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A Matter Of Opinion

Archive for June 2008

The 1970s: We were richer then?

(The cast of The Brady Bunch is shown in this 1975 AP file photo)

From a Sunday column by Robyn Blumner:

The work of Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren indicates there is a coming collapse of the middle class. Warren compares the median American family of 1970 versus that of 2003. She unpacks why our savings rate has dropped to zero from a rather healthy 11 percent of take-home pay in 1970, even as the family added mom as a breadwinner.

She says that Americans are actually spending far less in inflation-adjusted dollars for things like clothes and food, including eating out, than they did in 1970. What has substantially changed, Warren reports, is the cost of big-ticket, fixed expenses.

Housing costs for a medium-size house… have increased 76 percent. Health insurance costs are up 74 percent. Also up sharply are taxes (due to the second income), child care and car-related expenses. Americans keep a car more than two years longer than they did 30 years ago, but they now need two cars to get to two jobs.

Are you better off now than your family was in the 1970s?

Loose Thread Monday

(A jogger runs into the sunset along High Drive. S-R Archive photo by Christopher Anderson.)

When you move away,
you see how much depends
on the pace of the days—how much
depended on the haze we waded through
each summer, visible heat, wavy and discursive
as the lazy track of the snake in the dusty road. — Ellen Bryant Voigt, excerpt from Landscape, Dense with Trees, found at Poetry Foundation.

We’re open for opinions, dusty, wavy, discursive.

Our Saturday view

Saturday’s editorial called for an update of the 1872 mining act, which is virtually the same as it was in that year, over 13 decades ago.

Times have definitely changed, and while mining isn’t dead, it needs to learn to share space with equally important uses for the land.

Letter: Is art worth it?

The picture of the Olympic Sculpture Park on the Seattle waterfront (Sunday Outdoors and Travel section) blows my mind. What am I looking at? Is it a gigantic waste of money called “art”? Is it an example of West-Side excess that should have been devoted to the Alaska Way replacement? It seems to me to be nothing more than an expression of Seattle affluence. The next time they cry for the rest of us to share in one of their capital projects, I will advocate they have proven they can handle it themselves. — Kay Morse, Spokane

(S-R file photo of “Eagle,” by Alexander Calder, at the Olympic Sculpture Park)

Do you enjoy art, especially of the modern variety? Are visuals a priority in your budget?

The Drive to Live

Got a link to a video of a man dying of ALS (Lou Gering’s disease) who has spoken out against a proposed intiative in Washington state that would allow people with terminal illnesses to end their lives with prescription drugs. The initiative might be on the ballot in Washington this fall if enough signatures are collected.

Thanks to Chris Carlson, a Spokane man who has been very active in opposing the initiative. He sent it along.

Take a look here.

And read more about the man in the video — and also about Chris Carlson here.

Then share your thoughts on this topic. If you had this terminal illness would you want to die when you chose? Blog lines are open.

Our view: Guild vote good start

In today’s editorial, we have commendations and concerns for the police ombudsman plan, which now goes to the City Council for consideration. Considering Spokane’s history of failed police oversight plans, this is definitely a good start. We hope the Police Guild’s excessive power in the process will be tempered and the result will be a fully independent ombudsman.

Exxon-Valdez: 19 years later

The Supreme Court just drastically cut the punitive damages for the 1989 Exxon-Valdez disaster off the Alaska coast. Story here.

I don’t imagine this ruling will be popular with the people, many of whom are already angry at oil companies for the exponential growth in gas prices.

Says Sen. Patty Murray, “Nearly 20 years later, the Northwest’s fisheries and environment are still affected by Exxon’s negligence, and years of legal wrangling shouldn’t allow them to fall short of their responsibility to make amends.”

As the name implies, punitive damages aren’t so much about amends as punishment. They’ve paid $500 million in economic losses to the victims. Though the court has not set an amount Exxon will probably still pay as much again in punitive damages.

Do you think Exxon has been sufficiently punished for its culpability in this horrific oil spill?

