Our Voice: Thumbs up, Thumbs down

Newhouse sponsors expo

Thumbs up to U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse for organizing a Higher Education and Job Training Expo in Kennewick on Saturday. He pulled together dozens of four-year universities, community colleges, military institutions, technical schools and job training programs so students and families could easily gather information about their options after high school graduation. The free event also included a session on tips for applying to college and navigating the student financial aid process. With Congress back in session in Washington, D.C., Newhouse is a busy man at the moment. It’s refreshing that he took the time to sponsor an event that can help so many of his constituents.

City council recognizes role

Thumbs up to the Kennewick City Council for voting down a proposed resolution that would have asked the state attorney general to drop his lawsuit against the owner of Arlene’s Flowers in Richland. A Benton County Superior Court judge ruled Barronelle Stutzman was in violation of state discrimination laws when she refused to provide services for a gay wedding because of her religious beliefs. The issue sparked a debate in this state and across the country over religious beliefs in conflict with the law. Kennewick Councilman John Trumbo felt so strongly about the issue that he tried to get the city to weigh in on an issue completely out of the council’s purview on behalf of a business that’s not even in Kennewick. The sole vote in support of the proposal, Trumbo should be applauded for standing up for his beliefs. And the rest of the council should be applauded for the courage to say city government should not devote staff time and resources to the issue.

Failure to act quickly

Judges across the state continue to issue contempt orders and fines against agencies and two psychiatric hospitals for failing to provide timely competency services after a federal judge ruled the state is violating the constitutional rights of incarcerated individuals who may have mental health issues. It appears, at least in the case of Eastern State Hospital, the failure to respond to the judges’ order is not about funding. Spokane Municipal Court Judge Tracy Staab, in June, said Eastern’s violation of the court order is “willful and intentional.” A spokesman for the the Department of Social and Health Services said the hospital was implementing a list of changes to comply. That’s standard bureaucratic rhetoric defending entrenched organizations that are slow to change. Shame on those who resist the change necessary to protect some of our most vulnerable citizens.