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Northwest Voices | Letters to the Editor

Welcome to The Seattle Times' online letters to the editor, a sampling of readers' opinions. Join the conversation by commenting on these letters or send your own letter of up to 200 words opinion@seattletimes.com.

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March 31, 2009 4:00 PM

President Obama and GM workers

Posted by Letters editor


Tony Gutierrez / The Associated Press

Jessica Tarifa of Fort Worth, Texas, works at installing a motor in a GM vehicle at the GM auto assembly plant in Arlington, Texas.

Blue-collar benefits at stake

Editor, The Times:

President Obama and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner demand "painful concessions" from GM workers to continue government assistance ["No more bailouts for auto companies -- for now," page one, March 30].

Changing union contracts and reducing blue-collar wages and benefits is OK to this administration, but million-dollar bonuses to people on Wall Street who helped create this financial collapse can't be touched because their contracts (unlike those Americans who actually make something) are sacrosanct.

This is real change?

-- John Atkinson, Bainbridge Island

Comments | Category: Barack Obama administration , Federal bailouts |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 31, 2009 4:00 PM

Unemployment

Posted by Letters editor


A new experience for an experienced nurse

There is great wisdom in the old saying, "Walk a mile in my shoes." Over the coming weeks, as my severance pay dwindles while I search for meaningful work, I will join the ranks of millions traveling virtual miles on the Web, seeking re-employment.

Luckier than most, I have nursing shoes to fill, but I have learned a sobering lesson about ageism. My years of experience and broad knowledge base come at a price for any potential employer. Union rules dictate that a nurse's salary reflect the importance of his or her experience -- this makes the youngest nurses among us the most fiscally desirable for potential employers.

For years working in a home health setting, I have seen the world through the eyes of people living with transient, chronic and terminal illnesses. Many of these people met my gaze with gratitude when they realized how much I valued their strength as they lived though vulnerable times.

As my search for a new role in nursing continues, I hope to see in the gaze of potential employers a similar appreciation for my strengths as I handle my newfound vulnerability.

-- Pam Silverstein, Seattle

Comments | Category: Recession |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 31, 2009 4:00 PM

Nursing-home shooting

Posted by Letters editor

Questioning the Second Amendment

I am grief-stricken for the people killed in the Carthage, N.C., nursing home ["8 killed in North Carolina nursing-home shooting," Nation & World, March 30] and for their surviving family members.

However, the National Rifle Association must feel proud of itself again. One of its advocates has found new targets aside from attacking defenseless schoolchildren to demonstrate their Second Amendment rights. I guess bedridden seniors are even easier prey.

The NRA is constantly telling us that crime would be reduced if more citizens armed themselves for protection against those "other" people with guns. They maintain that their members are all law-abiding citizens.

Grandmothers in wheelchairs should learn to pack a handgun in their knitting bags to defend themselves ... it is the American thing to do.

One never knows when one of NRA's law-abiding heroes of yesterday will become today's mass murderers. They are too "intellectually challenged" to ever admit that ready availability of guns has any bearing on crimes committed with guns. We have more than all the rest of the Western world combined. Of course, those unfortunate Europeans do not have American Second Amendment rights to protect them. Vive l'Amerique!

-- James A. Young, Seattle

Comments | Category: Gun control |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 31, 2009 4:00 PM

Washington state budget decisions

Posted by Letters editor


Cutting living will Web site a no brainer

We are facing a $9,000,000,000 budget deficit this year (I wrote it with digits rather than using "billion" to emphasize the size of the number).

So when I read an article telling us that $180,000 is being cut from the budget to operate an online registry of living wills ["Budget cuts endanger state registry of living wills," page one, March 28], all I can think is, "Good -- there's $180,000 we shouldn't have been spending anyway." I couldn't believe reading a quote saying, "This is one of the most shortsighted cuts imaginable." Huh? 600 people have signed up for this registry. It costs $180,000 a year to run. That's $3,000 per person. And for what?

Living wills have worked for a long time without online, state-run registries. If there is truly a benefit to an online registry of living wills, then I'm sure some enterprising company will fill the void -- perhaps even the one that is currently contracted by the state to develop the site.

-- Jim Kelly, Redmond

Residents can give even more to state parks

The front-page article on state parks ["Would you pay $5 to keep state parks open?" Times, March 30] was technically correct on one way people could contribute to state parks now, but didn't note that $5 is the suggested donation listed on vehicle license renewals.

State residents have the option to give more to support state parks by adding $25, $75 or greater amounts each year. Thoughtful folks go a step further when they request state parks special design plates that demonstrate support in a more visible way and also help fund resource protection and recreation in the Evergreen State's parks.

Many of us remember the bad times of 2002, when parks in the southeast were given up and we had to reach for our wallets each time we drove into publicly owned parks. We are more than happy to pony up $50 or more when we renew our vehicle tabs. We appreciate the services we get from state government and understand that our state parks have been inadequately funded for years.

-- Reed Waite, Seattle

Early prison release a dangerous solution to economy

I have read that the state wants to possibly close McNeil Island and the Washington State Penitentiary main east complex as a solution to state budget problems ["Closure of McNeil Island prison on the table," Politics Northwest, March 17].

That would result in hundreds of staff losing their jobs and thousands of convicted felons being released onto the streets to join the already swollen ranks of the unemployed.

You really think they are going to be offered jobs when there are not even enough for the public as it is? Early release is not a new idea and has been tried over and over before and failed. This is a stupid nonsolution that would only make the economy worse and put the public at great risk. Washington already has a higher prison population out on the streets than most states do. I believe we have more than enough crime to go around the state already.

-- Edward Downs, Walla Walla

Comments | Category: Washington Legislature |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 31, 2009 4:00 PM

Vancouver not so beautiful to the poor

Posted by Letters editor

Need to address crucial poverty issues

Recently, your paper had an article citing Vancouver, B.C., as one the most beautiful cities in the world and noting its recent gang violence ["Gang wars fester in Vancouver, B.C.," News, March 29].

These problems are real. But they are nothing compared to the violence experienced every day by the poor in our inner city. Vancouver is in danger of fast becoming one of the world's most inequitable cities. B.C. has the highest rate of child poverty in Canada.

If you come for 2010, ask yourself if the Olympic Games we play will provide an economic boom and address these crucial issues.

-- Jim Frankish, Vancouver, B.C.

Comments | Category: British Columbia , crime/justice |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 31, 2009 4:00 PM

Liberals as progressives

Posted by Letters editor

Nothing new but the name

Your article about liberals trying to re-brand themselves progressives ["With 'liberal' out, what's left? Progressive," News, March 29] reminds me of something said in the last presidential election: You can put lipstick on a pig, but it's still just a pig.

-- Gene Davis, Lake Forest Park

Comments | Category: Politics |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 31, 2009 4:00 PM

Gregoire's climate bill

Posted by Letters editor


Help Washington become a leader in green technologies

Gov. Christine Gregoire proposed a strong bill to combat global warming ["Gregoire pleads for teeth in a climate bill," NW Wednesday, March 18].

Unfortunately, the oil and gas lobbies are trying to get the Legislature to water it down.

Passing the governor's bill is important for both our environment and our economy. If we act now, Washington can help combat global warming and become a leader in the green technologies of the future.

-- Christopher Hoffman, Seattle

Comments | Category: Carbon emissions , Environment |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 31, 2009 4:00 PM

More land for Alpine Lakes Wilderness

Posted by Letters editor


Working together to protect nature

It was encouraging to see in the March 27 article, "More land sought for Alpine Lakes Wilderness," [NW Friday] that Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Dave Reichert were able to set aside their differences and work together in order to protect wilderness lands and to ensure that future generations will have available to them these wonders of the natural world.

As our cities swell and our connection to the rest of creation becomes more distant, ensuring protections for wilderness becomes increasingly relevant and urgent. These wild places offer the abundant natural space necessary for adventure and for spiritual renewal.

The free-flowing rivers and wild forests within the Alpine Lakes Proposal display the astonishing diversity and interconnectedness of God's creation. Through my work at Earth Ministry, I have witnessed that in order to respond to the many difficult challenges we face, it is imperative to work through our differences and build meaningful partnerships.

I thank Sen. Murray and Rep. Reichert for providing an example of how effective partnerships can help to create balanced, meaningful protections.

-- Beth Anderson, Seattle

Comments | Category: Environment |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 30, 2009 4:00 PM

Okanogan wolf killing

Posted by Letters editor


AP Photo / US Fish & Wildlife

A gray wolf rests in tall grass in this undated photo provided by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Stand up for endangered species

Editor, The Times:

The unconscionable killing of two young gray wolves of the Lookout Pack in the Methow Valley is horrible beyond belief ["Bloody box tips officials to Okanogan wolf killing," Times, page one, March 28]. The greed and insensitivity of humans, who are actually far more dangerous than wolves, is deplorable and must be exposed and opposed.

Several conservation groups have been working together in coalition since last summer to educate the public about the importance of wild wolves and other predators in the ecosystems of our state. These include the North Cascades Conservation Council's Wolf Working Group, the Wildlife Coalition of the National Parks Conservation Association, the Cascade Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Conservation Northwest.

We have been collecting signatures on a petition to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. We are urging Fish and Wildlife to formulate wolf-conservation policy based on sound science -- not to allow the producers (ranchers and sheep growers) to control the policymaking process.

A government-sponsored survey found that 75 percent of Washington's citizens support wolf recovery in our state. It is time for concerned citizens to stand up for an endangered species, the noble gray wolf, and tell the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to manage the gray wolf according to sound science.

Enforcement of laws against killing gray wolves must also be a top priority as our endangered species struggle to survive in a profit-driven culture.

-- Rebecca Wolfe, Edmonds


Senseless killing

I read in total disbelief about the senseless killing of one of our new wolf pack members in Methow Valley by a rancher.

Washington state should be lucky to have a more-balanced ecosystem with the appearance of a new wolf pack from Canada. There was no cause to kill the animal since it has not threatened the rancher's livestock,

On top of that, [the rancher] tried to profit from the wolf pelt. Are we back in trophy times?
I hope [the rancher] gets the proper punishment and a hefty fine for his arrogance and lawlessness.

-- Tamara Wulff, Lynnwood

Comments | Category: Environment |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 30, 2009 4:00 PM

Peter Donnelly

Posted by Letters editor

Truly one of a kind

The Seattle Art Museum family was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Peter Donnelly on Saturday ["Champion of the arts put Seattle on the map," page one, March 30].

Peter did a superb job leading the Seattle Repertory Theater and more recently ArtsFund. A steadfast and passionate supporter and advocate for all the arts in this community, he leaves a lasting legacy. His marvelous sense of humor and lighthearted laugh, his welcome candor and wise counsel were without equal. We will miss him deeply.

Peter was truly one of a kind -- and for those who knew and loved him, we are comforted by extraordinary memories of Peter Donnelly, Seattle's "godfather of the arts."

-- Mimi Gates, director of the Seattle Art Museum

Comments | Category: Arts |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 30, 2009 4:00 PM

Keeping state parks open

Posted by Letters editor

Rethink government priorities

No, I don't particularly want to pay an extra $5 to keep state parks open ["Would you pay $5 to keep state parks open?" page one, March 30], nor to have bake sales to prevent school closures, nor having inadequate police patrols, nor shutdowns of public pools and libraries.

What I would prefer would be a major rethinking of sources of tax revenues and of governmental spending priorities.

I'd prefer a 150 percent capital gains tax on derivatives and land flips and other investments that divert money away from investments that create jobs for anyone other than the overpaid parasites in the financial sector.

I'd like to limit the tax breaks businessmen get to amounts of the subsidies we provide to people on welfare for housing, food and entertainment.

I'd like an end to tax breaks for religious institutions.

I'd like a retrospective application of inheritance taxes on estates worth more than the lifetime earnings of someone with a median income.

I'd be delighted to have all tax breaks disappear for the owners of professional sports franchises.

Most important, I would like a readjustment of governmental spending so that Americans stop paying so much for a military that is out of proportion with any military on this planet, so there isn't enough tax money to go around for other public priorities.

Being self-appointed cops of the world attracts terrorists and international ill will rather than protecting America, and it certainly messes up other priorities for public spending.

-- Tony Formo, Seattle

Comments | Category: Washington Legislature |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 30, 2009 4:00 PM

American automakers in trouble

Posted by Letters editor

Ask not what government can do TO you

Well now here we have a real good example of why its not such a good idea to allow Uncle Sam to "bail out" a private business ["No more bailouts of auto companies -- for now," page one, March 30].

All of a sudden Uncle thinks he owns the place and so it seems to be with the "asking" of GM CEO Rick Wagoner to quit, which he did.

Whether or not he should have been canned is not the point. The point is that any business that accepts bailout funds is subject to summary dismissal of any executive.

It's a perfect example of the adage: The more government can do for you, the more it can do to you. Will we never learn?

-- Scott Stoppelman, La Conner

Comments | Category: Federal bailouts |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 30, 2009 4:00 PM

The atheists on the bus go round and round

Posted by Letters editor

The evils of intolerance

The Times article concerning atheist signs on buses ["Local atheists lift voices in bus campaign," Local News, March 29] contains this remark by Pastor Richard Dahlstrom. "atheists disregard both the good things that religious people have done and the atrocities committed by the nonreligious."

Our Founding Fathers were well aware of the evils of intolerant religionists, evils such as restricting Galileo's celestial truths, the execution of Micheal Servetus for differing with a priest on anatomy, the burning of Joan of Arc at the stake for heresy and witchcraft, execution of unauthorized translators of the Bible and countless wars over religious differences.

Consequently, the very first amendment to our constitution stated, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Throughout history, the harm done by the righteous far outweighs that of the nonreligious; that imbalance continues in wars by and between religious factions today.

We agnostics and atheists are willing to stand up for our rights -- but few of us are barbaric enough to kill or maim, as are the faithful.

-- Spencer M. Higley, Edmonds

Comments | Category: Religion |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 30, 2009 4:00 PM

India's ultracheap Nano

Posted by Letters editor

Check the facts

I am surprised by the comments made in this letter ["Ultracheap car: the poor exploited," Northwest Voices, March 27]. Perhaps the writer could have checked the facts.

The Nano gives 56 miles to the gallon. How much does the writer's car gives per gallon.

Did he check the pollution of U.S. cities when he talks about the choking air of India's cities? The U.S. emits about 17 times the CO2 per capita than India.

The Nano has the highest fuel rating of any other Indian petrol-powered car and also the lowest CO2 at 101 gm/km.

He talks about the shameless exploitation of the poor and ignorant majority. How much of India does he know? Many in India are poor but they are certainly not ignorant. These cars will replace scooters now being used and will emit less CO2.

Yes, the number of cars on the road will increase and so will the total emission of gasses. But this does not mean than a person in India should forgo the right to drive a car so that people in developed countries can continue to do so.

While concern for the environment is laudable, checking of facts is even more laudable.

-- Joseph Cooper, Federal Way

Comments | Category: Carbon emissions , Environment |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 30, 2009 4:00 PM

Alaskan Way Viaduct

Posted by Letters editor

Tunnel design unsafe

Your support of the viaduct tunnel replacement option is inappropriate ["Replace the viaduct with a tunnel," editorial, March 27].

At a minimum, this facility is classed as a "Divided Multilane P-1 Urban Arterial." The state Department of Transportation design standard requires 12-foot lanes and 10-foot shoulders on both sides of the traveled way.

Obviously, the design you champion with only an 8-foot shoulder on one side a 4-foot shoulder on the other is inadequate.

Indeed, more concerning is that with freeway-operating characteristics and high truck volumes, the actual standard design requirements call for 12-foot shoulders.

Additionally, none of the mandated standard design shoulder widths described above include a required 1.5-foot "shy distance" to the tunnel walls.

As you can readily see, the design being proposed by the state, King County and the city of Seattle is grossly remiss.

Only the trial attorneys will benefit from the tunnel as now described in your editorial. For Washington motorists, as you can see, the design is unsafe. You really need to revise your position on this significant project.

-- Christopher V. Brown, Seattle.

Comments | Category: Transportation , Viaduct |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 30, 2009 4:00 PM

funding for state ferries

Posted by Letters editor

Senate budget doesn't support commuter base

As much as I want to congratulate the Senate in Olympia on their budget that provides Washington State Ferries with much needed replacement boats, I can't ["Senate plan funds viaduct, 520," Local News, March 26].

The budget identifies four new 64-car ferries. Of the 23 million yearly riders aboard WSF, this acquisition of vessels only helps the 3 percent who ride the Port Townsend-Keystone route.

In looking even closer, I realize that this small contingent of folks reside in the district state Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen, the chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. The senator seems to have singularly made this decision ignoring consultants and community study group recommendations as well as the needs of the other 97 percent of ferry users.

First, Sen. Haugen prevented the ferry system from moving the Keystone Harbor to accommodate the larger vessels planned to the route. Next, she tells the ferry system not to repair the Steel Electric ferries because it costs too much money. However, magically, she finds money to build the new, smaller boats for her district, and to the benefit of a boat builder in her district.

The rest of the system needs the bigger boats. In places other than Port Townsend-Keystone, where most of the WSF ridership is supported, there are large commuter bases that depend on reliable ferry service to and from work every day. A fleet of 64-car ferries just won't cut it!

-- Gary Dawson, chair, Fauntleroy Ferry Advisory Committee, Seattle

Comments | Category: Transportation , Washington State Ferries |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 29, 2009 10:56 AM

Billionaire blasts into space

Posted by Letters editor

Come back to Earth, rocket man


The Associated Press

Hungarian-born U.S. software designer and space tourist Charles Simonyi, crew member of the 19th mission to the International Space Station, ISS, is seen prior to the launch of Soyuz-FG rocket at the Russian-leased Baikonur Cosmodrome, Kazakhstan, Thursday.

Editor, The Times:

There is something that bothers me about the Microsoft billionaire who just paid $35 million to the Russian space program to take a second ride into space ["U.S. space tourist blasts off for second space trip," Nation and World, March 26].

Where should a human being draw the line on his own self-satisfaction? Would one space trip be enough for most folks who could afford it? What obligation does one owe to humankind when one has been blessed beyond our comprehension?

Is "I earned it so I can spend it as I please" the final determinant?

There was a prophet who said, "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren that you do also unto me." Whatever one thinks about the divinity of the prophet, there is a thread that draws us all together.

Charles Simonyi may indeed also donate many millions to those less fortunate than himself -- I hope so. However, whimsical satisfaction of my lightest desire is not something I strive for. When there are people living in tents through no particular failure on their part, I think $35 million could pay for more than a few apartments.

Perhaps after seeing the Big Blue Marble for the second time, Simonyi will be struck by the need to protect it from further damage and help those in need who live on it.

-- Jack McClurg, Marysville

Comments | Category: Philanthropy , homeless |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 29, 2009 10:54 AM

Merit pay for teachers

Posted by Letters editor

How is it determined?

Isabel D'Ambrosio ["Performance pay for teachers: a basic way to reward success," Northwest4 Voices, March 24] and others seem to favor merit pay for teachers. But they never once, even by accident, suggest how to determine "merit."

Is a teacher with more degrees worth more? Is a bad science or math teacher better than a great history teacher? Do you judge the teacher by the school -- i.e. good school equals good teacher? Do you test the students in every subject twice a year to see if the teacher merits more or less pay?

D'Ambrosio says teachers must "accept being evaluated." Just to set the record straight, teachers are formally evaluated by their supervisor twice each year. I have a drawer full of positive evaluations ... suppose next year I have a different evaluator: Should my pay be cut if the new evaluator likes a different style of teaching?

Please people, if you have suggestions that include some kind of knowledge of the subject and realistic, pragmatic and descriptive suggestions for judging merit, have the courtesy to explain them and leave off the vague, normative or utopian prescription.

-- Robert DuChaine, Buckley

Comments | Category: Education reform , Teachers |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 29, 2009 10:53 AM

An aging prison population

Posted by Letters editor

Cost erodes ability to spend elsewhere

When crime was on the rise, we decided to get "tough on crime." Stoked by fear and political opportunism, we incarcerated many, many people.

When the old jails and prisons were full, we simply built new ones. Crime rates have since fallen but imprisonment continues to flourish. The reason is that we have become progressively more punitive. The focus shifted from rehabilitation to punishment.

Now we must pay the piper. We are unable to afford the burden of prolonged incarceration demanded by our mandatory minimum-sentencing laws. We have aging and infirmed people -- no longer a threat to anyone -- languishing in our prisons with life sentences at extreme cost to the taxpayer.

A geriatric population is a very expensive population. Although criminal behavior is far behind most of them, their cost of incarceration is triple that of younger people. Even with the huge expansions constructed in recent years, we will need yet more prisons in the near future if we don't adopt measures that will counteract our current situation. We will continue to erode the resources of many other important government services.

-- Tom Martin, Sumner

Comments | Category: crime/justice |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 29, 2009 10:52 AM

Klickitat wind farms

Posted by Letters editor

A too-optimistic assessment

The article on the Klickitat County wind farms ["Wind farms generating jobs," Local News, March 23] gives readers a far-too-optimistic impression of what these wind farms will actually do.

It said that they will "have the capacity to produce 2,661 megawatts, enough to power potentially more than 1 million homes."

Perhaps. But over time, because wind plant capacity factors seldom exceed 30 percent, their average production will be only about 800 megawatts -- a valuable contribution to be sure, but much less than readers of that article might infer.

How much electricity (in megawatt or kilowatt hours per year) the various kinds of generators will actually produce is far more important than how much they can produce when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining.

-- Clark B. McKee, Anacortes

Comments | Category: wind farms |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 29, 2009 10:48 AM

Students experience homelessness

Posted by Letters editor

It's not OK to keep the money

Recently, someone gave a young person on the sidewalk a few dollars. This young person was actually a college student, living on the streets as an experiment ["Spending spring break on life's bottom rung," page one, March 26]. They wanted to feel the pain of homelessness firsthand.

This student gave most of the money to charity, but the students did spend a few dollars for food while they were on the streets.

In other words, a few homeless people did not get those few dollars, so they did not eat.
To all students who may try this experience in the future; it is not OK to keep a cent of this money.

-- Matthew Daniel Berkley, Seattle

Comments | Category: homeless |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 29, 2009 10:46 AM

The electoral college

Posted by Letters editor

Time to update the system

In response to the letter on the Electoral College being kept ["Electoral College: It's not middle school," Northwest Voices, March 26], it is time to come into the 21st century.
There is no place in today's society for 200-year-old practices. Does the letter writer not understand the shortcomings off this system?

It would be one thing if the votes were split based on a percentage of the popular vote, rather than granting a state's total votes based on a margin. Washington state has 11 electoral votes. So why should all 11 votes go to either party if the popular vote is split 51 percent versus 49 percent?

With today's technology, there is no reason we cannot elect a president based purely on popular vote. If I vote, I want my vote to be counted as it should, and not rely on someone to cast a vote on "my behalf."

-- Ron Hopper, Carnation

Comments | Category: Reform |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 27, 2009 2:03 PM

Alaskan Way Viaduct solutions

Posted by Letters editor


Washington State Department of Transportation

This viaduct-replacement schematic shows stacked two-lane tunnels, which would run mainly under First Avenue to bypass downtown Seattle.

Tunnel doesn't "replace" viaduct; access is sacrificed

Editor, The Times:

In Friday's paper you seem to endorse the tunnel replacement of the viaduct ["Replace the viaduct with a tunnel," Times, editorial, March 27]. However, you should not be so hasty.

The current proposal does not offer access equal to that of the current viaduct. The plan envisions a tube running from the north side of the Battery Street tunnel to Qwest Field.
By eliminating access to and from Western Avenue and Seneca/Columbia streets, the proposed tunnel does not "replace" the viaduct. It merely substitutes a fraction of its usefulness.

Where will all of that existing traffic to these ramps go? Eliminating two onramps and two offramps is not building an efficient and functional transportation project to handle future growth. It is merely an expensive solution that would create a new problem that would need to be solved by another, future, expensive project.

Why can't we just get it right the first time?

-- Derek Mitchell, Seattle

Don't put me in a hole

Every day, I enjoy the Seattle waterfront. I do this with many other people as I travel the Alaskan Way Viaduct twice a day--marveling at the scenery and feeling blessed to do so.

But now the powers that be, including The Seattle Times, would like to put me in a hole that has decreased lanes and limited access.

Do those who make these decisions ever travel this route? Have they forgotten the polls that indicate most of the public did not favor a tunnel?

I hope the downtown developers enjoy the view as much as I have.

-- Kim Virant, Seattle

Less functionality, more cost

It appears that the biggest selling point for the deep-bored tunnel as replacement for the elevated Alaskan Way Viaduct is that it can be bored without disrupting traffic on said viaduct.

The tacit assumption inherent is that most people don't want the functionality of the viaduct diminished; we just want some improvements from Battery Street to South Holgate.

A Washington State Department of Transportation-studied solution that provides construction to modern federal safety standards, that retains the Columbia and Seneca ramps, that provides shoulders, that provides better runoff treatment, and that uses quieter pavement and acoustic tiles is deeply buried on the WSDOT Web site.

If one accepts Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels' argument that voters in March 2007 voted down any elevated solution, then by the same argument, we must conclude that the voters in that election voted down any tunnel, since almost half voted for an elevated replacement while less than one-third voted for a tunnel.

Why are Washington citizens accepting an uber-expensive, deep-bored tunnel with less functionality than a less-expensive, elevated viaduct?

-- Harvey Friedman, Seattle

Comments | Category: Transportation , Viaduct |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 27, 2009 2:02 PM

Employee Free Choice Act

Posted by Letters editor

Passage would benefit our children

I recently read Bruce Ramsey's March 18 column ["The Employee Faux Choice Act," Opinion], which included many of the same, tired misconceptions held by some in the corporate world. As president of the American Federation of School Administrators and a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Council, I would like to offer a real-world perspective on what the Employee Free Choice Act really does and means to children and struggling Americans.

A recent study, Demographic Trends and the Federal Role in Education, by Hodgkinson (2008), supports the notion that economics, rather than race, gender or ethnicity, has a greater impact on a child's education -- and so children who live in economically stable homes have a greater chance of educational success. While the word "union" has become a pariah with employers and the public, research also shows that worker productivity has continued to increase in America, while wages have decreased, benefiting employers -- not workers.

Yet, the Employee Free Choice Act simply offers a respectable choice for workers -- to decide whether or not to join a union. The National Labor Relations Act currently allows for a secret ballot process. The Employee Free Choice Act simply offers employees the choice of using the current process or another -- sign a majority of cards to form a union. The business community has used the issue of secret ballots as a red herring because CEOs fear a decrease in profits should workers unionize.

