and movements for democracy, religious freedom and human rights in their homeland. The regime has largely ignored those pleas— until now.

Vietnam has few options. Its leadership needs allies to fend off China's aggression in the South China See and to increase trade.

Among the reasons to believe the tide has turned and Vietnam is on the verge of a substantive political shift:

  • In July, a band of journalists formed the country's first independent journalism organization to protect freedom of the press and reporting free of government censorship, according to the group Reporters without Borders.
  • The U.S. is actively engaged and interested in balancing Beijing's powers in the region, reports Voice of America. The Vietnamese are just as interested in keeping China at bay and maintaining sovereignty.
  • This month, 61 members of the Communist Party signed an open letter calling "for more political openness," according to The New York Times.
  • Vietnam badly wants to join the Trans Pacific Partnership, a major free trade agreement under negotiation by the U.S. and 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific.

This represents a golden opportunity to ensure Vietnam follows through with its obligation to improve labor conditions and its human rights record, which Human Rights Watch warns "deteriorated significantly in 2013." At least one analyst tells the BBC that Vietnam stands to benefit the most from joining the TPP because of the high volume of apparel and footwear now made and exported to the U.S.

Prominent Vietnamese political dissident and constitutional scholar Cu Huy Ha Vu was released from a Vietnamese prison in April. In a stirring May 16 guest column for The Washington Post, he called for future negotiations to include forcing the Communist Party to release some 400 prisoners of conscience and to repeal a series of laws designed to maintain one-party control.

The U.S. and other TPP countries should insist upon those reforms before diplomatic relations with Vietnam are extended to include the sales of military weapons and membership in a lucrative trade agreement.

August 19, 2014 at 7:03 AM

Mikado, yellowface debate at Seattle Repertory Theatre forum

Corrected version

Should historic works created during different times with different sensibilities be shelved? Should the work be altered? Can the work be done if proper context is provided? How often do you see representations of people who look like you on a regular basis? (No. Yes. Yes. Almost never.)

These were just a few of the questions asked at a Monday night forum on theater and race sparked by a recent Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society production of "The Mikado" that cast 40 non-Asian actors in Japanese roles. The event, "Artistic Freedom and Artistic Responsibility," featured a panel of theater artists and was organized by the Seattle Repertory Theatre, the City of Seattle's Office of Arts & Culture, the city's Office for Civil Rights and King County's cultural-services agency 4Culture. In addition to the panelists, the discussion drew in discussion from audience members who had submitted comments in advance.

Seattle Channel plans to broadcast the video. Many artists in other cities who could not attend the event watched a livestream and discussed it on Twitter with the hashtag #SeattleAFAR. Here is video from Howlround.


I first wrote about the problematic production in a Seattle Times column four weeks ago, "The yellowface of 'The Mikado' in your face." The column sparked a national debate — community groups like the JACL spoke out against the show, protesters demonstrated outside most of the shows, national outlets such as CNN, MSNBC, NPR and CBC covered it, and influential bloggers like Angry Asian Man and Reappropriate wrote about it. Read, watch and listen to all the coverage at " 'The Mikado,' yellowface: All the coverage."

While Seattle Repertory Theatre organization was not involved in the making of "The Mikado," the show did take place at its Bagley Wright Theatre space through an arrangement between the city of Seattle and Gilbert & Sullivan Society that dates back to 1962. The society is a community theater group that depends mostly on volunteers.

Kathy Hsieh, theatre artist and co-executive producer for SIS Productions, moderated the discussion. The ground rules given at the beginning of the forum would work well for any discussion about racial issues.

  • Take time to listen before responding. Listen to listen not just to prepare a response.
  • Treat each person’s perspective as the truth for him or her. If everything goes the way we want it to, everyone will feel a little or a lot uncomfortable.
  • Be willing to accept that while you may mean well your actions or words may come off as hurtful to others.
  • Give each other the benefit of the doubt.

How can producers and directors learn about what might inflame community members? The Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society, for instance, expressed surprise that anyone would be offended by its production and casting choices.

"The cardinal sin for the producer is to be caught unaware. When you’re engaged with the community, then you know when you are likely to piss them off," said Valerie Curtis-Newton, artistic director of The Hansberry Project. "You make choices based on that."

Several people said engaging a community does not mean tokenism — for instance, talking to one Jewish, African American or Native American and taking that single person's perspective as validation.

"What you should not say is I have an Asian or Jewish friend and they’re cool with it," said Fern Renville, managing director of Red Eagle Soaring Native Youth Theatre.

She added that she saw parallels between how people are defending the offensive stereotypes in "The Mikado" with how people are defending use of an ethnic slur for the Washington NFL team mascot.

