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Political firing of Sec. Peterson is Washington State’s loss

LynnPeterson2_200As of Friday, Lynn Peterson is no longer our state’s Secretary of Transportation. And that’s Washington State’s loss.

Peterson came on board with our state’s biggest highway megaprojects already in trouble. And on top of those challenges — including a stalled SR 99 boring machine and cracked 520 Bridge pontoons — an oversized truck struck and collapsed an I-5 bridge over the Skagit River, and a community was devastated in the Oso landslide with vital access cut off when the collapsing hillside also destroyed the highway.

By all accounts (including by Senate Republican leaders, whose Transportation Committee unanimously recommended her confirmation last year), Peterson handled these and other challenges as well as any DOT leader could. Finding quality, competent leaders is hard work, so it’s not usually a good idea to just toss them out without cause or warning.

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But Senate Republicans made a clearly political move Friday by surprising everyone with a sudden confirmation vote, effectively using their majority to fire her (the vote split along party lines). She didn’t even get a chance to defend herself or answer any questions. She only had one hour of notice before she lost her job.

Republican Senator Michael Baumgartner then announced via Twitter that “more heads are going to roll.” Hours later, the Department of Corrections Secretary Dan Pacholke resigned hoping to “end the political blood thirst of Senate Republicans” as Governor Jay Inslee put it.

This is not a political strategy blog. I have no idea if the Republicans are being savvy or if the ploy will backfire. Politics is messy, and there’s election strategizing going on that’s way over my head. Maybe this is a brilliant move in the endless Democrats vs Republicans chess match that helps Republicans win the Governor’s mansion. Or maybe it blows up their faces and they lose their slim legislative majorities. Or maybe it has no effect other than to fire this one person and make everyone mad at each other. I guess we’ll find out.

But I do know that now-former Secretary Peterson was an asset for our state that we no longer have, and the reasons for firing her seem to have little to do with transportation policy or her management abilities. After all, she helped to craft a transportation package last year with the Republican majority leaders, a highway-centric package that Republicans seemed to like a lot more than us liberal Seattle bike supporters.

I wish there were more I could add, other than to wish her the best and congratulate whatever lucky DOT picks her up next.

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7 responses to “Political firing of Sec. Peterson is Washington State’s loss”

  1. I think Peterson is a political casualty of this regions growing pains. Kind of like how McGinn’s opposition to the tunnel cost him his job. I think the problem is that people just don’t understand that once population density reaches a certain point, cars do not work anymore. It is not a political issue- it is a space issue. There simply isn’t enough room for everyone to use a personal vehicle in a densely populated urban area. You can’t build enough freeway lanes or parking lots- it still won’t work. Right now we are still trying to make it better for people to drive. There is a whole lot of lip service for walking, bicycling, and transit but most of what is done is second rate because we are still funding cars first and inconveniencing cars last. It should be painful to drive in a metropolitan area! That is the hard truth. I’m guessing that Peterson’s replacement isn’t going to grasp that (or risk their job even if they do understand it.)

  2. Southeasterner

    This has nothing to do with her role at WSDOT or her policies. If anything she was too pro-car for most of the Democrats and the Connecting Washington package was way too heavily focused on vehicle infrastructure…appeasing the very Republicans who crucified her.

    The WA Republican strategy is now to oppose the very free market fundamentals (tolling and private sector highway expansion) that their national counterparts holds so dear to heart.

    They are a disgrace to WA and a disgrace to their own party.

    1. Bill

      If Lynn was too ‘pro car’ for the democrats I guess that proves how radially leftist she has become. Lynn was sadly never qualified for the position of transportation secretary. An adviser to the lefty governor of Oregon. Wow.
      I have worked at WSDOT for 28 years, I know of no one that was impressed when she came to the agency and I know of no one that is sorry she is gone. Adios.

  3. Wells

    Much thanks to Fucoloro for a respectful defense of Oregonian Lynn Petersen. Hoping for any resolution to Washington DOT and Transit agency incompetence generally, Oregonians didn’t hold their breath long before her appointment became the continuation of business as usual. Petersen may take the smaller part of blame for failing to adequately manage/oversee controversial infrastructure projects; most specifically, the AWV replacement tunnel mired in corruption and unstable soils that if completed poses a fundamental threat to Seattle’s future. If completed, the damage is done. Its presense below sea level as far north as Blanchard, drawing groundwater along its length, creating a ‘giant sump’ deeper and further inland than naturally possible, increasing groundwater volume and displacement of soluable soils beneath vulnerable buildings too nearby above. In earthquake, building collapse is probable. Over time, settling will condemn seemingly stable buildings, forcing demolition and limiting replacement structures. Petersen’s only job was to undermine the Wsdot cabal and complicit Washington State Port Directors. Governor wannabee Bill Bryant got some splainin to do.

  4. Dave

    Part of the hit job was carried out by two of our walking warts from down here in Clark County–Senators Ann Rivers, and (thank goodness this guy isn’t running for office again) Don Benton. I don’t live in either of their districs but will be throwing a few bucks to Rivers’ opponent in the next election. They’re two of the anti-transit jihadists who sank the Columbia River Crossing last year.

    1. Wells

      Dave, the first CRC bridge design submitted to the public in 2011 didn’t last one month of peer review before its rejection as “structurally unsound.” Two more years go by before the Coast Guard rejects subsequent bridge designs for not achieving minimum river clearance standard. The design to access Hayden Island (Concept ‘D’) was plainly rated high accident/accident severity.

      Legislators Ann Rivers and Don Benton did the process a favor sending the terrible design back to the drawing board. Their opposition to MAX light rail was a secondary concern useful only as political bait. MAX need only reach Jantzen Beach Ctr and junction there with BRT to Vancouver Mall in the 1st Phase, possible evolve from BRT to LRT in time.

      Marine Dr Intrch needs to be rebuild yesterday and the local road/MAX bridge is constructed in tandem. I recommend for Hayden Island a design titled “Low-Level Access.” It depends upon a ‘single-deck’ bridge design meeting Hayden Island ‘lower’ and then eliminating the 3rd ‘central underpass’. Metro has the “Low-Level Access” design on record and should be available on request.
      The CRC fiasco can be traced to Governor Wannabee Bill Bryant, Port of Seattle Director who should’ve seen it coming.

  5. […] Governor Jay Inslee opened the event with a short speech to a huge crowd gathered at the start line next to UW Station. He told the crowd to thank Former Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson, who was on the ride months after the state Senate fired her in a surprise political attack. […]

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