(AP file photo of tugboats pulling the Exxon-Valdez after the 1989 disaster)

Our view: New laws in our best interest

Today’s editorial alerts dishwasher owners and mobile-phone-using drivers that their habits are going to have to change, by law, starting July 1. To the complainers we say drivers’ safety and a clean river are worth forgoing that phone conversation and using your favorite detergent.

What do you think?

Letter: Transportation values

Thursday, June 19, a headline on the Spokesman’s front page proclaimed, “Americans rein in road time.” Inside, the editorial exhorted Idaho to spend money on highways. A disconnect? Old thinking?

Idaho’s transportation department (ITD) does not invest in meaningful bicycle, pedestrian and transit infrastructure. Unfortunately, its highway/roadway expansion makes other modes more difficult and dangerous. Many Idahoans would drive less but find their efforts hampered by minimal transit, sidewalks, bike lanes and unsafe crossings. These options can be less expensive than adding road lanes, but ITD acts as a “highway department,” not a “transportation department.”

Several years ago ITD sponsored a visioning workshop where I heard North Idaho leaders advocate for transit, bicycles and walking. All are missing in the final funding report.

With drivers seeking alternatives, let’s invest in them. Make it safe for kids to safely walk or bike to nearby schools. Adults should be able to use their bicycles and feet to commute, to enjoy themselves or to run errands. Instead of spending mere pennies on these options, let’s give them priority for a few years and enjoy the results. Our transportation system will be more robust; our lives will be better. — Molly O’Reilly, Sandpoint

Do you see highways becoming back-burner issues in light of gas prices and a “new order” of transportation strategies? How much must transportation departments contribute to conservation efforts? Does a change in priorities justify allowing some roads to remain in disrepair?

Loose thread Tuesday

The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Fences have nothing to do with it. The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be. — Robert Fulghum

Tuesday’s loose thread is a little late, as some have already commented on today’s material in Monday’s. But if you need a new start, here’s your chance.

(S-R file photo)

Pew Religion Study: Part II

(Steve Carell, left, plays Evan Baxter, who’s appointed by God, played by Morgan Freeman, in “Evan Almighty” to build an Ark. AP Photo)

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life released today the second part of its U.S. Religious Landscape Survey.

Some highlights, reported on Pew’s site, as well as the excellent ones found below on ReligionLink.

*One in five atheists believe in God and more than half of the agnostics surveyed said they do, too.

*Significantly more people say they believe in heaven (74 percent) than in hell (59 percent).

*Most Americans – 79 percent – say they believe in miracles.

*Less than one-third of the respondents say they receive answers to their prayers at least once a month.

*A majority of members of every religion reported that they were “very satisfied” with their personal lives – with one exception. Less than half (47 percent) of all members of traditionally African-American churches reported that they were very happy with their personal lives.

The Big … Knitting Factory

Through the office window I watched workers take down the sign above the entrance to the Big Easy on Friday — now I’m watching them install a new one which renames the concert house “The Knitting Factory.”

Speaking of knitting, here is your Monday loose thread. But don’t pull too hard if there’s any literal knitting going on. As a knitter myself, I know you could get quite an irked response.

The Nature of Evil

(Photo of Charles William Smith courtesy of Benewah County Sheriff’s Office)

When I read the horrific story of the abuse of 3-year-old Kyra Wine of St. Maries, I wondered once again about the nature of evil.

As our story reported today, “Benewah County sheriff’s deputies found the blond, fair-skinned girl covered in bruises and with dead flesh on her feet and hands.” Kyra’s mother, 26-year-old Christina Haynes, and her boyfriend, 29-year-old Charles William Smith, have been arrested.

What happens in homes where abuse happens in such terrible ways? Does it make the case for you that evil exists, in its own right, and manifests itself through willing humans? Or does it bring up some other explanations. Blog lines, sadly, are open.

We have miles to go

It wasn’t planned that way, but today’s front-page story about gas-saving driving practices has a direct tie-in to today’s editorial, “Going the distance.”
As motorists drive less, they pay fewer gasoline taxes, making it harder for local, state and federal governments to build and maintain roads — including projects that would foster smoother, more efficient travel. As automakers realize they have to respond not only with better mileage performance but also with hybrids and plug-in electrics and other alternatives to internal combustion, gasoline tax revenues will fall further and further short of the funding needs.
What do you foresee as this situation unfolds?

