Sunday, August 10, 2008

VG: Commissioner of Public Lands

It is sometimes difficult to describe where I am coming from. I don't mean in this blog, I mean in real life. I live in unincorporated King County, between Renton and Kent. My postal address is Renton, but my property abuts a Kent school. The area north has been sucked up officially by Renton (after flirting with the idea of becoming Fairwood), while our neighborhood is going to eventually become part of Kent (or so the theory goes). So after trying a number of ways of telling people where I live, I just settles on Panther Lake, the largest local feature (and there is a Panther Lake in Federal Way as well, so that doesn't always work, either).

Anyway, the neighborhood is covered today in the Sunday Seattle Times/P-I in the real estate section, with a big push for how affordable everything is (if you ignore the $600k megamansions) and how it still shows its rural roots (which we seem to be intent of burying under a carpet of new housing). It mentions the one solid restaurant on the hill (Paulo's) but admits that most people leave the area to go anyplace interesting (in Real Estate terms - "Quiet bedroom community").

That only has a tangential connection to the Commissioner of Public Lands position, but it was worth mentioning in passing.

Anyway, in CPL we have the same prob we have in AG - two candidates in a top two election. So we're going to see these guys again. We also have some scandal in the race, which says something about Washington's political establishment that we have to dig this far down into the list to find it.

Incumbent Doug Sutherland is former mayor of Tacoma and has support from the big timber operations. According to his candidate statement - "runs government like a business because good business and environmentally responsible stewardship go hand in hand." Unmentioned in the writeup is that he was targeted by a sexual harassment investigation from an employee (inappropriate touching and remarks) in 2005. This only surfaced recently, and the traditional press was going to ignore it entirely until the blogosphere brought it up (another case of an "open secret" that doesn't get shared).

But this is small stuff (Sutherland agreed at the time that he violated policy and apologized - no suit was filed). A more serious lapse of judgment was his department's involvement in the Chehalis flood earlier this year. Investigations pointed out that a major contributor to the floods, which inundated the lowlands and closed I-5, was overharvesting (strip logging) of forests up in the watershed. The heavy rains caused slides, which then funneled the wall of water west into the towns.

This one is more serious, and responsibility has to be laid at the DNR and the Commission of Public Lands (who, in turn, refers to the incident as "an act of God"). This time they were asleep at the switch, and Chehalis and Centralia paid the price.

Sutherland's challenger is Peter Goldmark is a rancher from the far side of the Cascades, and plays the cowboy card a lot, while noting in passing that he is also a molecular biologist. He stresses endorsements from labor, conservation, and education groups, as well as Senators Cantwell and Murray.

Like I said, we'll be back to these guys. More later,