Midday Scan: Exec's office played politics on Snohomish County time

A new report on the troubled executive's office says an advisor devoted county resources to digging up dirt about an opponent. Gary Locke earns praise. Mike McGinn goes for City Light rate hike plan.
Crosscut archive image.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke appears with President Barack Obama after his nomination as the U.S. ambassador to China. At left is Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

A new report on the troubled executive's office says an advisor devoted county resources to digging up dirt about an opponent. Gary Locke earns praise. Mike McGinn goes for City Light rate hike plan.

The saga of Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, under investigation for professional misconduct and misusing county resources, is best summarized in a Basho-style haiku:  

The betraying wind
A riot of clouds above
Reardon picks daisies 

As the Herald's Scott North and Noah Haglund report, detectives with the Washington State Patrol have submitted the findings of their Reardon investigation to the Island County Prosector, "but they aren't saying what they've found." The murk grows thicker with Haglund and North's weekend profile of Reardon staffer Kevin Hulten who mixed campaign work with country business. 

"Aaron Reardon didn't need to dirty his own hands in unearthing embarrassing information about his opponent in last year's Snohomish County executive race," North and Haglund write. "He had placed somebody on the county payroll who frequently devoted his time and office resources to campaign-related activities." (The Hulten article is an illustration of investigative journalism at its best.)

What became of the Pacific Northwest's signature-cheap electrical rates? "Roll on Columbia roll on," Woody Guthrie wrote in Washington's official folk song. "Your power is turning our darkness to dawn." (And don't blame the 1982 Washington Public Power Supply System default. Seattle City Light wisely shied away from plants 4 and 5.) Now, much to the chagrin of Boeing and Seattle consumers, Mayor Mike McGinn is calling for a 28 percent rate boost over six years. 

The Seattle Times Bob Young writes, "The rate hikes, which average 4.7 percent a year, are part of City Light's new strategic plan. In endorsing the plan, McGinn is expected to stress the predictability it brings ratepayers, according to his 'talking points' for the news conference and other documents obtained by The Seattle Times." 

Should City Light revisit and scrub its budget before the Seattle City Council signs off? Young writes, "Consultants hired by City Light identified last year $35 million in potential savings, based on comparing City Light's staffing and other spending with peer power companies." 

The Seattlepi.com's Joel Connelly demands a sensible quid pro quo. When President Obama visits Seattle on Thursday to raise mega loot for his reelection kitty, why not turn a political moment into something meaningful? For example, a San Juan National Conservation Area, championed by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Rick Larsen, has been stonewalled in the House. That can be remedied.    

"Here's a modest proposal for the 44th president's third fundraising foray to the "other" Washington:  Obama ought to give something back that is his to give," Connelly writes. "Obama should use his powers, under the Antiquities Act, to create a new national monument covering 955 acres of oft-spectacular terrain in our San Juan Islands.  U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar wants to protect the land. The county council has endorsed its preservation."  

Connelly's thesis encapsulated in a traditional 5-7-5 haiku:

Obama in Spring 
The money tree shakes its leaves
San Juan Monument 

Gary Locke has redeemed himself (at least in the eyes of human rights devotees like Midday Scan's author.) 

"As a former U.S. commerce secretary and governor of Washington state, Gary Locke wasn’t considered much of a heavyweight on human rights when he became the first Chinese-American ambassador to Beijing last year. Trade and maintaining smooth relations between Washington and its biggest foreign creditor were seen as dominating his agenda," the AP reports. "Yet, nine months on, Locke’s key role in the recent drama over blind legal activist Chen Guangcheng has put him on the front lines of U.S. concerns about China’s embattled dissident community. Chen’s sudden escape from house arrest and a U.S. decision to give him sanctuary in the U.S. Embassy gave Locke his first crisis as ambassador, made him a target of criticism from Beijing and earned him respect from the human rights lobby."

Lastly, The News Tribune's Peter Callaghan has written a persuasive column regarding Washington's top-two primary. In brief, it's not the train wreck that partisans had predicted.

Link Summary

The Herald,  "County staffer delivered dirt to Reardon campaign"

Seattle Times"Mayor to propose Seattle City Light rate increase of 28 percent" 

Seattlepi.com, "Obama: Take our money but give us a monument"

The Washington Post"Crisis allows U.S. Ambassador Locke to commitment to human rights"

The News Tribune"Top two primary system defies dire expectations"


Please support independent local news for all.

We rely on donations from readers like you to sustain Crosscut's in-depth reporting on issues critical to the PNW.


About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson