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Past opinions provide perspective

Looking Back reviews opinions published in The Spokesman-Review during this week in history.

About that freeway? Feb. 7, 1985

An S-R editorial noted the lack of progress on a north-south freeway.

“Tired of Spokane’s north-south traffic congestion? Worried about how bad it would be after another 20 years of paralysis by area decision-makers? Then do something about it. Attend one of the two remaining public hearings on the effort to update the Spokane Regional Transportation Plan.

“Updating of the transportation plan, being undertaken by the Spokane Regional Council, represents an ideal opportunity to get this community moving on a problem it cannot afford to ignore any longer.

“No one could live in Spokane for long without realizing the damage being inflicted on local commerce and the quality of life by the city’s increasingly crowded north-south arterials.”

LBJ and the press, Feb. 10, 1965

President Lyndon Johnson’s penchant for shutting down information sparked this editorial.

“With good reason, reporters in Washington, D.C., are chafing at President Johnson’s insistence on spoon-feeding them his own pro-administration publicity yet remaining secretive when they inquire rightfully about legitimate news.

“Johnson’s trouble with the press began when he inherited the presidency. The reporters realized he was extremely sensitive to press criticism and attributed it to the possibility he may have felt uncertain. They respected his wish to hold as few press conferences as possible.

“Now, however, elected in his own right, Johnson has grown even more dictatorial with the press. This in itself does not bother most reporters. What does bother them is that they do their jobs not just for their publications, but for a much bigger reason – the public’s right to know.”

SUV a car? Feb. 7, 2003

An editorial looked at the downside of the SUV’s popularity.

“Cars as a classification have gotten more efficient, run cleaner and are safer than they used to be. Problem is, the federal government doesn’t consider SUVs cars. It calls them light trucks, which allows them to drive through loopholes in mileage, pollution and safety standards.

“All of this could have been headed off in the ’70s with sane mileage and pollution regulations. In response to the Arab oil embargo and badly polluted cities, the federal government instituted mileage and pollution controls. The feds set a Corporate Average Fuel Economy standard for an automaker’s fleet. The CAFE standard for cars is 27.5 miles per gallon, meaning that is the average for a manufacturer’s entire fleet. The feds allowed exemptions for trucks and a lower standard for light trucks. The rationale was that such regulations on working rigs would impede commerce.

“The key moment came when nascent SUVs were categorized as light trucks. SUVs were allowed to skirt more stringent pollution standards for cars as well. The result is that the CAFE today for light trucks is 20.7 miles per gallon, which allows manufacturers to sell huge SUVs getting only 12 miles per gallon as long as they also sell smaller light trucks to offset the gas guzzlers.

“But in the early ’80s oil prices dropped, the economy rebounded and consumers looking for bigger autos turned to the SUV, which, in essence, replaced large cars and station wagons. As a result, mileage and clean-air gains were lost, and dependency on foreign oil became entrenched.”


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