Roger Tang, founder of Pork Filled Players, a Seattle Asian-American theater group, said, "The audience does have the right to say what it thinks of it. If you do a half-ass job on racial stereotyping and you are lazy about it, you are going to hear about that."

How does a group go about building those relationships with a community?

One case study was presented: A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) was producing "The Ramayana" and built partnerships with South Asian and Southeast Asian community leaders in a program called Ramayana Ambassadors. While the program began as a marketing partnership, the ambassadors ended up advising the artistic collaborators on the Ramayana story, organizing events and creating programs that complemented the show. The partnership led to strong ticket sales and it expanded ACT's reach into new audiences. Here is more information about how ACT built the Ramayana partnerships.

How should a theater group deal with protesters?

Beverly Naidus, associate professor of interdiscipinary arts at the University of Washington Tacoma, offered these pointers:

  • Do not ignore them.
  • Do not make assumptions about what they are thinking.
  • Do not assume that one gesture or invitation is enough to address concerns.
  • Do not hope that it will all blow over.

What does the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society think after hearing all of this?

Mike Storie, producer for the Seattle Gilbert & Sullivan Society, attended the forum as an audience member and spoke briefly. He had just returned from a summit of other Gilbert & Sullivan societies brainstorming different ways to do "The Mikado," which the Seattle group does not intend to produce for another six years.

"The goal here is to be able to produce the Mikado in a way that context is taken care of in a way that it can be changed," Storie said. "Some of suggestions were good, some were ridiculous. Changing name from Nanki Poo to Frankie Poo probably won’t fool anybody."

"I can see that it does hurt somebody," Storie said about his recent production of "The Mikado." "There’s no way I as a white man can get in the head of somebody who is Japanese. Nor can someone get into my head as a white man."

Does it end here?

"What makes this time different?" asked Curtis-Newton. "Because we do this really well. Seattle does this, like 'Let’s have a community feeling moment, make sure that everyone feels good about everyone else’s opinion and that we are all just loved.'

"I’m a double Virgo. I want to know what the hell happens next? What are you willing to do producers to make it different? What are you willing to do artists to make it different? What are you doing as audience members to make it different?

"If we are here 6 years when Mike does the Mikado again having not learned a single thing, it’s on us. This room seeds the ambassadors, seeds the conversations, each one of us can begin to help move things forward."

Hsieh, the moderator, said the organizers plan to use this forum as a starting point for workshops and more events that will bring other national artists to Seattle. It sounds promising.

"The Mikado" remains incredibly popular for Gilbert & Sullivan community theater groups around the country to produce. Those groups want to perform and share the humor and music of the opera. The smarter groups understand that if they want the work to live on, they need to figure out a way to make the opera relevant for a modern society. The show I went to in July may have been filled with appreciative audience members, but they were almost all over 50. The fan base will eventually die out if these groups don't think about how to appeal to younger audiences, and people will forget Gilbert and Sullivan ever existed.

If Seattle could become a lab of experimentation on producing historic works that engage the community, that could potentially move the performing arts forward not just in this city, but across a whole nation headed for a multiracial future.

This blog post, originally published at 7:03 a.m. on Aug. 19, 2014, was corrected at 9:50 a.m. and 12:26 p.m. the same day. An earlier version omitted the City of Seattle’s Office of Arts & Culture as an event organizer and gave the incorrect name for A Contemporary Theatre. This post has also been updated to include video of the forum from Howlround.

August 19, 2014 at 6:02 AM

'The Mikado,' yellowface: All the coverage

The controversy about a Seattle "Mikado" production began with my July 14 Seattle Times column, "The yellowface of 'The Mikado' in your face."

My Opinion Northwest blog post about the experience of watching the show: " 'The Mikado,' yellowface and seeing the Seattle show"

If you spot other writing worth sharing, please let me know at schan@seattletimes.com or let me know on Twitter @sharonpianchan

News coverage:

NPR segment by Sam Sander: "Why We've Been Seeing More 'Yellowface' In Recent Months" NPR Codeswitch's Kat Chow (a former Seattle Times intern) also did an online chat: "Roundtable: The Past And Present Of 'Yellowface' "

MSNBC news segment by anchor Richard Lui: "Stereotypes in 'The Mikado' Stir Controversy in Seattle"


CBC Radio segment by host Stephen Quinn: "The Mikado controversy: Does opera have a race problem?"

NBCNews.com: "Stereotypes in 'The Mikado' Stir Controversy in Seattle

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

OCA Greater Seattle on "The Mikado"

Chinese American Citizens Alliance: "Yellowface in 2014? Is It 2014 or 1914?"

Radio interviews:

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"

Opinion commentary:

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"

Seattle Times guest column by Westfield State University Professor Robin DiAngelo who writes about whiteness: "What does it mean to be white?"

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"

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