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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

July 13, 2009 at 4:00 PM

Transportation: What is to be done with SDOT?

Nickels, Crunican failed to deliver transportation promises

Mayor Greg Nickels pledged to be the “transportation mayor” and to “get Seattle moving,” but the result has been years of cost overruns, mismanagement and increased congestion. The latest example of this is in the Sunday Seattle Times’ article [“The street crews that couldn’t pour straight,” page one, July 12] on the Seattle Department of Transportation’s Street Maintenance crews’ inability to pour straight curbs and properly place sidewalk ramps. The department’s management permitted these crews’ poor work to go on for years, needlessly wasting tax money and delaying vital work.

The responsibility for this shoddy, wasteful management culture rests at the top — with Mayor Nickels. SDOT Director Grace Crunican is fond of telling staff that, “when you create a problem, you own it.” Nickels owns this problem.

Transportation topped Nickels’ agenda, and he asked Seattle taxpayers to foot the bill, promising to spend the money wisely. He appointed Crunican to “reform” SDOT and “get Seattle moving” again.

Before Nickels, SDOT was getting work done on the streets in a timely manner. Nearly all personnel issues had been resolved.

Under Nickels and Crunican, SDOT has developed a management culture of fear lacking any constructive vision. Employees are more concerned about protecting their jobs than working toward a better transportation system. Vital institutional knowledge has been lost as many of the best and brightest in SDOT have left for other cities or fled to the private sector.

Under this “reformed” department, potholes go untended, downed stop signs stay down and major streets go unplowed after snowstorms. Long-term problems, such as the Mercer Street mess and improved freight mobility, go largely unaddressed.

Seattle’s Department of Transportation has been run thoroughly amok. The problem cannot be solved by switching its director. It is time for Crunican and Nickels to go.

— Liz Rankin, Seattle

Unions, incompetent workers have got to go

Fire those street maintenance crews!

Oh, that’s right, the Department of Transportation and all government employees are covered by union membership, which makes it virtually impossible to fire the incompetent. Yet they continue to waste our money with do-over projects.

Why do we even have unions in the public sector? The private sector is doing just fine with only 8 percent of the work force unionized. So why can’t the public sector be non-unionized?

Sure would save us a ton of money because we would need fewer men and women on the job — remember the 10 guys you saw standing around the one guy that was actually doing the work?

Kick out the unions and fire the incompetents!

— Pauline Cornelius, Olalla

Calling all good city employees

To those city employees who are embarrassed by this I say: Yes, I feel your pain. I am convinced there are good workers abound in the city somewhere. The Seattle Times’ article sheds light on those who are not, both workers and supervisors alike. It’s apparent that good management doesn’t seem to apply to Seattle’s Department of Transportation. Sadly, one has generally come to expect that here.

I am especially amused at DOT’s dealing with Paul Jackson Jr. — a piece of work for sure. He was transferred to manage traffic maintenance.

Nice move! I’m sure he is excelling there. I expect to see bonus announcements in the next few weeks for all those in SDOT management.

AIG certainly has nothing on your stellar operation.

— John W. Cannon, Kirkland

Viaduct proposal has no choice but to be successful

I have just finished reading the article “The street crews that couldn’t pour straight.” I am a downtown business owner who has repeatedly witnessed these “pour and repour” projects over and over. I am also a Seattle homeowner. I believe one fundamental question needs to be asked and answered in a timely fashion, in regard to oversight.

Will this department be involved in any way with the Alaskan Way Viaduct replacement?

This is a very relevant question, as Seattle homeowners and taxpayers will be directly responsible for any cost overages in the viaduct project, and the cavalier attitude that is displayed by the city employees interviewed in regard to cost, accountability and reasoning behind these mistakes is amazing.

I hope this all will be directly addressed and rectified before the viaduct project is started, or we are all in for quite a shock when that first tax bill comes.

— Thomas McGurk

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