Our children need the Employee Free Choice Act. Let's provide children of all economic backgrounds with opportunities to live in stable environments and achieve in school and in life.

-- Jill S. Levy, president, American Federation of School Administrators, Washington, D.C.

Comments | Category: Unions |Permalink | Digg Digg | Newsvine Newsvine

March 27, 2009 1:59 PM

Value of watchdog journalism

Posted by Letters editor

Times makes things happen

Thursday's Seattle Times contains work that is yet another example of the value of this daily newspaper.

Example No. 1: One day after The Times prints the Jesus Barajas sidewalk story, Mayor Greg Nickels steps in to help these hardworking folks caught in a city ordinance that, up until The Times broke the story, had no apparent solutions. The Times "helped" the city to find a way.

Example No. 2: Times articles brought to light Fire Chief Gregory Dean's apparent protection of Lt. Milt Footer and the demotion of the whistle-blower Jim Woodbury. Without these articles, it is unlikely this retaliation would have ever surfaced and Woodbury would have been the loser.

Reporters like Sara Green and Bob Young are not just reporting what has already occurred. By their proactive work, they made things happen.

I believe we would not receive this degree of community information from an online-only version. Seattle needs to find ways to continue the existence of The Times and the investigative reporters it employs.

We pay for all kinds of programs for our own benefit. Why not this one, too, because it benefits each of us, sometimes in intangible ways.

And without it? Well, the bad guys win and the good guys ... well, you know how the rest goes.

-- Paul Heins, Redmond

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March 27, 2009 1:54 PM

Bridge tolls

Posted by Letters editor

Seattle businesses will be hurt

Who among us "average" people is going to spend an additional $5 to $10 for the "privilege" of a trip into downtown Seattle to shop or dine, only to be hit with a $10-plus parking charge, and a fee on entertainment and dining as well? ["Chopp is starting to like tunnels," page one, March 26.]

The added cost of a toll from the Eastside to downtown is really going to hurt Seattle businesses that rely on Eastsiders coming in, especially on weekends for entertainment, dining or shopping.

To try and minimize the adverse impacts of the toll, I suggest that the state, which is considering a toll on both bridges, consider a plan that excludes tolling on Saturdays, Sundays and federal holidays.

Those who must commute via the bridges for workweek business will do so, that is a given. But to toll those who have a discretionary decision to go to the Eastside or Seattle will give serious pause to going into the city, especially as the Eastside grows its entertainment and dining options.

And think about the added cost of a Mariners game! Eighty-two home games times $7 round-trip toll. That is an additional $572 dollars on the top of your $500-$1,000 Mariners Package!

I know the city and state are hurting and looking for funding options, but what good is a new bridge to a city without any businesses? The toll is a discretionary-fun killer for the city and its sports teams.

-- Art Francis, Issaquah

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March 26, 2009 2:08 PM

Change blowing through Washington

Posted by Letters editor

Wind farms alter the landscape


Mark Harrison/The Seattle Times

Riders on horseback move cattle through the Wild Horse Wind Farm on Whiskey Dick Mountain east of Ellensburg.

Editor, The Times:

Soon I will be returning to Goldendale to drive a water truck for wind farm construction roads. This will be my third season driving at Washington state wind farms.

I enjoy my work; still, I've grown more ambivalent about being a part of the industry.
Excepting several stints in major cities, I've chosen to live in rural areas all my life. When I return home to Nebraska to visit, my eye gladly takes in the familiar contours of the land. I think people's relationship to the land is in our cells and in our souls.

The wind farms change the landscape -- perhaps not forever like strip mining does, but for a very long time. We are cutting roads in hillsides. We are digging giant holes for each windmill and filling them with concrete. We are erecting structures that alter the horizon and fill the night sky with blinking red lights.

I love the windmills -- and they make me sad. I'm glad they create jobs and clean energy and economic growth. But they bring up some challenges: They are big, a typical big American solution.

Might we as a nation be ready to look at our perceived right to overconsume resources? Can we look for less-invasive ways to tap the wind and the sun? And can we find creative ways to reuse the concrete and steel once the 20-year life span of each windmill is finished?

I look at the windmills as an interim solution.

-- Marian Claassen, Selah

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March 26, 2009 2:07 PM

India's ultracheap automobile

Posted by Letters editor

Exploitation of the poor

The Nano car ["Ultracheap car: India may be just the start," Business, March 24], in one broad stroke of a polluting brush, will decimate and neutralize clean-technology advances elsewhere in the world, thicken the already chocking air of India's cities, clog its over populated streets and bring great carnage to this country, whose dividing line between the rich and poor is thinner than a razor blade.

Man's nature, lacking sound restraint, will always seek to feed its greed no matter the expense to others. Ratan Tata's argument sounds the clever notes of plausibility into uneducated ears when claiming this to only be a noble effort helping them into a car they can afford.

This shameless exploitation of the poor and ignorant majority, this great additional assault on planet Earth, will only serve to speed the catastrophic consequence of our blind, destructive and voracious self concern.

-- Michael E. White, Brush Prairie

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March 26, 2009 2:06 PM

Costco's role in labor bill

Posted by Letters editor

Company's position disappointing

I was distressed to see that Costco was joining forces with Starbucks and Whole Foods to defeat "card check" legislation ["Compromise offered on labor bill," News, March 22].
My husband and I are union members. Because of this, we have living wages that allow us to buy Costco products.

It is truly gut wrenching to see the worker in this country lose the strong middle class that has made America a beacon to the world. When the middle class is successful -- has purchasing power and can afford decent housing, higher education and goods -- our entire country is the beneficiary.

We have seen in the past eight years the antithesis of this, where wealth is concentrated to the few. No one in our country can succeed for long, as we are all now painfully aware.

Costco should be joining forces to strengthen the American worker. It is good for business, the economy, our country and the world.

We can no longer be a member of a company that is leading the opposition to our way of life.

-- Hallette Salazar, Kingston

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March 26, 2009 2:05 PM

Snow: the never-ending story

Posted by Letters editor

Ask not what your city can do for you

Much discussion about the winter storms has focused on what our city and our county did not do for us ["Staff botched snow response," page one, March 19], and there seem to be real grounds for these criticisms. But far too little has been said about our responsibilities as citizens:

Storm drains: Everyone should know where their nearest drains are and keep them clear so that water can drain efficiently. Some people have drains on their own property, but most of us need to tend the drains along the streets where we live. They are not our personal property, but they are our city's property, and that makes them ours.

Shoveling snow: Many of us got to work only by walking some distance to where the buses were, and it was always helpful to find a stretch of sidewalk that had been shoveled. A young man on our block even shoveled the sidewalks belonging to neighbors, whom he knew were old and less able to shovel.

If you keep your sidewalk shoveled -- or hire a neighborhood kid to -- you won't even need to sprinkle salt. Salt on the roads is harmful to cars driving on them (ask anyone from the Midwest about rusting car parts). Salt on the roads is also harmful to the waterways that surround us: not all our runoff heads immediately for salty Puget Sound.
Take responsibility: Our city and county could do a more equitable job of plowing crucial streets. But do we also want to pay for more snowplows so that our streets will be plowed like they are in Chicago? Would this be the best use of our money?

Some very good bus drivers got many of us to our destinations, give or take a mile, and some very hardworking bus mechanics worked hard to keep buses in service. We need to remember to do our part, too, when the snow falls next winter: Shovel the sidewalks, clear the drains, look out for our neighbors, be willing to walk if we can, and expect to be inconvenienced.

-- Mary and Karl Babl, Seattle

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March 26, 2009 2:02 PM

The sidewalk to nowhere

Posted by Letters editor

City's infrastructure planning lacking

Hats off to Sara Jean Green for bringing the city's ill-conceived and wrongheaded sidewalk ordinance to light ["Janitors path to dream: Pave it, city says," page one, March 24].

Of course, if she used a big bad developer as an example, there would be no outcry (due to Seattle's defensive penchant to punish all ambition).

What's wrong is that the city has no plan for continuity or completion to bring basic infrastructure to these neighborhoods. For it is not the sidewalks that are the costly factor; it's the requirement for street widening, curbs and drainage that is the backbreaker.

Since development is infill and houses generally last 50-100 years, the result will at best create a patchwork of curbs and sidewalks of varying age and quality, with streets expanding and contracting from house to house. At no time will the job ever be complete.

The great objection is that it is a complete waste of money to pay for curbs and drainage when there are no storm sewers in these neighborhoods. Where and what do you drain to and will it just be torn up when sewers eventually arrive? Just the plans, permits and review fees can cost as much as Jesus Barajas' $15,000 estimate. The sidewalks themselves are not a big deal and are typically replaced during construction.

I believe what "real cities" do is to float a bond to pay for the infrastructure, which is then carried out in a well-planned, consistent manner; the funds are recouped in the inevitable rise in assessments on the improvements increasing the neighborhood property values. It is more efficient to have one plan and one contractor for the entire neighborhood than to reinvent it with each property, although this would eliminate the steady stream of review fees to the city.

-- J. Fred Stukenberg, Seattle

Council actions inconsistent

I don't understand the hand-wringing by the Seattle City Council that was described in the article regarding the expensive sidewalk construction required of Jesus Barajas as part of his home-construction project. The council is acting as if there is nothing they can do.

A couple years ago, a developer proposed a project down the street from me that clearly should not have been allowed under existing Seattle construction and zoning codes. In fact, the city's hearing examiner stated exactly that in their evaluation. Yet the City Council held a couple hearings and then voted to override the code and allow the development.

So when members of the City Council shrug their collective shoulders and declare there is nothing they can do, they are being disingenuous at best. The detailed minutia of city code allows them to make exceptions, and they know it. If Barajas was a friend of City Hall, this would not be happening to him.

Without a doubt, sidewalks are a good thing, especially in urban villages. It is major failure of the city to declare a neighborhood an urban village and then not follow through with the required infrastructure investment.

But the fact that nobody on the City Council will step up and go to bat for Barajas on this one project and correct this ridiculous application of a flawed ordinance is just another example of how out of touch Seattle's leaders are with a significant majority of its citizens.

-- Jim Mabe, Seattle

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March 26, 2009 1:59 PM

Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders

Posted by Letters editor

Editorial was off base

As a lawyer who handles both public-records cases and those involving judicial ethics, I thought the recent editorial criticizing [Washington State Supreme Court] Justice Richard Sanders was totally off base because it is premised on an inaccurate understanding of judicial ethical standards, what the opinion written by Justice Sanders does, and it left out a very significant fact ["Justice Sanders, pay your own bills," Opinion, March 24].

Judicial ethics are codified in the Code of Judicial Conduct (CJC). Under the CJC, a judge has a duty to decide all cases brought to the court unless disqualification is required. A judge must disqualify if the judge has an "economic interest" in the matter. Essentially the CJC defines this as having an ownership interest in a party to the case. Justice Sanders had no such interest in the case before the court.

Because he did have pending a public-records case of his own, it is my understanding he asked the ethics adviser for the courts whether he should disqualify in public-records cases and was advised he did not have to do so. No judge should be criticized for acting unethically when the judge makes inquiry and follows the advice given.

Justice Sanders' vote was not critical for a majority in Yousoufian v. Sims. The opinion he wrote essentially lists factors a trial court must consider in deciding penalties in a public-records case. After considering the appropriate factors, the trial court will then use its discretion to set a penalty. The opinion does not dictate any particular result in his case, or any other public-records case. It is basically guidance to trial courts about what they should consider.

Editorials are opinion. Now that we are a one-newspaper town, I hope The Times will be careful to consider all the relevant information before editorializing about any judicial decision.

-- Thomas M. Fitzpatrick, Seattle

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March 25, 2009 1:11 PM

Exxon Valdez oil spill

Posted by Letters editor

Keep funding for prevention, response


McClatchy Newspapers

A worker uses a high pressure hose to blast the oiled rocks on a Smith Island beach in Prince William Sound, on May 3, 1989, after the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez.

Editor, The Times:

The "Exxon Valdez: lessons learned" [Times, editorial, March 24] is that complacency and lack of oversight by industry and government was found to be the underlying problem. As a result, an independent citizens advisory group was formed to hold the government's and industry's feet to the fire.

Closer to home, a sizable oil spill four years ago in Puget Sound prompted the creation of a similar group -- the Washington State Oil Spill Advisory Council (OSAC), to maintain Washington's vigilance in oil-spill prevention, preparedness and response.
While we rejoice over legislation to provide a permanent year-round rescue tug, we still have more work ahead to protect our marine waters from oil spills. Recently, OSAC released a comprehensive study documenting our deficiencies in being prepared to respond to a major oil spill. It found that we couldn't even handle a spill one-fifth the size of the Exxon Valdez, even in perfect conditions with no glitches.

OSAC is now on the chopping block. Without OSAC, there will be no long-term partnership and consensus between fishermen, conservation groups, local governments and others on these issues, and the public and our beloved Puget Sound will at a distinct disadvantage. It is imperative that legislators in Olympia retain OSAC's funding and authority in the state's operating budget.

-- Rein Attemann, Seattle

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March 25, 2009 1:10 PM

Electoral College challenge

Posted by Letters editor

Call for a national debate

The electoral college has moderated and stabilized our politics for more than 200 years, protecting little America from total steamrollering by politically homogeneous urban centers.

It has also forced national politicians to listen to a wide variety of views, rather than just "preaching to the choir" in their favorite large cities.

SB 5599, which the House State Government & Tribal Affairs Committee will hear on March 26, is an end run around what should require a constitutional amendment. Instead of braving the amendment route, they are trying to sneak an unprecedented interstate agreement through state legislatures.

It is really unfair to change an American institution like the electoral college without a national debate. These legislators know very few people have the time to study and carefully consider an issue like this. Sneaking it through state legislatures is acting under cover of darkness. Its cowardly.

-- Kay Buccola, Woodinville

College, not middle school

The House will now be deliberating on whether to radically change the way we elect our president by entering into the National Popular Vote interstate compact -- essentially doing away with the Electoral College and replacing it with a national popular vote (some call this the "electoral middle school").

The Electoral College should be kept. It has served us well for 200-plus years.

-- John F. Derrig, Bellevue

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March 25, 2009 1:07 PM

The sidewalk to nowhere

Posted by Letters editor

Homeowner victimized

I have total sympathy for Jesus Barajas ["Janitor's pate to a dream: Pave it, city says," page one, March 24, and "The sidewalk to nowhere," editorial, March 25].

Coherent rules for developers that victimize ("snare" is not nearly strong enough) random property owners and inflict mindless expenses on them -- sure sounds like the county's Critical Areas Ordinance.

The ordinance has added thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars to the cost of building a new home, maintaining an existing one, or adding to a small home as the family grows. The bureaucracy is unbelievable.

The hours of consultations with this expert or that expert, each requiring at least hundreds of dollars -- and the permitting process itself -- torture.

I gave up on property I once owned in Maple Valley. I wish better luck to Mr. Barajas.

-- Diane Dambacher, Seattle

City arrogance

I am writing this letter in support of Jesus Barajas, the man who saved up for years to renovate his house, only to have the arrogance of the city of Seattle step in and destroy his plans.

What the city has done to him is simply wrong, inexcusable and lacking in morality and fairness, as are most things that come out of the city's offices nowadays.

Barajas showed uncommon fiscal responsibility in saving for his now-shattered dreams -- it is too bad the city of Seattle cannot do the same, and instead takes it a step further and chooses to ruin a man's hopes.

-- Taiji Tamura, Shoreline

Thanks for keeping tabs

Two recent articles in your paper emphasize the value newspapers contribute to the community.

The first presented the investigation into the ineptitude of Seattle's Department of Transportation during the December snowstorm ["Staff botched snow response," March 19] and the second presented the Draconian rigidity of the city concerning the $15,000 dollars that a luckless homeowner was going to have to spend on building 60 feet of asphalt sidewalk.

Without a newspaper keeping tabs on this sort of stuff, how would we ever find out about the antics of those knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers down at City Hall?
Don't give up the ship!

-- Albert A. Fosha, Bothell

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March 25, 2009 1:06 PM

Balancing the state budget

Posted by Letters editor

Quit trying to scare us

The Legislature will unveil its budget "cuts" later this week. The projected budget deficit is slated to by around $9 billion and I believe the Democrat majority will use this as a way to scare and even intimidate Washingtonians to vote in tax increases.

We do not need to continue this feast-or-famine budget cycle if our Legislature would make a shift in it's budgeting tactics. Implementing "priorities of government," used to fix the 2003-2005 $2.5 billion deficit, would greatly change how the current deficit looks.

We can right-size state government -- under Gov. Christine Gregoire the number of state employees has grown by 6,100 positions.

Currently, ferries must be built in Washington state. This takes shopping on the free market off the table and therefore causes us to pay more for new ferry construction.

These are only a few ideas I have read about, but have not heard our Legislature even attempt to run with. Instead of constantly trying to scare Washingtonians, it is time for legislative representatives to work for our citizens and come up with real solutions (not looking for a taxpayer handout).

-- Todd Welch, Everett

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March 25, 2009 1:04 PM

Reforming nation's health care

Posted by Letters editor

It's a moral issue

Life and health are not decisions to be made by for-profit big business. Health care is a moral issue. We cannot ignore the welfare of Americans because they can't afford insurance or their insurance company chooses not to pay.

Single-payer health care is also a benefit for employers. It's my understanding that GM spends $58 billion each year for employee health care. Honda and Toyota do not have that expense. Their government handles health care for their citizens, for free, like 16 other countries.

So Japanese automakers put their "$58 billion" into their cars. GM takes it out of their cars. How can GM compete?

Hopefully, our government won't ignore the welfare of the people again, as it did with the pharmaceutical companies' fight against government negotiation of Medicare prices. This time, I hope our leaders will perform as though they were part of a government that is "... of the people, by the people, and for the people," not for big business.

-- Robert Annecone, Issaquah

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March 25, 2009 1:00 PM

Climate change

Posted by Letters editor

President's budget puts us on track

Earlier this month, scientists warned that global warming is outpacing even the worst-case scenario predictions by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. At the same time, our country is in a "once-a-century financial crisis" [Thomas Friedman]. President Obama's proposed budget is the best opportunity we have to finally address both of these problems and put our country back in charge of our future.

The president's budget demonstrates his commitment to transitioning to a clean-energy economy and stopping global warming. It will protect our planet, put millions of Americans to work in new green jobs, and rebuild our economy on a sound foundation. That is -- if Congress delivers this budget to the country, which at this point is a very big if.

I urge Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., who sits on the budget committee, to continue to be a champion for our economy and our environment and keep global warming a centerpiece of the federal budget, just as the president has proposed.

-- Kat Scott, Bellevue

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March 24, 2009 2:44 PM

The Mexican truck ban

Posted by Letters editor

Tell the whole story


The Associated Press

In this 2006 photo, Robin Hvidston, right, and Raymond Herrera, protest as a truck entering the U.S. from Mexico leaves the California Highway Patrol Otay Mesa Inspection Station in San Diego.

Editor, The Times:

Your editorial "Banning Mexican trucks harms Washington" [Times, Opinion, March 23] does not tell the story completely or correctly. The idea of having Mexican trucks cross the border freely is an issue because Mexican trucks do not meet U.S. trucking standards.

U.S. trucking interests bought the Mexican trucking firms as an opportunity to reduce their costs by undercutting American trucking labor and putting Americans out of work. Why we would want to do that, especially now?

The use of such trucks was opposed strenuously by the states that border Mexico because the Mexican trucks are substandard in ways that are not only unsafe but damage the roads they ride on. States pay for the maintenance of those roads but get no benefit from the lower costs of trucking. Indeed, states lose revenue because those trucks don't pay state taxes.

Lose state tax money and increase the cost of road maintenance? Why would we want to do that?

-- Leonard David Goodisman, Bothell

The trucks are not the same

Let me correct your statement that "Mexican trucks are the same sort as used in America." They are the same brands, but they -- for the greatest part -- are not the "same sort."

American-based trucks get regular safety checks, maintenance and repairs. The trucks running the -- and I use the word loosely - "highways" of Mexico are beat up, abused, seldom get any maintenance and are basically worn out. They are driven by drivers who generally speak little or no English, read little or no English -- such as on road signs -- and have little or no knowledge of, or regard for, laws that govern trucking in the United States.

We need to maintain the old rules where cargo was handed off at the borders. The trucking business is tough enough in America to make a living. We don't need to be giving it away.

-- Richard Quint, Lake Stevens

Payback

The editorial is right on. However, to say that "some people" benefit from the Mexican trucking ban is disingenuous.

Why don't you state the facts, that the ban was enacted to please the Teamsters union.

This is known as payback time!

-- Norman R. Schultz, Kirkland

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March 24, 2009 2:43 PM

The bank-rescue plan

Posted by Letters editor

Let me back in the game

I've been hearing the financial pundits speaking today about the possibilities or impossibilities of the Treasury Department's plans to work with private investors to buy back the troubled mortgage-backed assets from the banks that hold them ["Fed aims to get toxic assets off bank books," page one, March 23]. The U.S. government appears to be willing to allow private investors to put 15 percent of their skin in the game to buy mortgage securities and risk that extent of economic loss for the possibility of an upside if the value of U.S. housing market as it comes back over time.

As I understand it, the Treasury is doing this to make a market for these mortgage securities and get the ball rolling.

I have a modest proposal. Let me buy back my own mortgage at its current market value for 15 percent on the dollar and I'll stay in my home and wait for its book value to increase. I'm doing that already, and, as a taxpayer, I'd rather take that upside to my own bank down the road than letting another Wall Street hedge fund share that gain.

I know what my home is currently worth. Let me put my own skin in the game on my own property.

-- Reid Grossmann, Colbert

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March 24, 2009 2:38 PM

Performance pay for teachers

Posted by Letters editor

How do you measure "merit"?

Thanks to Danny Westneat for pointing out the inherent injustice of basing teacher pay on "merit" when neither Wall Street nor virtually any other system does ["Is Wall Street best model for fixing our schools?" Local News, March 22).

But the real issue is that there is no fair, workable method for measuring teacher "merit." Using test scores sounds good politically, but isn't a valid way to measure a teacher's effectiveness, just as it wouldn't be a valid way to measure the effectiveness of a police officer, firefighter, doctor, etc.

Crime rates are always going to be lowest in affluent suburbs. Should we pay a suburban officer whose most dangerous duty is shooing away skateboarders more than we should pay an inner-city cop who endures nightly gang wars, domestic violence and being shot at? Why not? The inner city has higher crime rates and the suburbs lower rates.

Should we pay firefighters in a small town whose occupation consists primarily of Ping-Pong and cat rescue more than inner-city firefighters who daily must attempt to patch up victims of car accidents, shootings, drug overdoses, etc.? Why not? There are fewer emergency calls in the small town.

Some of the hardest-working, smartest and most-dedicated teachers in the country work in inner-city schools with test scores lower than affluent suburbs. I'm not a teacher, but I have worked along side some of the best teachers in the country as a speech-language pathologist in Seattle Public Schools for 14 years.

The teachers in many districts with lower test scores work with children who speak English as a second language and whose parents also don't speak English, so they're not able to help with homework.

Many more students in inner cities receive free or reduced lunch (a fairly accurate indicator of a student's financial circumstances) and live in families in which both parents must work long hours at varying times. Some of these students may not have an acceptable place to sleep, let alone study.

Not only will those students have lower initial tests scores than their affluent peers, but their rate of learning and of increasing their test scores will be lower due to these factors.
Paying many teachers less because their students have lower test scores is like paying some firefighters and police officers less because they respond to more frequent and more potentially dangerous incidents.

-- Kurt Herzog, Edmonds

Consider the impact of test scores
Isabel D'Ambrosia's letter about the virtues of merit pay ["A basic way to reward success," Northwest Voices, March 24] fails to consider the impact test scores have had on the average child's school experience.
Would D'Ambrosia want her child in a classroom and school whose central goal is to have her child score higher on a state test? That emphasis discourages innovation, personalization, an exposure to and experience of all the arts.
Some argue that what we now call education is more an inculcation, and that a true education can only be had in a private school with no ties to state assessments.
-- Joel Gillman, Bellingham

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March 24, 2009 2:31 PM

Condoms to be made in China

Posted by Letters editor

Protect U.S. jobs

So, after the "Buy U.S." provisions were stripped out of bailout legislation, the only producer of condoms in the U.S. is losing its contract and the production is being outsourced to China, resulting in 300 more jobs lost.

The U.S. economy will never recover unless and until we get jobs back.

Outsourcing is economic suicide. With this condom deal it looks like we have screwed ourselves again.

-- John S. Snow, Woodinville

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March 24, 2009 2:30 PM

Evolution at Pacific Science Center

Posted by Letters editor

Nice getting to know you, Lucy

The Pacific Science Center should be commended for a taking a very reasonable risk to broaden our understanding of the world and the origins of our own lives ["Lucy's visit a scientific, if expensive, achievement," Local News, March 21].

My wife and I were enchanted by the exhibits of Ethiopia and to stand in the presence of our oldest known ancestor, thinking about how she survived in the harsh wildness of prehistory, was nothing less than a spiritual experience.

-- Ian Hanna, Port Townsend

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March 24, 2009 2:27 PM

Dad unfriended on Facebook

Posted by Letters editor

A strange concept of "community"

Regarding the March 21 guest commentary, "Sorry, dad, Facebook isn't big enough for both of us":

Let's see if I understand Megan Burbank correctly: Facebook was designed for college students as an electronic vehicle to exchange vulgarities ("inside jokes," " profanity-peppered status updates," "photographic documentation of every bad choice you've ever made") and misrepresentations ("Facebook engaged, which is like joking-engaged or lying-engaged").

Does it really make sense, she asks, to open up a social tool that is primarily designed for college students, to everyone, without making fundamental changes to it? Does one really want to open up one's personal life to one's aunts, risking awkward run-ins at family gatherings for years to come?

To solve the dilemma of maintaining her electronic outlet for that side of her she would not want family members to see, while at the same time maintaining an image of integrity in the eyes of her family that has no place in Facebook, Megan ended up unfriending her own father.

It seems to me that Facebook is not so much in need of fundamental changes, it is Megan herself. First, she should figure out who she really is. Next, she should be who she really is, electronically as well as in direct interpersonal interactions such as family gatherings.

But to claim that Facebook was designed for a group of insider college students who want to maintain a double standard ("sham") is an insult to the Facebook community.