Wrong number courtesy

Earlier this afternoon, I dialed a number I thought belonged to an economist and though his answering voice message was brief at the other end (no identifying characteristics), I left a message, explaining the information I needed for an editorial.

About 10 minutes ago, a kind young man called me back to tell me I’d dialed his cell phone by mistake. He didn’t say it in a crabby way at all. He did it out of courtesy to a stranger. I thanked him.

The exchange makes me wonder if anything similar has happened to others out there in blog land. We’re all ears.

Boeing Boeing

The Government Accountability Office has called on the Air Force to reopen the bid process by which a combine involving Northrop Grumman and the French aircraft maker Airbus to build the U.S. next refueling tanker. Here’s a news release from GAO.
Washington (state) officials are delighted. But questions arise whether it’s just coincidental that their perspective on the soundest decision just happens to be the one that supports jobs in their home state.
And here’s what Sen. Patty Murray’s office released.

Do you care?

The state Department of Health will hold two hearings next week in Spokane County to hear community feelings about the prospective sale of Deaconess Medical Center and Valley Hospital and Medical Center. The department is to make a decision this fall as whether to approve the sale to Tennessee-based Community Health Systems Inc., a for-profit operator of more that 100 hospitals in 28 states.
Those who offer testimony will be limited to three minutes (although they are encouraged to present the department with extended written remarks). What would you tell them?

Letters: Gas shortage

Excerpts from two letters that ran today:

Oil production has peaked for dozens of nations in the last decade (U.S. production peaked in 1971), while global demand continues to rise. It’s simply supply and demand. If the American public wants somebody to blame for the current price of petroleum, they need look no further than a mirror. An exacerbating factor is the fact that we’ve built our cities under the assumption that oil will always be cheap, making it difficult to live without driving.

When will oil prices go down? When we quit using it. — Andrew Ruud, Spokane

Mr. Barnes suggests that somehow there is a gasoline shortage. Is there? Have you seen any lines of people trying to get gas and failing? Have you seen any signs that say “No Gas Today”? Nope.

But this nonexistent shortage is the Democrats’ fault. Why? Because they won’t allow drilling in ANWR or the continental shelf or oil shale or tar sands. Regard: In the last few years, 10,000 drilling contracts have been granted to companies who are not drilling. Since 1979, there has been only one request to build a new refinery – which was granted. Currently the refineries are operating at 85 percent capacity. If there was such a shortage, wouldn’t they be operating at 100 percent capacity? Wouldn’t all those drilling contracts be in progress? Wouldn’t we be waiting in line hoping that we got our gas before the pump ran out? Where exactly is the shortage? — Jeff Brown, Spokane Valley

The drum beats a little quicker

In California today, the first same-sex marriages were to take place since the state Supreme Court held that limiting marriage to man-woman combinations was unconstitutional. In San Francisco, a long-lasting lesbian couple, now in their 80s reportedly were to be first.
All this activity is said to be a kick off for a political battle to reverse the court ruling by amending the constitution, via the ballot.
In Oregon, meanwhile, the Associated Press reported today that social and religious conservatives who oppose two gay rights measures approved by the Legislature last year, have given up on their attempt to put a repeal on the ballot. They’re running out of time to collect the necessary signatures. (The measures in question provided for domestic partnerships and banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.)
It remains to be seen if Oregon uninterest in reversing the lawmakers’ work foretells an uphill fight for those who want to undo the California Supreme Court ruling.
But it’s possible that the more people see examples of same-sex relationships, the more their phobias cool and the sooner our culture can mature another notch.

Natives and Newcomers: Join the Dialogue

(Photo by Brian Plonka/S-R)

We launched our Natives and Newcomers Dialogues Sunday. We see it as a way for readers to eavesdrop on some of the conversations we’ve been hearing about the future of Spokane. It’s an exciting time.

Bill Simer — a shareholder in the Spokane-based public accounting firm of McDirmid, Mikkelsen & Secrest and megavolunteer — looked at Spokane past, present and future.

