Fixing the Group that’s supposed to fix Puget Sound

Crosscut takes a highly critical point of view to the Partnership. Is it as bad as Chasan says it is in this article? Not really, the stories of car use, purchase of Macintosh computers when the state only supports Windows, etc, are relatively minor, have already been dealt with by the partnership (the Mac computer story is over a year old) but unfortunately come at an election season, and come amidst other criticisms of the Partnerhship. But the publicity given by KUOW  (I’m not going to call the lightweight stories that they published “investigative journalism”  because they weren’t even that), of the minor issues that have come to symbolize the Partnership, has done the Partnership damage and are overshadowing the good work that has been done. So with that caveat,  the following article is well worth the read to give flesh to the story, as Chasan does a much better job of rounding out the story than KUOW did. If you have the time, follow the link and read the whole story.

9/7/10 Crosscut
http://crosscut.com/2010/09/07/puget-sound/20127/Fixing-the-group-that-s-supposed-to-fix-Puget-Sound/?utm_source=Crosscut+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=40bc5ae356-Crosscut_E_mail9_7_20109_7_2010&utm_medium=email
Fixing the group that’s supposed to fix Puget Sound
By Daniel Jack Chasan <http://crosscut.com/account/danieljackchasan/>
The Puget Sound Partnership is broken, but the Sound really needs better eco-monitoring and new land-use patterns. And that will require the hardest change of all: cultural change.
I wade out over the barnacled rocks, feet protected by the thick soles of my Tevas, push through leaves and seaweed floating on a high tide, adjust my goggles, and swim out into the cold salt water of Puget Sound.  I do this often in the summer.  And when I do, I sometimes reflect on Gov. Chris Gregoire standing by the shore in 2007, signing legislation that created the Puget Sound Partnership, and setting the goal of a Sound that was “fishable, swimmable and diggable” by 2020.
That goal was never more than a sound — or, if you prefer, a  Sound — bite.  Some people swim in the Sound every summer.  On my way to the beach, I passed three people fishing from a pier.  Whenever the salmon are running, state ferries must blow their horns and steer around the small craft of fishermen more intent on their quarry than their personal safety.
That said, yes the Sound could use some saving. And now it seems that the Puget Sound Partnership could use a little salvation of its own.
The Partnership has been stung by a series of revelations about minor — inexcusable, but still minor — financial sins, and suggestions of both cronyism and misuse of power.  This spring, the Washington State Auditor’s Office found <http://www.sao.wa.gov/auditreports/auditreportfiles/ar1003598.pdf>  that “[t]he Puget Sound Partnership circumvented state contracting laws, exceeded its purchasing authority and made unallowable purchases with public funds.”   The agency had, among other things, circumvented competitive bidding requirements — as well as a requirement to use the Attorney General’s office — to hire an outside law firm, and had  bought Apple computer products at retail even though they cost two-thirds more than low-end PCs and weren’t compatible with state information systems.
One might consider this old news, but in a  recent series of reports by John Ryan,  KUOW has repeated <http://kuow.org/specials/pugetsoundpartnership.php>  some of the Auditor’s findings.  In addition, Ryan has reported that Partnership executive director David Dicks may have misused a government car and that the Partnership fired a whistleblower. Ryan’s series also has questioned the role of Dicks’ father, Congressman Norm Dicks……

…He has said that the region requires nothing less than a cultural change.  That’s a tall order.  What are the odds that it will happen by 2020?  “2020 may not be realistic,” Ruckelshaus says.  “Whether it ever was or not, who knows?” Realistic or not, it may be “a useful deadline to galvanize action.”  But any “deadline can be misleading,” he says.  “You’re never finished.”

One Response

  1. Thank you Daniel Jack Chasen,

    As a marine scientist with over 20 years with the state I can say that the ‘new’ Puget Sound Partnership’s misdirections are NOT minor,and have derailed what were long standing and effective monitoring, management, and citizen steward programs in favor of shameful national political grandstanding. Similar routing has happened in DFW and DoE. Colllectively the state needs to back up and redidicate itself to the mandated regulatory duties of shoreline managment and the hydraulic codes that were put in place specifically to preserve this great place-that’s eroding away. The federal system gives me hope-the state system, including the PSP, the Governor’s office, the DoE, and WDFW-don’t.

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