-- Beate Peter, Shoreline

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March 24, 2009 2:26 PM

Foreign language study

Posted by Letters editor

K-12 can handle the job

While the editorial "Globalization demands more foreign-language study" [seattletimes.com, Opinion, March 16] rightly encourages colleges and universities to continue foreign-language curricula preparing students to compete in an increasingly global economy, it incorrectly states that the onus for preparing students for advanced language learning cannot fall on K-12 schools.

A cost-effective system would prepare students to enter college and the work force with at least an intermediate-level language proficiency. The notion that learning English, math and science are enough for young people competing in the global market is simply wrong.

Washington is blessed with some very strong K-12 programs in a variety of Asian and European languages. The challenge is now to provide excellent language education to every child in Washington.

Research conducted by The Language Flagship indicates employers pay a premium for workers with high levels of language proficiency. Workers in agriculture, IT, transportation, engineering and retail can all do their jobs better if they can communicate in another language. Every Washingtonian should have full command of English and at least intermediate skills in another language.

Not investing sufficiently in language education before our children enter college is denying our children opportunities while threatening the ability to compete in the international marketplace.

-- Carl Falsgraf, director, Oregon Chinese Flagship Center and Center for Applied Second Language Studies, University of Oregon, Eugene

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March 24, 2009 2:24 PM

Seattle's snow job

Posted by Letters editor

Next time, check with Spokane

As a former resident of Eastern Washington, I agree the city's response to the December snow was less than satisfactory ["Staff botched snow response," page one, March 19]. As a retired military individual I also know there are lessons to be learned from every operation, successful or otherwise.

Rather than go to the expense of shuffling the transportation leadership because of one event that may or may not be repeated anytime soon, why not make inquiries of someone who has experience in such matters. How hard is it to pick up the phone and call across the state to another large city, such as Spokane.

That city was hammered by the same storms, albeit a bit harder. With hills also in their geography, they worked long and hard, as well as calling on private companies to help clear their arterials.

In the spirit of intercity cooperation, I would hope that the city's leadership is not too proud to ask for help from those who have experience annually in snow.

-- Gordon Kaufman, Mill Creek

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March 23, 2009 3:45 PM

Charles Krauthammer column on AIG bonuses

Posted by Letters editor

Trotting out tired ideas won't help

Reading Charles Krauthammer's column generally sets my teeth on edge. His column in Sunday's paper ["AIG brouhaha diverts us from the bigger picture," Opinion, March 22] was no exception.

He is outraged at Congress for going after bonuses at AIG, with the argument that a contract is a sacred document, but apparently that doesn't apply when it is a labor union's contract being broken. The autoworkers have modified and modified their contracts. I don't recall any outrage coming from him over that.

Health-care reform is an absolute necessity for helping our economy, but Krauthammer thinks that is a waste of the president's time. Hasn't he talked to his friends in big business lately? They agree that to compete in the global economy the Republicans created, there must be a change in the way health care is funded.

He concludes the column by ranting about American protectionism. Ah yes, free trade with no restrictions has been such a success we should continue that policy. I wonder if there isn't someone in another country who could write his column and appear on Fox, in his place, for less money?

We know that the Republicans are out of terrible ideas to inflict on the rest of us, having tanked the entire world's economy. Why does Krauthammer think that trotting out the same terrible ideas will cause us all to look to the Republicans for leadership now, or ever again?

-- Diane Bowers, Shoreline

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March 23, 2009 3:42 PM

Performance pay for teachers

Posted by Letters editor

A basic way to reward success

Danny Westneat's column is an irresponsible way of looking at the reforms the Washington Legislature is considering for teacher pay ["Is Wall Street best model for fixing our schools," Local News, March 22]. The column is sensationalism at its worst -- it twists the scandalous, sexy news from Wall Street to torpedo good basic schools legislation.

No one is asking the teachers to adopt a Wall Street model for merit pay. What happened on Wall Street is an extreme example of capitalism out of control. But that is not what happens every day, and has worked very well in private industry for many years -- and it will continue to work well.

Engineers, accountants, doctors, nurses and even journalists are constantly evaluated for performance by their peers and their superiors. Business works as well as it does because the best are allowed to move up and nonperformers are shown the door.

If teachers want to be paid and respected like engineers and accountants, then they will need to accept being evaluated like them. This has nothing to do with crazy bonuses and the odd antics of Wall Street. It's just a basic system to reward the top performers and make our schools so much stronger in the process.

-- Isabel D'Ambrosia, Seattle

Pay isn't everything

Performance pay for teachers is a bad idea.

The best teachers do not do it for the pay. They do it because they are driven to instill in young minds the joy of learning what makes the world tick.

The gratification of succeeding at this is their performance pay. At any rate, who is to decide who the best teachers are?

-- G. R. Upchurch, Woodinville

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March 23, 2009 3:40 PM

Rebuilding America

Posted by Letters editor

Expand the definition of "shovel ready"

For companies contracting with local jurisdictions, the last few months have been difficult. Jurisdictions have been slashing budgets, and the first cuts have come in the form of contracted services.

On Feb. 17, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), a bill containing billions of dollars for infrastructure projects, passed. Overnight, thousands of contracted projects had new life breathed into them.

To accomplish the Herculean task of distributing ARRA's billions to local jurisdictions quickly, many of the funds have been distributed through existing federal and state grant-funding mechanisms. Unfortunately, ARRA funds come laden with a toxic provision: a "shovel-ready" stipulation that requires that funded projects be designed, permitted, and ready to construct.

Small jurisdictions don't design or permit projects until funding has been secured. Thus, they are ineligible for ARRA funding unless they can design and permit their projects in an unreasonably short time frame (one or two weeks).

The "shovel-ready" provision provides an unfair advantage to large, well-funded jurisdictions with the resources to design and permit projects without secured funding. What's more, the (mostly small) design firms that contract with small jurisdictions are hurting.

The ARRA's shovel-ready provision renders it a temporary approach to restoring economic vitality. Allowing jurisdictions to secure stimulus funding for design of future projects will not only preserve private-sector jobs. It will ensure a sustainable pipeline of projects ready to implement over the coming years.

-- Mark Hillinger, Seattle

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March 23, 2009 3:33 PM

The global economic crisis

Posted by Letters editor

A search for balance

No matter which science you study, there is one immutable principle that always applies. No exceptions. No variations. There must always be balance. Predators and prey. Provisions and consumers. Solids, liquids, gases.

If they don't balance, the system collapses. Sometimes it happens rapidly and sometimes it takes a while, but inevitably it collapses.

That's what has happened to our economy. For too long, we have allowed those who want to accumulate greater and greater imbalances in the world's resources for their own enrichment to design our economic systems, until finally they have amassed such a huge stockpile of wealth that there is insufficient to provide purchasing power to the rest of us to buy the widgets they are peddling and -- oh yes -- food, shelter and medicine.

It's time the purge our culture of the religion of uncontrolled greed as the earthly vessel of liberty and justice for all. It's the law of the jungle codified into oligarchy, and it's killing us. Literally.

People are dying every day to facilitate wealth and it's time we reined it in if we dare to claim to be civilized.

-- Harold R. Pettus, Everett

Brighten your outlook

In response to David Brooks' column Saturday, about "global ruin" ["U.S. looks for dust bunnies while world's economy tanks," Opinion, March 21], all I can say is, we need a new outlook.

Concerning the economic mess that we are in, if dust bunnies are where we start, then lets keep our heads up for having a start. A messy room does not get cleaned by shaking your fist and pointing. You have to start in one small corner. Tackling one thing creates accomplishment and motivation, so it goes for world economics.

Despite Brooks' overwhelming information about job-loss projections, how central European countries are teetering, not to mention, how our pessimists have been recently vindicated by events -- or is it that they collectively manifested them? -- floundering in negativity and despair makes me want to jump off a cliff.

Have a little hope, David. Your opinions are not helping anything.

-- Anna Welsch, Indianola

Politics and greed

What the discourses between the White House and Congress has recently taught me.
Principles for a good politician in a narcistic society:

-- Cater only to your political reality, or the impressions of the world and you of your voting constituency.

-- Take every opportunity to patronize your voting constituency.

-- It is better to fail at a political reality initiative, than to succeed with a real one.

-- Always speak implicitly to ensure maximum plausible deniability.

-- And if you are caught in a lie . . . deny, deny, deny.

-- Dale J. Sprague, Seattle

We all have to sacrifice

While the AIG executives are having a pity party over the outrage surrounding their bonuses, one daughter is having to short-sale her house due to impossible mortgage payments and a 75-percent drop in value.

My other daughter has lost grant money to research the sources of chemical damage to our waterways that impacts the sea life and will likely lose her job due to lack of funding.

Our department will not get raises (despite outstanding work this last year) so we can keep our costs down for our patient population and maintain safe staffing levels.

I am sure that one of the AIG bonuses could solve a lot of problems for the rest of us. If they won't stay without the bonuses, then let them go. Life is not always fair and it is certainly not just in these economic times.

-- Kathy Kimball, Seattle

Politics or solving a real problem

Is it just me or is our two-party system of government on the verge of hindering the process of protecting our country's purpose.

What I have been witnessing is a constant search by each party to discredit its rival's process to govern the citizens of the United States. There never seems to be a common purpose.

I feel each political party has hired groups of people seeking its rival's verbal missteps and actions that would infuriate the gullible citizen, intolerant media and special-interest groups into casting shadows on its rival's actions.

I'm sorry, but I have bigger things to worry about than what the president may have said or who he has inadvertently mocked. If this is all there is to a two-party system of government we are going to fail as a country. I'm not impressed!

-- Jim Morris, Renton

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March 23, 2009 3:21 PM

The housing crisis

Posted by Letters editor

Expand IRA to increase homeownership

There is a simple and prudent way to (1) increase homeownership and (2) insure that ownership is based on genuine equity, and not risky 100 percent loans.

Allow first-time homebuyers to use their individual retirement accounts, without penalties or taxes, as a down payment on their first home. Currently, Congress allows only $10,000 from an IRA, but it becomes taxable income in the year used.

We all admit that the staggering debt loads of the government and families constitute a crisis. We also know that millions of Americans are at or near upside down on their homes, especially those who bought with "zero down."

Is there any wonder? We're backward: Our country rewards debt (home mortgage deduction) and penalizes savings (taxes on interest and capital gains).

My simple idea: Let a first-time homebuyer use any or all of their retirement savings (without penalty or tax) to buy that first home.

They haven't lost their retirement: It has become equity in their first home.

The result is that you start creating a nation of savers at a younger age who have a greater reason to save. It builds self-reliance. And it's much better than the government taking from the taxpayers to provide tax credits to these first-time buyers.

-- Rev. Jon R. Mutchler, Ferndale

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March 22, 2009 5:03 PM

Pope Benedict and condoms

Posted by Letters editor

"Buy one, get one free"


The Associated Press

Pope Benedict on his African trip.

Editor, The Times:

Regarding your editorial about the Pope's position on condoms ["Pope Benedict's unfortunate message," Opinion, March 20], I say, Amen.

Now, tell him -- and while you're at it, all the school directors -- that we need to install condom dispensers right next to (or included in) the apple machines. If we can sell "forbidden fruit" for a profit, surely we can give away something that will guard against the spread of this 21st-century plague, AIDS.

How about: "Buy one, get one free."

-- Del Lawrence, Bellevue

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March 22, 2009 5:01 PM

AIG bonuses and political fallout

Posted by Letters editor

House reaction will hurt innocent people

The House bill to recoup the AIG bonuses was a shotgun solution ["Corporate conduct still vexes Congress," page one, March 20]. It will hurt many innocent and hardworking individuals right here in Seattle.

When the FDIC seized WaMu last year, the assets were transferred to JP Morgan Chase, a TARP money recipient. While the WaMu executives were immediately dismissed, hundreds of WaMu workers were temporarily retained. These employees are not fat cats. They are worker bees supporting the transition of WaMu branches to Chase and helping the government with their follow-up investigation.

Yet, in many cases, the House measure would impose a 90-percent tax on the remaining WaMu employee's severances. Now they lose their jobs and their severances.
I understand the furor, but punishing many because of a few makes no sense.

-- Mark Cates, Seattle

Time for politicians to step up

I spent my life working for big companies and the one thing I learned is that management must set the general direction not only in words, but action. That said, I have the following recommendation:

How about the president and all elected officials in Washington, D.C., and across the country take a 20- to 25-percent pay cut? Pay would be reinstated once the unemployment numbers reach a pre-recession percentage.

We the people are constantly being told we must sacrifice, but what about them?
Actions mean more than words!

-- Richard Charlson, Curlew

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March 22, 2009 4:57 PM

Seattle's snow job

Posted by Letters editor

There's a reason leaders must get to their jobs

Most jurisdictions have an emergency response protocol that includes, among other things, the ability of the executive staff to convene at an appropriate site to be able to make decisions and authorize actions and/or expenditures in order to mitigate an emergency.

I assume the city of Seattle has such a protocol, and if so it's not a stretch to this writer to believe that the roads to the mayor's house were plowed in order to achieve this (at least I hope this is the case) ["Staff botched snow response," page one, March 19].
Whether this was taken into account (if such a protocol is in place for Seattle) would certainly clarify this one decision, which is getting so much press.

I worked on a similar protocol for a small jurisdiction as a representative of the fire department, following 9/11, and it was made clear that the executive staff would be picked up by the police and taken to a secure location in order to ensure that the leadership remained intact.

The protocol was expanded to include natural disasters (the threat of tsunami is a possibility in my area) at the suggestion of a group from the University of Washington, which leads me to conclude that the city of Seattle must have a similar operating protocol.

Give them a chance to respond. Nothing like this ever goes the way we want them to.

-- Todd Ayling, Marysville

Lackluster performance

No one should be surprised at the complete breakdown of Seattle Department of Transportation services during the recent snowstorm, given the lackluster performance of the mayor's office for the past eight years.

A mayor's job basically is to make sure snow is plowed, garbage is picked up and potholes are filled. Any grandstanding around here or in Washington, D.C., can wait until those services are performed.

Madrona Drive in my neighborhood has been riddled with potholes for ages, streets around here didn't see a snowplow for days in December and we're all holding our collective breath as the garbage collections change from organized to who knows what at the end of March.

So far, the mayor's office is zero for two and the idea that Mayor Greg Nickels can waltz to another victory in November should scare the hell out of us all.

-- Jeff Lee, Seattle

The value of a newspaper

The Seattle Times' investigative reporting of our city officials' incompetent response to the December snowstorms is a powerful demonstration of what the American public is losing as newspapers fold in city after city.

I am doubtful that online bloggers or the meager staff remaining at the online P-I have the resources or access to thoroughly investigate and report in-depth local stories that would never come to light if we relied on government and business to provide us with truthful information on how they function -- or don't.

A free and fully resourced press is essential to democracy. The weakening of the Fourth Estate diminishes and threatens us all.

-- Becky Withington, Seattle

Maddening city reaction

It is no secret that newspapers in general are being forced to try to endure an extremely difficult period. But in spite of the hindrances that occur behind the scenes, your paper has recently accomplished something of overwhelming significance. I refer to the exposé of the magnificently mismanaged response to December's snow onslaught. This administrative failure was something that hit home to every resident of this city in one way or another.

The many maddeningly irresponsible aspects of the city's behavior make it difficult to pick a "favorite," but for me, one particular point was dominant. I refer to Councilmember Richard McIver's plaintive response to the proposition of employing an independent consultant to investigate the city's performance, rather than keeping any investigation in-house. With the utmost sincerity, he remarked, "We know we can do a better job. Do we know how, or do we need someone to tell us that?"

My reaction to this approach is to wonder if his desire to escape from the glaring heat of scrutiny before his department's edges begin to scorch could be any more obvious. The answer to his question is, "Yes. You need someone to tell you that."

If your investigation of this sordid matter does not constitute an essential public service, then I can't imagine what would. I, for one, wish to thank you.

-- Tom Likai, Shoreline

Shine a light on the governing class

It has been a great week for newspaper readers. Our tycoon-governing class is finally getting dissected by the press and that is exposing the corruption and fraud that 30 years of concentration of wealth and monopoly capitalism have wrought. It isn't pretty, but is why freedom of speech is worth protecting.

And it is why newspapers are an indispensable part of our democracy. Without their reporting, mayors and CEOs would be above the law.

-- George and Patricia Robertson, Seattle

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March 22, 2009 4:56 PM

Proposal to seek a higher-education surcharge

Posted by Letters editor

Why impose hardships on students?

I have three points to make in response to the student-perspective-devoid article "Gov. Gregoire seeks higher-ed surcharge" [page one, March 18].

First, the idea that the "tuition surcharge" will be decreased at the end of the biennium fails to take into account the fact that tuition has never been reduced by the state.

Secondly, increases in the Pell Grant and the higher-education tax credit were created to make college more affordable for families, not more affordable for the state.

Finally, students are already swimming in debt and any graduate in this economic crisis is lucky to find work to keep their head above water. Using the debt capacity of students to bail out the state will cause hardships for Washington's students and families far into the future.

-- Mike Bogatay, executive director, Washington Student Lobby, Olympia

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March 20, 2009 4:31 PM

Soccer and international aid

Posted by Letters editor

Time for government to play ball

Editor, The Times:



Mark Harrison/The Seattle Times


Soccer legend Kasey Keller leads the Sounders on to the field Thursday.

In times of cascading financial tragedy and the death of the P-I, thank you for continuing to publish one of the finest reporters in the country, Kristi Heim. Her blog is fantastic!

On March 18, she was in print too ["Soccer kicks off project for aid to African kids," Local News]. She seems to cover every department when a story relates to critical issues in international health and development.

In the Wednesday story on the Sounders Football Club, she reported on the efforts of the club to help support Save the Children, which is saving lives in Africa. In the U.S., our government can't seem to print money fast enough to help rich bankers. What about the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria?

President Obama has promised to fund our fair share of this global fund. Thus far, the Global Fund has saved 3.5 million lives. Our nation's share of this powerful program is $2.7 billion in fiscal year 2010. Even our defense secretary wants to see programs like this funded.

Let's not get cold feet when it comes to lifesaving decisions effecting the poor!

-- Bob Dickerson, Seattle

Support the global fight

The U.S. contribution to the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria is about one-seventh the amount paid in bonuses last year by Wall Street firms. If we lead the way by providing the U.S. fair share in the 2010 foreign-aid bill, historically, other countries will follow our lead.

While campaigning, our president, vice president and secretary of state all signed pledges to provide the U.S. fair share. I know we are in the midst of a frightening economic situation worldwide, but the threat of TB cannot be overlooked. With globalization and overseas air travel, we expanded the ability of TB, an opportunistic disease, to spread. If untreated, TB can turn into multidrug-resistant TB, a condition that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to treat only one individual. An untreated individual can spread TB in the community without anyone realizing it.

This can't just be treated locally here in the Puget Sound area. It's a problem that must be treated at the source, which means globally. I agree we can't let our economy fail, and I strongly urge that we also support the institutions that are working. Like the Global Fund to Fight Aids, TB and Malaria. In doing so, we are really helping ourselves.

-- Rochelle Goldberg, Bothell

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March 20, 2009 4:29 PM

The fuss about Satan

Posted by Letters editor

A decidedly un-Christian exercise

The story about the debate about Satan (" 'Nightline' to take on Satan, Local News, March 18) was interesting at one level -- that anyone would have such a debate is an intellectual curiosity. But what was lacking was the obvious sense that this "debate" is a profound embarrassment to the city of Seattle as well as the grand historic religion of Christianity.

More than 2,000 years ago, a much-more-sophisticated version of this thinking was popular. It was called Manichaeism. This ancient religion believed that reality included two equally powerful forces -- one creative and one destructive. At some level this is just a perversion of Hindu religion. In the West, though, Manichaeism had a following for a time but was eventually formally rejected by Christianity as a heresy.

The idea is that Christianity traditionally believes in an all-powerful and loving creator, and the notion that there could be an evil force that could compete with an all-powerful god is logically absurd. To believe in a literal devil indicates that one is not a proper Christian. So I don't know what they are doing over at Mars Hill, but if this is part of it, then whatever it is it is not Christian.

It is embarrassing to all of Christianity that supposed Christian leaders here would actually perpetuate such an un-Christian idea -- a formal and ancient heresy in fact. So our good Rev. Mark Driscoll (of Mars Hill) can perpetuate this lie (heresy means lie) but in doing so he must take a stand in which he declares that St. Paul was wrong.

Further, all of this is deeply intellectually embarrassing to intelligent religious people the world over. The heretical Christian view that Satan is evil personified is itself mere confusion without any scriptural basis -- because it is not a Jewish or Christian idea but a disturbingly perverse version of Manichaeism.

In fact, the original stories about Satan are about a servant of God who acts a bit like God's district attorney. Satan challenges our claims of righteousness and shows where we fail, and he does this at God's behest.

Shame on all of them for perpetuating such tired old nonsense, let alone the lie that there is anything Christian about it!

-- The Rev. Dr. Richard Curtis, Seattle

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March 20, 2009 4:27 PM

Seattle's embarrassing snow job

Posted by Letters editor

Did I wake up in Chicago?

When I opened Thursday's Seattle Times, I blinked away the notion I was reading Chicago's Tribune! What the heck is going on? The mayor and sub-mayor get their streets cleared immediately ["Staff botched snow response," page one, March 19], while blaming Mother Nature for two weeks' stop-action at Christmastime (pity the poor shop owner). Transportation honcho Grace Crunican runs off to Portland during the mess and Councilmember Sally Clark scolds Councilmember Tom Rasmussen for trying to get answers.

The two bumpkins in charge (with combined salaries of $170,000) have no experience in snow or ice removal and tons of salt sit idle.

Continue on The Times' front page and read about gross waste of your money and mine by Lt. Milton Footer in the Fire Department ["Report: City fire official misused position"]. Footer is so busy securing free Hannah Montana tickets, he forgets to send out 70 invoices worth $195,000.

In both these cases, where's the oversight?

Kudos to Times reporters Susan Kelleher, Christine Clarridge and Bob Young for exposing Seattle's botched and unethical officials. Brings Illinois' bandits and the AIG debacle to mind, doesn't it?

-- Margaret Symons, Seattle

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March 20, 2009 4:24 PM

The AIG bonuses

Posted by Letters editor

The result of 30 years of fiddling

While I hope for the same outcome to the AIG mess as Maureen Dowd ["Team Obama slow to boil," syndicated column, March 19], I think planning to abrogate contracts sets an extremely dangerous precedent. Should we all be able to renege on a contract, simply because we don't like how the terms play out?

If the president "needs to brush back the arrogant, greedy creeps who kneecapped capitalism," then he's going to have to go back 30 years and get everyone -- taxpayers and legislators alike -- who supported gutting the regulation of big business. They created AIG.

Right now, we are all looking for easy scapegoats. I feel fine if AIG is one of them. However, the past 30 years of deregulation and lax oversight is what "kneecapped" capitalism, not a few crooks at AIG.

It's great if Congress wants to pass a tax that takes back every penny paid to those AIG employees. Unfortunately, Congress should have attached restrictions to every dollar of bailout money in the first place.

To try to cover their own failures by wiping out the legality of a signed contract is bad policy. Shutting the barn door after the cow is gone has recently proven to be unsuccessful at retrieving the cow.

-- Toni Cross, Seattle

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March 20, 2009 4:22 PM

Washington's math aptitude

Posted by Letters editor

The real reason Massachusetts' schools are better

Clearly, Christopher Eide ["State should't hide from WASL math test," guest commentary, March 18] is a graduate of a Washington school, not of the Massachusetts system he touts for its public/private competition. Like many propagandists, he tries to use a selective set of statistics, mainly WASL scores, as a lever to boost charter and parochial schools that drain money out of the public system.

But let's compare apples to apples. What he neglects to mention: Massachusetts is ranked eighth versus Washington's 38th in per child spending on public education. This is the No. 1 reason why Massachusetts has outpaced Washington in K-12 test scores. I graduated from the No. 4 public school district in the country, and there were two reasons for our ranking: We were one of the richest districts in "Taxachusetts," a state where almost one-third more tax dollars per student go to schools than in Washington; and more shamefully, my school pushed into vocational school (or expelled) anyone who looked like they might fail before graduation and therefor throw off the statistics!

Our high score had absolutely nothing to do with adjusting the curriculum to standardized tests -- it had to do with a large majority of highly educated parents and a well-funded system that supported kids to think critically. In a very snobbish district, parochial schools were only chosen by a few for the sake of status.

When I compare notes with my native Washingtonian friends, it's blatantly clear how much more empowered my teachers were, and therefore how much more creative and empowering my education was. My parents, griping as they did about taxes, were nonetheless happy for their investment returns. I stopped taking math after my 10th-grade statistics class, but I hope that Massachusetts' Harvard University teaches Sammamish High's Mr. Eide a little bit more about statistical analysis before they award him a master's degree.

-- Krista Rose, Seattle

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March 20, 2009 4:21 PM

Tackling homelessness

Posted by Letters editor

Throwing money not the answer

["Group hopes to cut number of homeless families in state," Local News, March 19] argues against these blanket leftist schemes that throw money at perceived problems, thus extending the problems.

Carefully read about Jackilin Abiem. She has gotten pregnant twice and, so, can't find or afford an apartment. Now think if she hadn't gotten pregnant. Would her life and opportunities be better? What about her personal responsibility?

Certainly there are many people "down on their luck" from circumstances beyond their control. They should be assisted. But Ms. Abiem? I have trouble either feeling sorry for her or being supportive of spending tax money on encouraging unwed births.

Another article in Thursday's paper ("More kids born in '07; fewer moms married," News) states that 40 percent of births are to unwed mothers. I don't think that is necessarily good for society as a whole, to which Ms. Abiem's problems attest.

-- Theodore M. Wight, Seattle

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March 20, 2009 4:19 PM

Prostate cancer screening

Posted by Letters editor

A suspicious conclusion

"Research casts doubt on prostate-cancer screenings [News, March 19] is a suspicious conclusion to a very serious health issue.

The conclusion assumes that the screening has only one purpose when it actually has two. PSA blood tests detect changes in the prostate function and is a simple, nonaggressive test. If the test proves an increasing change in the PSA level, further tests are recommended. This change could mean an enlarged prostate or cancer. In either case, treatment may be necessary.

Another conclusion assumes that cancer of the prostate will remain in the prostate. If you are relatively young (50-60) determining the type of cancer and its growth rate is essential. Once it leaves the prostate, it can metastasize to other body organs. This may be life-threatening.