Here’s an excerpt:

Q: Will we ever get over our inferiority complex? We’re not Seattle. We’re not Portland. We’re not Boise.

A: We’re better than Boise. That’s my motto. I don’t care if we’re ever better than Seattle. I’m a little worried we’re not as good as Portland. They have dog parks all over the place. They have good public transportation. But I don’t believe we have any reason to feel inferior. I’ve never felt that. If I worry about one thing, it’s that people who could make a difference here spend their winters away and maybe winter goes from October through May.

Q: What do we lose when we lose them?

A: We lose their support of culture. We lose their involvement in political discourse and involvement that might move the community forward.

Q: Snowbirds. It wasn’t something that happened when we were younger.

A: In my neighborhood, it was out of the question. It would be nice in February to go somewhere warmer, but does it make this community a little less like home when you do that? Do you split your allegiances?

Please add your thoughts to any and all. Blog lines are open.

Sunday’s editorials

Squabbling between the city of Spokane and Spokane County is no way to resolve annexation questions. For the region’s sake more cooperation is needed, as “Mayor on right tract” notes.
Meanwhile, “A new Spokane story” observes that a second-class attitude that has hampered Spokane for years belongs on the endangered species list.

“I Knew I Was Different”

Hope everyone out there had a chance to read a beautifully written guest column on today’s letters pages by Phillip Brock, administrator of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Spokane.

It’s about his journey as a gay man growing up with the knowledge he was different. It also sketches how far our society has come in acceptance.


When I told my mom, she cried, because her vision of what she had wanted for me was now very different, but mostly because she was scared about how I would be treated.

Two years later, my mom and I ended up sharing an apartment together. Tony, a guy from out of town that I was dating, had just left, and she and I were watching television. We had not talked about my being gay since the day that I came out to her. Suddenly, in the silence, she said, “You know what, Phillip? I like Tony much better than any of the girls you ever dated. I’m glad that you are happy.”
My relationship with Tony didn’t work out, but my mom and I grew closer from that moment on until the day that she died.

And when they get behind closed doors …

Executive sessions are fine. Check that, legal executive sessions are fine. So how do we know they’re legal? Well, they could be recorded and if a judge were persuaded that a violation occurred, then the veil could be lifted.

But most government leaders dislike that bit of common sense, so they lobby against it in Olympia. That will continue until the public says, “Enough!”

In Our View, that day is long overdue.

Letter: School lunches

(…) Several years ago, I was a school administrator when the head of food service contacted me. Her job was to have families prove their income in order to have their children stay in the program. The results shocked me. Three families were checked at random. Only one of the three families sent in the proof. The other two sent nothing in and were dropped from the program. What bothered me was the extremely low percentage of families that were checked. Why doesn’t the federal government make every family prove their income?

If families can prove that they should be on the program, great. I’d be the last one to take food away from children. But everyone needs to go through that process. The savings could be huge. — Rich Tschirgi, Spokane

I didn’t go to a public elementary school and I don’t have kids, so help me out here. Have you seen evidence of widespread abuse of the free and reduced-price lunch program?

(S-R file photo)

Thursday’s Loose Thread

What the hail? Summer is less than two weeks away and we’re pounded with marble-sized ice balls! Why doesn’t somebody do something about this freakish weather!

OK, what’s on your mind?

Letter: Don’t give up on science center

Levi L. Hanson in a letter today urged the Park Board to give Mobius more time to raise funds for the Riverfront Park science center. An excerpt:

Mobius has had an impressive record of raising funds for its science center; in fact, the Legislature recently granted additional funding in support of Mobius’ efforts. The science center is a worthwhile project and will prove to be an institution that Spokane can be proud of, bringing much-needed dollars to the region and providing a fun and educational attraction for locals and visitors alike.

Do you think Mobius should get more time to get more money for the proposed science center?

Wednesday’s Loose Thread

Happy Juneuary! What’s on your mind today?

