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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

March 22, 2009 at 4:57 PM

Seattle’s snow job

There’s a reason leaders must get to their jobs

Most jurisdictions have an emergency response protocol that includes, among other things, the ability of the executive staff to convene at an appropriate site to be able to make decisions and authorize actions and/or expenditures in order to mitigate an emergency.

I assume the city of Seattle has such a protocol, and if so it’s not a stretch to this writer to believe that the roads to the mayor’s house were plowed in order to achieve this (at least I hope this is the case) [“Staff botched snow response,” page one, March 19].

Whether this was taken into account (if such a protocol is in place for Seattle) would certainly clarify this one decision, which is getting so much press.

I worked on a similar protocol for a small jurisdiction as a representative of the fire department, following 9/11, and it was made clear that the executive staff would be picked up by the police and taken to a secure location in order to ensure that the leadership remained intact.

The protocol was expanded to include natural disasters (the threat of tsunami is a possibility in my area) at the suggestion of a group from the University of Washington, which leads me to conclude that the city of Seattle must have a similar operating protocol.

Give them a chance to respond. Nothing like this ever goes the way we want them to.

— Todd Ayling, Marysville

Lackluster performance

No one should be surprised at the complete breakdown of Seattle Department of Transportation services during the recent snowstorm, given the lackluster performance of the mayor’s office for the past eight years.

A mayor’s job basically is to make sure snow is plowed, garbage is picked up and potholes are filled. Any grandstanding around here or in Washington, D.C., can wait until those services are performed.

Madrona Drive in my neighborhood has been riddled with potholes for ages, streets around here didn’t see a snowplow for days in December and we’re all holding our collective breath as the garbage collections change from organized to who knows what at the end of March.

So far, the mayor’s office is zero for two and the idea that Mayor Greg Nickels can waltz to another victory in November should scare the hell out of us all.

— Jeff Lee, Seattle

The value of a newspaper

The Seattle Times’ investigative reporting of our city officials’ incompetent response to the December snowstorms is a powerful demonstration of what the American public is losing as newspapers fold in city after city.

I am doubtful that online bloggers or the meager staff remaining at the online P-I have the resources or access to thoroughly investigate and report in-depth local stories that would never come to light if we relied on government and business to provide us with truthful information on how they function — or don’t.

A free and fully resourced press is essential to democracy. The weakening of the Fourth Estate diminishes and threatens us all.

— Becky Withington, Seattle

Maddening city reaction

It is no secret that newspapers in general are being forced to try to endure an extremely difficult period. But in spite of the hindrances that occur behind the scenes, your paper has recently accomplished something of overwhelming significance. I refer to the exposĂ© of the magnificently mismanaged response to December’s snow onslaught. This administrative failure was something that hit home to every resident of this city in one way or another.

The many maddeningly irresponsible aspects of the city’s behavior make it difficult to pick a “favorite,” but for me, one particular point was dominant. I refer to Councilmember Richard McIver’s plaintive response to the proposition of employing an independent consultant to investigate the city’s performance, rather than keeping any investigation in-house. With the utmost sincerity, he remarked, “We know we can do a better job. Do we know how, or do we need someone to tell us that?”

My reaction to this approach is to wonder if his desire to escape from the glaring heat of scrutiny before his department’s edges begin to scorch could be any more obvious. The answer to his question is, “Yes. You need someone to tell you that.”

If your investigation of this sordid matter does not constitute an essential public service, then I can’t imagine what would. I, for one, wish to thank you.

— Tom Likai, Shoreline

Shine a light on the governing class

It has been a great week for newspaper readers. Our tycoon-governing class is finally getting dissected by the press and that is exposing the corruption and fraud that 30 years of concentration of wealth and monopoly capitalism have wrought. It isn’t pretty, but is why freedom of speech is worth protecting.

And it is why newspapers are an indispensable part of our democracy. Without their reporting, mayors and CEOs would be above the law.

— George and Patricia Robertson, Seattle

Comments | More in Seattle, weather

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