Past family history, age, lifestyle changes and types of cancer detected determine what should be done if enlarged prostate or cancer is indicated. Only the patient and doctor can make treatment decisions, not studies nor insurance companies.

Before taking heed of these health studies, one should investigate who is sponsoring the study. In most preventive-care studies, the insurance companies are behind the funding. Their conclusion should raise suspicion. I can say as a cancer survivor the PSA test saved me from possibly more serious health issues.

-- Jim Morris, Renton

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March 19, 2009 4:49 PM

Seattle's botched response to snow

Posted by Letters editor

Suspicions confirmed



Courtney Blethen/The Seattle Times


Denny Street on Capitol Hill going down towards I-5, was closed all for days due to the December snow and ice. Sledders took over the hill

Editor, The Times:

Thank you for the page-one story ["Staff botched snow response," March 19] that confirms what any Seattleite who was paying attention during the December 2008 snow event already knew: [Mayor Greg Nickels] and other public officials had no problem standing in front of cameras claiming that the response was worth an exemplary grade because they only saw evidence of a job well done during their commutes between home and downtown offices.

A photo accompanying a newspaper story during the last week of December showed a woman digging her street-parked car out of the snow that had been piled against it by a passing plow. I thought at the time that she must live near the mayor if her street had been plowed.

I live in the Phinney/Greenwood neighborhood and observed that no streets were ever plowed. If Phinney and Greenwood avenues and 80th and 85th streets are not on the city's list of arterials that require attention during snow events, what streets are, other than the mayor's route to his office?

-- Brian Rasmussen, Seattle

Out of the loop

I live in Laurelhurst and want to know exactly which "loop of streets in Laurelhurst" was plowed during the December snow debacle.

We were stranded in our home for at least a week and were able to get groceries and other supplies only by walking more than a mile in accumulated snow and slippery conditions up and down a very steep hill. At no time during this period did I ever see a city truck scraping, sanding or in any other way clearing streets in our neighborhood.
If a loop of streets in Laurelhurst was in fact cleared, I would like to know why that loop was chosen over the major streets in the neighborhood that were not cleared.

-- Betty Ravenholt, Seattle

Heckuva job, Greg

Mayor Greg Nickels response to the snowstorm reminded me a bit of President Bush saying after Hurricane Katrina, "You're doin' a heckuva job, Brownie." It's one thing to not see the incompetence around you; it's quite another to praise it.

Just like then-president Bush, Mayor Nickels managed to do both. And yet he is planning on re-election. Really?

The man we entrusted with the safety of our city let us down, made poor decisions in staffing departments, and has proved he has overstayed his own level of competence.

-- Thomas Erdmann, Seattle

Lame excuses

Thank you, Seattle Times, for exposing the truth behind the lame excuses for the city of Seattle's abysmal response to December's snowfall.

Yes, snow is a force of nature. However, the response to that was the chaotic, business-as-usual Seattle response. Mayor Nickels said we are not Buffalo or Cleveland, but we could take a page from their preparedness policies, instead of the laissez faire attitude taken.

Let's not forget transportation chief Grace Crunican, who opted to leave town during the snow crisis. Is this how we want our government run? I am personally glad I don't pay taxes in Seattle.

-- Rosetta Max, Bellevue

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March 19, 2009 4:48 PM

The skiing death of actress Natasha Richardson

Posted by Letters editor

A call for helmets on the slopes

Sonny Bono, Natasha Richardson and thousands of other skiers have lost their lives for the simple fact they are moving at highway speeds on nothing other than skis ["Natasha Richardson, 45, of British acting dynasty," News obituary, March 19].

Just like ballplayers and motorcycle riders never used to wear helmets, it makes no sense for skiers to wear no protection simply because it is tradition or inconvenient.

Moving here after growing up on the aptly named Plains, I always wanted to learn to ski. Since then, I've met too many people who have some skiing-injury horror story that eventually changed my mind.

For those who still want to ski, it really is time to consider requiring approved helmets on the ski slopes. Ski resorts will enjoy lower liability costs and these all-too-common tragedies may not end with so many devastated families and friends.

-- David G. Wright, Seattle

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March 19, 2009 4:46 PM

Tuition increase, more aid for higher education

Posted by Letters editor

Legislator misguided

The tuition hikes proposed by Reuven Carlyle ["Open doors for more: higher tuition, more aid," guest commentary, March 19] are nothing more than new taxes targeting middle-class parents trying to put their kids through college. These are "regressive taxes" disguised as tuition hikes.

Regressive taxes are taxes that, in design and implementation, disproportionately overtax those in most need. For example, for a $2,000 tuition hike, a family making $50,000 a year pays 5 percent of their gross income for the tuition hike -- parents already burdened by student loans. The person making $200,000 a year pays 1 percent of gross income, and only if they choose to attend our public university instead of a more expensive private school.

This was a favorite "trickle down" tool in the Bush years, "avoiding new taxes" by using regressive fees.

I know Rep. Carlyle. He is a smart, successful honorable man. But he is sadly misguided on this issue. He represents one of the wealthiest legislative districts in Seattle.

This tuition increase is as unfair as the bonuses to AIG execs. These hikes should trigger outrage, which unfortunately will detract from solutions President Obama is seeking. Worse, they will cost many kids in this state the chance to go to college.

-- James E. Lalonde, Seattle

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March 19, 2009 4:44 PM

AIG bonuses

Posted by Letters editor

Joining an out-of-tune chorus

Your editorial ["AIG should be forced to give back bonuses," March 18] joins the chorus of those expressing outrage at performance bonuses being paid for failure. Who wouldn't be outraged if that is what had happened.

We expect such behavior from members of Congress seeking TV face time for the folks back home. We cannot sanguinely expect such a cavalier disregard of the facts from our newspaper.

You disregard that AIG CEO Edward Liddy explained that no performance bonuses have been paid. As part of preserving as much AIG value as possible, so that taxpayers can be repaid, AIG asked experienced managers to stay on the job and wind down their books of business in a responsible manner. If they did this satisfactorily, they were rewarded with a retention bonus, not a performance bonus.

Alternately, AIG could have allowed these experienced managers to leave and AIG would be burdened by these excessively risky portfolios.

-- Larry Donohue, Seattle

The price of silence?

Has anyone else speculated that AIG's "retention" -- or not -- bonuses actually could be hush money in order to enable the perpetrators of financial ruin to cover their tracks and stop the buck from passing to senior management?

If so, then we taxpayers and owners of this business would be better served to have outsiders come in and unravel the mess.

-- Marcia Stedman, Bothell

Outrage masks complicity

Politicians will do anything and everything to cover up their own shortcomings and errors. Although Republicans and Democrats in Congress and the White House strongly criticize AIG's use of the $180 billion bailout money they received, they knew in advance some of the money would go toward bonuses.

Their own poorly developed bailout plan was done in such haste with no proper reviews that we taxpayers are the ones who will suffer. Every politician who voted for and supported this bailout package should be impeached. It disgusts me to watch them rush to get in front of the TV cameras and bloviate their outrage.

These mendacious individuals compound rather than resolve our crisis. And, do not be misled by their comments to get the money back by passing a special tax; What they can do to AIG they can do to the rest of us.

I do not support these AIG bonuses, but our government is leaderless and out of control. The stimulus package was passed and approved without one legislator having fully read the bill, including our own Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

Our country can do better; it deserves better!

-- Dick Applestone, Bellevue

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March 19, 2009 4:41 PM

The Employee Free Choice Act

Posted by Letters editor

Not surprised by anti-union screed

Imagine my (non)surprise after many years as a P-I subscriber to see, in my first issue of The Times, Bruce Ramsey's thinly veiled anti-union screed at the top of your Opinion page ["The Employee Faux Choice Act," editorial column, March 18].

The blissful state of labor comity for which Ramsey pretends to long is known as "right to work." Right-to-work laws, which mandate that individual employees may opt in or out of a union, sound wonderful on their face. But these laws traditionally have been used to undermine unions economically and to make organizing and representing workers virtually impossible.

Go to any state with right-to-work laws -- most of them are in the south -- and compare wages and standards of living to those of any state without such laws. The Employee Free Choice Act evens the playing field, allowing people to get representation (and according to recent polling, more than 70 percent of Americans want representation) without being harassed and intimidated for months and sometimes years, which current labor law allows.

I suspect Ramsey knows all of this. Or he probably should if he is going to write on the topic.

-- Chuck Van Wey, Seattle

Long-overdue reform

The Employee Free Choice Act is a long-overdue reform that will bring federal labor law into the 21st century.

To give you an idea of how unfair the current law is, over the past 30 years an entire industry has grown whose job is to advise employers on how to fight employee attempts to unionize.

When workers decide to form a union, they sign cards or petitions indicating that they want to be represented. If the employer finds out, its first response is to find the ringleaders among the employees and fire them.

Technically, this is a violation of Federal law, but as a practical matter these laws are without teeth. If a violation is proved, the remedy more often than not is a requirement that the employer post a notice saying that they will never do that again. The message to the employees is clear: Keep your mouth shut or be fired.

The fired employees have to rebuild their work lives elsewhere. Their co-workers learn that to organize is to put their jobs in danger. The employer learns that the penalty for violating the law is virtually nonexistent.

Forming a union gives workers the ability to bargain their wages, hours and conditions of employment with their employer. It is the free-market solution to the decline of the middle class. Unions give hope to American families and they create stable work forces for employers. This is the free choice that workers are seeking.

-- Tracey Thompson, secretary-treasurer, Teamsters Local 117, Tukwila

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March 18, 2009 2:04 PM

The recession and traffic

Posted by Letters editor

Congestion down -- but will we learn?


Ken Lambert/The Seattle Times

Looking east, the Mercer Mess at rush hour.

Editor, The Times:

Congestion in the Seattle area has been getting worse for decades, but it took a historic national recession to finally provide commuters with relief ["Job cuts result in quicker commute," page one, March 17].

So should we maintain an 8.4-percent unemployment rate to keep traffic down? Obviously not. But the traffic trends over the past year point us to better solutions, if we learn from them.

Washingtonians have cut down on their driving, as have commuters across the country. The Federal Highway Administration showed a 3-percent decrease in vehicle miles traveled in 2008, which translated into a 30-percent reduction in peak-hour congestion. With that evidence, demand management seems like a much more cost-effective solution to congestion than expanding freeways.

There are multiple ways to influence the demand for our freeways: better public transit, affordable housing in the urban core, or variable tolling, to name a few. All are options that are cheaper than highway expansion and significantly better for the environment.

Ultimately, the economy will recover and congestion probably will get worse again. In these tumultuous times we are already taking a hard look at health care, energy and educational policies to chart a better course, but we can't ignore our transportation sector. We have to take a good long look at our transportation system, from the vision to the implementation. We have to learn from the lessons of today to secure a better and more sustainable tomorrow.

-- David Kosmos, Washington Public Interest Research Group, Seattle

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March 18, 2009 2:02 PM

The nation's economy and federal bailouts

Posted by Letters editor

Give Obama the tools to succeed

During the Bush years, wealth became concentrated in the hands of the few -- even more than normal. Americans in general felt wealthier. It was an illusion created by borrowing and inflated asset value.

Now in this era of economic contraction and deflation, it will once again be the minority at the top who will benefit and increase in wealth. Assets will be cheaper than they have been in 50 years. Those with money will have opportunity to expand their holdings. The majority without sufficient cash, without borrowing capability, without sizable income or adequate employment, will be lost.

At least we have the right president at this time. Let's hope Congress has the political will to give him the tools to succeed.

Older people tend to need to spend less. The baby boomers as least had disposable income. That's largely gone. Also gone are opportunities for their children, who have the financial obligations that come with establishing a family and acquiring assets to live the American consumer dream. They will need the help of their boomer parents to survive.

This survival mode will further contract the economy. Only massive government spending at unimaginable levels for a sustained period can bridge this unstable time.

Hold on. Hold on.

-- John Atkinson, Bainbridge Island

Let the free-enterprise system cure what ails us

Here is the deal. The politicos gave a knee-jerk response before anyone bothered to define or understand what was happening. Actually, what is going on is a good thing. We live and function as a society due to the workings of the "free-enterprise system." a system that includes "supply and demand" and "capitalism."

Like all systems, it is subject to breakdown, or in this case, cancer. The free-enterprise system got cancer. It got cancer because elements entered the system that did not work out. The way banking has evolved over the past 10 years, with subprime mortgages and all the other little twists, did not work out. Once you do something in the free-enterprise system that does not work, how then do you get rid of the cancer in the system?

There is no magic. The fix is painful. In order to rid itself of the cancerous bodies, the system/marketplace threw them into financial crisis aimed at bankruptcy -- a normal process. Were the system permitted to continue and get rid of the cancerous elements, new, modern, heathy cells would replace the bad ones.

But instead, we are spending billions attempting to keep the bad ones.

-- Ted Nelson, Seattle

South Carolina's governor knows best

President Obama is overreaching with his demands that the governor of South Carolina must accept $700 million of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds ["White House rebuffs S.C. governor," News, March 17].

The governor contends the administration attaches "strings" to the funding that would tip the state's economy and social fiber. Further, the governor feels that such high levels of spending at a time when the money is not available and wouldn't be spent in "good" economic times is unsound.

Additionally, the funds enact projects and programs that will require additional indebtedness -- perhaps for generations.

The president and his party respond with television ads that criticize the governor personally. So much for transparency, fiscal responsible and moving away from "the old politics."

In the end, isn't it a governor who has the state's interests at heart? Shouldn't the governor know, firsthand, what is best for his state and its economy. Don't we err toward big-brother government when we override states' rights with a social agenda?

-- Mark I. Bowers, Issaquah

AIG: the cool side

There's something cool about the AIG bonus scandal: There's something in it to satisfy both the anti-government rightists and the anti-corporate leftists.

The real lesson is that both corporations and government need to be held accountable.

-- Donald A. Smith, Bellevue

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March 18, 2009 2:00 PM

Congressional pay raises

Posted by Letters editor

Shame and gall on Capitol Hill

Although I didn't see this in or on the news, stand by for another government ripoff!
While the economy is going nowhere fast, members of Congress have given themselves a substantial pay raise.

It's hard to believe that while city, county and state agencies are downsizing and finding ways to cut employee pay and benefits, Congress has the gall to accept their automatic pay raises. It is unconscionable for members of Congress to raise their salaries while thousands of Americans are being laid off and losing their homes.

These ethically challenged members of Congress definitely do not deserve a pay raise at this crucial time of economic distress.

Can you say "shameful"?

-- Boyce Clark, Edmonds

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March 18, 2009 1:58 PM

Washington state Legislature

Posted by Letters editor

Something better than cap-and-trade

Your Sunday editorial ["Green bill hits red light," Opinion, March 15] urges the Legislature to continue Washington's momentum on reducing greenhouse gases. You imply our only choice is the proposed cap-and-trade system or nothing, and overlook the primary alternative: a straightforward tax on carbon.

Unlike cap-and-trade, a carbon tax could begin immediately, sets a predictable price, requires no new bureaucracy and involves no impenetrable auction schemes. It is preferred by most economists and some industry leaders, including Exxon's CEO.

Our friends in British Columbia already have a carbon tax, and several bills are before Congress. Rep. John B. Larson, D-Conn., has introduced a bill that would tax carbon producers at $15 per ton, increasing steadily each year. Nearly all revenue would return to the public in lower payroll taxes.

In response to those who say we need a cap on emissions, this bill sets annual benchmarks on total emissions leading to reduction of 80 percent by 2050. If we aren't on track to achieve those benchmarks, the tax could be raised further.

Washington should lead the region by adopting a carbon tax as the most effective way to begin dramatically cutting emissions to prevent the worst impacts of climate change.

-- Dorothy Craig, Seattle

Tuition surcharge just another tax

I was extremely disappointed to read that Gov. Christine Gregoire is proposing instituting a 3- to 7-percent tuition surcharge in addition to the 7-percent increase scheduled to go into effect soon ["Extra university fee proposed," page one, March 18].

While she consistently promised no new taxes or fees, her attempt to claim this charge is not a fee is insulting to the citizens of this state.

In addition, this surcharge is also an attempt to circumvent the promise of the Guaranteed Education Tuition Program (GET) offered by the state. GET promises that if you buy GET credits now, it will cover the increased cost of tuition in the future.

Currently the annual "fees" range from $500 to $1,300 at state schools and are not counted as part of the tuition increases. Those fees can be absorbed by using GET credits but that reduces the purchasing power of the credits.

By imposing another significant fee, the value of the GET program is further degraded.
The governor needs to reduce spending, not waste time coming up with new synonyms for tax increases.

-- Dan Devaux, Lake Tapps

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March 18, 2009 1:55 PM

Foreign language requirements

Posted by Letters editor

University of Washington offers a clarification

Thank you for your coverage of recent changes to the University of Washington's foreign-language requirement ["Foreign languages take higher-education hit," Local News, March 13], and for your editorial support for the importance of foreign-language study ["Speaking to the world," Opinion, March 17]. I am writing to clarify several points.
]
Undergraduates with three or more years of a foreign language in high school will now meet the UW's language-proficiency requirement without having to pass a test. We hope this change will encourage more students to take a third year of high-school language. Many high schools have welcomed this change for that reason.

This change does not lessen the importance of language study. Rather, it provides an additional way for students to meet our requirement. The UW's admissions requirement (two years of high-school language study) remains unchanged. Students who took only two years of high-school language must take and pass a proficiency exam, or take first-year language classes at the UW.

We made this change based on solid national data from the University of Oregon, which shows that students with three years of high-school foreign language achieve the same levels of proficiency as students who complete one year of college language. This change does not "water down" our requirement. It allows us to focus our resources on advanced language instruction and on less-commonly-taught languages, such as Chinese, Arabic and Urdu, rather than first-year Spanish and French.

It is also important to note that we have not cut the foreign-language departments' budgets more heavily than other parts of the College of Arts and Sciences. In these financially challenging times, our priority across the university is to minimize, as much as we can, the impact of the state's budget cuts on our students' education. This change in how we assess foreign-language proficiency is a responsible way to do that. We will continue to teach first-year classes in more than 50 different languages, including Spanish and French, and to emphasize the importance of language study to the future of our state and region.

-- Robert Stacey, University of Washington Divisional Dean of Arts and Humanities, College of Arts and Sciences, Seattle

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March 17, 2009 4:37 PM

Trade protections

Posted by Letters editor

The need for a truly new world trading order


The Associated Press

Andean women attend the People Summit, an indigenous forum in Lima, Peru, last year. South American indigenous groups were criticizing free trade ahead of a trade summit.

Editor, the Times:

Jon Talton claimed that the "specter of protectionism" is haunting the world economy ["Deep recession threatens new world trading order," Business, March 15]. I hope his intention was not to reinforce the false dichotomy that is so often presented in terms of our trade policy.

Protectionism is not the only alternative to existing "free trade" policies. As Talton himself points out, there are plenty of forms of managed trade, or alterations to existing trade policy, that might address the imbalance of winners and losers.

U.S. trade policy is currently not particularly "free." Our trade agreements are replete with subsidies, limitations to domestic procurement rules, and many other less-than-free provisions. Washington state's industries that benefit the most from trade include agriculture and high-tech exports like Boeing planes; both these industries rely heavily on subsidies and migrant workers (documented and not).

Neither of our biggest exporting industries function under a textbook "free-trade" system. So why is it seen as so absurd and dangerous to suggest strengthening labor and environmental safeguards, removing imbalanced foreign-investor privileges, or regaining local autonomy over procurement rules -- all of which would require a fundamental revision of existing trade policy?

It is certainly accurate to indicate that Washington state and its congressional delegation need to advocate for a solution that doesn't mean turning our backs on trade. But solutions need to involve fundamentally revising existing NAFTA-style trade policy that has created so many net losers around the country. It should not mean simply a continuation of the status quo (i.e., pending trade agreements with Panama, Korea and Colombia negotiated by the Bush administration).

If our current economic woes have taught us anything, it is that we need a new new-world trading order.

-- Stephanie Celt, director, Washington Fair Trade Coalition, Seattle

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March 17, 2009 4:35 PM

Start cap-and-trade now

Posted by Letters editor

Fiddling while the planet burns

Given the current economic downturn, it is not surprising that our state senators should turn conservative and try to "hold the course" by rejecting perceived tax increases such as cap-and-trade and reversing voter-approved increases in wind power.

Unfortunately, these actions do not "keep what we got" but rather pour fuel on the fire, as we citizens of the region are each losing $20,000 a year in local environmental value due to increasing global warming. Sitting on our hands guarantees that "we lose what we got," including our tourist industry, national parks, drinking water, hydropower, forests, beaches, salmon, ski industry and world-leading outdoor recreation industry.

This is particularly unfortunate given that Washington state comes out a winner under cap-and-trade -- we have more clean green renewable energy in this state than any place on Earth; only Sweden and Switzerland come close.

What would it cost us citizens of Washington to start cap-and-trade now with a 1 percent reduction in CO2 emissions? Fifty cents each.

-- James Adcock, Bellevue

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March 17, 2009 4:33 PM

The AIG bonuses

Posted by Letters editor

Give me names, amounts

I, like so many others, am appalled at the bonuses being handed out at AIG ["AIG bonuses: $165 million more," News, March 15].

I would like to see the names of the people who accepted these bonuses, the amount each received, and the position each was employed in for which they received a bonus.
Since the federal government (meaning me as a taxpayer!) is now an 80-percent owner of AIG, I believe the information should be available to us.

-- Lucy Arnold, Port Townsend

Demand bailout bonuses be disgorged

It's time to declare war -- class warfare against the classless greedmongers who've turned America into a kleptocracy.

President Obama expresses our outrage, especially to see contract law used as a defense. Let's fight law with law -- tax law to disgorge bonuses from AIG and others who snatched the bailout funds.

Congress can enact retroactive tax law changes, back through 2008, for example. Let's tax bonuses at an 80-percent rate for any firm receiving bailouts. That avoids the "contract law" dispute, disgorges most of the bonuses, and makes a bigger point: We're not going to take it any more.

Demand that Congress claw back those bonuses. And watch, execs might decide that they really don't need bailout money after all.

-- David Giuliani, Mercer Island

Demand immediate repayment

Why is it that the rich people in America cannot understand the feelings of the poor, homeless and unemployed people among us?

President Obama has called the recent bonuses given to AIG executives "greedy and reckless." AIG received $170 billion dollars in American taxpayer bailout money and has recently given $450 million to executives and others in the form of performance bonuses.
Bonuses for what? Financial collapse of the American economy fueled by working-class pensions that have wound up in the pockets of our newest "robber barons"?

Jesus was famous for getting angry once long ago, and for throwing the money-changers out of the synagogue. President Obama should demand immediate repayment of the $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money from these selfish and egocentric people at AIG.

-- David Enroth, Seattle

Lack of accountability

After suffering the largest corporate loss ever and receiving $170 billion in taxpayer dollars, AIG is paying $165 million in bonuses to executives who sold the credit-default swaps that caused its massive losses.

According to its chairman, Edward Liddy, the payments are "distasteful and difficult" but are a contractual obligation. Liddy noted that AIG entered into these contracts early in 2008, before the company got into severe financial straits.

While one can argue that Liddy should, at the very least, have been aware of the risks and should not have entered into these contracts, as an attorney and former CEO, I understand contractual obligations and I congratulate Liddy for living up to AIG's commitments.

Leaving aside how these individuals can look at themselves in the mirror, one thing does boggle the mind: Why are these executives still employed? Surely, the reason cannot be that AIG needs their expertise? After all, that's the reason the company failed financially!
Moreover, I am willing to bet that any lower-level employee who performed so poorly would have been fired without notice, and certainly without any "bonus."

I look forward to Liddy explaining AIG's lack of accountability.

-- Jean-Pierre Ruiz, Bellevue

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March 17, 2009 4:32 PM

Education reform

Posted by Letters editor

Testing cannot measure it all

David Brooks wrote last week about President Obama's vision for education ["President Obama's speech signals a serious approach to education," syndicated column, March 14]. He used the story of Obama's mom waking him up early as a boy for extra tutoring to illustrate the "two traits necessary for academic success: relationships and rigor."

Brooks talks about using test scores to measure progress, including "which students had which teachers so we can assess what's working and what's not." In an apparent contradiction, he also talks about an Obama plan to give merit pay to "good teachers (the ones who develop emotional bonds with students)" and fire the "bad teachers (the ones who treat students like cattle to be processed)."

I've never heard of any quantitative way to measure emotional bonds, so instead we measure test scores. Our assessment system does exactly what Obama suggests we must not do: treat students like cattle. Students who pass the test are allowed to move on; those who don't are sent back to the mill for more "processing."

Furthermore, I believe that measuring the success of students, teachers and schools based on test scores alone is simply wrong! The purpose of education is, I believe, to help create adults who can read, write and compute, think creatively to solve problems, feel the joy of discovery, see the beauty in a musical composition or work of art, and who are prepared to live, work and get along in a complex world. Most of that cannot be measured on any standardized test.

The losers in all this are the students themselves, whose curriculum is being reduced to only those subjects that are on the test. How about we measure successful schools based on the opportunities they offer kids to explore art, music, literature, history, science and the whole myriad endeavors that make up the human experience? Which schools would pass muster then?

-- Daniel Haeck (teacher), Federal Way

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March 17, 2009 4:31 PM

The Salish Sea

Posted by Letters editor

Follow the orcas

I was dismayed by the way your article "Salish Sea: We're already sailing on it" [page one, March 14] treated the name: as though it was something that deserved controversy.

The term the Salish Sea does not rename Puget Sound. The fact is, Puget Sound is part of a larger transboundary ecosystem. George Vancouver named the fjord -- the waters south of the Tacoma Narrows -- after Peter Puget. The United States Geological Survey defines Puget Sound as the waters south of Admiralty Inlet, Deception Pass and Swinomish Channel.

The term Puget Sound recently has been expanded to the Canadian border. This disregards nature keeps us from being able to even see our ecosystem, much less solve its problems and human effects.

In the past 25 years, that bioregion's population has more than doubled. Its 2020 population is expected to reach 4 million in Canada and exceed 5 million south of the border.

The orcas enter by the transboundary Strait of Juan de Fuca, and travel up the transboundary Haro Strait, along the west side of San Juan Island, following the salmon returning to Canada's Fraser River. Try explaining that by using only the term Puget Sound.

