Midday Scan: Thursday's top stories around the region

In the news: Tacoma teachers reach agreement; the Weekly brings Washington's war heroes to light; a surge in WA child poverty continues; California warns us about taxing the rich; and Portland mayor Sam Adams gets all Orwellianly equitable.

Crosscut archive image.

A veterans' memorial in North Seattle's Evergreen-Washelli Cemetery.

In the news: Tacoma teachers reach agreement; the Weekly brings Washington's war heroes to light; a surge in WA child poverty continues; California warns us about taxing the rich; and Portland mayor Sam Adams gets all Orwellianly equitable.

There is a spare, compelling elegance to Rick Anderson's portraiture of Washington's war dead. The intangible and faraway made tangible and agonizingly near. The Seattle Weekly dedicates this week's entire issue to remembering all of the Northwest servicemen and women who fell, real soul after real soul, in two long, seemingly invisible wars. Take, for example, Marine Lance Cpl. Cedric Bruns, 22, of Vancouver who "was killed in a nonhostile vehicle accident in Kuwait while driving a Humvee that was struck on the driver's side by another vehicle. Bruns was with the 6th Engineer Support Battalion, 4th Force Service Support Group, in Eugene, Ore. His mother, Debbie, remembers his last phone call: 'It was an early Mother's Day call because he didn't know if he would get another chance at a phone. We talked for 20 minutes. He knew what he was there for — to fight for somebody else's freedom.'"

Multiply these narratives, absorb the photos arranged like high-school headshots, and consider what Hannah Arendt called the "banality of evil." These deaths have become quotidian and out-of-sight and that's obscene in itself. The profiles also eerily echo the New York Times obits for each of the victims of 9/11. One begat the other, or so we are led to believe. (One suggestion: Pick up a hard copy. Reading online doesn't quite do it justice).

"Striking teachers" was an oxymoron up until the late 1970s. Teamsters went on strike. Millwrights and sheet-metal workers went on strike. But algebra teachers? (And who parses the language on protest signs given the number of English teachers? Consider the 2000 Boeing SPEEA strike and the motto, "No nerds, no birds.") In Olympia, Governor Gregoire played the intrepid labor negotiator, helping to broker a tentative settlement between the Tacoma teachers' union and the school district. Debbie Cafazzo of the Tacoma News Tribune writes, "Once they got to Olympia, progress was slow but steady through the evening, both sides reported. In the end, Gregoire said both sides worked 'in absolute good faith' to get Tacoma’s 28,000 students back to class." Presupposing teachers consent to the agreement when they vote today at noon, classes could resume on Friday. Plaudits to the governor: Partisanship aside, in-the-trenches bargaining is Gregoire's forte.    

It's not quite Michael Harrington's The Other America, but it's inching closer: As the Seattle Times' Jack Broom and Justin Mayo report, the latest census data for Washington tracks the surge in poverty-level households. "Children have been particularly affected," they write. "In Washington state last year, 13.4 percent of the overall population, including 18.2 percent of those under 18, were in households with incomes below the national poverty level." Another horrifying stat: "Statewide, more than 47 percent of single mothers with children under 5 were living in poverty." One exacerbating factor that can't be disentangled from the income data: Even in the age of healthcare reform, the number of uninsured continues to rise.  

When the going gets tough, the rich get taxed (or so all we class-warfare proponents hope). In fact, a tax-the-rich proposal could find itself on the Washington ballot as soon as this spring. Does it really work, however? As George Skelton writes in the Los Angeles Times, it's no panacea. "If President Obama really wants to see the 'Buffett Rule' in action, he should look at California's tax system. The state has been plagued by it for years. The revenue stream is unstable and the state budget has been a deficit disaster." As Skelton notes, the Buffett Rule requires that "people earning more than $1 million shouldn't be allowed to pay a lower tax rate than middle-income families." How could something so intrinsically fair sounding possibly be wrong? 

Lastly, for entertainment purposes only: Portland Mayor Sam Adams and city commissioner Amanda Fritz advance a noble idea: A city office of "Equity and Human Rights." In presenting their argument, however, Adams and Fritz (or their ghostwriter) conjure the most Orwellian-bureaucratese sentence published this month: "The new office will design systemic changes to remedy historic and current disparate outcomes." Utopia, anyone?          

Link summary 

Seattle Weekly, "War isn't over: Remembering Washington's war dead"

Tacoma News Tribune, "Gregoire praises Tacoma school deal; teachers vote at noon, could be in class Friday"

Seattle Times, "Census: More residents sinking into poverty"

Los Angeles Times, "The 'Buffett Rule' hasn't worked in California" 

Oregonian, "Office of equity: All Portlanders deserve an opportunity"


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson