Our Voice: Thumbs up to federal judge for common-sense ruling on sea lions

February 25, 2013 

U.S. District Court Judge Michael Simon recently upheld the National Marine Fisheries Service's program targeting sea lions for death to protect endangered Columbia River salmon runs.

Simon recently ruled that authorizing state wildlife officials to kill sea lions that feast on salmon at Bonneville Dam is within the federal agency's authority.

It was the latest defeat for the Humane Society of the United States, which has been trying to stop the government from culling nuisance sea lions since the program began in 2006.

Since 1978, the Bonneville Power administration has spent more than $12.4 billion on salmon recovery efforts. More accurately, ratepayers have carried the cost. Public power customers pay what amounts to a 20-25 percent surcharge on their electric bills to help restore Northwest salmon runs.

Sea lions that use Bonneville Dam as a smorgasbord defeat those costly efforts to protect endangered salmon runs. Kudos to the federal judge who let common sense prevail.

Intolerable policies

Thumbs down to zero tolerance policies run amok.

The Associated Press recently reported three instances of school officials suspending or threatening to suspend small children for childish behavior.

-- In Pennsylvania, a kindergartner tells her pals she's going to shoot them with a Hello Kitty toy that makes soap bubbles.

-- In Maryland, a 6-year-old boy pretends his fingers are a gun during a playground game of cops and robbers.

-- In Massachusetts, a 5-year-old boy attending an after-school program makes a gun out of Legos and points it at other students while "simulating the sound of gunfire," as one school official put it.

The Massachusetts boy got off with a warning, but the other two children were suspended from school.

We'd say that policies that demand zero tolerance for threatening behavior trumped common sense in all three cases.

We know children can pose a real threat. Just this month, police accused two fifth-grade boys armed with a stolen semi-automatic gun and knife of plotting to kill a classmate at Fort Colville Elementary School in Colville.

But that's no excuse for substituting zero tolerance for common sense and professional judgment.

The two fifth graders were arrested and charged with a crime, an appropriate response to the real threat they posed to their classmates.

The Hello Kitty kindergartner was suspended from her Eastern Pennsylvania school for making a "terroristic threat" with the bubble gun.

That would be funny if it weren't so outrageous.

Ties that bind

Thumbs down to state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, for sponsoring legislation that would require a one-year waiting period before couples can divorce.

The idea that society would benefit if more couples chose to remain married probably has some merit. We're not so sure the same holds true for couples who are forced to stay married.

Regardless, do we want state government to impose that much control over the lives of adults? Talk about your nanny state.

When two adults determine they are no longer compatible and believe their lives would be improved if they separated, it shouldn't be the state's job to change their minds.

Domestic violence experts worry about specifics in the law, arguing that provisions to protect victims don't go far enough.

We worry about the concept behind the law.

If Benton wants to strengthen marriage, he should consider making it more difficult to enter one in the first place.

Right now, the waiting period for divorce is 90 days in Washington, and the waiting period for marriage is three days.

If couples had to more time to think about getting married, more of them might stick with it.

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