-- Shann Weston, Friday Harbor

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March 17, 2009 4:29 PM

In the nation's capitol

Posted by Letters editor

Congress needs to multitask

So, Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, and his congressional colleagues in both houses only want to do one thing at a time, while the people they represent struggle with all the issues listed and more ["Congress stretched thin by Obama," News, March 15].

Are these the same people who had no problem multi-tasking the bailouts of the Wall Street crowd who are at the core of the current economic situation? The same people who blindly sent us into an unjust war that continues to sap our economy? The same people who enjoy taxpayer-paid perks that cost more annually than most of us earn before taxes? The same people who take long summer and holiday breaks, and even go on international junkets while Congress is in session?

Are these the people we are supposed to feel sorry for?

Attention Congress: You need to be more like the people you claim to represent. Work 12 months a year -- at your job -- with only two to four weeks vacation, and take some work home at night, like the rest of us do. Put some sweat equity into your employment.
And stop worrying about saving your seats. Campaigns are about saving your seats.

When you are on the government dole your job is to represent us, make the tough decisions you promised on the campaign trail, and do what you feel is right, not what you feel will keep you employed.

Join those of us who are all in this together. Inaction and political maneuvering are no longer acceptable.

-- Bill Dubay, Seattle

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March 17, 2009 4:28 PM

The Bush administration

Posted by Letters editor

Cheney should write his memoirs

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is no longer in a position to run roughshod over our Constitution ["Cheney: Obama policies have made U.S. less safe," News, March 16].

Cheney says he cannot tell us what terrorist attacks were stopped by the extra-constitutional programs he pushed, because to tell would violate classification secrecies. We must continue to trust him, he says.

In the waning days of the Bush-Cheney administration, his influence dwindled. He was unable to persuade President Bush to pardon Scooter Libby and he can't let that go.
It is time for Cheney to realize his irrelevance and go home and write his memoirs.

-- Larry Donohue, Seattle

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March 16, 2009 2:53 PM

The Salish Sea

Posted by Letters editor

A commendable idea



Steve Ringman/The Seattle Times


The lighthouse on the northern tip of Patos Island looking southeast across the Rosario Strait with Sucia Island and Orcas Island is seen in the distance. Biologist Bert Weber would like to rename this area the Salish Sea.


Editor, The Times:

As a resident of Sinclair (Cottonwood) Island, in the heart of the Salish Sea, I strongly support efforts to designate the inland waters encompassing the Strait of Georgia, Strait of Juan de Fuca and Puget Sound the Salish Sea ["'Salish Sea' proposed name for waters Washington, B.C. share," Times, Local News, March 14].

Not only does this title honor the original inhabitants of this area, but it recognizes and draws attention to the greater inland water ecosystem that needs our care. That some detractors fear such recognition would be an assault on the national boundary between Canada and the U.S. represents outdated, nonsensical and provincial thinking.

I commend marine biologist Bert Weber for his efforts.

-- Ferdi Businger, Anacortes

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March 16, 2009 2:51 PM

Immigrant labor and E-verify

Posted by Letters editor

Hold employers accountable

In response to more Puget Sound-area employers checking if workers are legal, there is no excuse for not attempting to hold employers accountable and ensure that illegal aliens are not taking jobs away from American citizens. ["Illegal immigrants arrested at Bellingham engine plant," Local News, Feb. 25.]

For those who contend that E-verify is discriminatory and error ridden, I think that a 99-percent accuracy rate bears out quite the opposite. Illegal-immigrant advocates often use the "jobs no American will do" and "low-wage jobs" argument, however, we all really know that the only reason there are such (fallacious) jobs is because our leaders have turned a blind eye to exploitation and have failed to carry out their duty to ensure the law is enforced and reasonable wages are paid. As a consumer, it has become the first question I ask of any contractor I consider hiring: Do you use E-verify?

Only those who profit from and exploit illegal labor have anything to worry about and, frankly, it's shameful that our federal leaders failed to require its use as mandatory and permanent. Washington state has the opportunity to protect its people. Question is: Does it have the spine to do so?

-- Carol Brister, Lake Stevens

Promote reform

The recent raid in a Bellingham factory happened without Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's knowledge ["Homeland boss demands review of work-site raid," page one, Feb. 26]. I congratulate Napolitano's review of the raid, but I also demand her proactive leadership to stop raids and promote reform.

I hope that she and the rest of our country will realize that these immigrants are parents with families. We need to respect the rights of detainees by allowing them to consult with attorneys and by using the minimum force necessary.

Raids hurt our businesses, our communities and all people. Conducting raids on brothers, fathers, mothers and sisters with heavily armed officers, black SUVs, ankle chains and helicopters are designed for maximum intimidation and humiliation: They do not make any of us safer.

If you do not wish for the same extreme enforcement that dominated the Bush Administration, then raise your voice for comprehensive immigration reform today. We cannot enforce our way out of an immigration mess: We need policy reform.

-- Nicole Keenan, Seattle

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March 16, 2009 2:49 PM

Leonard Pitts' column on religion

Posted by Letters editor

A slap in the face

Leonard Pitts Jr. has delivered a slap in the face to organized religion ["Religion on the defensive," syndicated column, March 15]. He has equated all religion to TV-preacher scandals and terrorists. He cites the "sheer absurdity, ungodly hypocrisy that have characterized so much 'religion' in the past 30 years" as having driven people away. Isn't this exactly the picture of religion that captures the headlines and sells papers?

Pitts seems to endorse a personal religion: his own. Organized religion and parachurch organizations do more to feed the poor, minister to those in prison, care for orphans, mentor inner-city youth at risk, promote financial independence in Third World countries -- the list goes on. And do you know what makes all this possible? Organization, and motivation (i.e., religion). In contrast, a religion of one makes it's own god and is incapable of doing any of the above and is, in a word, impotent. This is the religion that Pitts would prefer in the world.

So as a person of faith, how do I answer Pitts' demonization of organized religion and answer to the "endless cycle" of scandal? I answer: The Church, like any institution, is not perfect. It is full of people who may or may not have an authentic relationship with the living God. In all people there remains the original core of sin, prone to hypocrisy, envy, lust, etc.

Government is not perfect, should we choose anarchy instead? Hospitals are not perfect, should we close them all down? The Church is not perfect, but it is God's chosen instrument to proclaim His message of grace and restoration to the world. Even though the media is often eager to portray the Church as "ugly," with the grace of God it will continue in it's mission to be Jesus to the world, the best it can, with the imperfect people it has.

-- Kevin C. Malone, Maple Valley

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March 16, 2009 2:36 PM

Military's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy

Posted by Letters editor

A bad idea from the start

As a Vietnam-era veteran, I served with combat veterans, cared for Navy and Marine Corps casualties, and saw firsthand the ravages of war. I was young and patriotic, and proudly served a country I respected. All that changed forever when, shortly before I was discharged, a corpsman who had returned from the front lines only months before was given a bad-conduct discharge after being photographed leaving a gay bar.

He kept his personal life private, so those of us who knew him did not know he was gay.
He had returned from combat with a Bronze Star he received for pulling 26 wounded men off a hill under fire. He was quiet and humble and one of the best corpsmen I knew. Even to survive that kind of bravery was a monumental feat, and he considered it "just part of the job."

The bad-conduct discharge robbed him of his veterans benefits and left him feeling shame for exercising his God-given right to be himself. He was in civilian clothes, off base and off duty when he was caught.

When the policy of "Don't ask, don't tell" was adopted, I knew that unsuspecting gays and lesbians would join the military believing that if they were discreet, they could serve their country and expect to be treated fairly.

This policy was a bad idea from the start. It allows for persecution and discrimination in a setting that lends itself to cruelty. This has to stop.

In addition to the obvious humanitarian reasons, the cost of training and then dismissing qualified, honorable and able men and women is an unconscionable misuse of millions -- perhaps billions -- of dollars of the military budget. Perhaps this money could be better spent on safety equipment to protect those who are willing to risk their lives to serve their country.

-- Kathryn Katz, Seattle

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March 16, 2009 2:35 PM

The future of journalism

Posted by Letters editor

Save the printed newspaper

A recent column by Ryan Blethen, "Newspaper transition: Preserve local newsgathering" [Opinion, March 13], discusses how a past column of his resulted in numerous e-mails declaring the death of the printed newspaper and how that's OK. Blethen states that may be all right as long as we can preserve the local newsgathering aspect of the old-style printed newspaper online.

Well, I for one will greatly miss getting the newspaper (in paper form) daily and I believe that its passing will be a great loss. I'll miss those discussions and debates with my wife over coffee in the mornings as we each read our sections of the paper. I just can't envision us with our laptops on the breakfast table, each reading a "newspaper."

Or, how about all of the patrons of a breakfast diner sitting at the counter all with their laptops beaming the news to them. Great for interaction, right?

Call me old-fashioned but it just doesn't ring true. I'll miss the printed newspaper, and I'm certain there are a lot of other people who will as well.

-- Robert Oberlander, Issaquah

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March 16, 2009 2:32 PM

Washington state's death penalty debate

Posted by Letters editor

Awareness is the key

What do most people say when asked how they would choose to die? Almost all say "in my sleep" (so I am not aware of it). Awareness is the key.

Opiates are sedating and depress the breathing. Why not:

1) Give a sedating drug (such as Lorazepam/Ativan) IV at a dose much, much higher than the levels used when inducing anesthesia before surgery;

2) Give IV heroin quickly in a dose higher than that expected to stop breathing;
Repeat 2) until breathing stops.

The heart will stop soon after the breathing stops.
Or, sedate, then use enough explosive to vaporize them in an instant. Or, sedate, then drop a 100-ton block of concrete on their head. They won't be aware at all.

Now . . . did you cringe with disgust when reading the above?

My reaction was revulsion. My response is to advocate life in prison without the chance of parole. As Danny Westneat wrote ["Executions no longer make sense," column, March 15]: the death penalty is too expensive and it puts the family members of the victim through repeated reminders of how their loved one died, which is cruel.

Think about it.

-- Jeff Wedgwood, Issaquah

With all deliberate vengeance

Sunday's Seattle Times' editorial ["Death with deliberation," March 15] failed miserably to make its case on why it's appropriate Washington state continues to have a death penalty. It does, however, brilliantly point out exactly why it should be abolished. It points out the fact it is expensive, grueling on the family and appeals go on forever.

Yet it defends the deliberateness of the process. It wisely omits any false claims that the penalty deters crime, and at the same time cowardly omits the fact the only purpose served is vengeance.

Not one fact is presented to defend the death penalty. My favorite line is this bit of nonsense: "The justice system is not 100 percent perfect. Removing the death penalty would not change this."

Keeping it won't either, but if you don't believe it harms us morally, you can bet it does fiscally.

-- Nick Millward, Seattle

Inconsistency, hypocrisy

I agree with The Time's position that decisions about life in prison versus capital punishment should not be a question about money, while I fail to make sense of the rest of the editorial.

Without even addressing the question of errors in any given process, how can a society, which in large part considers abortion "murder" and stands against "death with dignity" at the same time clamor for the death penalty?

If ever there were an oxymoron to this so-called question of "conscience," this has to be it. Do reasonable people truly believe that sitting beyond a thick glass window and watching someone die brings "closure" to the original heart-wrenching pain of having lost a loved one? I sincerely doubt that to be the case, unless the viewer's emotions have been warped into irreversible hatred; not exactly civilized nor Christian character attributes, I dare say.

We hear endless claims that this country's laws were based on Christian principles, so how can we forget that biblical writings tell of God's admonition about "an eye for an eye" while also warning "vengeance is mine." Anyone care to explain why we consistently chose to ignore this very important lesson?

And lastly, let's not forget the many twists and turns the legal system employs in the application of capital punishment. Case in point: The Green River killer.

-- Ruth R. Quiban, Seattle

Execution delay is an insult

I would like the Washington State Supreme Court to know I am appalled at the decision to stay the execution of Cal Coburn Brown. This court did not represent me or the citizens of this state by second-guessing our process to execute.

To delay carrying out this sentence is an insult to everyone who has had to work so hard in our bureaucratic quagmire of a legal system in this state.

There is no effective justice in this state. That is cruel and unusual punishment on the citizens and our safety.

-- Raleigh Andrews, Newcastle

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March 16, 2009 2:31 PM

Washington state's environmental leadership

Posted by Letters editor

How green is our Legislature

The failure of cap-and-trade legislation was not "a win for major Washington businesses," as you report, but an utter failure of foresight, leadership, vision and conscience ["Lawmakers thwart Gregoire's cap-and-trade plan on climate," Politics & Government, Monday, March 16].

Similarly, the state Senate's passage of SB 5840 (which seeks, with cowardly illogic, to disembowel the voter-approved, job-creating I-937) indicates that our alleged representatives lack the spine to make difficult decisions for our long-term prosperity.

We -- citizens, lawmakers and businesses alike -- can postpone accountability on climate, energy and ecological issues, but the reckoning will come sooner than we like, and it will be all the more expensive for our foot-dragging.

Meanwhile, our elected representatives have missed the opportunity for real environmental leadership, passing the torch (once again) to our Oregonian neighbors -- who, I pray, will have the courage to do the right thing. If our great-great-grandchildren-to-be could vote, I know they'd say the same.

-- Graham Brown, Seattle

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March 16, 2009 2:24 PM

AIG bonuses and living beyond means

Posted by Letters editor

Our "stimulating" economy
The value of work

In one more story of gloom regarding the American economy, we learn that seven executives of AIG are "entitled" to more than $3 million in bonuses that the company argues that it must uphold in order to "attract the best and the brightest talent" to their company ["AIG Bonuses: $165 million more," Times, Nation Report, March 15]. This payment goes to those who wrote trillions of dollars of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bonds backed by subprime mortgages.

So let me get this straight: The U.S. government is continuing to help a company pay its top executives bonuses and "retention pay" for doing bad business?

What I am also trying to understand is what is the value of any one person, as bright and savvy as he or she may be, to be worth that amount of money in bonuses alone (not to mention base salary)? For what do we value the human capacity to work in a given day or week of time, in any job? And where does the business world, and ultimate our society, make the call that such work in the business/financial world be valued so much higher than work in education, health care, social work the arts?

-- Cara Hazelbrook, Arlington

Two sets of rules

How does a company that has failed as abysmally as AIG owe any of it's employees a bonus? Why should they be concerned about retaining upper management?

It is as ["The Daily Show's"] Jon Stewart has so artfully revealed, we have two sets of rules in the United States: one tax rate for those with regular income, another rate for corporations and the very rich who legally use elaborate tax dodges; one set of rules for people who earn their modest bonuses, another for people whose enormous bonuses are completely detached from performance; one set of rules for people with modest investments and another for the shadowy banking industry, which uses our 401(k)s to fund the housing bubble and the stock market, which it turns out is really an enormous Ponzi scheme.

When the scheme inevitably failed, these same crooks have the audacity to demand to use millions of taxpayer dollars to pay "bonuses" to its upper management and to lobby against the interests of you and me, the taxpayers -- all the while shoveling shame on people who are struggling to pay mortgages.

Much more of this behavior and this quiet, mild-mannered housewife and mother of two kids is going to be out in the streets protesting in front of financial companies.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Congress need to be much more forceful and put a stop to this. It's time to call in the Justice Department and start investigating these shenanigans.

-- Kelly Powers, Seattle

Curious assets

The first decade of the 21st century may well become known as the beginning of The Age Of Euphemisms. Consider what has happened to the word "asset."

The American Heritage Dictionary defines "asset" as "... a valuable item that is owned ..." During the past eight years, this has evolved to become "troubled assets" and, most recently, "toxic assets."

I guess if we don't call these "toxic assets" what they really are (derivative securities that have lost all or almost all of their value), the public doesn't get the message. The money is gone. The taxpayer's money, which is used to acquire "toxic assets" in order to get them off the bank's balance sheets, will be gone as well.

As Alice said when she walked through the looking glass, "It gets curiouser and curiouser."

-- Harry B. Bosch, Silverdale

Lifestyles of the new economy

So, I am the state of Washington. I have had a good run at work and made a lot of money the past few years. My spending habits reflect my new income, so I commit to buying bigger and better stuff. Now, my job isn't going so well. Unfortunately, I like all my new stuff. Not only do I not want to give anything back, I want to keep going out and spending money on stuff I enjoy. What are my options?

A. I can maintain my lifestyle by spending all of my savings that I put aside and just hope things are better in the future.

B. I can take a generous gift from my Uncle Sam, and spend all of his money, and still maintain the lifestyle I enjoy, or ...

C. I know this sounds crazy, but maybe I could downsize my extravagant lifestyle and not spend so much money. Actually live within my means and not worry so much about a scary economy.

This should not be a complicated problem. The hard questions of where to cut are difficult to answer, but the big-picture solution should be obvious, even to our political leaders. We elected you to make hard decisions. Time to step up and earn your paychecks!

-- Todd Ray, Auburn

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March 13, 2009 6:00 PM

The death penalty

Posted by Letters editor


AP Photo/Washington State Penitentiary

This undated photo provided by the Washington State Penitentiary shows Cal Coburn Brown. Brown, was scheduled to be executed March 13, but the sentence was stayed by the state Supreme Court pending a court review of lethal injection.

A cruel and unusual delay

Editor, The Times:

Well, once again our illustrious Supremes have stepped in it. This time they have placed a temporary stay on the execution of a real piece of work, Cal Coburn Brown, who nearly 20 years ago kidnapped, raped, tortured and brutally murdered an innocent young woman and has been on death row ever since. ["Brown execution delayed," Times, Local News, March 13.]

Hours before his scheduled date with the needle, the court stayed it until it can review this state's method of execution, lethal injection, on the grounds that it may be cruel and unusual punishment.

Now I ask you, what could be more humane than simply going to sleep and not waking up? This is way more than this monster deserves, despite his pleas and supposed remorse over what he did.

Problem is, even if the court rules the method legal and correct, the new argument for keeping this piece of inhuman filth alive will be that to make him wait a few months more after a stay, then tell him we're going to kill him anyway, would be "cruel and unusual."

What about the victim's and the family's rights? What did the victim do to deserve her inhumane treatment at the hands of this worthless scumbag? A few minutes after hearing of this debacle, were told that the moron who shot eight people in Skagit County a while back is not competent to stand trial. Oh, great.

I fear our country has lost its collective mind!

-- Scott Stoppelman, LaConner


Family denied closure

Once again, a family is denied closure and a murderer dodges justice courtesy of our foolish state Supreme Court. Cal Coburn Brown is as deserving of his punishment as a person could be, but the court is instead concerned he may suffer unduly through lethal injection, a challenge brought forth unsuccessfully by animals like him in the past.

All this for a man who abducted, raped and butchered an innocent young woman, leaving her body in the trunk of her own car.

Apparently, it's not cruel or unusual if you happen to be the victim.

-- Karl E. Woods, Tukwila

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March 13, 2009 6:00 PM

Around the Emerald City

Posted by Letters editor


Rethink the Mercer Mess

I was overjoyed to hear that West Marine is suing the city over their plans to "fix" the Mercer mess. This is the first good news I've heard in months and I hope that other business in the area join them.

Don't get me wrong. The Mercer Street interchange with Interstate 5 desperately needs fixing but the mayor's and City Council's plans are not it. The city claims that only about 39,000 cars use Mercer Street daily. I think they are only counting the morning commute out of town because that number seems very low.

Even if they are correct and they succeed in their plan, the capacity of eastbound Mercer will be cut in half. Where will those 20,000 cars per day go? To other onramps that are already backed up as bad or worse than on Mercer?

What Mercer street needs is, first, active traffic control for all the lights from Dexter to the east, and from Denny to Westlake, possibly live police officers. Second, reroute the on/offramps to and from Mercer on I-5 to the right-hand lane. Third, repave the road with freeway-thickness concrete, not asphalt. Forth, put some trees along sides of the road for people to look at -- not in the center.

I know the city wants to make Mercer pretty, but the cost is much too high. If they succeed, it will choke downtown in its own traffic. People are already avoiding the city center because they waste too much time getting there and back. This will make it many times worse.

Please urge our City Council to step back and rethink its half-baked plan and adopt a realistic one.

-- Tom Kesterson, Seattle

Bus message inappropriate

As a recent visitor to your city for a series of business meetings, I absolutely loved the culture, cuisine and beauty Seattle has to offer.

What a dynamic, energizing place!

One sizable disappointment, though, was the blatant political message I saw on the side of a city bus while I sipped coffee at a local cafe.

The message was "End the Siege of Gaza" and it was blazoned on the bus full of morning commuters.

For what I'm guessing is a quasi-public entity to allow one of its vehicles to be used as a "vehicle" for such volatile and subjective rhetoric is in very poor taste.

Next time, they should stick to cellphone and restaurant ads.

-- Patrick O'Connor, Indianapolis, Ind.

Stop the bike assaults

The article "Attacks on bicycle commuters spur rider-awareness campaign" [Local News, March 11] worries me. The real campaign should be to stop the assaults, rather than to spur our awareness.

If people are wearing hockey masks and determined to assault people as they come out of the tunnel, it doesn't really matter how aware we are; eventually, more people will get robbed or hurt. After all, there aren't too many places to exit the tunnel other than at the ends of it.

-- Paul Backstrom, Kirkland

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March 13, 2009 6:00 PM

Education reform

Posted by Letters editor


Don't forget female students

On Tuesday, President Obama proposed changes to our educational system to give our nation's students a competitive advantage over students from other countries ["Obama presses for longer school year," News, March 11]. Here's how we can really blow away the competition: Encourage girls to excel in science and math.

Girls today hold unlimited potential for solving the world's greatest problems, from harnessing alternative energy sources to finding a cure for cancer. Yet women continue to be underrepresented in these vital career fields. Women constitute 46 percent of the U.S. work force but hold only 27 percent of science and engineering jobs. Girls excel in math and science courses and continue to make historic gains, yet few pursue careers in these fields.

As Obama stated, top-notch teachers are key to our nation's academic success. But programs beyond the traditional scope of the classroom also are essential for our students, especially girls, to shine. One such program is Expanding Your Horizons (EYH). On Saturday (March 14), 410 middle-school girls will gather at Seattle University for the 21st annual Seattle EYH conference. They will participate in fun, hands-on workshops taught by female professionals working in science- and math-based careers.

The conference will spark girls' curiosity, show them something they won't learn in school, and plant the seed for achievement in math and science for many years to come. Someday, one of these girls may solve our nation's energy crisis, win the Nobel Prize, or encourage a new generation of girls to be world-class scientists and mathematicians. That's a competitive advantage indeed.

-- Ann McNally and Emeline Cokelet Meneken,
Seattle Expanding Your Horizons

Need is there; money is not

If what you wish the Legislature to support is all-day kindergarten, 21st-century technology, a six-period high-school schedule and measure student achievement, you have my support, too. ["Legislators need the political will to reshape Washington's schools," Lynne K. Varner column, Opinion, March 11.]

Expanding the school day will take money, now, not at some unspecified future date. Measuring student achievement is being done now, though we seem to be at loose ends as to how to continue.

I can't support performance pay without seeing the specifics of the performance criteria. I have seen many "merit pay" schemes in the past 39 years. Most have been useless for improving the delivery system of education and all have withered on the vine for lack of continued financial support. With that as a history of performance pay in Washington state, I would oppose it.

All of this is an exercise in futility. There's no money to do anything. We're going to be cutting the daylights out of most everything in order to survive the decline in revenue. Putting it all on the back burner for now is not a failure of leadership; it's just plain prudent conservatism.

-- Kenneth A. Mortland, Bothell

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March 13, 2009 6:00 PM

Economic musings

Posted by Letters editor


A Husky jobs bill

The specter of the loss of thousands of construction jobs in the Puget Sound area is looming while the state Legislature balks at giving the "OK" for a King County tax to be extended to partially fund renovation of Husky Stadium. The tax would continue, in effect, after the principal on loans for two professional, "private" stadiums are paid off. This isn't a new tax to be added on at this time of economic downturn, but an extension of an existing tax that mainly effects visitors to the area in a few years time.

The addition of 7,000 to 10,000 jobs here, right now, would allow contractors to maintain work crews that would otherwise be laid off. This is a huge impact on the state. Either the state assists these people via the jobs provided through the stadium project, or the state pays these people unemployment benefits. The 10,000 families on unemployment would produce no discretionary spending to stimulate the economy. Everyone in the state loses.

Families that have jobs retain the ability to spend on items other than necessities. This allows retail businesses to maintain employment levels and would retard the downward economic spiral we are in.

It is unconscionable and extremely shortsighted of the politicians in this state to ignore what up to 10,000 construction jobs will do for the economy. Funny, the state seems to be turning its back on the common Joe and Jane who live here at a time help is needed the most.

-- John Downing, Auburn

Ignore geologic hazards at your peril

We'll be out of luck during the next quake, tsunami or flood.

Washington is likely to stop paying for work that identifies geologic hazards and marks escape routes for people who are trying to make it to safety. Right now, the funding for dealing with geologic hazards is in danger of elimination. For a state that has been hit by tsunamis, seen floods close the interstate highways, had the sides of mountains collapse from forest clearing in landslide hazard areas - and, by the way, also had a volcano blow up and cause a right mess for a long time, not to mention killing a few people -- this is a remarkably dumb move and a cavalier approach to public safety.

Geology is underfoot everywhere, it's where we live and what we build on. We need to know what is there, how it works, and when it is dangerous. The danger and risk we face each day is made less because of the people who find and track geologic hazards and do something to make using these area less risky.

Ignoring geologic hazards is as silly as not fixing the hole in the roof because the sun is shining.

-- Holly Glaser, Mercer Island

Consider the total costs

The modern market economy has driven the current crisis in which we find ourselves because it continually fails to take in to account the total costs of any given product, whether it be energy or apples. The total costs of a product include the long-term costs of the damage done to the environment.

As we can now see, feel and smell, the long-term damages of burning fossil fuels and damming rivers for electric power literally suck the air from our lungs and take the fish from our streams.

Everyone agrees that we have reached a critical tipping point. And yet, vested interests continue to try and undermine the already decided upon outcomes of the majority.

When are we going to grow into our humanity and become the true people that we are? We have not inherited the Earth from our forbearers. We have borrowed the Earth from our children.

-- Tai Lahans, Shoreline

The earmark gophers

I see where our state's D.C. gophers are going for an earmark for $476,000 for an institute founded by Paul Allen ["Earmarks: Cantwell sends mixed signals," Local News, March 12]. Allen must have really been hit by the downturn. But kudos to Sen. Maria Cantwell for voting to strip earmarks. (That may have been the closest thing to good news in today's paper.)

