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A beauty contest of political blunders

We already have a bumper crop of state and local entries for the biggest doozies of 2014.
The now-damaged green cutter head was lowered into place before the Bertha tunnel-boring machine began operations on the Seattle waterfront in 2013.

The now-damaged green cutter head was lowered into place before the Bertha tunnel-boring machine began operations on the Seattle waterfront in 2013. WSDOT

In wrapping up Civic Cocktail for the summer (it'll be back in the fall), host Joni Balter asked the media panel to pick the biggest blunders of the last year. There were a lot to choose from, but the list went like this:

KIRO-TV's Essex Porter said he thought it was Mayor Ed Murray's stumbles at the beginning of the police reform process, especially as it related to the mass confusion over his handpicked interim Chief Harry Bailey's actions overturning disciplinary decisions. Multiple press conferences to explain what happened, contradictory statements, new concerns over the mayor's relationship to the police union, all added up to a major stumble on an issue the mayor had identified as a number on priority. Some questioned Murray’s reform commitment. As Porter said, "people were looking for clarity right off the bat." They didn't get it.

The Los Angeles Times' Seattle bureau chief Maria LaGanga, a newcomer to town, said she thought the big blunder was the state's giving so much to Boeing in terms of extending tax breaks and new spending for the company to the tune of $9 billion, then Boeing turning around and announcing it was shipping 1,000 engineer jobs out of state. She described Boeing's action as "déclassé." She didn't mention Boeing's beating the unions around the head, but she does put her finger on a new reality: Loyalty and sentimentality have no places in these dealings, and if you want something, you better get it in writing.

C.R. Douglas from Q13Fox was just brimming with blunders, floating three nominees at city, county and state levels. (It's called a murder of crows, but should we call multiple booboos an "embarrassment of blunders?")

For the city, Douglas agreed with Porter about the Seattle Police Department transition and said that the appointment of Bailey as interim chief was a mistake  — an "embarrassing low point" for the new Murray administration.

For the county, he thought the big blunder was the failure of the Prop. 1 campaign that was defeated handily by an essentially unfunded opposition. He decried the campaign as disastrous, squandering goodwill for busses. As Crosscut put it, the ballot measure ran into a deep ditch.

At the state level, Douglas cited Olympia's failure to merge the newly legalized pot trade with the medical marijuana system already in place, reminding us that the state is under a federal pressure to get it figured out. He warned that federal pot raids are in the offing.

My choice was Big Bertha — a blunder that almost requires no explanation. Engineer hubris, contractor incompetence, mechanical failure, ghosts, who knows what all contributed to the much ballyhooed tunnel boring machine getting stuck at the very beginning of the project? And it will remain stuck for a minimum of another year. We were told it was the biggest machine of its kind ever; some said it would never break down; its every step was followed via Twitter and video feeds. It’s as if the Titanic sank just after leaving the dock at Southampton.

Asked to "applaud" for which blunder was biggest, the audience agreed that Bertha won the blunder prize.

Now consider: We still have six months of blundering ahead, so by the time we get to January, the 2014 list might be very different. 

We're already learning that warnings about the Oso landslide area were made as much as 50 years ago, and the that shortcuts were taken in allowing the Steelhead Drive community to be located in a dangerous zone. The Seattle Times’ recent headline on this: “Oso Neighborhood Should Never Have Been Built.” That was a blunder that played out over decades, but we might well learn more about the causes of the tragic slide in the months ahead that will make us shake our heads.

The blunders of legislative inaction in Olympia are reaching Olympic proportions. The State Supreme Court, for example, is demanding that the legislature — should we call it the "lag-islature?" —  show why it is not in contempt of court for failing to fund public education as required under the McCleary decision. Maybe throwing the legislature’s leadership in jail for a few weeks could boost negotiations.


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Jun 18, 6:15 a.m. Inappropriate

Compare this to the national level issues - Progressives screw everything up. They just can't make things work.

Seasoned

Posted Wed, Jun 18, 6:38 a.m. Inappropriate

"squandering goodwill for busses." Got an editor?

Posted Wed, Jun 18, 8:05 a.m. Inappropriate

"Engineer hubris, contractor incompetence, mechanical failure, ghosts, who knows what all contributed to the much ballyhooed tunnel boring machine getting stuck at the very beginning of the project?"

We do. It ran into a well casing that DOT forgot was in its path.

BlueLight

Posted Sun, Jun 22, 11:17 a.m. Inappropriate

DOT did not forget the well casing. They pointed it out in the written documents and on the maps DOT supplied the contractor.

quiller

Posted Thu, Jun 19, 12:05 a.m. Inappropriate

What a great idea: "Maybe throwing the legislature’s leadership in jail for a few weeks could boost negotiations."

Posted Thu, Jun 19, 4:19 p.m. Inappropriate

If our local media panel had ever practiced any real journalism by definition…”an ongoing method of inquiry and literary style that aims to provide a timely service to the public by the dissemination and analysis of news facts and other relevant information” it might have helped us avoid these doozies of 2014 and their terrible waste of time and public resources.

Grade school kids with pencils and calculators could have determined things like capacities and functions and what things cost relative to how much we could afford and how many people would benefit before all of our “megaprojects” were mismanaged into punch lines for the Civic Cocktail Bash.

jmrolls

Posted Tue, Jul 8, 8:37 a.m. Inappropriate

jmrolls is right. Journalists today do less 5 w's and h writing/research, and more money-enabling promulgation of press releases. Consequently on national level we get no critical analysis of things like the Bay of Tonkin, Weapons of Mass destruction, Hitler-like, using as excuse for invasion "it is a country that kills its own people" in Syria and Iraq and ignore it in Ukraine, Egypt, and all misleading Israel reporting.
Consequently, today democracies have become farcical examples of free speech, choice, and rational governance.

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