OK, now that I have your attention, let me point out that it was Eyman’s one genuinely non-toxic initiative, I-900, that gave State Auditor Brian Sonntag the authority and resources to go after the Port of Seattle, resulting in the performance audit released Thursday.
Yes, Goldy is right; the “$97.2 million waste” figure is a shot in the dark (the actual figure is probably much, much higher, because corporate corruption isn’t being counted as “waste” here); performance audits are necessarily subjective; and the news that the Port is an arrogant cesspool of waste and cronyism is no news to anyone who follows local politics. But the latter point vastly underestimates the impact of this report, for two reasons. One, not that many of us weirdos closely follow local politics — not compared to the number of people who will see today’s (and subsequent) headlines.
And secondly, the Port’s abysmal performance is intimately wrapped up in an Old Boy (and Gal) network of privilege and you-scratch-my-back, I’ll-scratch-yours winking (and smirking) that also implicates our local media. For far, far too long, every journalist in town has known what the Port of Seattle, with its own independent taxing authority, is doing to taxpayers (hint: it’s not “serving”). To date nobody has mounted the sort of investigative initiative needed to drag the sewage into the light in the way that, say, the P-I has relentlessly gone after the King County Sheriff’s Office. The material is undoubtably there, but it requires a commitment from the management that hasn’t been forthcoming, ever, because at the top our local dailies and TV stations are part of the same local elite. Even if they don’t play golf together with the Port of Seattle and its “friends,” how ever would they face them at the parties?
Editorially, the Times and P-I (especially the Times, not surprisingly) have favored business-backed Port commissioners and candidates and not reform-minded candidates. That and the lack of public education (i.e., media coverage) are a major part of the reason why the Port has been bad news for years, if not decades. They’re not named in Sonntag’s report, but they’re still culpable.
So where now? Sonntag’s report at minimum legitimizes and in all probability forces more media coverage (though look for the damage control efforts to begin soon as well). Sonntag’s report recommends several steps be taken in the state legislature; legislators are already talking about the need for more oversight. Relatively new Port CEO Tay Yoshitani came in last year, replacing the relentlessly corrupt (and well-compensated for it) Mic Dinsmore, promising a changed culture. There’s no time like the present. The same applies for the two newly elected commissioners, the business-backed Bill Bryant (who narrowly ousted reform leader Alec Fisken, a result that probably wouldn’t be repeated now) and Gael Tarleton, who ran as a reform candidate but whose own potential for cronyism has been widely questioned. We’ll be watching.
It’s only a shame that Sonntag’s report was released a few days before Christmas, when news is generally slow and not as many people are paying attention. The Port of Seattle deserves the widest possible scrutiny.