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A Matter Of Opinion

Archive for May 2007

Teens with guns

A pair of Post Falls brothers now carry guns in public to express their support of the Second Amendment. The sight of these guns makes a number of residents uneasy.

Take a look at the story: Gun-toting teens alarm residents
and then share your reaction here.

Staff photo by Jesse Tinsley

Spokane Pool Progress Report

From a Spokane Parks Department press release this morning:

Recently completed scientific research conducted by Strategic Research Associates on behalf of the Spokane Parks and Recreation Department indicates strong support for maintaining and continuing to operate the city’s five existing swimming pools.

Those pools include:
Cannon – Maxwell & Elm
Comstock – 29th & Howard
Hillyard – Columbia & Market
Liberty – 5th & Pittsburg
Witter – E. Mission & Upriver Drive

Witter Pool swim meet photo by Christopher Anderson/The Spokesman-Review

One More for the Ride Home

Our energetic Boise reporter, Betsy Russell, has this interesting Eye on Boise blog post today:

The latest U.S. Census figures show Idaho ranks 49th in the nation in per-pupil spending on public elementary and secondary education. At $6,283 per student, Idaho’s figure was far below the national average of $8,701.

The only two states to rank lower than Idaho? Arizona, at $6,261 per student, and in last place, Utah, $5,257.

Idaho and Utah pride themselves on being family value states. Idaho’s state Legislature is run by family-first Republicans and you have to dodge strollers in the Salt Lake City airport.

So have these states no shame in being ranked so low in spending on their childrens’ education? What’s up with that?

Photo of Coeur d’Alene toddler by Liz Kishimoto/The Spokesman-Review

Harry and his NOLA

Harry Connick Jr. performed in Spokane last night, bringing the stunning sounds and sensibility of his native New Orleans to Spokane.

After spinning funny tales of his warm, sunny stay in Spokane — eating brown rice from P.F. Chang’s and watching a film at AMC in River Park Square — he gave a brief update on his city. Downtown has returned, he says, but you wouldn’t believe the neighborhoods — nobody lives there any more. He also made a quick plea to audience members to visit the city and spend a few dollars there.

What do you think is the best hope for post-Katrina New Orleans?

AP photo

Wednesday’s Thread: Loose It

In my husband’s family, there is this saying about the men and their opinions: “Seldom wrong; never uncertain.”

In my family, there is this saying about the women and their opinions: “No thought left unspoken.”

Which kind of opinion person are you? Doesn’t matter. We’d love to hear what’s on your mind this fine Wednesday morning.

Disillusioned soldiers

Increasingly, troops see the futility, according to this article.


“In 2003, 2004, 100 percent of the soldiers wanted to be here, to fight this war,” said Sergeant First Class David Moore, a self-described “conservative Texas Republican” and platoon sergeant who strongly advocates an American withdrawal. “Now, 95 percent of my platoon agrees with me.

Fire Wise

Our editorial today concerned fire risk in the Inland Northwest. We rarely get tornadoes. We’re not a hurricane area, of course. We’ve had some earthquakes, but we’re no California. In fact, some predict that the region’s relative safety from catastrophic weather might draw even more population here.

The one big risk: Fire. Especially in parched summertime. In our edit, we offered some fire prevention tips. But don’t hesitate to share some of your own. The parched season may start early this year; 90 degree temps are predicted for this week.

Tip away.

(A Ponderosa area homeowner tries to save his house from the firestorm that swept through the Inland Northwest in October of 1991. Kit King photo/The Spokesman-Review)

Tuesday’s Loose Thread

So here we are back to reality, oh gee. The stock market’s open again. The president announced sanctions on Sudan. More deaths in Iraq, of course. Closer to home, the TV weather guys and gals are gleeful — in a warning way — about unseasonal 90-plus temps this week.

What’s on your mind this back-to-reality Tuesday? Our blog lines are open….

Memorial Day Musings

Our editorial today was about a new Veterans Cemetery planned for Eastern Washington. It also talked about the importance of visiting cemeteries to honor the dead, especially on this day.

