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Letters to the Editor - Thunderword Readers

Dear Editor:

Thank you for writing the Nov. 22 article on King County Councilman Dave Upthegrove's support for the new juvenile detention facility.

I'm not sure if my disagreement lies more with your reporting or with Councilman Upthegrove's formulation of the issue.

I notice you didn't investigate any of the councilman's statements, or interview anyone else. Without doing so, your article becomes merely an incomplete press release.

Why was Upthegrove on campus? Who invited him? Who was he speaking to?

In your lead paragraph, Upthegrove argues that the new juvenile detention facility is needed because it "will help fight racial disparity in the criminal justice system."

He claims further down in your story that "it will be a factor in helping combat racial issues." But he doesn't tell us how that would work. In fact, he cites two legal victories he claims responsibility for, getting juveniles the right to have an attorney present before they are questioned by the police and changing failure to pay bus fares from a criminal to a civil infraction.

Both these changes were accomplished without a new juvenile detention center.

He also says, according to your article, that the "average population in the existing facility has gone from 200 to 30-35 today."

That would have been a good statement to verify. And tell us the time period he's speaking of. That might also be the point to include the comments of Rhonda Berry, the King County Deputy Executive named head of the "county efforts in partnership with the community to reach the goal of zero youth detention," according to King County Executive Dow Constantine's announcement Aug. 8 of this year.

Constantine was following up on his declaration in his State of the County address earlier this year that he was creating a "Road Map to Community Safety and Effective Alternatives to Detention" initiative.

I'm sure Upthegrove is well meaning, but I don't believe as a white man he has the standing to decide anything is "the civil rights issue of our day."

Is he re-stating Martin Luther King, Jr.'s position that "issues of jobs and issues of justice were inextricably intertwined," as Eugene Robinson pointed out in his Jan. 15, 2015, Washington Post opinion piece declaring economic issues were becoming the central focus of MLK's advocacy in the weeks and months preceding his assassination?

Reporting isn't something we're born knowing how to do. You're in a position to encourage your fellow reporters to learn the basics. Verify what you are told. Ask, for instance, "How do you know that is true?"

— Molly Frankel

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