Friday, February 10, 2012

Norm Dicks' Millions For Puget Sound

Rep. Norm Dicks
We hooted in derision when the late Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska brought federal dollars home to build the “bridge to nowhere.”

We cheered when Rep. Norm Dicks brought millions home to his son David Dick’s Puget Sound Partnership to save Puget Sound.

Kimberly Kindy in the Washington Post retold the Dicks pere et fils story in the context of what’s called “earmarks” -- special appropriations handed out by representatives and senators to special projects back home. Kindy detailed the trail of big money coming to the Partnership under David Dick’s direction, to the Environmental Protection Agency for dispersal to state Puget Sound projects, and how money was appropriated and misappropriated along the way.

Rob Hotakainen at McClatchy blogged that the Post in its story cited Dicks as one of 16 members of Congress who had taken actions to aid entities connected to their immediate families.

Nothing new, according to Brad Shannon of the Olympian:  “This is not the first time Dicks’ influence over earmarks has been called into question. A Congressional Quarterly report in 2009 said he ranked high among the more than 100 House members who secured earmarks for clients of a much-scrutinized lobbying firm, The PMA Group.... Dicks, now in his 18th term, had asked for some $11.3 million of contracts on his own and secured $800,000 more with others. Dicks also received $91,600 in campaign donations from the PMA Group and employees since 2001, the article contended.”

I’m sure, as Norm Dicks says in the Kindy story, he and his son were doing what they thought was right for the health of Puget Sound and for the people of Washington state.

Quite frankly, I thought David Dicks was chosen to direct the new Puget Sound Partnership because he was the son of Rep. Norm Dicks. I’m sorry that the Partnership under his direction did as poor a job of saving Puget Sound as it did and frittered away valuable political capital and money.

I also think the big money, the prospects of sharing in the big money, and the relationship of pere et fils also made it hard for those working on Puget Sound recovery to be candid and constructively critical of what the Partnership was and wasn’t doing.

But that’s all behind us now. New team, new game.

It’s also election year. And it's a good time to ask how protecting and restoring Puget Sound — and the Puget Sound Partnerhsip-- will play in the gubernatorial election? Outgoing Governor Chris Gregoire has held up as a priority a clean Puget Sound by the year 2020 (Fishable, Swimmable, Clammable). Will Jay Inslee? There's no mention of Puget Sound in his latest fundraising letter. Does Rob McKenna fish, swim, clam in Puget Sound?

There’s a big chunk of change going to Puget Sound protection and recovery. What have been the results thus far? The Partnership has established benchmarks and “performance measures.” Well and good, but if you want candidates and elected officials to stand by your side, best you say what the money’s bought in results. Not how the money’s been spent but how things are better as a result of what’s been spent.

I think we enviros and our fellow travelers should be the toughest critics to make sure the money’s spent well— before taking it in the teeth from the polluters, developers and Tea Baggers.

Oh, and we should remember to make good on the claim that investing in environmental protections creates jobs: how many jobs have Norm Dick’s millions created? That’s powerful stuff.

--Mike Sato


  1. Oh there is so much that could be discussed about this issue!

    I have always believed that the money coming was for a needed and valid cause. But I think the management and direction of the whole shebang is weird - way too many chiefs, way to many places to spread blame, no simple goals and plans and measures that ordinary Joes and Juanitas can relate to.

    I know many of the folks working in the trenches and they all are devoted, passionate, and hard-working. They just don't dare "rock the boat". Neither does any agency or organization that might get some of the money! And so the Emporer runs around naked a lot but nobody dares sing out! Common sense is not highly valued.

    There has been a lot of good - many groups, people, agencies, tribes, ... are involved and talking and hashing things out and sharing a lot of info. There seems to be a lot more incentive for science-work and data and good science and data is so necessary to this endeavor.

    Now, at this point, I think this endeavor needs a single leader - I have suggested Alan Mulally (who will soon retire from FORD and has great guilt for his time helping pollute) to the Leadership Council. Let him call the shots, gather the needed troops, set some real goals, use data and measures, and get this thing a lot further down the road!!!

  2. Here, Here ... I agree with that Rabbit Fellow on all counts. The Emperor has, indeed, been frolicking around in his birthday suit, but nobody has the courage to say so.

    And Alan Mulally would be the perfect choice to get the job done at last. He's always been not only a visionary leader, but also one who can rally the troops to carry the ball over the finish line.

    Can you imagine how much an accomplished leader in the private sector could bring to saving Puget Sound rather than frittering away all the resources?

    Call him up, Mike.