Some of us grew up with family traditions of visiting the graves of loved ones. It seems a tradition that might not be as popular as it once was. Tell us about yours and whether you’ve continued the tradition in your families.

Friday’s loose thread

What’s on your to-do list as you get ready for the long holiday weekend?
Oh! My GOSH!!! Almost forgot to let “A Matter of Opinion” know what’s on my mind!
There’s still time. Post now and move on to less important tasks.

The Cheney Grandbaby

Several years ago at a diversity event, a woman stood up and showed us all a photo of her half-Caucasian, half-African-American grandson. The woman told the group that another family member had been quite bigoted against black people, but the baby changed the relative’s prejudice attitudes. The woman choked up, as did many of us listening to her story, because it showed how narrow attitudes can change through the power of relationships with others.

When I saw the White House-released photo this morning of Dick and Lynne Cheney holding their 8-pound, 6-ounce grandson, their sixth grandchild, I wondered if there might be some changes in attitudes toward gay and lesbian parenting by the vice president and his wife.

The baby’s mother is Mary Cheney, the VP’s daughter. She will raise Samuel David Cheney with her longtime lesbian partner Heather Poe.

Those Cheney grandparent smiles looked genuine, the same smiles I’ve seen many times on faces of grandparents and aunts and uncles when a new child is born healthy into a family.

(White House photo)

Here’s our view. What’s yours?

Today’s editorial wonders if those who oppose new gun laws will speak out for enforcing the ones that seem to have been ignored in Moscow.

Math plan adds up

The Spokesman-Review editorial board had a productive conversation today with Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction Terry Bergeson. One topic: Her interest in a statewide standardized math curriculum.
It weighs heavily on Bergeson’s and many other minds that about half of the state’s 10th graders have failed the fabled WASL (Washington Assessment of Student Learning) that was supposed to be required for high school graduation. That’s why the Legislature just delayed the requirement for five years so the state’s schools can figure out what’s wrong and fix it — without sacrificing accountability.
Bergeson notes that with 50 or more math curricula being used in various of the state’s school districts, kids who move from one district to another have a heck of a time making the transition academically. “Mobility is a killer,” she says, adding that low-income kids, who are already at a disadvantage in school, move proportionally more than anyone else. Ordinarilly, individual school districts are wary of statewide directives that erode local control of education. Bergeson says she believes the districts are ready to accept the concept in this case.

(Photo by Brian Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

Public service — we’re for it

…but you may have other ideas. Here’s a link to today’s editorial. We’d like to know your response.

Tuesday’s loose thread.

“The best kind of conversation,” wrote William Hazlitt, “is that which may be called thinking aloud.”
So crank it up and share what’s on your mind.

Fu Dogs and feedback

I’ve been receiving a batch of reader feedback on my column about China which appeared Sunday.
Here’s the column: Through tourist’s eyes, gratitude
Readers have referred me to Internet sites on participatory economics, invited me to read Peter Hessler’s “River Town” and “Oracle Bones” and called me a flaming liberal, among other things.

Monday’s Loose Thread

“Too bad that all the people who really know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair.” George Burns

If you ran the country, what would you do?

Will the paper’s blogs hurt the paper?

A reader sent me this column by the public editor on the Orlando Sentinel.

It concludes:

It makes me wonder — and I suspect that it will make readers wonder — what separates the Sentinel’s news reports from the unverified postings of people who don’t want you to know their names.

As they navigate the tricky transition to the Web, newspapers will have to guard carefully what distinguishes their content from the mountain of information — true and otherwise — available on the Internet.

What are your thoughts on the intersection of blogs and newspapers?

Friday’s Loose Thread

Thank God It’s Free — the blog that is. So is this thread for unloading your thoughts.

Growers need pickers

They can’t find enough help among U.S. citizens.


Last August, the state joined the Washington Growers League in a campaign to recruit local workers in anticipation that too few guest workers would be available for the apple harvest.

Valoria Loveland, director of the state Department of Agriculture, said that even after an extensive advertising campaign, only 40 people showed up to fill the 1,700 potential spots.

“Local people who want to work are already employed, or are not interested in doing the seasonal and physically demanding work that characterizes our specialty crop production,” Loveland said in a letter this week to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The guest-worker legislation, called the AgJOBS bill, is controversial because it also would establish a path to legalize some undocumented workers already in the country.