Sen. Patty Murray doesn't want "bureaucrats who had never been to Walla Walla, Blaine, or Tacoma decide on federal spending for the state."

I don't suppose anyone has considered letting the voters in Walla Walla, Blaine or Tacoma decide what they really want and then pay for it themselves; or let the people in Seattle decide if they want a tunnel and pay for it. That way, they might get out of paying for the pork packages from Pocatello, Palm Beach or Punxsutawney, not to mention the huge D.C. handling fee. But that's probably too constitutional for today's politicians.

On the other hand, what other reason would there be to elect representatives to Congress if not to "gopher" the biggest share of the handouts in order to get re-elected?

-- Gary T. McGavran, Bellevue

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March 13, 2009 6:00 PM

Environmental networking

Posted by Letters editor


The grist of the matter

I want to thank you for your recent article "Seattle's Grist fuels Facebook's climate-change forum" [Local News, March 4]. Michelle Ma provided excellent information about the positive uses for social networking Web sites such as Facebook.

As a student pursuing a major in Journalism at Seattle University, I am proud that locally based organizations such as Grist make an effort to utilize Facebook as a medium for generating environmental awareness.

I myself visit Facebook once or twice on a daily basis and have firsthand experience regarding its place in the future of journalism and communication. The site offers an incredible opportunity to spread the word on social issues in addition to employing the global-forum aspects, which are literally at our fingertips.

Getting in touch with younger generations about important global issues is of utmost importance to future generations and to our planet. I applaud coverage of companies that aim to do this, and hope to enjoy coverage of further developments in communication.

Thank you for representing our city as leaders in environmental activism.

-- Elaine Genest, Seattle

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March 13, 2009 6:00 PM

Health, Canadian style

Posted by Letters editor


You Yanks should pay attention

Things that never happened while I lived in Canada and used the single-payer Canadian system (Ontario Health Insurance Plan -- OHIP):

-- Denial of benefits due to a pre-existing condition.

-- Denial of claim due to not approved provider.

-- Denial of claim due to not authorized service.

-- Denial of claim due to improper coding by provider.

-- Co-pay due at time of service.

-- Multiple invoices for a single provider visit.

-- Multiple calls to provider to determine the reason for the denial of claim.

-- Deductible percentage deducted from invoice due to service provider.

-- Billed for services rendered.

All of these have happened to me in the U.S. health-insurance system, except denial of benefits.

Oh for Canada's health insurance -- single payer.

-- Jay F. Johnson, Redmond

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March 13, 2009 6:00 PM

Rush to judgment

Posted by Letters editor

Limbaugh's weight is immaterial

As much as I loathe Rush Limbaugh and his venomous blather, I feel I must come to his defense in one area. Why is it acceptable for anyone, but especially the media, to make disparaging comments about his weight? Recently referred to in The Seattle Times as a possible "enraged Jabba the Hutt" or "deranged Stay Puft Marshmallow Man" ["Somehow, 'apocalypse' seems right for the times," David Sirota syndicated column, March 9], such labels speak volumes about our nation's continuing ad hominem attacks on people.

How are references to Limbaugh's physique in any way pertinent to criticism of his ideas? If he weighed 150 pounds, would his ideas be any less offensive or any more sensible? Weight has been called "the last acceptable prejudice" in our society, and I tend to agree.

As someone who recently lost 70 pounds and continues to lose more, I am quite aware of the prejudice society shows toward larger people. Whether we like it or not, someone's size (or their facial features or their hair color or their wardrobe or their sexual orientation or their skin color) has nothing to do with anything other than revealing our snarky prejudices.

"Rush -- you are wrong" is far more effective than "Rush, you fat slob -- you are wrong." Unless, of course, you cannot defend your ideas and must resort to personal attacks.

-- Wally L. Larsen, Redmond

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March 12, 2009 4:00 PM

I-937: the Clean Energy Initiative

Posted by Letters editor


Jackie Johnston, Associated Press

Wind turbines near Kittitas, Wash., are shown in this Dec. 8, 2006, file photo. As climate change looms larger in the nation's future energy plans, wind and other sources of alternative electrical power are getting a closer look.

A recession remedy: renewable energy with stable costs

Editor, The Times:

Leave it to The Times to make it seem like we can't afford to implement the voter-approved Initiative 937 in this time of economic hardship ["Bill would ease energy targets for state utilities," Local News, March 2]. Give me a break!

This is exactly the time we should be implementing it, since it calls for the creation of new jobs by investing in our communities to get our energy from renewable sources. Renewable-energy development would not raise energy rates here or in other states with renewable standards.

Stable costs are a hallmark of renewable energy because the fuel is free and domestic. Continuing to get our energy from hydropower or bringing in renewable energy from further away creates no jobs here.

Scaring people by skewing the facts seems to be the typical conservative approach to prevent any kind of positive change from happening.

-- Gayle Janzen, Seattle

SB 5840 nullifies progress toward a renewable-energy future

Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, misses the big picture by supporting Senate Bill 5840 to roll back our Clean Energy Initiative ["We can be green and protect ratepayers," guest column, March 9].

First, we voted for I-937 to encourage investment in new, renewable energy sources made here in Washington state. Now, Brown wants to grandfather in existing hydropower, nullifying any progress 937 makes toward our renewable-energy future.

Naming an existing power source as a new project eliminates incentives for new investments and jobs in Washington state's emerging clean-energy sector. Our Senate majority leader should not abuse hydro to water down a popular initiative.

And more than compromising the public's initiative, Brown's SB 5840 shirks solutions to climate change and fossil-fuel dependence. Brown should be taking the lead to support I-937 and Gov. Christine Gregoire's legislation to cap and lower global-warming pollution.

These standards would earn Washington state investment and jobs, not to mention an important seat at the table crafting a national cap-and-trade program.

Future generations deserve Washington state's opportunity in the governor's cap-and-trade legislation.

Fresh out of college, I'm one of the millennial generation inheriting economic stagnation and a climate crisis, all of which I will have to pay for over time. At such a crossroads, we need true climate and economic leadership. Brown must not slash at both by diluting our Clean Energy Initiative and orphaning the governor's cap-and-trade legislation.

-- Bonnie Hemphill, Seattle

Free and local fuel to lower taxes and create jobs

When I read Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown's guest column on Initiative 937, the voter-backed people's initiative setting renewable-energy standards for our state, I was astonished. It was as if she hadn't read the legislation.

She calls for amendments to the law to make it more "flexible" to allow other forms of renewable energy, such as geothermal and wave energy, to meet the standards.

But I-937 already provides for these and other forms of renewable energy.

Worst of all, with no evidence whatsoever, Brown claims implementation of I-937 will burden ratepayers. She fails to account for subsidies to wind-and-solar energy, which exist in our state and nationally to make them competitive, or the 17 covered utilities, 16 of which have already met or exceeded their goals.

The fact is, renewable-energy development is not raising energy rates -- not here or in other states with renewable-energy standards. Renewable energy stabilizes costs because the "fuel" is free and local. And, thanks to I-937, the money being invested in communities across our state lowers taxes, creates jobs and puts Washington on the path to a secure energy future.

The people of Washington state, like people across the country, need government to create jobs. Renewable-energy development will create many family-wage jobs for our region. Moreover, the federal government's stimulus of renewable-energy development makes this the time to get more firmly on course to develop our abundant, renewable-energy potential in Washington, as opposed to getting off the train while it is leaving the station.

Allowing utilities to include existing hydropower and other resources does not create any new jobs. And allowing utilities to secure renewable energy in faraway places may create jobs in other states, but not Washington.

What is Brown thinking? Or, is she not thinking, but simply buying some misguided line from one stogie utility that simply does not appear to care what happens to the people of Washington state or our energy future?

-- Katherine Ransel, Seattle

Not the time to celebrate inheriting a network of dams

The intention of the Clean Energy Initiative, I-937, is not to pat ourselves on the back for inheriting a network of dams. It's about choosing to power the next round of growth in our region with clean energy and the jobs produced as a result.

This is why the hydroelectric provisions of Senate Bill 5840 are such a bad idea. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, writing in support of the bill, argues to meet our goal of 15 percent renewable energy by 2020, we should turn back the clock and count the electrical capacity we've already constructed.

The biggest challenge -- and opportunity -- of our era is to re-power our economy in a way that improves the quality of life. As it's now written, SB 5840 would leave us resting on our laurels during this critical moment.

-- Patrick McGrath, Seattle

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March 12, 2009 4:00 PM

Everything-but-marriage bill

Posted by Letters editor


Equality always in jeopardy,
even as state offers protection

I applaud the Washington state Senate and leadership of Sen. Ed Murray, D-Seattle, for passing the domestic-partnership bill ["Action over gay-benefits bill," Times, page one, March 11]. Even in the face of enormous pressure from the extreme religious right, the Senate saw through their lies and sided with equality.

For too long, the extreme religious right has lied to the public about the identity of gay people. They use fear to scare otherwise kind people into thinking homosexuals will hurt their families.

It saddens me they still think we are a threat to the well-being of this country. I will never understand why one group of people can hate another so deeply.

I am grateful the state Senate was able to see through the religious right's illusion. Senators understand lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) citizens are just as valuable and equal as heterosexual citizens.

I will sleep easier tonight knowing my family will finally be protected in Washington state.

But, even as I celebrate, I understand the extreme religious right is already working hard to steal my inalienable rights. As they do, I request the continued support from my straight friends and neighbors. Without you, my equality will always be in jeopardy.

-- Joseph Mirabella, Seattle

Homosexuality no different from left-handedness

What makes people choose to be left-handed? Why can't they be like the rest of us? Should two left-handed people be allowed to marry?

There was a time not long ago when being left-handed was considered sinful, possessed by the devil or downright sinister. Horrific things were done to try to correct this "condition." But, today we know it's a naturally occurring preference that is not harmful in any way.

In fact, five of the past 14 U.S. presidents have been left-handed, to say nothing of the millions of other talented left-handed people who have contributed to our well-being and happiness.

I hope in my lifetime our society will come to understand sexual preference is similar to left-handedness. It's not for everyone, but no one is trying to make it so.

It's a matter of recognizing there are minor variations in people, but everyone has a place, should be loved for who they are and be allowed to show their love just like anyone else.

-- Mark Johnson, Seattle

Unfit survival of the fittest

How can one say marriage between two people of the same sex should be called an inalienable right ["Inalienable right isn't up to a vote," Northwest Voices, March 9]?

There is no problem with gay people wanting to have stable relationships, however the idea of marriage was created by societies to fulfill a certain purpose and need, best known as survival.

There is absolutely no biological, ethical or moral purpose for the marriage of two people of the same sex.

It is only an aberration of what nature intended for humanity in order to exist. Gay marriage has nothing to do with the survival of species. In fact, it's just the opposite; it solidifies a straight path to extinction.

-- Madeleine Eddy, Mercer Island

Marriage: a civil matter, a contract

It's amazing, in this day and age, religious zealots still wage campaigns of ignorance, intolerance and bigotry.

Equitable legal protection for same-sex couples has nothing whatsoever to do with the religious right's own marriages, relationships or personal freedoms. However, it does have everything to do with this country's promise of equal rights.

It's also about protecting the assets of committed, same-sex partners.

Out of interest, I checked out the "commercial" opponents to this bill posted on YouTube.

They deploy outright lies and fear tactics to espouse their bigoted ideology.

Freedom to marry should be for all law-abiding citizens, including same-sex couples.

Opponents to marriage equality may claim it violates their religious beliefs and, as such, their rights, but marriage is a civil matter. A contract.

Such ardent opposition to equal rights for any other minority group would not be tolerated. So, why is it tolerated -- and even celebrated -- when it happens to our law-abiding gay and lesbian citizens?

-- Stan Brownlow, Seattle

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March 12, 2009 4:00 PM

Broadcaster Freedom Act

Posted by Letters editor


Allowing corporations to pollute, deceive and kill

Regarding freedom of speech, please be aware of the difference between the fairness doctrine and the new "Broadcaster Freedom Act" being sneaked into Washington, D.C.'s, Voting Rights bill. It's very reminiscent of Hitler burning books.

Proponents of the act really want total control of all broadcasting. They now have 90 percent control. Please don't let them slip this filthy thing past you. Especially now that our newspapers are in trouble.

We're lucky here. The Times is an independent paper and still does a good job. But sadly, many people depend on broadcasting for their understanding of the world.

Our shortsighted, misguided friends on the right would like to control everything they ever see and hear.

I'm a nurse, and I've watched over the years as big drug companies have taken over what both the doctors and the public are allowed to know -- what serves Big Pharma's interests with absolutely zero regard for our health.

They have created an unholy alliance with big publishing and big broadcasting through their "advertising" (bribery) moneys.

Any big corporate industry will pollute, deceive and kill if we let them. Don't let this so-called Broadcaster Freedom thing slip past you. Push back against it if you still can.

-- Susan Liddell-Jones, Renton

Muddying the waters

Don't muddy the waters; let's not allow it. Voting rights should be for all Americans; broadcasting should be separate.

Let's expose these tricksters! Put their name on the wall for all to see!

-- Marc Carter, Issaquah

Lengthening one's lifeline

Progressive radio is my lifeline. I work with children and need the opportunity to decide
what is true for me.

Talk-radio programs, such as "The Thom Hartmann Program," are intelligent and help me to take part in what is left of our democracy.

-- Jeanie Mandas-Huling, Fall City

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March 12, 2009 4:00 PM

Education

Posted by Letters editor


Choosing real life over imposed homework

I'm so glad to see staff columnist Jerry Large spreading Alfie Kohn's message about the evils of homework ["Homework hater's spiel makes sense," Local News, March 9].

I know many families that struggle with homework and whose kids have no down time. When my friend talks about her sixth-grader doing two hours of homework a night, I feel horrified -- and a little guilty -- because homework never intrudes on my family's evenings.

What I want for my 11-year-old son is much like what Kohn's audience listed as long-term goals for their children: "Be a mensch, happy, independent, curious, self-motivated, passionate ... "

My son's unusual school supports him to develop these attributes. At The Clearwater School, he doesn't get homework or grades. Instead, he chooses how to spend his time and what to learn. The students also make the rules, mediate disputes between other students and hire and fire staff.

My son doesn't see reading as a chore and has time to read for pleasure. I sent him to Clearwater because I wanted him to be happy and develop his whole self.

Indulgent? Maybe. But, Clearwater students grow into well-rounded adults with practical skills employers and colleges love. Every day, my son makes real decisions that affect his life and community.

At Clearwater, school isn't drilling to practice responsibility; it's real life.

-- Amanda Klein, Seattle

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March 12, 2009 4:00 PM

Sea Lions

Posted by Letters editor


Unjustly scapegoated when humans are the real problem

In Baja California you can swim with these curious, playful mammals. In Oregon and Washington, they are killed. I am appalled at the plan to shoot 85 California sea lions at Bonneville Dam each year for the next five years.

The Environmental Assessment is the sea lions eat from .4 to 4 percent of spring salmon, which the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) considers to be a "significant impact" on salmon recovery, while fishermen are allowed 13 percent and are considered an "insignificant impact."

Dams alone kill 10 percent of adult fish. It is obvious sea lions are being unjustly scapegoated by government agencies; the real threats to salmon populations are caused by humans overfishing, building dams and destroying their habitat.

Killing sea lions does not address these core problems; our money is better spent on conservation strategies.

Columbia River cruising has been a $50 million per year business, bringing people from all over the world to see the wildlife and natural beauty of the Gorge. I can imagine a cruise ship plowing its way up the river through a maze of fishing boats and the cruise director saying, as they pass through the Bonneville lock, "and over here you can see
the sharp shooters killing the 'federally protected' sea lions."

-- Melba Gohl, White Salmon

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March 12, 2009 4:00 PM

State park closures

Posted by Letters editor


Casualties of reckless, past spending

It's not enough that Gov. Christine Gregoire asked the Washington State Parks Department to prepare for a $10 million reduction in their budget for the next two years and the closure of 13 state parks in the process. Now our fiscally challenged governor is asking the Washington State Parks Department to prepare for a $23 million reduction and the mothball of up to 33 parks.

This is insane! These are tough times, but there are far-better solutions than mothballing and liquidating our parks.

Consider a day-use fee. But, make it nominal and equitable. Almost every other state, from conservative Idaho to liberal Connecticut, charges day-use fees. Many states, such as Florida, are raising their fees to meet this fiscal crisis, and the citizenry supports it.

Consider the privatization of certain concessions, such as camping, at some of our parks to reduce government expenditures and help bring in more revenue. British Columbia does this with their provincial parks.

Consider a special lottery to help pay for parks, like what Oregon implemented several years ago.

Consider selling bonds to keep parks open. New Jersey is currently considering this idea.

But do not -- absolutely do not -- close or mothball our parks! I find it absolutely absurd we are getting ready to celebrate our state parks' centennial in four years and this is how we'll show it: by closing and liquidating our parks.

I am absolutely fed up with how our governors and legislators (former Gov. Gary Locke liquidated a handful of state parks earlier this decade) have consistently shown such a lack of commitment to our state parks.

Call and write your representatives and demand that our parks not be the casualties of
reckless past spending. We expect our public officials care for and protect our natural and cultural heritage -- not liquidate it.

-- Craig Romano, Mount Vernon

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March 12, 2009 4:00 PM

Cal Coburn Brown's execution

Posted by Letters editor


Opposition hoping to dupe less-emotional thinkers

As we approach the execution of Cal Coburn Brown, opponents of the death penalty argue we should cease executions because it is cheaper than continuing them ["State prepares for first execution since 2001," Local News, March 9].

There are a number of problems with this argument. First, the reason the death penalty is so expensive is because of the frivolous legal challenges mounted by these very same opponents. Their tactics are akin to extortion. If they really wanted to lower the cost of justice, they would help expedite the executions, not inhibit them.

Second, by basing their argument on costs, they imply they would favor executions if a way could be found to lower the costs of execution to a price less than life in prison.

Let's skip the hypocrisy.

The opponents of the death penalty are morally opposed to it at any price, but rather
than wave their Bible at us, they are tossing out tortured, amoral arguments in the hopes of duping less-emotional thinkers.

-- Dick Dickinson, Seattle

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March 11, 2009 4:00 PM

The economy

Posted by Letters editor




George Widman / Associated Press (file)


In this April 6, 1983, file photo, some of an anticipated group of 10,000 unemployed wait in the steady rain for President Ronald Reagan to arrive at his hotel in Pittsburgh, Pa., as he visits the city to at the National Conference on the Dislocated Worker. The 1981-82 recession, widely considered America's worst since the Depression, is a grim marker of how bad things can get. Yet the nation's current recession could slice deeper into the U.S. economy, and if it lasts into April 2009, will be on record as the longest in postwar history.


It will be what we make it

Editor, The Times:

David Sirota's March 9 syndicated column was titled, "Somehow, 'apocalypse' seems right for the times." Balderdash. What is happening right now is not "the apocalypse." It is the ending of 20th-century America, nothing more.

Twentieth-century America was different from 19th-century America, and 21st-century America will be different from 20th-century America.

This is because the world changes.

What will 21st-century America be like? It will be like we make it.

-- David South, Redmond

Real solutions, not frivolous spending or increased taxes

I have recently read the 12 ideas from American Solutions, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's political-action group, and many of them make sense.

A payroll-tax stimulus temporary tax credit could offset 50 percent of the payroll tax. Reduce the marginal tax rate of 25 percent down to 15 percent. Reduce the business-tax rate to 12.5 percent, giving businesses more money to invest in themselves and, thus, create more jobs.

Invest in a new, expanded, electric power grid and a new air-traffic-control system to reduce delays in air travel and save passengers, employees and airlines billions of dollars per year. Abolish taxes on capital gains and the death tax.

These ideas are common sense and do not grow government, raise taxes or significantly increase spending. We need real solutions, not frivolous spending.

-- Todd Welch, Everett

Massive intervention tainted with political maneuvering

Jon Talton misses the actual cause of the stock-price decline, which worsens with every government pronouncement, in his blog ["So can this stock rally be sustained?" Sound Economy with Jon Talton, Business, March 10].

The U.S. government pushed loans on people who couldn't afford them, instead of getting out of their way so they could earn them, coerced regulated banks by inferred threat of not approving changes in their companies and mismanaged Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, ignoring warnings of risks while the manager ran a Ponzi-like scheme.

Now, massive intervention tainted with political maneuvering is routine.

Faced with deficit spending or worse, the printing of money, and, thus, inflation, instability of economics and political policy (with flip-flops and money spent on other than what it was approved for) and micromanaging without insisting on management performance, why would investors have the confidence needed to bet on the near future?

Some are even "going John Galt," to quote an increasingly popular phrase.

Our finite lives require protection against the initiation of physical force, which includes fraud as explained by Tara Smith in Moral Rights and Political Freedom.

People must be free to reject the dishonest and incompetent and reward the good. No one forced people to buy shares of the sloppily-run Washington Mutual, but politicians are forcing taxpayers to subsidize long-mismanaged car manufacturers.

In Canada and the U.S., we enjoy the peace and prosperity that comes from individual freedom protected by a justice system, the social system that resulted in tremendous advances in food production, medical care and weather protection.

Sadly, some ignore history, proving badly-run companies fail, governments have a poor record of choosing potential winners, politicians use their political power to force bad economics with free-lunch schemes, and control-minded regimes don't feed people.

-- Keith Sketchley, Saanich, B.C.

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March 11, 2009 4:00 PM

Worker Privacy Act

Posted by Letters editor

Ironically leading to coercion and lack of privacy

In a guest column discussing the proposed Worker Privacy Act, Dave Schmitz says people should have their privacy respected and be free of coercion ["Worker Privacy Act: the right thing to do," March 10].

I agree completely with these principles.

Yet, ironically, unions are making a massive push to go in the complete opposite direction. With the so-called Employee "Free Choice" Act, one of our most basic rights, the secret ballot, could be removed. This would allow unions to see who didn't vote their way and prompt them to make house calls.

Talk about coercion and lack of privacy.

On another major front that has a huge impact on the future success of our children, public education, unions have fought tooth and nail against any sort of free choice in education.

Based on the actual actions of unions, it seems privacy and freedom of choice are not things they truly value.

We don't need our rights taken away by some bill with another false front.

-- Chris Waldorf, Seattle

Calling for pressure by oppressive union goons

In his March 10 column, Dave Schmitz, a union president, deliberately omits the fact that the Workers Privacy Act protects workers' privacy from employers' arguments, but replaces it with clear identification to unions of employees who are against unionization, through the act's card "voting" system.

The act allows employees to submit cards to a union if they favor unionization. If a majority of employees submits cards, unionization is relatively automatic.

In other words, employees' privacy is surrendered to the unions.

Employees who do not favor unionization and do not submit cards become targets for union pressure. Pressure by union goons has often been far more oppressive than simply listening to company discussions on company time. Listening is one thing; one does not have to change one's mind and the boss need never know how one feels.

But, history proves letting unions know you are against them can be trouble.

The Worker Privacy Act is not about protecting privacy: it is about senators and representatives hoping to get re-elected by surrendering employees' privacy to unions.

-- Spencer Higley, Edmonds

Wasting time with ill-intended rubbish

Congress is currently debating a bill amazingly titled the Employee Free Choice Act. I say "amazingly" because it is just the opposite of what it purports to be.

At present, there is a straightforward method for employees to gain union representation: They sign a card indicating their potential interest, a brief campaign is held, and they vote their interest in secrecy. There is no intimidation from any direction and the employee truly has the ultimate freedom to vote as he or she chooses.

This so-called "Free Choice Act" will eliminate the secret ballot so that signing the card is construed to be the vote. Make no mistake about it, the bill is intended to allow unionization efforts to succeed, when they would otherwise fail, by taking away perspective employees' right to privacy.

Peer pressure and forceful union recruiters will coerce representation votes out in the open.

Just how does reducing employee rights qualify as "free choice"? The answer is, it doesn't. The name is only intended to deceive you.

This bill is about paying back campaign contributions in the form of ill-gotten union dues at the expense of employee privacy.

The playing field is level today. The process happens everyday. Don't let deceitful politicians fool you with emotional rhetoric spewed out to help them succeed in achieving their own self-focused and unprincipled objectives. Our senators and members of Congress should be focusing on stimulating the economy, not wasting their time with ill-intended rubbish such as this.

-- Sharon Wilson, Mulilteo

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March 11, 2009 4:00 PM

Stem-cell research

Posted by Letters editor


Fighting the medical-waste monster

Let's say I'm a parent and my young child suffers a head injury, is brain-dead and cannot survive on life support for more than a few hours. As a parent, I have the right to donate my child's organs, despite the fact the child never signed a document stating he or she wanted to donate organs and couldn't have signed such a document because they were under the age of consent.

What sort of monster would step in and tell the grieving parents they cannot donate their child's organs, so something positive can come from their tragedy?

Now, suppose my wife and I must use in-vitro fertilization to have children, so we donate sperm and eggs for the process. We subsequently have three wonderful children and don't want any more, but there are a dozen fertilized eggs still frozen in vitro, and we have to decide what to do with these remaining embryos.

The clinic is under no obligation to preserve the extra embryos in perpetuity, so, in all likelihood, they will eventually be destroyed.

What we cannot do is donate their organs because they don't have any. So, what then, is wrong with donating the embryos for stem-cell research, which might play some small part in saving the lives and health of more human beings than could ever be helped by donating one child's organs?

There is a clear equivalency here with respect to the parents' rights. It seems if you are against using donated embryos (not for monetary benefit) for stem-cell research, then, in order to be morally and ethically consistent, you must also be against in-vitro fertilization, which creates extra embryos, and allowing parents to donate a child's organs in the case of the accidental death of a child.

What sort of monster would force parents to allow a clinic to discard extra embryos as medical waste when they could choose a fate of greater benevolence for these embryos?

-- Bob Kennedy, Kent

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March 11, 2009 4:00 PM

The environment

Posted by Letters editor

Addressing the fundamental cause: overpopulation

I read your editorial "Environmental Remedy" in the March 6 Times.

There are very few environmental issues unrelated to the impact of human overpopulation. Government regulations may seek to address the symptoms of overpopulation or environmental impact, but will do little to address the fundamental cause.

Thus, environmental policies of the hated former President Bush or the much-loved President Obama, or your support or opposition of such polices, will make no difference.

-- John Cartmell, Redmond

Aiding the Arctic

In his first international visit as president, President Obama pledged to work with Canada's government toward a clean-energy future. A vital part of this clean-energy future must be the protection of our shared wild places, including the Arctic region, suffering most from the impacts of global warming.

