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Posts tagged as “Ron Sims”

Triplett arrives

Kurt Triplett

Kurt Triplett

Abruptly, a new major figure on the Northwest political/governmental scene: Kurt Triplett, appointed as interim executive at King County, the Northwest's largest jurisdiction below the state level. He replaces Ron Sims, who for years was one of the highest-profile political figures in Washington state, who left for a job in the Obama Administration.

Triplett has not been so high profile, though he has been around the circuits of King County government. From his new web bio page: "He has served as Deputy Director of King County’s Department of Natural Resources and Parks, Senior Legislative Assistant to King County Councilwoman Cynthia Sullivan, and was a legislative aide to State Representative Judy Roland. As Deputy Chief of Staff for two years when Sims first took office and most recently as Chief of Staff since July of 2003, he has been instrumental in implementation of major initiatives and served as Sims’ chief budget negotiator and lead policy advisor." Not exactly a newcomer.

He will hold the job at least until after the November general election; a batch of hopefuls are competing to replace him. He is evidently not planning a run himself; his statement says he intends to "deliver a sound budget and a well-functioning government to the executive that is elected in November."

There are rumblings underneath his interim appointment; while his succession in the immediate aftermath of Sims' departure was a given, this longer-term appointment was not. So consider this from the Seattle Weekly blog:

Triplett has not spent his tenure as Sims' chief of staff making friends. When the council expressed distrust in the Executive's budget numbers, calling for a separate economic forecasting office answering to both branches of King County government, their frustration was aimed at Triplett as much as Sims. Triplett also made it very clear in late 2007 that Sims (and himself by association) believed the Sheriff should be an appointed position—an unsubtle shot at political adversary Sue Rahr. He also ran into trouble with activists over the King County animal shelter.

So it wasn't surprising when the panel convened by the council to recommend Sims' replacement voted 10 - 5 to name former Seattle mayor Charles Royer to the post rather than Triplett. What is surprising, to county outsiders anyway, is the council's vote today to name Triplett to the position instead. Three council members, Republicans Jane Hague and Kathy Lambert and Democrat Bob Ferguson, actually started off supporting a Royer appointment, but in the final vote approved Triplett.

And we seem to have here a new confluence of issues in the making in an increasingly interesting executive contest.

Evaluating the vunnel

tunnel

Viaduct-tunnel/City of Seattle

Right next to the Crosscut article headlined "The tunnel solution for the Viaduct is too risky," are these links to encouraging stories from other news organizations: "Ideas debated about using private development to help pay for Viaduct park" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer), "Gregoire distances herself from car tabs portion of the Viaduct tunnel deal" (Times), "Tolls probably needed to cover full cost of waterfront tunnel, state says" (Tacoma News Tribune).

It's never easy, is it?

Approved about a month ago by the top elected officials at Washington state, King County and Seattle, the tunnel - why has no one called it the "vunnel" yet?, since it is loosely expected to approximate the current Alaskan Way viaduct - the underground plan has been on the table for a long time. Its main problem has been that it's been viewed as the Rolex plan - nice, maybe preferable, but awfully expensive.

Matt Fiske at Crosscut sums up the issues, which include the financial concerns (fair enough) but also adds this:

"My father Tyman Fikse was an expert who invented many tunneling technologies and spent his career designing massive tunnel boring machines (TBMs) for projects around the world. If there is one thing hanging out with "sandhogs" as a kid and riding muck trains miles in the dark deep below ground taught me, it is this: The earth will surprise you. Consider: The ground between preliminary core samples can change most unexpectedly. Geologic pressures are enormous. Tunnel liners shift and spring leaks. Gases escape — or worse. The best hard-rock boring machine will become gunked-up to a standstill if it is surprised by a section of sand or clay. Stuff happens. Deep tunnels are marvels of engineering that are also among the most difficult projects to plan in advance. To pretend otherwise is delusion. Remove the blinders and the real-world cost of the deep-bore tunnel will easily be double the current guess of $2.8 billion."

All of which sounds real-world. And yet . . . they had to do something.

So now they - and especially their successors (one of the signatories, King County executive Ron Sims, already is almost outta here) - get to ride the tiger.

Sims and housing

Ron Sims

Ron Sims

Ron Sims, executive of King County for now into his third term, is a highly skilled politician - one of the best speakers in the Northwest, among other things - has been something of a political lightning rod for years. Enough that there's been some talk that an attempt at a fourth term would be problematic. As recently as December 17, the Seattle Times was reporting, "If Ron Sims runs for a fourth term as King County executive, it will be against the advice of State Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz, who has joined other former Sims political allies in pushing for him to step aside after next year." Even some of his friends said they were "dreading the prospect of a campaign for a fourth term."

Over on Sound Politics, you'll find a hit from within a few hours of the nomination of Sims as Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development:

Oops. On the day that Ron Sims gets nominated to a senior position in the Obama administration, he reveals more ethical shortcomings by committing a serious PDC violation, earning himself a formal complaint. See the Twitter box in the upper right corner of the King County Executive web page. Since about 6pm Sunday it's had a link to a P-I editorial promoting Sims' preferred candidate for Elections Director.

That may not be all that comes to the Senate's attention, but the guess here is that Sims won't have much trouble with Senate confirmation. He does have support, to begin with, from both of his state's senators, and the governor.

Although this is the number 2 slot at HUD, the agency's press release says he "will be charged with managing HUD's day-to-day operations, a nearly $39 billion annual operating budget and the agency's 8,500 employees." And, presumably, getting into housing policy to some extent.

Sims becomes, then, the top Northwest figure in the Obama Administration, in a position of some note since housing happens to be unusually central right now.

In thinking about his work at King County, "Sims" and "housing" don't necessarily go smack-up together. That said, he is a strong and effective figure. Today's Joni Balter column in the Times sums up the case for him.