Should Congress liberalize the guest worker program?

Thursday’s Loose Thread

“The absent are easily refuted.” C.S. Lewis

Make sure your view — on the topic of your choice — isn’t left behind.

Another in-custody death

There’s a lot of questions swirling around the death of Trent Yohe.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Otto Zehm revisited? Justifiable use of force?

One poster has already asked a series of questions in “Wednesday’s Loose Thread.”

Wednesday’s Loose Thread

“The world is not run by thought, nor by imagination, but by opinion.” Elizabeth Drew

Do your part in running the world here.

Drip … drip … drip …

Save water now or save it later. Our View is that it’s best to get into the habit now, so that a growing population doesn’t imperil the aquifer.

Are you saving water? Do you think it’s even necessary?

Back from Beijing

I’m home from China, and newly appreciative of Spokane’s blue skies, fresh air and, yes, our remarkably sane traffic.

China’s in the midst of its own industrial revolution, which has led to a booming economy and an estimated 1,000 new drivers on the road every day in Beijing alone. They often straddle two lanes, swerve, honk their horns and belch the exhaust of leaded gasoline. That’s why smog hangs gray and dense and some days you can even taste the air.

Fortunately, I hit the Great Wall several days after this photo was taken. This shows May Day holiday tourists crowding the ancient site. (AP photo)< />

Hybrid Hurrah-Rah-Rah

Gary Crooks and I share the same enthusiasm for hybrid/alternative fuel cars, but we know these cars suffer from a negative “cool factor.” See his Smart Bombs and my Sunday column.

So drivers out there, your thoughts on the hybrids and alternative fuel cars. Not cool? Not reliable? Too experimental? Or right on? Let us know.

Monday’s loose thread

Here’s your daily opportunity to reset the agenda. Use the comment link to launch a conversation about a topic of your choosing.

What’s your view on our view?

Monday’s editorial from The Spokesman-Review deals with the freeway resurfacing project that begins disrupting downtown Spokane traffic flow today. You can comment on it or other recent S-R editorials.

No more pay and obey

A guest column by a Catholic upset over the Spokane Diocese bankruptcy settlement ran today.

Here are excerpts:

This “pay, pray, obey” Catholic has had it. In the May 3, 2007, issue of the Inland Register, the official newspaper of the Spokane Diocese, I clipped six and a half pages about how and why the collection of $10 million from parishioners is expected to pay around 20 percent of the court-ordered settlement for the crimes of sex abuse by priests against children and others over the past 40 or so years.

We are told we are “collectively responsible,” that each parish has been assigned a significant debt over and above what has been confiscated from the diocese…In other words, “pay up or else.”

The final straw came when I read (page A7, The Spokesman-Review, May 5) that people in St. Mary’s Parish have been asked to give $1,000 per household and to use a credit card if they can’t write a check…Let those who are assisting the diocese pay extra for the privilege! Outrageous!
—Pamela Small, 70, lifelong Catholic.

Would welcome feedback on this guest column from other Catholics in the area.

Give Dingell a jingle

In this 1955 photo, freshman congressman John Dingell is sworn in by House Speaker Sam Rayburn, D-Texas.

Today’s editorial shines a spotlight on Congressman John Dingell, D-Mich., who’s made a career of blocking environmentally progressive legislation that leaves his auto-making constituents uneasy. One reader has already posted a response as a comment under Thursday’s “loose thread” invitation. Here’s a chance for others to get more mileage out of the topic.

Mind readers

Carnac the Magnificent was a Johnny Carson character who was able to see into the minds of others.

Washington State Supreme Court justices would be doing the same if they tried to retoactively climb into the heads of voters in trying to discern what they were thinking when they voted for I-747.

In Our View, that would be a mistake, and not a very funny one.

(Photo via

Letter oink the day

This letter hit the Roundtable page today:

Ms. Lawson (“Cut pork from Iraq bill,” May 8) seems to blame the Democrats for loading the bill with pork. I think Ms. Lawson fails to recognize that what seems like pork to you and me is “bringing home the bacon” to the local voters. When Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers brings home a few million dollars to our district we think it’s great. Voters in Wisconsin probably think it’s pork.