Over the past 50 years, global temperatures have increased an average of more than 1-degree Fahrenheit, but temperatures in the Arctic have increased by an average of 4 degrees.

After eight years of the Bush administration pushing to develop this region with no regard to the global impacts, both the United States and Canada must develop a comprehensive energy plan that includes protection for the land, water, wildlife and people of the Arctic.

As part of this plan, certain places in the Arctic must be kept off-limits, including the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, known as the "sacred place where life begins" to the people of the Gwich'in Nation, which is both American and Canadian land.

Any industrial development in the Arctic region must not compound the damage already done.

-- Kit McGurn, Seattle

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March 11, 2009 4:00 PM

Immigration, security

Posted by Letters editor

In an attempt to stop terror, raids terrorize communities

The raid that took place last week in a Bellingham factory goes against President Obama's promise of stopping raids at the workplace and working for comprehensive immigration reform ["Illegal immigrants arrested at Bellingham engine plant," Local News, Feb, 25].

These actions are not going to help anyone in "the U.S. war against terrorism." I want to ask if any of these people committed a crime other than coming to the U.S. with no documentation, in order to help their families and this country with all their hard work?

These actions are having a negative effect; they divide families, hurt businesses and make communities and minorities feel unsafe. They terrorize people, making them live in fear every day they go to work or, even worse, feel unsafe in their own homes.

I want to say thank you to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano for her decision to review the raid in the Bellingham factory.

At the same time l would like to ask her to take firm steps to promote reform. We demand an end to raids.

My family and friends ask for your support of comprehensive immigration reform.

-- Antonio Malagon, Seattle

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March 11, 2009 4:00 PM

Chris Brown's felony charges

Posted by Letters editor

Permanent as a crevice in a stone statue

A rabbit's dropping, dressed in cherry skin, does not become another thing, and a punk in a suit, surrounded by glamour with a talented voice, is still a punk ["Singer charged with 2 felonies," News, March 6].

Once a man has demonstrated an inability to exercise restraint at times of emotional turpitude, a character trait is exposed as ineffable and permanent as a crevice in a statue carved in stone.

Time and treatment will serve only to obscure reality until the moment when it finds another victim.

Apologies are meaningless when nature calls another day.

But, Chris Brown is a star, and he will walk away with little more than just a slap that his oblivious devotees will relegate to their most-developed feature: impulsive, short-term memory.

-- Michael White, Brush Prairie

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March 10, 2009 4:00 PM

Jon Brockman

Posted by Letters editor


Dean Rutz / The Seattle Times

Jon Brockman stays well-grounded by remembering where he comes from, and returning there often. His parents keep a room in their Snohomish home with a small sampling of his awards.


Helping children with special needs

Editor, The Times:

How refreshing it was to see a front-page article on Jon Brockman, Snohomish's "Hometown Hero" [March 6]. In these days of so much gloom in our news, it was a treat to have an article about a wonderful human being.

Obviously, he has been a prime motivator for his Washington Husky teammates. His love of family and care of community are strong.

I had the privilege of getting to know Brockman when he was in middle school. He volunteered with an after-school program I organized for our athletes with special needs. He was at our weekly sessions both pre- and post-basketball season for several years from middle school until high-school graduation.

He came to our annual "Sno-Wheels Games." He often would be there early to help set up the gym, do registration and lead our Pledge of Allegiance.

When he became a Husky, he continued to come to our games and lead the Pledge. He worked with the athletes on basketball skills; the athletes always loved playing with Brockman.

-- Elinor Vandegrift, Kenmore

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March 10, 2009 4:00 PM

Special-education alternative to the WASL

Posted by Letters editor


Exposing kindergarten minds to 10-grade curricula is a waste of tax dollars

I am writing regarding Seattle Public Schools' special-education teachers who were suspended for not administering the Washington Alternative Assessment System (WAAS) ["Pair suspended for failure to test special-ed kids," Times, page one, March 6].

I am both a special-education teacher and the parent of a child with severe autism. I have taught special education for almost 20 years and have administered the WAAS, the alternative to the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL), since its inception. I, for one, am glad to finally see someone has decided to do something about this test.

I teach high-school students with severe autism and moderate-to-severe developmental disabilities. My students neither read nor write. They should be acquiring life skills, so they can become as independent as possible.

Instead, I am rewriting novels, such as "Emma," this year because the WAAS Portfolio requires students to read 10th grade-level texts, write three-paragraph expository essays, complete scientific investigations and extend linear patterns.

These students only have so many years of free and public education left, and we are wasting time exposing them to 10th-grade curricula when their skills are at a Kindergarten level.

Why are we doing this?

If they could do sophomore-level work, they would be in sophomore-level classes.

These students are frustrated because the work is difficult. They do not understand why they are made to complete these assignments.

When I complete my paperwork showing how they are progressing on their Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), I am frustrated because we are wasting valuable time doing tasks that will not help them gain employment skills, community access or daily-living skills.

The IEP is supposed to drive the program and services for the child, but the WAAS completely contradicts what these students are supposed to be doing.

As the parent of a 7-year-old severly disabled child, who will have to compile a WAAS Portfolio next year, I will be opting him out of it. I want him working on the skills that really matter, such as tying his shoes, using the bathroom or communicating, instead of wasting valuable educational time doing senseless, meaningless tasks to please the state.

-- Jennifer Bosanko, M.Ed., Federal Way

An ice-cold response to disabled students' families

My child is one of the Green Lake Elementary students with severe cognitive and physical disabilities being affected by the loss of her teacher for two weeks.

I would like to add that, as of writing this letter, we, the parents of "Team A," have received zero communication from the district or principal regarding this unfortunate situation.

My Washington Alternative Assessment System (WAAS) refusal letter was e-mailed Jan. 27 to eight individuals at Seattle Public Schools. Not one person has acknowledged receipt of it, validated my concerns or assured me that ultimately my request will be honored.

There has been no note, e-mail or phone call regarding the sudden absence of one of the most important people in my daughter's life. There has been no reassurance the substitute teachers will be able to handle the profound and diverse needs of the 11 children in my daughter's classroom. What I "hear" is that the administrators "can't discuss human-resource issues," but this is no excuse for the ice-cold response to our families.

I suspect no one will have the courage to step up and admit their response was overly harsh and heavy-handed. However, it shouldn't be too much to ask that someone assure Team A families that despite how it looks to the outside world, our children will be safe, well cared for and possibly even taught something during these two weeks.

It appears Seattle Public Schools' allegiance is first to their legal department.

-- Lisa Boeckh, Seattle

Special ed versus general ed: fighting for all students instead

I found myself shocked and dismayed by a recent Times article reporting two special-education teachers at Green Lake Elementary School suspended for refusing to give the Washington Alternative Assessment System (WAAS) to six students.

I lack details beyond those provided in the article and, therefore, am hesitant to pronounce where fault lies. However, it cannot be overlooked that a 10-day suspension seems to benefit no one, least of all the children being served.

After all, these two teachers work with profoundly disabled children and, by the very nature of their work, have skills that are not easily replaced. Beyond the specifics of this incident, it appears necessary that the district review its regulations, making sure all staff involved understand the regulations and are aware of the implications of violating them.

That said, what is even more disturbing to me is the level of invective directed by some individuals against students served by special education on the public-feedback venue of The Times' Web site. A number of comments were downright offensive, and many demonstrated a level of ignorance regarding children with disabilities that was frankly startling.

How is it possible in this day and age -- and especially in a place as "progressive" as Seattle -- that someone can say their child is worth more than another because their child does not have a disability? How can they advocate the removal of children with more severe disabilities from public schools?

Perhaps I'm naive, but I thought the civil-rights movement effectively discredited the notion of "separate but equal."

One argument is children served by special education take precious public funds away from general education. On the contrary, children with disabilities bring additional funds to the schools they attend. According to the Funding Washington Schools Web site, $4,899 was allotted for every general-ed student in the 2007-8 school year; an additional $4,362 was allotted for each student in special ed.

The extra funding for the students in special education comes from state and federal sources and is not taken away from general-ed students.

In addition, school districts can apply for "safety net" funds to help with high-cost students. Under the site-based management approach of Seattle Public Schools, up until now each building has largely determined the allocation of its resources, opening the possibility for special-ed funds to be designated for purposes other than special education.

Public education is failing all students -- general and special-ed alike. We are in this together and need to join forces to press our elected officials and school administrators for true "excellence for all."

-- Janet Anderson, Special Ed PTSA president, Seattle

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March 10, 2009 4:00 PM

Health care

Posted by Letters editor

Low percentages does not equal low-bar charity care

The Times' article "Report: Health-care disparities shortchange minorities, poor" [Local News, March 4] may have had good intentions, but it misrepresented Virginia Mason's work to care for our community's underserved.

Virginia Mason (VM) is an integrated medical center with a downtown hospital and clinic, as well as regional clinics. When looking at charity care as a percentage of gross revenue, the total revenue included in this calculation matters.

At VM, unlike others, our gross revenue includes physician-clinic revenue, so comparisons with "hospital-only" systems are not "apples to apples."

When comparing Medicaid revenue as a percentage of gross revenue, readers should understand we do not provide pediatric-inpatient care, nor do we deliver babies -- two service areas with significant Medicaid use.

Clearly, our percentages will be lower.

Virginia Mason's community-benefit activities stretch well beyond the charity-care numbers reported. Among our subsidized health services we operate the Bailey-Boushay House, a nursing residence and outpatient center for people with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses.

This nationally recognized facility has a 16-year history of offering residential and outpatient programs for the very people we were criticized for underserving. Many clients suffer from substance abuse, psychiatric illnesses and homelessness, and nearly half of those served in 2008 were people of color.

I'm proud of the work we do at Virginia Mason in service to our community, and I strongly encourage people to visit our Web site, www.virginiaMason.org/communitybenefit, to read the full story.

-- Suzanne Anderson, Virginia Mason Medical Center senior vice president, Seattle

Stopping to smell the stench in the stampede toward National health care

The first job I had after graduating high school was as a delivery man for the largest florist in Houston.

My duties included traveling to private residences, businesses, funeral homes and hospitals; Houston has one of the largest, most advanced medical complexes in the world. Most of the hospitals were a pleasure to deliver to, as they allowed access to the nurse's station, and I always enjoyed the labor-and-delivery floor, looking through the glass at newborns.

The worst place to go, even worse than funeral homes, was the Veteran's Administration Hospital. They made me go to the patients' room -- there were four or more patients per ward -- and there was always the stench of urine and someone moaning loudly or calling out for assistance. It did not matter what floor to which I was directed. I doubt things have changed much in the interim.

It seems to me that in our stampede toward national health care, we should all visit our local VA hospital and speak with a few of the registered patients there to find out how much they like the original form of United States "free" health care.

Maybe a trip to a nursing home funded by Medicare or Medicaid would also make a nice side trip.

Margaret Thatcher once said, "The only problem with socialism is that eventually, you always run out of someone else's money."

I say: Where there is no competition, there is no excellence.

-- Konrad Lau, Sedro-Woolley

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March 10, 2009 4:00 PM

Green fuels

Posted by Letters editor


Moving us down a dead-end road

Whenever I see an article about "eco-friendly fuels" ["Governors envision eco-friendly fuels at I-5 rest stops," page one, March 8], I want to cry. Biodiesel and ethanol are far more injurious to the planet than fossil fuels, yet those who want to be "green" continue to go blindly down this dead-end road.

No one wants to think about the disastrous effects of using land to grow crops for the sole purpose of feeding our cars. Not only are food prices being driven up in poor nations, but rain forests all over the planet are being cut down by developing nations jumping on the biofuels bandwagon.

When it's finally too late -- when the last acre of rain forest is destroyed -- what will we tell our children? How will we explain the final, traumatic stress to the world biosphere came from people who claimed to be the "good guys"?

Biofuel fanatics are as stubborn as global-warming deniers in their refusal to consider the inconvenient truth.

History will remember them as the "bad guys."

-- James Freudiger, Seattle

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March 10, 2009 4:00 PM

Neah Bay rescue tug

Posted by Letters editor


Serving special interests, not vessels in distress

The proposal to station a tugboat at Neah Bay ["State coast may get coveted rescue tug," Local News, March 7] will benefit some special interests: residents of Neah Bay, who will benefit economically from the people and equipment stationed there, and the lucky tug company that wins the contract to park one of their boats on the coast and get paid for it.

It will not provide the environmental safety net that some would have us believe.

Every day, hundreds of active tugboats ply Puget Sound waters 24/7. At any one time, several of these big oceangoing tugs are in closer proximity to disabled vessels than a Neah Bay tug would be.

These are the tugs that currently respond to vessels in distress. Thanks to these working "rescue tugs," there has not been a drift grounding in Puget Sound since before World War II.

Further, wind and current conditions would push a disabled vessel north, away from the U.S. coastline -- and the Neah Bay tug's ability to chase it.

A better station for such a tug would be Tofino on Vancouver Island, where a tug could come out to meet a disabled vessel.

But, where's the financial benefit to U.S. special interests in that?

-- Peter Philips, Seattle

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March 10, 2009 4:00 PM

Seattle noise rules

Posted by Letters editor

A win-win: fixing potholes and prohibiting costly nighttime construction

What on Earth was the Seattle City Council thinking this time around ["Seattle council votes to soften noise rules," Local News, March 3]?

I pity the poor residents who will shortly begin to feel the effects of this senseless decision, which will virtually permit construction noise 24/7.

Instead of pursuing "noise abatement," the council is basically giving consent to round-the-clock and, apparently in perpetuity, totally unacceptable noise levels resulting from big construction projects.

Shame on each and every council member for their uncaring and thoughtless attitudes. The city council most likely also never looked at the budgetary side of this issue.

Every middle-school-age youngster knows today that the least expensive work is done during daytime hours, while swing shift and night work are at the very least 10 percent more costly.

If the council feels that they have this kind of money at its disposal, maybe it should spend it on filling the endless number of potholes in our roads, which wreck the vehicles of drivers commuting to and from the city, as well as from Puget Sound to Lake Washington.

This would be a win-win solution. The neighbors in the areas where construction is going to happen would get their well-deserved nighttime rest, and all of us could drive more safely on better-maintained roadways.

-- Ruth Quiban, Seattle

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March 9, 2009 4:00 PM

Federal stimulus and tax plans

Posted by Letters editor




Stephen Crowley/The New York Times


President Obama meets with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Rep. Zack Space, D-Ohio, in his office aboard Air Force One on Friday. The president was joined on a trip to Ohio by members of that state's Congressional delegation.

Liberal idealism destroying capital creation

Editor, The Times:

Froma Harrop, in her March 7 column, "Obama tax proposals are no recipe for revolution" [Times], ends by saying, "The rich can keep their heads -- and may they prosper another day."

The headline and ending reveal two points I wish to make.

First, Harrop lacks sufficient understanding to argue economics, so instead mocks Republicans to cheerlead for The One. She even stoops to the ridiculous canard that allowing Bush-tax cuts to expire is not a tax hike. Oh really?

Second, it's not the rich Harrop should worry about; it's the hard-pressed, working-class Democrats she could care about.

Any serious examination of tax-policy consequences will show, here and all over the world, that lower taxes on high earners, capital gains and businesses are the best ways to create jobs and lift living standards for working people.

Obamanomics has already deepened the recession. It will soon lead to rampant inflation, continued high unemployment and low growth, the result of letting liberal idealism destroy capital creation, free markets and the creative energy of the private sector.

This, I believe, is certain. The only question is: When will Americans wake up?

-- Robert Wilkes, Bellevue

At the end of the loan line, ready to put money under a mattress

The current situation this nation is experiencing has been the work of 28 years of deregulation by our government.

Banks are looking at the end of the line. They are experiencing the consequences of their own lending practices.

The housing market got so saturated with new homes, the mentality became, "If you build it, they will come."

I wonder if banks made new lending procedures with the intent of keeping the largest of the building companies in business. In doing so, these large companies wouldn't default on the multimillion- or multibillion-dollar bank loans. And, the circle continues.

If I apply for a loan with the sole intent to invest in the stock market, am I really making money?

When the market got flooded with this type of investing, it got inflated. Then, in order to lower the interest rate to unbelievable lows, the Department of the Treasury basically discouraged people from making "safe" investments.

I almost feel better taking the money I have out of the bank and putting it under my mattress.

Expecting President Obama to solve this in six weeks is ridiculous! Good luck, Obama!

-- Joel Schroder, Seattle

Rich getting richer, not by an invisible hand

I am compelled to respond to Redmond resident Henry Kroeger's letter to the editor ["The envy of the world: free-enterprise system," Northwest Voices, March 7].

Kroeger asks: "Do you really want the government to take care of you?" I think he forgets who the government is in a democracy. It is the people. And yes, we, the government, take care of ourselves in the form of Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, etc.

Ever since Franklin D. Roosevelt, we have had government programs in place to help the poor and unfortunate get back on their feet. Roosevelt was a very popular president then and even now.

The fact is, a big majority of people, myself included, voted for Obama because of what policies he would put in place.

Here is something to keep in mind: If we don't help those who are struggling to keep their houses, if we don't spend money to stimulate the economy and if we don't reverse the trend of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, there will be a revolution. You could say goodbye to the United States as we know it.

The fact is the rich have gotten richer precisely because of policies put in place by the government. This isn't just the "invisible hand of the market" working here.

Study after study has shown that the poorest among us pay the biggest percentage of our income in taxes. I am talking about all taxes: local, state and federal combined.

For some reason, Republicans forget Americans pay more than simply federal income taxes.

-- Paul McDevitt, Seattle

Glossing over 40 years of conservative-economic policy

I am responding to the March 7 letter to the editor by Henry Kroeger of Redmond.

In our national debate on economic policy, too much is being glossed over.

Let us consider what conservative economic policy over the past 40 years has given us: tax breaks for shipping jobs overseas, trade treaties creating an uneven playing field for family-wage jobs, deregulation of financial markets, failure to enforce antitrust law, a growing gap between rich and working poor, a disappearing middle class, medical-care costs spiraling out of control, working people becoming homeless, family farms all but gone, consolidation of news organizations into fewer and fewer hands and the importation of dangerous food, toys and other products.

Who has benefited from this other than the ultrarich?

Go ahead, try to explain what this does for families or our country.

Tell it to the engineer who now flips hamburgers just to survive. Tell it to the dad who now works three jobs and, therefore, does not have the time or energy to invest in his family. Tell it to the family that is bankrupt by medical-care costs. Tell it to the senior who must choose between paying for heating or medicine.

-- Arnie Knudson, Lynwood

Spending our way out of this stuck state

I have a suggestion to help get us out of recession. During World War I and II, people were asked to do their patriotic duty and buy war bonds. Why not institute a national "Buy Something Day" once a month?

How about for the next two years on, say, the 5th of the month -- when people's paychecks are in and their Social Security is deposited -- everyone in the country is asked to buy something they wouldn't ordinarily buy. Something other than necessities, such as food, gasoline or basic clothing.

If someone was broke or laid off, it could be something as small as a newspaper, magazine or a single flower from a florist. Just something material, preferably made in America. People with more money could perhaps consider buying larger-ticket items they have been putting off purchasing. I'm on disability and have a low income myself, but would be happy to purchase something extra once a month to help the manufacturing and the retail industries.

It's just a thought -- something we could all easily do that might help move things out of this stuck state. That is, if everybody did it!

-- Joy Jaber, Hansville

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March 9, 2009 4:00 PM

President Obama moves to the left

Posted by Letters editor


A socialist shift from for-profits to nonprofits

Because of the derivatives market, the Obama administration cannot allow any large company to declare bankruptcy. Credit-default swaps, the main type of derivative, is a bet a company will default on its debt. So while a company may have only a few billion dollars in debt, the actual amount of debt involved could be $100 billion.

The money being paid to AIG by the government is going to the owners of AIG derivatives. This is a bottomless pit.

Derivatives are bought not just as protection against default, but as a means to profit from bankruptcies by third parties who haven't extended credit to the bankrupt companies.

Socialism is the answer.

Not any kind of socialism; profit-making companies on the brink should have the option of becoming nonprofits and be encouraged to do so by the government. Other means besides donations and government grants should be used to finance nonprofits

The government has passed many laws that have helped profit-making corporations finance themselves. The government should make the same effort to enable nonprofits to finance themselves.

In our nation, the profit motive is overused. The profit motive has brought about deregulation and lack of regulation.

Derivatives should have been regulated. The government doesn't have the money to pay the owners of derivatives. Some estimates of the debt involved in the derivative markets is a quadrillion dollars. The profit motive has brought about this market.

Allowing profit-making companies to become nonprofits is one way to avoid default and a collapse of the derivatives market. This kind of socialism also has the potential of getting the taxpayer off the hook.

-- Dale McCracken, Renton

Pondering the political payoff

Charles Krauthammer's excellent column regarding President Obama's social agenda didn't suggest the political-payoff reasons for this agenda ["Beware Obama's 'Big Bang' social agenda," Times, syndicated column, March 8], namely:

-- Alternative-energy sources and punishment of oil and gas for militant environmentalists;

-- Health-care for all for the governmental bureaucracy, and;

-- Increased funding for public education for the National Education Association.

-- Bob Dorse, Seattle

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March 9, 2009 4:00 PM

Mexican drug cartels

Posted by Letters editor


American weapons signaling an American problem

Congress must act to slow the flow of weapons in Mexico.

Horrific drug-cartel violence recently prompted the Pentagon's Joint Forces Command to rank Mexico alongside Pakistan as a nation at risk of rapid and sudden collapse. And, it prompted the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to urge American students to avoid spring-break trips to Tijuana and other parts of Baja California.

But the violence in Mexico is not just a problem for Mexico; it's America's problem, too.

In Arizona, according to The New York Times, there were an astounding 241 border-related kidnappings or hostage takings in the Phoenix area last year alone. In fact, authorities said this figure was actually understated.

Texas, too, has felt the spillover of Mexico's violence.

There are at least two other factors making Mexico's problem our problem. First, it is, after all, America's insatiable demand for drugs that fuels the $10 billion drug-trafficking business in Mexico.

Second, the tens of thousands of weapons used by Mexican cartels in their unrelenting campaign of intimidation and mayhem -- from small-caliber pistols to military-style assault weapons and armor-piercing ammunition -- come largely from north of the border.

U.S. and Mexican officials say 90 percent of the cartels' weapons come from the United States.

This country's demand for drugs has long been understood. The gun issue has only recently begun to get the widespread attention it deserves.

There are numerous steps the U.S. Congress and the Obama administration need to take to slow the cascade of arms to Mexico and help curb the violence:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., says she will introduce legislation to reinstate a federal ban on assault weapons such as the AK-47 rifle, which has become the Mexican cartels' weapon of choice. Feinstein needs to act quickly, and Congress should enact it without delay.

ATF has reportedly only 200 agents assigned to monitor the thousands of licensed gun dealers in the country, more than 6,600 of which are along the border. The agency clearly needs more resources, which Congress should provide.

Congress should enact federal legislation requiring, at the very least, sales at gun shows be subject to the same computerized, FBI background checks applied to sales at licensed gun stores.

There are no federal limits on the number of guns that can be legally purchased at one time. In fact, though sales of more than one handgun at a time must be reported to ATF, a single buyer can purchase as many long guns, including military-style semi-automatics, as he or she wants with no report of the sale to the federal government.

This is crazy.

Border inspection of traffic headed into Mexico is Mexico's responsibility, just as inspection of traffic headed north into the United States is our responsibility.

Drug-cartel violence reportedly killed 6,290 people in Mexico last year. It has taken the lives of more than 1,000 people already in 2009.

Most of the weapons used in those vicious killings came from the United States.

This is our problem, too.

-- Robert Wright, Yakima

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March 9, 2009 4:00 PM

Middle East affairs

Posted by Letters editor


A broken promise

I must say I am glad President Obama is taking some steps toward bringing our troops home from Iraq, but I am disheartened by his decision to push withdrawal back to August 2010 and leave up to 50,000 residual troops in the area until December 2011.

This marks a broken promise to the American people, who want our troops home now.

An estimated 1 million Iraqis and 4,253 American troops and have already died in this unnecessary war.

A recent article in The New York Times spoke of the brutal reality of Iraqi war widows:

"As the war has ground on," the article states, "government and social-service organizations say the women's needs have come to exceed available help, posing a threat to the stability of the country's tenuous social structures."

Our money should go toward helping Iraqis rebuild their shattered lives, not toward maintaining U.S. bases and military operations.

I call on Obama and his administration to immediately withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq, as well as contractors and mercenary forces.

The U.S. government should increase efforts in diplomacy, humanitarian aid and refugee resettlement, instead. Continued troop presence will only encourage more armed opposition within Iraq and will not force the Iraqi government and Iraqi factions to negotiate power.

In addition, with the continued presence of U.S. troops, the international community will doubt U.S. commitment to withdrawal and will wait to invest in diplomacy and reconstruction efforts.

-- Gabriel Lavalle, Lynnwood

Time to preserve our pennies at home, reduce our pennies abroad

At a time when we need every penny at home, our involvement with Afghanistan grows deeper every day, and apparently we do not have a clear objective for such occupation.

If our objective is to prop up the corrupt Karzai government, we will have to stay there endlessly.

If we are there to stop opium production, we first need to get rid of the ruling warlords who are the main cultivators of opium.

If we want to get rid of terrorism, we have to discourage Israel from continuing the occupation of Palestine.

The claim that the surge has worked in Iraq is highly doubtful. This is why President Obama plans to retain 30,000 to 50,000 troops, in order to intervene if an undesirable situation develops.

History has shown that occupation of Afghanistan has never produced the desired goals of the occupier. The best strategy for Afghanistan is to end the occupation and let the internal forces reach an equilibrium.

Based on such an outcome, we can devise a realistic strategy.

-- Ali Karimli, Kirkland

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March 9, 2009 4:00 PM

Gangs in Seattle

Posted by Letters editor


Commit to standing up in schools and neighborhoods

I'm writing in response to the series of articles written about gangs ["Schools, city must work together against gangs," editorial, March 4] with an idea for schools:

Commit to standing up to gangs by using all technologies available to researching them; exposing them by putting up pictures of them in your school hallways; and charting their history, causes, behaviors, trajectories, intimidation tactics, grueling harm-done, the cost of their ultimate incarcerations, etc.

Data-mine them in every language available to you and continue to post it as one of the most important school assignments to date.