More Water Over Spokane Falls

( Photo by Larry Reisnouer/The Spokesman-Review)

For those of you who saw the river in downtown Spokane during this spectacular spring, you know the difference between that sight and what happens here in summer. The river trickles to leaky faucet status and its fishy smells drift upward. Not very pleasing to the eye or nose.

Looks like water will flow more generously in the summer months now. This just in from Washington’s Dept. of Ecology:

SPOKANE- The river actually will “run through it” under a new regimen that requires more water to flow down the Spokane River into Washington and through the falls downtown.
After a 30-day public review period, including a formal public hearing, the Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) has submitted a
“401 Water Quality Certification” to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for Avista’s four Washington dams…
Another goal of the 401 Certification is to achieve the flows that residents and visitors want to see. The document contains aesthetic flow requirements. Under the permit, downtown visitors and local residents will see more water flowing through the North Channel, which is currently dry for much of the summer. The increase would take place at 10 a.m. until 30 minutes after sunset.
In general, minimum flows during dry times, would increase by approximately 300 cubic feet per second. This amounts to about 2,250 gallons per second of increased flow.

For lots more information on the 401 certification click here.

Letters and tornadoes

The fact that letters aren’t currently available online for Sunday or Tuesday has been brought to our attention and is being worked on. Meanwhile here’s one from today.

Rekha Basu’s column on tornadoes (“Tornadoes can’t destroy strong civic connections,” June 6) was lovely but meaningless. The loss of one home and its contents is devastating economically, sociologically and psychologically.

Economically, the “things” that are lost can’t be replaced, at least at the quality they were, as insurance companies depreciate goods and buildings as much as possible and few have the savings to make up the difference, particularly the elderly and wage-earners.

Sociologically, our status is determined by the house we have and its contents. Those who rebuild normally end up with less of a house than they started with and some are forced to move into cheaper houses in less desirable neighborhoods where they are strangers. This results in a loss of social status.

Psychologically, there’s the fear it could happen again. There’s the discomfort of insurance forms, loss of equity, uncertainty about the future and the stress of making acceptable replacements quickly. You would be surprised at how many survivors wished they hadn’t.

Have you ever experienced a major disaster? What’s the most important component of recovering from one?

Out of work, out of circulation

If you lose your job because you’re in jail and can’t show up for work, should your employer have to pay higher unemployment insurance premiums while you collect benefits? Today’s editorial discusses the issue. What are your thoughts.

Life in the slow lane

“Bring back the Double Nickel” or, “I Can’t Drive 55!”

Mr. Smart Bombs wonders where you land. If driving slower — voluntarily or not — is out of the question, then what conservation sacrifice would you be willing to make?

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home

Gasoline climbed a little higher, and there was discussion about how soon the national average will reach $5 a gallon. The end of the year, or the end of July? Vacationing close to home is getting more appealing all the time, as today’s editorial addresses.

Turn to the next page

Saturday’s editorial commends the high success rate on the state’s controversial WASL, which most high school students must pass to receive a diploma. But challenges remain.

Keo Chronicles: June 7, 1945

As soon as we got our work cleared away, we began getting ourselves ready for the Officers Wives Tea at the “Air Port.” I wore my brown suit and top coat, brown straw hat and brown shoes, gloves and purse. Enjoyed the ride out the Sunset Highway. Arriving at the “Air Port” an officer greeted us at the gate for identification before we could enter.

Io was our spokesman and manager. She produced one of the invitations to the officer. He handed Io the long type-written list for our perusal We were glad to find our five names on it. Then he told us to drive and which building to go to for passes. A young woman questioned each one of us, making duplicate copies.

Our invitation came through one of Io’s tenants who was one of the hostesses. She had spent the whole morning arranging the flowers and then was not able to stay for the tea. She is in delicate health — a couple of months.

*I love this entry because it shows how new the word “air port” must have been, even though they were at the base. Also, notice the heavy security at the base’s gate. It was war time, after all. And the way she described the pregnant woman at the end of this excerpt. This is one of the longest posts in Keo’s journal, so it must have been a very special day for her.

Animal Cruelty: A teen’s poem

In wonderful blog coincidences, as I was putting the finishing touches on the animal edit below yesterday afternoon, a woman called the newsroom to say that her daughter had written a poem about cruelty to animals. Somehow, the message got transferred to me.

