“That mature attitude seems to have largely vanished.”


[ Snowpocalyspe 2008, on Union near 23rd Ave ]

David Brooks—who doesn’t always suck—wrote in a recent column:

Now we seem to expect perfection from government and then throw temper tantrums when it is not achieved. We seem to be in the position of young adolescents — who believe mommy and daddy can take care of everything, and then grow angry and cynical when it becomes clear they can’t.

Case in point—the Seattle Times editorial board’s take on the resignation of SDOT director Grace Crunican:

Mayor Greg Nickels refused to fire Crunican out of loyalty and a sense that her overall performance on projects such as “Bridging the Gap,” designed to improve roads and sidewalks, was done quite well. Maybe it was. But a crisis is the time when leaders prove themselves — and Crunican and her staff let down the decent, snowbound citizens of Seattle.

Translation: “maybe” mommy and daddy did a good job on the critically important, long-term challenge of transforming Seattle’s transportation culture, but who cares, cause mommy and daddy couldn’t wave a magic wand and make all the snow go away, and so the “decent” citizens of Seattle had every right to throw a tantrum.

So the question is, by pandering to this kind of infantilism, is the Seatimes editorial board simply reflecting the soul of Seattle? I’d like to think that they’ve got it wrong, that it wasn’t petty politics that took down Crunican, and that McGinn is letting her go only because he believes he can find someone who will be more effective at building sustainable transportation solutions for Seattle. Above all, I hope the latter proves true, but it’s going to be a tall order.

11 Responses to ““That mature attitude seems to have largely vanished.””

  1. Adam Parast

    Spot on!

    BTW the Times has never reflected the soul of Seattle.

  2. Bill B

    hopefully whoever is brought in to build sustainable transportation solutions can also make sure that nearly every crosswalk in Seattle doesn’t have a puddle on entry and exit during the rainy season.

  3. Wells

    Ms Crunican has as much sensitivity to needs of pedestrians, bicyclists and transit users as a Hummer driver. Her record of such disregard goes back to her days as ODOT chief.

    She plans for Mercer Street to become a traffic-clogged freight corridor between I-5 and Elliott. She plans for the new Alaskan Way surface traffic to more than quadruple. She misled everyone to believe a Wide Plaza along the seawall was appropriate (doubtful) and could accommodate a streetcar line safely (not true). The Wide Plaza is likely to sooner or later incorporate makeshift and permanent parking lots, just like San Francisco’s Embarcadero. That’s her real plan. All that’s needed to improve ridership on the SLU Streetcar is a relatively inexpensive extension to Pike Place Market, but she’s instead studying to death a very expensive line on 1st Ave that conflicts with existing bus service and locates stations in the middle of the street.

    The ‘pre-Crunican’ Alaskan Way boulevard design proposals included a 2-lane Frontage road to divide thru-traffic from motorists looking to park. This design is logical for managing traffic, ie, to keep traffic from getting more insane than it already is.

    The Deep-bore tunnel is a horrendous mistake. Crunican should stay completely out of transportation planning. It’s hard to see why anyone, especially Mayor Nickels, would accept her incompetence on Seattle’s most important transportation project. Snowjobgate is just the tip of the iceberg. The Seattle Times derives a sizable chunk of income selling cars. I can see why its editorial board would turn away actual solutions to Seattle’s nauseating traffic.

  4. Alex Broner

    Did Crunican (or Nickels for that matter) ever admit error/regret about the snow debackle? I think we should hold our public officials accountable for their mistakes, especially if they won’t admit to them.

  5. workingdog

    Maybe the only way for citizens to be heard while living under a Nanny State is to throw tantrums.

  6. uptown

    Translation: “maybe” mommy and daddy did a half-assed job on the critically important, long-term challenge of transforming Seattle’s transportation culture; and then they really sucked during and after a snow storm.

  7. Ross

    Yes, I agree with that last statement (and Wells) although, for the most part, I could care less what happens to the city during snow storms (this ain’t Buffalo). Full disclosure: I own cross country skis and I know how to use them.

    I will say, in her defense (and Nickels) we are finally getting sidewalks in my neighborhood.

    On related news, The Seattle Times also wrote an article about out-going mayor Nickels. They talked about the various reasons why he wasn’t reelected (including the snow storm). I agree that the city’s response to the storm played a big part in his defeat (which I personally think is a stupid reason to vote against the guy) but the Times made no mention of the monorail. Had Nickels (along with his transportation chief) saved the monorail, he would probably still be mayor. He would not have faced strong opposition from the left. The Stranger, who attacked Nickels vehemently after the monorail debacle (“Gridlock Greg”) would not have supported McGinn as strongly as they did. Without that strong support, Nickels would have survived the primary and probably easily beat his opponent (whoever that was). The tunnel would still have been an issue (of course) but not nearly as much (“well, I think it is a waste of money, but maybe Greg can pull this off, after all he saved the monorail”). Remember, the primary was awfully close — if we had a monorail, I probably would have supported Nickels.

  8. RC

    Crunican and Nickels literally came within inches of facing a scenario of many people being hurt or maybe killed when those buses slid down Thomas St. and almost onto I-5. This because days and days after the snow had fallen, the city couldn’t see fit to plow a hilly arterial like Denny Way, which is what sent those bus drivers off on a wrong turn and into big trouble. Just think how we’d rate their performance if those buses had tipped over onto the freeway.

  9. Alex Broner

    Good point RC. I think that crisis management is an important if not the only area of judgment for our city’s officials. In many ways the performance of Hahn will affect how we consider Crunican’s behavior. If he does well then we will say it was a good decision, if he does poorly we’ll think otherwise.

  10. publicadministrator

    “the mature attitude seems to have largely vanished”

    You mean the mature attitude that responded with “I don’t drive a snow plow” when asked by the media why she continued with her Christmas vacation in Portland while the city dept. she led struggled to clear streets of snow?

    ..or the mature attitude that approved a $515,000 HR investigation of SDOT management and after findings of a “divisive & unhealthy environment” emerged, decided to promote a manager to lead the street maintenance division nonetheless?

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