I’d also like to point out that the primary reason the bill was loaded with “pork” was because that’s the only way it was going to pass the Congress. The Republicans would only vote for it when they got something out of it and the pork is what justifies their vote. They can go home and say they didn’t agree with it but it had millions for our district so I voted for it for the good of our district. That is, unless they support the underlying legislation and blame the “other” party for adding the pork.

Regrettably, that’s the way politics works. Add-ons to legislation are standard operating procedure for both parties. Let’s not point fingers. — Stephen Berde, Spokane
(Photo by Holly Pickett, The Spokesman-Review)

There is much to be said for not pointing fingers, as it usually backfires. I wonder, though, if “both sides do it” is a good enough reason not to try to look at the “problem of pork.” Cathy McMorris Rodgers is rather successful at bringing home the bacon, but should voters have a larger perspective than that?

Shut up, Doc

Here’s a review of a book by a doctor called “How Doctors Think.”

Some snippets:

* On average, a doctor interrupts a patient who is describing her symptoms within about twelve seconds.

* Many if not most of the treatments that medicine has to offer are not based on scientific evidence. Back surgeons, for example, have no idea if a commonly performed, potentially risky—and highly lucrative—surgical procedure called spinal fusion is actually any better at relieving lower back pain than nonsurgical remedies.

* Though medicine has wrapped itself in the mantle of science, most doctors aren’t trained to think very scientifically—especially when doing so is in conflict with their financial interests.

* … the United States needs a federally funded institute, dedicated to research that will show what works in medicine, what doesn’t, and for which patients.

Is your doctor a listener? Is he or she competent? How can we ever know?

The Future of Driving

Though it may not be reflected in the utterings of auto execs or the wimpy bills in Congress, the road ahead for motorists is pretty exciting.

Wednesday’s Our View editorial takes a small slice of the issue that was served Monday on the Microsoft campus by various visionaries holding forth on the future of energy policy in this country. The one-hour slog from the airport made me quite receptive to the message.

Credit goes to the auto execs from Toyota and GM who showed up and braved hostile, yet polite questions, such as “What’s taking so long!” when it comes to hybrid/all-electric vehicles.

Take this link and you can watch the same slideshows I saw.

Much more on this in the coming days.


In our editorial Monday, we urged the public to attend any or all part of a two-day summit on the Spokane Valley/Rathdrum Prairie Aquifer, which began today.

Scientists, environmentalists and policy folks are gathering to discuss the aquifer in depth.

As we were discussing the editorial last week, Gary Crooks said, “Sort of like an Aqua-Palooza?” As I was researching the edit, people I interviewed loved the line and some will likely “steal” it. So let it be known it started in the imagination of Gary Crooks.

Ready for the mayoral race?

In Our View (Saturday’s editorial), the mayoral race has gotten off to an inauspicious beginning.

Do you dread the upcoming campaign? Look forward to it? Comment here.

Push the Hot Button

Before folding up shop in Olympia this year, the Washington Legislature sent two proposed constitutional amendments to next November’s ballot where voters will decide.

One (Senate Joint Resolution 8200) creates a state savings account that the lawmakers can’t touch unless they can muster a super majority in both houses.

The other (Engrossed Senate Joint Resolution 8207) allows school districts to pass bond and levy elections with a simple majority of the vote, rather than the 60 percent supermajority now required.

Do those sound like good ideas to you?

R.I.P. Cpl. Grothe

So sad to hear that a Spokane soldier has died in Iraq. Cpl. Kelly Grothe, 21, was killed by an improvised exploding device. Three years ago he was getting ready to graduate from Central Valley High School.

Grothe’s job — and that of his unit — was to clear roadside bombs and protect convoys. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more dangerous job over there. He is the 10th military victim of IEDs this month, according to this unofficial count.

When I was 21, I had such a benign job. I worked at a cousin’s trailer park/campground, cleaning bathrooms, collecting rent, guiding people to their camp sites. And that was just a summertime gig to help pay for college. Can’t imagine having such a perilous job like Grothe’s at such a young age.