We rarely publish poetry in our news pages, for a variety of reasons I won’t go into here, but the blog allows for stuff we don’t have room for in our news pages.

So I told the woman, Sandy Heupel, to send me her daughter’s poem. Her daughter, Rachael M. Heupel, is a freshman at Deer Park High School and wrote the poem as part of a power point presentation on dogfighting.

And here it is:

By Rachael M. Heupel

You laugh and watch me.
I fight your fights and win.
I am a dog.

You have pitted me against my brothers and sisters.
I holler for defeat.
I am in my blood.
I am dying and yet you make me fight.
You see me lying down.
Now I am slain in my own blood.
You yell at me to get up.
Can’t you see that I’m dead?
Or do I matter to you?

I have no voice.
My voice is no more.
I am in the ring never more.

Loose Thread Friday

This week sped by for our blog team here at Opinion Central.

How did your week go?

Blog lines officially open this lovely Friday morn.

Keo Chronicles: June 5, 1945

Fred tooted his horn for us about 9. He had a couple of clients in the car — a Mr. Martin and a comical little old lady who wore a nurse’s uniform. She called us darling and dear and God Bless you during all her conversations.

It rained nearly all day so E. and I did not get out of the car at Medical Lake. While the three of them went into the asylum, we sewed and read a magazine.

Got back to town about noon. I went and cashed the Swift check and put it away. We went to Oasis and got our dinner. Later Eva and Harl came over to play three rubbers. We served buttermilk.

*About the photo: Photo of the interior of a market. Possibly the general store at the corner of Maxwell and Monroe in North Spokane, owned by the King family. This photo was in the Iowa-Keo collection. I wish I knew more about it!

*What are the Keo Chronicles? Read rest of entry.

Loose Thread Thursday

Good morning.
You know the drill.
Blog lines are open.
What’s on your minds?

Keo Chronicles: June 4, 1945

Eva and I went downtown to shop. She came home about 4. I bought the black lace straw hat. Also black patent leather purse.

Called at L.W. Swift’s office. He gave me a check for $1,000 on on his loan besides $9.10 interest.

Sally Jackson: Civic Elder

(S-R photo by J. Bart Rayniak)

Sally Jackson, longtime Spokane Valley civic activist, shared her wisdom in our Civic Elder feature today.

Here are some excerpts:

•Good candidates are like good athletes. They understand the game. They understand their goals. They have a clear vision. Bad politicians are like bad athletes: Self-serving, greedy, unprincipled.

•Waking up in the morning and getting out of bed at my age is a challenge. I do one exercise every day. I lie on my back and do a pushup. If there’s no coffin lid, I’m up and running.

•I’ve been very outspoken against Spokane Valley incorporation. It’s gained me some enemies. Anytime you walk out your front door and have opinions, you get enemies. But it’s also gained me a lot of friends.

•If the conditions were the same in this country right now as in 1776, I don’t think we’d fight the Revolutionary War. I think people are so happy with their TV, with their computers, that they wouldn’t get out and do what needs to be done. We’d still belong to England. Isn’t that pathetic?

Do you agree with Jackson that Americans today would be too distracted/lazy/apathetic to fight for independence from England?

The Drive at 5

It’s raining. Take it easy out there.
More tomorrow….

Keo Chronicles: June 3, 1945

It’s been cold and raining nearly all day. We’ve had fire in fireplace. Eva and Harl came over about 4 to play. In evening, Io and Fred came also. We all sat around table to play and visit.

*Notice the mention of rain. It’s been cold and windy all day on this June 3, 2008. I reminisced at lunch with a friend who also grew up here and we spoke fondly of the rainy Junes we remember from childhood. The kids who went to camp in June usually had a lot of rain. Also, on the rainy days in 1945, people got together to play cards. So did we in our 1960s childhood. Either cards of board games. Another tradition lost?

*What are the Keo Chronicles? Read rest of entry.

And another one rides the bus

(S-R photo by Brian Plonka)

In our editorial board meetings, we’ve had a recurring discussion on what it would take in Spokane to wean people from their cars. How high would gas have to go — $4, $5, $6?

