Our Voice: Thumbs up to memorial for Walla Walla County sheriff's deputy

August 18, 2013 

The idea of naming a new highway overpass after a deputy who lost his life at that intersection while on duty is touching.

Apparently, the process to name transportation facilities is extremely strict and strapped with many guidelines. However, it is hard to believe there could be any argument against naming the new overpass at highways 12 and 124 in honor of the late Michael Estes, a Walla Walla County sheriff's deputy.

In February 2007, Estes was responding to a 911 hangup call with his lights flashing at the intersection when his patrol car was struck by a commercial flatbed truck. He died later in a hospital from his injuries.

This particular intersection was known for years as being treacherous. In a 12-year period, six people were killed and 56 injured on that part of the highway. Now there is an overpass making it much safer. It's fitting to name it after a man who devoted his life to protecting others.

Perseverence pays off

Thumbs up to the Thai family for pursuing their disagreement with a Pasco landlord. Their persistence may help other military families. Sarah Thai is joining the Air Force and gave a 30-day notice July 3 that the family wanted to move out, as she is reporting for duty Aug. 27.

The management at their apartment complex, however, initially wanted to charge them for August and September. According to the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, tenants can break their lease on 30 days notice once they have reported for active duty.

But since Sarah hasn't reported for duty yet, she isn't protected.

The apartment managers have since agreed not to charge the Thais for September, which shows some compassion and flexibility. But they could do better.

The family is still working on finding a way to get out of paying their August rent since they aren't living there any more. The couple and their two young children have moved in with family until Sarah leaves.

Their ordeal shows that the current system is flawed and that military personnel need better protection. When people leave home to serve their country, they shouldn't have to deal with such burdens.

Money managers

To the incredibly flawed system that allowed an official from one of the big three ratings agencies to define the criteria allowing a newcomer to join the industry.

Seven years ago, a new national law was established that was meant to spur competition for Standard and Poor's Ratings Services, Moody's Investor Services and Fitch Ratings. These three have been the dominant players in an industry that is supposed to be the watchdog over the nation's financial system.

The bill that was supposed to overhaul the credit ratings industry, however, had a major flaw in the details. It allowed someone from one of the three agencies to write the requirements necessary for any new business to register and become a nationally recognized rating agency.

The criteria make it almost impossible for any new player to join the game and has protected the main three agencies from competition.

This is the opposite result lawmakers had in mind when the law was overhauled.

The new revelation comes from a former aide to the Senate Banking Committee and highlights how a lack of oversight can completely change how a law works. In this case, the law's intent became lost in the details.

None of the three major credit-ratings agencies are admitting yet to helping craft the criteria that has insulated them from competition. But now that the disclosure is there, the SEC needs to fix this as soon as possible.

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