Restructure your schools internally, as well as the curricula and sports programs. Partner with others besides law enforcement and parents to patrol hallways, school grounds and communities to resolve gang-related issues.

Then, ask yourselves: How can we prevent their formations and obvious success in negatively impacting our schools and communities, if we don't continue the great work The Times' writers and photographers have done by writing these articles?

-- Victoria Kenna, Bellingham

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March 8, 2009 8:44 PM

California's Proposition 8

Posted by Kate Riley

Questioning whether religion should play a role in government at all

The March 5 Times featured a segment about California's Proposition 8 that currently bans gay marriage in the state ["Is Prop. 8 a constitutional wrong?" Times, Nation & World].

The article outlines the opposition to the bill, attempting to overturn it in the California Supreme Court. It also outlines two cases in an attempt to determine whether this is a state or federal issue.

I think it boils down to a more fundamental issue.

I think what should be examined is whether or not it is the government's right to regulate marriage at all. Many who oppose gay marriage do so for religious reasons, but was America not founded on the principles that religion should not become entangled with government?

Rather than examining which branch of government should be controlling marriage, I think more focus should be put toward whether there should be any regulation at all. In my mind, it is a violation of the basic principles outlined in the U.S. Constitution to deny any group the right to marry, especially if it is for religious reasons.

-- Mackay Cadell, Seattle

States should not have power to take away an inalienable right

I believe Shannon Minter, a lead attorney in the California Supreme Court case to resolve the issue of same-sex marriage in the state, was correct in saying, "This is now about whether a majority can take away an inalienable right from one group of Californians" ["Attorneys in Prop. 8 court test a study of opposites," page one, March 5].

I also believe the promise of equality, which this country claims to offer, should include equal marriage rights -- whether the marriage is between a man and a woman or two people of the same gender.

The promise of equal rights is protected by our Constitution. To suggest marriage should be limited to a man and a woman seems, to me, to be a violation of these rights.

Given the U.S. Constitution was written for, and is applicable to, our entire nation, a state constitution should not be able to overstep boundaries that contradict what our national Constitution says.

I do agree the state constitution has power, but approving a proposition that excludes a minority group from marriage rights others are welcome to is not in its realm of power.

Proposition 8 prohibits the right to equality -- an "inalienable right" -- for a minority group. Who is the state, or anyone, to take that right away from them?

-- Amanda Gadian, Seattle

An intentionally unspecific constitution warrants change

Proposition 8: a constitutional wrong?

After reading today's article regarding the constitutionality of California's Prop. 8, I found myself confused. Gay rights are, of course, a heavily debated issue in America. I do not believe, however, that it should be an issue of constitutionality.

Though it does not explicitly allow same-sex marriage, the Constitution does include the Equal Protection Clause, which states all men are created equal and, therefore, deserve equal treatment.

The Constitution is intentionally unspecific, and it wasn't created that way by accident. It was written in a way that, should the future prove it necessary, it can be changed.

As a supporter of gay rights, I believe no one should be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. After all, this is America: a country that came into existence as the result of people standing up against unfair treatment.

Therefore, I believe this article is irrelevant. This is a moral issue, not a matter of constitutionality.

-- Mary Campbell, Seattle

Same rhetoric our forefathers tried to escape

I listened to a local-radio show that discusses highly charged issues. One of the subjects of discussion was the legality of gay marriage, and whether this issue should be left to the public vote or legislative and judicial branches of government to make the decision.

I'm not gay and prior to this radio show didn't have much of an opinion on this issue. While listening to this radio show, however, there were many callers saying gay and lesbian people are wrong and going against the Word of God. This was their justification for why these people should not have the right to marry.

I could not comprehend why anyone would want to restrict someone else's right to marry whoever they want. If it is not directly affecting them, why do people care?

U.S. citizens like to believe we are a free nation and the standard other countries should model themselves after. If this is the case, we should value and protect everyone's basic freedoms and liberties, so long as they do not harm others.

Restricting the marriage rights of gay and lesbian people is oppression.
As long as we continue to oppress the rights of any group of people in our country, we cannot consider ourselves a free country. As a close friend reminded me, "Freedom, like life, is an absolute. People are free or they are not. Such as people are alive or they are not. There is no such thing as partial freedom!"

This country was founded by people seeking a land where they would have freedom of religion. I find it ironic that this same group of people are now trying to oppress other people's rights and liberties based on these same religious beliefs.

The argument has been made that gay marriage is not covered by civil rights because people are not born gay or lesbian. They claim people choose to be gay or lesbian, so they should not enjoy the same rights as heterosexual couples.

If this is the case, someone could make the case that people are not born into religion. When I listen to the arguments of religious zealots trying restrict others' liberties and freedoms, it reminds me of the rhetoric our forefathers were trying to get away from when they came here in first place.

"Believe as we do and conform or lose your right to be happy," they said. "Believe as we do and conform or die."
When it comes down to it, there isn't much difference.

-- Sergio Martinez, Federal Way

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March 8, 2009 8:43 PM

Obama's presidency

Posted by Kate Riley

Standing your ground - middle ground

I'm like a lot of Americans. Some of the conservative philosophy made sense and I wondered if it would actually work. It didn't. So, we get the "tax-and-spend Democrats," and, sure enough, they tax and spend.

Politically speaking, I'm frustrated. Something in the middle would be nice.
The flaw in Republican philosophy is much of the individual responsibility they cherish works great if you have an income over $2 million, but doesn't work well if you make $45,000 a year, have a mortgage, a wife and two kids.

I took control of my own retirement with the promise that if I was reasonable and prudent -- and took some risk -- I could do a lot better than the government could with Social Security.

In fact, conservatives said we should throw out Social Security and do it all ourselves. Presuming many readers are in the same boat as me, how was the S.S. 401(k)? How did that philosophy work out?

One solution to control government in the former President Bush years was to install department heads to slow things down or stop enforcement. Specifically, Christopher Cox's leadership of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) didn't work too well, as we now observe.

I notice that the phrase, "the financial markets operate best when free from government interference," hasn't been heard too much lately. Wonder why? Interestingly, since the Republicans probably lost more money as a group than Democrats, you might think we would hear some complaints, but we haven't heard any -- not a peep.

The flaw in the Democratic philosophy is they spend lots of money in the hope it will do some good, but hate to admit it if it doesn't. And, they never, never shut down failed programs. They also don't put in enough money to dig out the "waste and fraud" that seems to tag along once there are some government billions to tap into.

I get the impression that they think everyone will "do the right thing," regardless of how many times they don't.

Finally, neither camp does much at all to improve government and make it more responsive; it just gets bigger regardless of who we vote into office. President Obama offered "change." I'm waiting to see it.

-- Richard Shilling, Shoreline

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March 8, 2009 8:42 PM

Teenager beaten by King County sheriff's deputy

Posted by Kate Riley

Framing actions in more benign context than deserved

As the parent of a young woman who is still a teenager, I have to say Jerry Large's column, "No excuse to lose cool with teen" [Local News, March 5], comparing the confrontations parents have at home with lippy teenagers to what happened in that King County sheriff's cell, lets the institutional culture allowing this abuse to happen off the hook.

Teenagers push boundaries and offer defiance in the context of family relationships that usually contain, among other things, trust and love. Most parents master their own anger and hold back from harmful acts of retaliation.

Teenagers can drive their parents to distraction; they have the power to hurt our feelings because we've given them so much of ourselves. In contrast, Deputy Paul Schene and Officer Travis Brunner assaulted a teenage girl they'd just met.

No prior relationship.
When Large writes of Schene, "I don't know whether he is bad cop, or just pushed beyond his limit," and, "most people know better than to talk back to a police officer," he (unintentionally, I hope) frames Schene's actions in a more benign context than they deserve.

The point is any reasonable adult should have known how to behave in this situation.

-- Valerie Schloredt, Seattle

Time to look again at who we choose to protect us

As a teenager myself, I know we are constantly harassed by police and law enforcement for ridiculous reasons. I live in a small town, and cops will pull you over for blinking when driving.

Still, that does not justify the 15-year-old girl kicking a shoe at the police officer. Disrespect never solves anything with police.

The thing that had me baffled was the officer and his partner's reaction. They completely made fools of themselves, pulling the girl by her hair and punching her.

It clearly shows how humiliating and disgraceful they are and how ill-tempered police can be.

The officer should have his badge removed, be fired or put in jail. Even better would be a combination of the three. His partner is just as guilty for witnessing this extremity and not doing anything about it.

If this is who America trusts to protect us, we need to look again. The video of the abuse terrifies me and makes me want to avoid police at all cost.

If this video can produce so much fear in one person, imagine what the whole country thinks. We should have officers who are patient and understanding, providing equal treatment to all citizens of all ages.

-- Savannah Stevens, Duvall

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March 8, 2009 8:40 PM

Washington State Ferries

Posted by Kate Riley

New Tier 2-compliant engines: Killing two birds with one stone

It seems the governor has two problems that could be addressed at the same time. She wants to reduce carbon emissions, as well as lower the state's use of diesel fuel.

Here's a suggestion for where to spend some stimulus money: start re-powering the state-ferry system with new, more fuel-efficient, Environmental Protection Agency, Tier 2-compliant engines.

There would be significant reduction in carbon emissions, as well as a substantial reduction in fuel consumption. The fuel savings alone may be enough to pay for the engines. And, there are medium-speed, diesel engines readily available that are EPA Tier 2 compliant, far more fuel efficient and practically direct replacements for the fleet's old locomotive technology.

The ferry system is the biggest single user of diesel fuel in the state and is in serious need of a plan to bring them into the current expectations of fuel-saving economy and pollution reduction.

This engine upgrade would go a long way toward bringing the fleet back to a solid baseline, mechanically speaking, in a maintenance plan that has been neglected and underfunded for far too long.

If we are to be as serious as California about our environment, we should set an example with our state's own fuel-guzzling, carbon-polluting fleet.

-- Roger Hatton, Seattle

Now and always, a skewed bureaucracy
"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip..."

What a catchy little tune. As a retired skipper of Washington State Ferries (WSF), I can't help but chuckle at what's now on the "how to" list(s) to finance the system.

How our number-one tourist attraction has run aground in such financially troubled waters is akin to the antics of those on Gilligan's Island. And yet, in retrospect, perhaps the castaways offer some simple, yet brilliant answers.

So, while you have that silly little ditty playing in your head, here's the latest "message in a bottle" being cast from the shores of Olympia:

The Olympia Town Crier says, "Slow the boats down we'll save fuel!" Hmm. I conducted a very extensive speed-fuel-burn-rate study in 2001 on the Bainbridge Island run (against the wishes of WSF management). The results confirmed that slowing the boats down as little as 3 knots would add two to three minutes to the crossing. However, when combined with canceling a few late-evening runs, we could save 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of fuel daily.

After submitting the results of my findings, I was invited to meet with WSF management to discuss conducting the same study fleetwide. But, like so many other good ideas presented to WSF, they just couldn't get their act together enough to make it float.

Eight years and tens of thousands of gallons of fuel later, I have to assume it went by way of the S.S. Minnow, as I never heard back.

The Town Crier goes on to say, "Let's cut administration costs we're top heavy with management and in danger of capsizing!" For many years following the state takeover of the ferries, the fleet consisted of 18 vessels (with backup boats) and a management staff of 40. In today's fleet, there are still 18 vessels (with little to no backup) and a management staff of several hundred.

There are numerous ways to save and make money in the fleet. Unfortunately, the way bureaucracy views the ferries is and always has been skewed.

Finding ways of filling the ferries with passengers and slowing them down makes good fiscal sense. Filling them with more top-heavy personnel will also slow the boats, but at a cost that challenges the very act keeping them afloat.

Getting back to the crew of the S.S. Minnow,
maybe we'll be hearing one of those familiar coconut-radio broadcasts real soon, so stay tuned!

Now, where was I? Oh yeah. "...that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship "

-- Gary Fredback, retired Washington State Ferry captain, Bremerton

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March 8, 2009 8:39 PM

U.S. Postal Service and rising cost of stamps

Posted by Kate Riley

Hitting a new low in a spiraling economy
The U.S. Postal Service just paid $1.2 million for the postmaster's 8,400 square-foot house, so he can relocate to Texas. Isn't this nice of them to do in this spiraling economy? I think most consumers are fed up with the rise in cost and the decrease in service we have seen the past few years at most post offices. I already send packages by UPS, rather than the Postal Service for this reason.

I will soon be distancing myself further from their mismanagement by paying all my bills through online banking, thus avoiding the increased cost of the stamps that apparently buys houses for key employees.

And for employees out there wanting to write in to comment about the jobs being lost, I say do your job with a smile rather than a negative attitude, thinking we owe something for showing up to work.

You just may raise the U.S. Postal Service out of its fall.

-- Donald and Delores Boone, Monroe

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March 8, 2009 8:38 PM

Reality TV

Posted by Kate Riley

Sanctity of marriage relying on 6 weeks of "The Bachelor"

ABC's "The Bachelor" continues to feed a hungry American society.
While browsing The Times' entertainment section, few other topics could be found besides multiple articles concerning "The Bachelor's" finale and the "truly juicy" post-finale-rose interview that recently aired.

In reporter Nicole Tsong's article ".'The Bachelor' says 'I do.' And then: 'I don't'." [Entertainment, March 2], she boldly asks if viewers can buy the romance of "The Bachelor" anymore. May I ask, what romance? This show has finally outdone itself for the faithful viewers that tuned in on Monday nights.

Romance and love have a mixed meaning in American culture. "The Bachelor" has allowed the sanctity of marriage and falling in love to rely on a six-week reality-TV show that has only ended happily for one of the thirteen male contestants from last season's "The Bachelorette" and the woman he proposed to.

Has society really fallen into this junk we call reality TV?
The episodes' events consume our local-nightly news, newspapers and radio announcements. Who cares enough to hear and see it everywhere we turn?

This season finale has made the bachelor and the women who participated look foolish, and what's even worse is that we, as a society, now look dumb for watching and supporting it.

-- Arianne Judy, Seattle

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March 6, 2009 5:30 PM

National stimulus package

Posted by Kate Riley

Tax rate centers Americans after moving far right


The Associated Press

President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Editor, The Times:

"Class warfare" seems like an extreme overreaction to President Obama's plan to only raise the top-federal, income-tax-bracket rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent, as was done during Bill Clinton's presidency ["Implicit in budget plan is a reversal of fortune," Times, Nation & World, March 1].

Contrast this to Franklin D. Roosevelt raising it from 25 percent to 63 percent upon taking office in 1933, to 79 percent in 1936 and finally to 90 percent while dealing with the Great Depression.

The top income-tax rate remained near 90 percent through the Eisenhower administration and stayed at 70 percent or above through the Republican administrations of former President Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford until the Reagan administration drastically lowered it during the 1980s.

Americans forget how far right we have moved and how much we have widened the income gap between the rich and poor in the last 30 years.

CEOs made 40 times the average wages of their workers 30 years ago, whereas it is 400 times today.

From this perspective President Obama's ambitious program of change would simply move us to the center of the political spectrum, not nearly as far left as during the majority of the 20th century under both Republican and Democrat administrations.

-- Norm Luther, Underwood

Stop arguing over taxes

I think it's time for members of Congress to come together as one in support of President Obama's economic recovery plan. Although Republicans and Democrats are still arguing about the specifics of the plan, I believe the American majority supports this course of action as necessary to save our economy.

President Obama came into office with a vision for how to get America back on track, and he needs both Democratic and Republican support to achieve this vision.

The public is shocked at the growing debt of this country and horrified at the realization it will take many years for our country to once again be fiscally sound.

Without the stimulus package, inflation will continue to increase, causing greater job loss and increasing poverty. Without the stimulus package, millions of Americans will lose their jobs and homes.

This is not a Democratic plan nor a Republican plan; this is an American plan.
The time for arguing over taxes is over; it's time to look toward making the future better. After all, as Benjamin Franklin said, "Nothing is certain but death and taxes."'

-- Zoë Fabien, Seattle

The envy of the world: a free-enterprise system and self-reliance

E.J. Dionne Jr. says, "The central issue in American politics now is whether the country should reverse a three-decade-long trend of rising inequality in incomes and wealth" ["Learning to share (some of) the wealth," syndicated column, March 3].

It is liberals who have decided now is the time to make this an issue. The solution is very simple and just what the liberals want: socialism. Socialism is the system that redistributes wealth and equalizes income.

Dionne then says conservatives are changing the subject by criticizing Obama for refusing to play the role of a "war president." This may be one critique of conservatives, but the main one is sticking to our principle that this country became great because of capitalism, a free-enterprise system, and self-reliance.

This system has always made a few terribly wealthy, such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, but the result has been a standard of living that, over the years, has gone up and up and long been the envy of the world.

In countries where socialism is the guiding principle, the standard of living is lower and taxes are higher.

This is the crux of the current discussion: Do you really want the government to take care of you, or do you want you and your children to continue having the opportunity to become what you want to be?

-- Henry Kroeger, Redmond

The fight against earmarks, not a wonton waste

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., fought valiantly to remove over 9,000 earmarks from the $410 billion omnibus-spending bill, only to be told by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid not to worry about them because they only represented about one percent of the amount being spent.

$12.8 billion. Reid says fighting against such wonton waste is just smoke to hide the fact that the Republican Party want President Obama to fail.

Republicans are responsible for almost half the earmarks.

The problem here is our lawmakers don't give a damn they are wasting almost $13 billion. It's not their money, but by spending it they have a lot greater chance of retaining their jobs in future elections.

What kind of crazy country do we live in?

The people we employ to represent us waste our money to keep their jobs. $200,000 to help gang members to remove tattoos. $150,000 for a rodeo museum. Is this how a nation drowning in debt should spend its money?

This isn't about Democrats versus Republicans. This is about doing what's right for our nation as a whole.

John McCain is right: this silly business of earmarks to gain public favor must be stopped. The only way to stop is by no voting for the people responsible for wasting our money.

-- Gene Davis, Lake Forest Park

Learning from Russian interim chaos

You know what they say: What goes around comes around.

Ronald Reagan is credited with tearing down the evil empire of the former Soviet Union when they spent themselves into bankruptcy and dissolution with an arms race they couldn't win. Now, a couple decades later, the Russians are enjoying capitalism, using a flat tax that has surprisingly increased revenue as fewer people cheat. Even their cabinet members can pass an audit.

Now it's our turn. We elected the most qualified leaders to teach us our lesson. They sure know how to spend, support the unions and basically control the country's economy.

But, we can still hope to learn quickly. The interim chaos for Russians was awful, but if it led to a renewed appreciation of capitalism and a flat-tax system, so people could have a chance of getting it right without a business degree, it was a good thing.

Russian history of spending shows what not to do. Even a Russian economist recently predicted the U.S would be bankrupt by 2010 at the rate we're going.

Our history shows that someday there will be a silver lining and we'll sing "Happy days are here again." But first, the clouds will come and we'll sing "Brother can you spare a dime" while we suffer payback for the Reagan years of egging on the former Soviet Union to their own destruction.

-- Margaret Wiggins, Bothell

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March 6, 2009 5:28 PM

Obama's mortgage relief

Posted by Kate Riley

Stop the continued abuse of the American public

Bankruptcy judges should be allowed to adjust mortgages and provide immediate relief to homeowners at risk. This policy would cost the taxpayers nothing and force the corrupt-banking system to shoulder some of burden of the crises they have created.

My neighbor has lost her job, thanks to this crisis. She may be on the verge of financial bankruptcy, but the financial sector is already morally and intellectually bankrupt.

Our government should not support their continued abuse of the American public.
Somehow the banking industry still has millions of dollars to pay lobbyists to convince our government to serve their interests at our expense.

If you smell a rat, you are not alone. It is time for members of Congress to represent us and to oppose banking-industry attempts to write our laws.

I will work to defeat any member of Congress who continues to work with California Rep. Ellen Tauscher's "New Democrat Coalition" to manipulate our laws to benefit the financial sector at the expense of individual American citizens.

-- Judy Hopkinson, Bellingham

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March 6, 2009 5:08 PM

"Don't ask, don't tell" military policy

Posted by Kate Riley

Cut the ancient anchor preventing full democracy and pride

I believe the "don't ask, don't tell" policy is as outdated as the Vietnam-era G.I. Bill, which has now been modified. We need to cut this anchor, which continues to keep us from being a fully democratic country.

I was a sergeant in the Army Infantry in Iraq and I was able to do my job, even though I am gay. Some of my Army buddies had known about it, but did not care.

I led men in Iraq safely and brought them all home, not because I am gay or straight, but because I am just a man like any other human being.

Let's lift this ancient ban and allow anyone to serve and still be able to keep their pride at the same time.

-- Ricky Mirabal, Renton

Degrading our capability as a 21st-century nation

I am a Vietnam-era veteran. I served in the United States Army Security Agency as a battalion legal specialist for the 1 year, 11 months and 16 days I was overseas.

During this time, I saw examples of discrimination against good soldiers by lousy officers as a matter of official policy. Not only was this discrimination rampant, it was not enforced equally. One gay-enlisted man was sent to the stockade where he was raped; another gay officer was quietly sent home. Both of these men were good soldiers.

It is time that this type of policy be changed!

Being gay is not, in itself, reason for us to say that a man or woman cannot serve our great nation with pride and dignity.

Anti-gay policy is generally supported by people who have never served. Any politician who supports this policy does not belong in a position of authority, unless he or she has had the honor of actively serving our country in the military and seen what this policy does to degrade our capability as a nation in the 21st century.

When I was serving, blacks were still second-grade soldiers. I am not gay; I am decorated and honorably discharged, proud to have served.

I only wish I were young enough to serve again.

-- Mel Nordberg, Seattle

Dishonoring men of honor

As a Vietnam-era veteran, I witnessed discrimination against some excellent and committed military personnel. In fact, one of my childhood friends was booted out of the Air Force because he was gay.

This happened after he had served 18 years in the Air Force. He lost all the years of his service and was not allowed to complete the two years needed to qualify him for retirement.

This was very unfair treatment for a person who served this country with honor.

-- Daniel Spraggins, Edmonds

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March 6, 2009 5:05 PM

Health care reform

Posted by Kate Riley

Thank you for an immense, pork-spending bill

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., sent out a very glossy 8 by 10 inch mailer asking us to call and thank her for the "hard work" she did in lobbying for increased health care for children.

So here is mine:

Thank you for using the stimulus package to increase the welfare program, even though the administration said there were no "earmarks" in it. Your bid was one of the 9,000 "earmarks."

Thank you for seeking to destroy the best health care in the world by introducing "health care reform." I am sure there will be more to follow in future stimulus plans or other so-called "government aide."

Thank you for making it harder on small-business owners who make a profit, so they can hire people like me who depend on this profit to support their family.

Thank you for letting America believe this plan will increase jobs when, in reality, it will grossly increase our national debt. My future grandchildren will be grateful, I am sure.

Finally, would you please thank Sen. Murray for all of her hard work in drafting the infrastructure of this immense, pork-spending bill?

-- Virginia McCallon, Kirkland

Refreshing loose ends

Every voice must be heard on health-care reform.

Although I cannot say for sure what President Obama's new health-care package will do for me in my future, I know it will help bring the change he promised. I am 18 years old, which means now that I am legal, I have to start paying attention to things like health care.

Obama's promise to make health care more affordable to Americans couldn't come at a better time. When people's budgets are tight and the country is going in to a deepening recession, it takes initiative like Obama's to actually get something done in Washington.

The one thing I admire most about the new health-care package is the specifics aren't laid out yet.

Obama has clearly stated compromise will have to happen in order for this new health-care package to work. It is refreshing to see and hear about politicians in Washington state willing to work together. If the health-care package is done right, it has the potential to put money back into the hands of the American people.

-- Erin Thenell, Shoreline

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March 6, 2009 5:01 PM

Virginia Mason Medical Center's charity care

Posted by Kate Riley

16-plus years serving most marginalized in Bailey-Boushay House

The Times reported Virginia Mason Medical Center (VM) provides less charity than other hospitals in the area, and that four community organizations accused it of "shortchange[ing] minorities and poor people" ["Report: Health-care disparities shortchange minorities, poor," Local News, March 4].

This accusation ignores the compassionate care that VM has provided at Bailey-Boushay House for 16-plus years to some of the most marginalized people in our community: those with HIV/AIDS; those who suffer from addiction, homelessness, and mental health problems; those who speak little or no English; and those who are as poor as poor people can be.

I was a Bailey-Boushay board member for nine years, and I can tell you during that time, when every year it seemed like we might have to close our doors for lack of money or government support and, thus, turn away those who desperately needed care, it was only because of VM's continued commitment that we stayed open.

It is also noteworthy that the ultimate goal of Bailey-Boushay, as stated in its strategic plan, is: "Equal access to positive outcomes."

For those who might deign to criticize VM, please don't look at just part of the story.

-- Denis Stearns, Seattle

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March 6, 2009 4:59 PM

Death with Dignity Act

Posted by Kate Riley

The law is the law

After reading Seattle resident Tim Carney's letter to the editor, "What medicine has become: doctors destroying human life" [Northwest Voices, March 4], I want to respond.
Mr. Carney, the law is the law.

Washington state voters made their decision in a fair election. They believe one way and you believe another. I have a right to my belief as you have a right to yours.
If you are against abortion, don't have one. If you are against death with dignity, spend your last days the way you want to.

Like you, I have a choice to do what I believe.

-- Sally Robbins, Port Townsend

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March 6, 2009 4:57 PM

Seattle noise rules

Posted by Kate Riley

"Forever" variance: a lasting blow to livability

Regarding "Seattle council votes to soften noise rules" [Local News, March 3], Jan Drago and Sally Clark, Seattle transportation chair and vice chair, created this huge loophole, joined by Seattle City Councilmembers Tim Burgess, Tom Rasmussen and Jean Godden.

Their "forever" variance could allow construction 24/7 for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) and Sound Transit, but also any six-month or more project by local road, bridge, water and sewer agencies; Seattle City Light; the jail, Port; Seattle Housing Authority; Convention Center; public schools and colleges; and any other federal, state or local agency that might be invented.

The variance could run for the life of each project, and the council couldn't legally change it once the public discovers how grossly noise standards are evaded.
It's a reckless, lasting blow to livability and democratic rights.

Rules against nighttime noise have also protected against light, dust, vibration, and traffic. All will worsen if this new variance allowing construction at night is allowed to stand.

The Quiet Alliance calls on the Seattle City Council to enact their proposal as a brief new ordinance; until then, every business, citizen and neighborhood is at risk.

-- Chris Leman, Seattle

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