Opinion

Our views: State workers are generous

Active and retired state employees have pledged a record $5.90 million to more than 2,600 charities through the Combined Fund Drive. That's an increase from $5.64 million pledged during the 2005 campaign.

"The public employees of Washington are an example to all," Gov. Chris Gregoire said. "Their generosity once again demonstrates how public employees and retirees come together to strengthen their communities." Tom Haines, fundraising chairman, said the 3,000 leaders and volunteers are the backbone of the campaign and a big reason for its success. The pledged dollars will be distributed to the charities quarterly in 2007. And here's an amazing statistic: Since the inception of the Combined Fund Drive workplace-giving program 22 years ago, employees and retirees have pledged more than $79 million to charities across Washington and the world. Washington workers are always among the tops in the nation when it comes to supporting charitable causes. Well done.

Apparently some merchants will do anything for a sale - even take advantage of a mentally ill man. King County prosecutors say 11 employees of a West Seattle automobile dealership allegedly were involved in a plot that resulted in the theft of more than $100,000 from a man suffering from mental illness who has subsequently been admitted to Western State Hospital. First, salesmen sold the man a high-priced truck, then they broke into his home to steal more cash, say prosecutors and Seattle Police. They also allege that one salesman then talked the man, who had been committed to a mental health unit at Harborview Medical Center, into selling the truck to him at a fraction of its value. Three men - Ted Coxwell, 39, Raymond Rimbey, 39, and Adrian Dillard, 32, the former sales manager at the Huling Bros. car dealership - face charges that include burglary, theft and money laundering. The eight others have not yet been charged. Finally, someone at the dealership notified police of the illegal activity. Of the criminal scheme, Seattle Police Det. Caryn Lee said, "The opportunity presented itself, and they took it." How disgusting and shameful. These car salesmen have given their profession a black eye. The dealership owner at the time has agreed to repay the $100,000.

January is School Board Appreciation month. Too many of us take our school board members for granted and forget that these men and women work year-round to bring a quality education to every student. It's not an easy job - balancing the needs of children against state regulations and a limited tax base. Some districts in this state are wrestling with shrinking enrollments and the need to close schools. While they have their budget challenges, South Sound school officials are finding ways to squeeze more students into classrooms and still help each student achieve academic success. For their work on behalf of students, a big thumbs up to the directors in all eight school districts in Thurston County.

I n this day and age of heightened airport security, it's frightening to know that a 9-year-old can outsmart airport authorities. But that's precisely what happened at Sea-Tac International Airport recently. The youngster made his way to the airport and was able to hop on two flights, unescorted and without purchasing a ticket, before his quest to visit his grandfather in Dallas came to a halt. The child, who has run away before, was involved in a police chase in a stolen car just days before his trip to Texas. The 80-pound, 4-foot-9 fourth-grader managed to talk his way onto flights from Seattle to Phoenix and from Phoenix to San Antonio. Southwest Airline officials say the Tacoma resident presented himself as a 12-year-old, and therefore would not have been listed as an unaccompanied minor. He requested a boarding pass, saying that his mother was already in the boarding area. "The young man's information matched a paid, ticketless reservation for the flight. Based on the information he gave us, he was issued a boarding pass," a Southwest official said. And just like that, he was onboard an airplane bound for Phoenix. As George Behan, a spokesman for Congressman Norm Dicks, said: "We spend billions of dollars inconveniencing the American public and making things safe - we think. Then a 9-year-old comes walking through." Not very reassuring, is it?

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