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Posts published in “Day: June 13, 2006”

Paying the ferryman

ferriesIf you want an example of a government agency that simply seems resistant to solving its problems, consider the example cited in today's Peter Callaghan column in the Tacoma News Tribune:

". . . procedures at Washington State Ferries did not give the state reasonable assurance that public money – the fares paid by passengers – was safeguarded. A ticket seller, for example, could take money from a passenger but not sell them a ticket. No one checks passengers to make sure they have tickets. And no one counts the cars and passengers and compares that total to the fares actually sold. Washington ferries collect about $130 million a year in fares."

This was not some crackpot allegation: This was an official finding of the state auditor almost 20 years ago. The incumbent auditor, Robert Sonntag, has been issuing reports to Washington State Ferries noting the problem ever since he took office in 1993, and still the problem remains.

Or maybe it's being fixed. Read the column and decide for yourself.

Taking down the lightning rod

For months and months Dean Logan was devil incarnate to the Seattle-area blogs on the right, and a lot of other Republican activists too. He was chief of the elections office for King County, and when the 2002 governor's race came down to a few hundred votes difference between the major candidates, and then for a time to less than a hundred - out of about three million cast - the spotlight on Logan turned into a laser beam.

It exposed some problems, which generally seem to have got corrected. Those problems led to a bashing of Logan that seems astonishing, even in hindsight, for a second-level non-elected manager. Independent reviews of the elections office actions in the 2004 elections found that it operated on the whole properly and normally. When Logan was up for job renewal in 2003 by the King County Council, he was retained. And the 2005 elections went off without a glitch, intensively though his critics searched for one.

The thing about 2002 was the extraordinary closeness of the governor's race, which put up for examination absolutely everything that was done with absolutely every ballot - many hundreds of thousands of them. The professional lives of few people would stand up absolutely impeccably to such a microscopic examination. That doesn't excuse errors, but it does place them in a context.

Apparently the largest county elections office in the country, in Los Angeles, California, felt that way, in offering Logan a job in charge of its election office - a post Logan says he has accepted, effective July 14. His boss (and frequent defender) Ron Sims commented that while he was sorry to see him go, "I was pleased to learn that his strong record of service through extremely trying times has not been lost on his peers in his chosen profession. I am happy that, after so many difficult days and months in which he has displayed tremendous grace under pressure, he will now have a chance to make use of his professional skills and vast knowledge of elections procedures in a more congenial environment."

More to come soon, naturally, at Sound Politics.