(Photo from his MySpace site)

Weekend Loose Thread

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled Bloomsday masses yearning to breathe free and finish in under an hour.

When you catch your breath, talk about whatever’s on your mind. You can do that before the race, too.

For instance, what color will the T-shirt be?

Seeing (photo) red

Looks like the City Council is having second thoughts about its first choice of vendors to install intersection cameras to catch red-light runners.

Should the city be doing this at all?


Our View: Proceed with caution, but give it a try.

The 2005 Federal Highway Administration review

Tax Freedom Day

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, sends along an e-mail alert noting that Washington state ranks eighth-highest in the nation when it comes to the tax burden on its citizens.

It starts: “The nonpartisan Tax Foundation has released its “Tax Freedom Day” report, an annual account of how many days Americans must work each year to pay their federal, state and local taxes. Tax Freedom Day, dubbed as such because it’s the day when citizens have finally earned enough to pay all of their taxes for the year, will come on May 6 for Washington citizens – the eighth latest in the nation.”

Here’s the Tax Foundation document showing that.

Problem is, it includes federal taxes, which the Legislature has no control over. Here’s a chart from the same group that just focuses on state and local taxes. Washington is 16th, not 8th. That’s a much better state-to-state comparison measure.

Take 5: What Do You Do w/Bloomsday?

Item: Bloomsday regular readies for 31st: WWII veteran among 122 ‘perennials’ signed up to race/Cate Huisman, Spokesman-Review

Question: How do you approach Bloomsday?

1. I can’t wait to get together with friends and family to share this wonderful spring passage
2. I’ve run it once or twice
3. I’m too out of shape to walk/jog 7 miles
4. I sleep in on Bloomsday Sunday morning
5. Bah, humbug! I enjoy Bloomsday Sunday b/c so many people participate that my ‘hood empties out and I have the streets to myself for a quiet walk. Unfortunately, I then have to avoid all the Bloomies who want to chatter about the event afterward.
6. Other?

Spin control

When Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire and Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown of Spokane met with our editorial board last week, they were feeling pretty good about what the Democrat-controlled Legislature accomplished this year. At one point, the governor noted: “We always look at our budget and ask what is it as a relationship to the percent of total personal income. And it is the lowest in history.”
A couple of days later Senate Minority Leader Mark Schoesler of Ritzville and Rep. Lynn Schindler of Otis Orchards stopped by to offer the Republican perspective. The governor, they said, was wrong on that point (and some others). Asked for elaboration, Schoesler had the Senate Republican communications staff to e-mail me more information. They sent this:

Within the last decade only the 2001-03 budget was a higher share of the state’s personal income than either of the budgets Gregoire wrote, and that’s due to the fact that revenues plummeted.
She gets to her statement by making two misleading — and undoubtedly intentional — assumptions:
1. She uses the November 2006 revenue forecast, not the most recent March 2007 forecast. The Nov. 2006 forecast for personal income was higher for 2007-09 than the March 2007 forecast. This means that it makes the budget expenditures look smaller as a percentage of personal income in 2007-09 than the March forecast. When you incorporate the most recent data the figures go up.
2. Even more egregiously, she COMPLETELY EXCLUDES the expenditures from the Education Legacy Trust Account and the Pension Funding Stabilization Account. This excludes over $1 billion of near general fund state spending that comprises the $33.4 billion near general fund total everyone is citing. (And notably she claims credit for the “Ed Legacy Trust Account” expenditures when she tours the ed boards citing the increase in K-12 spending, yet she excludes it in this rhetorical claim.)

To which the governor’s office responded by e-mail with this:

1. Simply not true. There was an earlier chart in December that used the November personal income forecast but that was updated on April 21. The chart Governor Gregoire presented reflects the most updated data.