National news has been filled yesterday and today with the news that ridership on public transit is up everywhere, due in part to gas prices.

From AP:

In the first three months of 2008, 2.6 billion trips were taken on public transportation in the U.S., a 3 percent increase over the first quarter of 2007, according to the American Public Transportation Association.

Spokane is not immune to the trend. As Jonathan Brunt reported in a recent story:

Last year, STA gave 9.4 million rides on fixed routes – a 12 percent rise from the year before. The service has experienced increases in rides every month this year compared to the same months in 2007.

So do you think $4 a gallon is the magic number in Spokane? Blog lines are open.

Unfair Tax System

From our editorial today:

Idaho taxpayers who contribute their fair share to the cost of state government have reason to snarl over the possibility that many multistate corporations are getting a questionable break.

But taxpayers aren’t the only stakeholders. Other businesses, whom the practice puts at a competitive disadvantage, also have a beef.

A veteran auditor for the Idaho Tax Commission contends out-of-state corporations routinely avoid millions of dollars in state income tax liabilities through a scheme that relies on cooperation by commission members and remains out of public sight, thanks to a convenient regulatory gimmick. Tax auditor Stan Howland says the activity has been going on for 17 years and was flagged in 1976 but has only become more prevalent.

Maddening isn’t it?

Drive at 5

Be careful out there.
Are you starting to wean yourself off talking while driving in anticipation of cell phone hands-free legislation, enforced July 1?

Let us know.

We’re No. 3!

Looks like A Matter of Opinion blog won a third place award in the 2007 Society of Professional Journalists Pacific Northwest Excellence in Journalism Awards.

It won in an online category called “Creative Use of the Medium (Adaptation).”

It’s a new media world, for sure. We didn’t enter ourselves, but we were honored someone else here did, for whatever it’s worth…

Read all the winners here.

Flexible work schedules

Giving employers and employees the option of offering time off instead of overtime pay?

We’re for it. See our edit today.

Here’s an excerpt:

For many other employees with difficult family schedules, as well as for employers with work demands that may ebb and flow, flexible scheduling would be a mutually attractive alternative to overtime pay. But it isn’t a possibility, thanks to outmoded federal law.

McMorris has introduced legislation to end that prohibition. Under her bill, HR 6025, employers and employees could work out an agreement about compensatory time. They wouldn’t have to, but they could. The law would allow an option it now bans.

Historically, labor organizations have been skeptical of legislation like this for fear it would erode protections that federal law now guarantees to workers.

Historically, many in the stridently pro-family wing of McMorris Rodgers’ party have looked down on the concept of mothers working outside the home, let alone having the law facilitate it.

History, however, belongs in the past, a point McMorris Rodgers’ proposal underscores.

Time or money? Which is more important to you?

The return of Col. Darel Maxfield

We sure miss Jamie Tobias Neely around here. She left the newspaper to be a professor type at Eastern Washington University.

Luckily, we can still read her columns once a month on our pages.

Today, she updated the story she followed about Col. Darel Maxfield, a Spokane teacher on duty in Iraq. Her column this morning is quite moving, explaining how Maxfield adjusts to civilian life.


Maxfield recently met me at Old European, where he ordered a stew omelet and mentally scanned the dining room for rifles. His brain was still walking guard duty in Iraq. Like many returning soldiers, he arrived home in one piece, but not necessarily unscathed…

Here, the city’s lush green foliage astounded him. “I cannot tell you how wonderful the water and the air is,” he told me over breakfast. “I just can’t.”

He read the newspaper in the mornings, bemused at the vehement complaints about the condition of the city’s streets. “The roads may be bumpy,” he said, “but God Almighty, they don’t blow up.”

The night before our breakfast he watched the news on television. It showed no pickup trucks arriving in Spokane filled with twisted and mangled dead bodies. No rockets fell on anybody’s head. No helicopters swooped in as gunships.

Any of you who served in the military remember how it felt to come home?

(Darel Maxfield and his wife, Lesley. S-R photo by Rebecca Nappi)

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