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Posts published in “Day: December 20, 2007”

Democratic targets

An early indication of how the Northwest's U.S. House seats are perceived nationally:

The national Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which at the moment is well-enough funded to go after Republicans incumbents more than it has to play defense (it has $30.6 million to $2.3 million for its Republican counterpart), today released its list of 40 Republican-held target seats. Two of them are Northwestern: Washington's 8th, held by Dave Reichert, and Idaho's 1st, held by Bill Sali.

Money is apt to be flowing in those directions in the months ahead.

Sifting through the cleanup

The topic of cleanup at the Idaho National Laboratory is good for long-term burnout. While an intensive cleanup project has long been underway to the west at Hanford, a great deal of the core cleanup work remains to be done in eastern Idaho.

What's mostly under discussion is the buried waste around the large INL grounds, much of it low-level but some of it quite hazardous. Some Superfund activity has been going on, too, but the whole process - which is becoming a little aged by now, having been launched with a high-profile state-federal agreement in 1995 - still is awaiting some general policy: What do we clean up, what do we just leave as is, and what do we do with it all?

On October 22, federal agencies (the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency) and the state proposed options "for addressing buried waste at the DOE-Idaho Site’s Radioactive Waste Management Complex Subsurface Disposal Area. The Radioactive Waste Management Complex was established in 1952 for the buried disposal of site-generated radioactive and hazardous wastes. From 1954 through 1970, the landfill received wastes from the Rocky Flats Plant in Colorado and other off-site generators." The options ranged from no action (1) to full waste removal (5). But evidently, the weight of planning seems to be moving toward picking up just some of it. And maybe not all that much.


In need of boat-rocking

port audit

The port audit

The elections last month for the Port of Seattle commission positions seemed to center on to what degree you were a "reformer" or at least a boat-rocker. Too bad the state auditor's report on the district didn't come out a couple of months earlier; it might have clarified the need while voters were making up their minds. As it is, the new report (undertaken as part of the auditor's new Initiative 900 authority) is plenty devastating. The waste and losses reach deep into the tens of millions - just for certain specific projects like the Third Runway - and possibly higher overall.

The overarching conclusions include:
• The Port lacks sufficient policies and procedures to safeguard public assets from misuse, abuse and fraud. In cases in which controls are in place, they are not always followed.
• The Port Commission has largely delegated decision-making responsibilities for construction projects to Port management and employees. In some cases,
vendors control projects and make decisions that should be made by the Port.
• Port executive management has withheld information from and sometimes has misinformed the Commission about the terms and progress of construction
These conditions are caused by: The Port Commission’s adoption of Resolution 3181, delegating some of its decision-making authority to Port administration, including some oversight of construction management. The former Chief Executive Officer’s broad interpretation of the resolution effectively distanced the Commission from information and oversight authority of capital projects. The audit found no record of the Commission reassessing or questioning whether it was meeting its responsibilities to oversee construction projects. These conditions leave the Port’s construction management vulnerable to fraud, waste and abuse. For example, Port management authorized a Third Runway contract that cost $32.7 million more than the Port engineer’s original estimate. The contract violated state law, and details of the arrangement were concealed from the Commission.
In addition, a consulting agreement awarded in 1998 increased without competition from $10 million to more than $120 million and is being used to augment Port staffing, unnecessarily costing taxpayers $60.5 million.

And goes on from there.

There's been occasional talk about bad activity at the port, an undercurrent of "things ain't right there." Now there's a report to put it in perspective.

Not much room for doubt any more: The suspicions are justified.