2. The chart was prepared using state spending subject to the spending limit - the general fund and five other funds. This is a common and valid way to capture the trend in state spending (and the same calculation that was used throughout the chart). The trend line in the chart, showing spending as a percentage of the state economy (or personal income) is clearly down since the 80s and essentially flat since the early 2000s. Furthermore, the Republican Caucus staff made the same conclusion even after adding the Education Legacy Fund and the Pension Funding Stabilization Account. Adding these accounts is statistically insignificant as personal income base is huge ($280 billion in 2009) and the combination of those funds - $560 million - comprises a tiny fraction compared with that base. The Republican Caucus staffer who worked on this - and added the ELF and PFSA back into the data - said “It does not change the general trend line significantly. ”

Another thing to note is that last year the Governor and Legislature set aside more than $900 million last year to pay for upcoming (i.e. 07/09) expenses in pensions, education and health care - that money increased the expenditure THIS biennium, as expected and planned. As a result, we are now back on track with what was a huge unfunded pension liability and ALSO ended 07/09 with over $700 million in reserves (which includes the Rainy Day Fund). This will put us in a much better position in the future - for years/biennia to come.

Here’s your chance as a reader to join the conversation. Let the posts begin.

Push the Hot Button

The Seattle SuperSonics’ owner hinted at moving the team to Las Vegas, because he couldn’t get a taxpayer-subsidized arena in the Puget Sound area.

NBA Commissioner David Stern said not a chance, not as long as Vegas allows betting on NBA games. Imagine that. Betting on sports. That would be wrong.

Anyway, do you care at this point whether the team stays in Washington state? Do you want taxpayer money going to the team?

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Question: Was Army Right to Ban Baez from Singing?

AP Photo/CTK, Marta Myskova

Folk singer and anti-war activist Joan Baez (shown above performing in Prague in April) says she doesn’t know why she was not allowed to perform for recovering soldiers recently at Walter Reed Army Medical Center as she planned. In a letter to The Washington Post published Wednesday, she said rocker John Mellencamp had asked her to perform with him last Friday and that she accepted his invitation. “I have always been an advocate for nonviolence and I have stood as firmly against the Iraq war as I did the Vietnam War 40 years ago,” she wrote. “I realize now that I might have contributed to a better welcome home for those soldiers fresh from Vietnam. Maybe that’s why I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation to sing for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In the end, four days before the concert, I was not ‘approved’ by the Army to take part. Strange irony” — Yahoo! News.

Full story here

DFO: I don’t agree with Joan Baez on many things politically … now. But I love her voice. It’s beautiful. It reminds me of my youth. And Walter Reed has bigger problems than an old war protester welcoming injured soldiers back to the states. I’d let her sing.

Question: Was the Army right in banning Joan Baez from singing at Walter Reed Army Medical Center?

Wednesday’s Loose Thread

“One fifth of the people are against everything all the time.”Robert F. Kennedy.

So, what’s on your mind today?

Cesar Chavez Day?

There are immigrant marches going on today, but not on the scale seen last May 1.

Our newspaper building is located right across the street from the federal courthouse and a small gathering of protesting students is gathered there now. The students are handing out petitions. I expected it to be about rights for undocumented workers, but instead it was a petition urging Congress to declare March 31 as Cesar Chavez Day.

The petition reads, in part: He led the historic non-violent movement of poor working people…He inspired farm workers and millions of people who never worked on a farm to commit themselves to social, economic and civil rights activism.

Those pushing for this national holiday chose March 31 because it’s the birthday of Chavez.

Rebecca Nappi photo/The Spokesman-Review

Tuesday’s Loose Thread

“Our opinions do not really blossom into fruition until we have expressed them to someone.” Mark Twain

So, what’s on your mind? Let it grow here.

Join the opinion pool party

Our editorial today summarized the looming pool crisis in Spokane — Shadle pools have closed, and the remaining five pools are in pretty bad shape. We suggested three areas of focus:

Think regionally.
Seek out bold leadership.
And get plenty of citizen input, especially this summer at the pools.

But we’d like to hear your solutions to the pool crisis. How should Spokane provide swimming for its young people and for its lifelong, older swimmers?

(Photo by Colin Mulvany/The Spokesman-Review)

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A Matter of Opinion is really a matter of many opinions — those held by the people responsible for the opinion pages of The Spokesman-Review ... and yours. Check in regularly to follow the discussion and help keep it lively.

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