Delivering on a commission

Objectivity and thoroughness must define the commission examining the March 22 Oso mudslide. The joint landslide commission announced by Gov. Jay Inslee and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick in Everett on Friday meets that criteria.

“The commission will focus its work on identifying the most important recommendations that, if implemented today, would make all of us safer tomorrow,” Lovick said.

The 12-member commission’s executive director is business leader Kathy Lombardo, a trained geologist and former staffer with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The members themselves reflect a cross-section of relevant backgrounds and experiences, including the UW’s David Montgomery, who played an instrumental role in the recently released GEER report reviewing the slide’s geomorphology. Other commissioners include Renee Radcliff Sinclair, the respected former Republican state representative and Snohomish County planning commissioner and JoAnn Boggs, the president of the Washington State Emergency Management Association.

Enlisting the Ruckelshaus Center, a problem-solving institution run jointly by the UW and WSU, to facilitate the process, also is a promising sign.

The commissioners are at a remove from the recovery efforts and don’t hail from Darrington, Oso or Arlington, a burr for some concerned that will silence voices from the field. Prohibiting membership for those directly affected by the slide is the right decision to avoid any real or perceived conflict, but it puts the onus on commissioners to engage actively with the Darrington-Arlington community.

There are limits. The commission will be independent and insulated from turf-conscious lawmakers influencing outcomes. It also won’t determine liability, cause or fault or, per Inslee’s statement, “act as a substitute for the courts in any way.” That shouldn’t defang the commission or prevent specific recommendations on zoning and land use (just write gingerly, nettlesome attorneys notwithstanding).

In Washington, there’s no analogue for the Oso commission. Often commissions are vehicles to drop-kick thorny issues such as a state income tax (consider the Gates commission study on tax structure — intensely researched and moldering somewhere in an Olympia storage closet).

The acid test will be producing a thorough, comprehensible report (no small feat, shoehorning hearings, research and recommendations into a 90-day span).

To serve the public interest and to honor the dead, the commission’s report needs to be as bold and specific as it is unbiased.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

toon
Editorial cartoons for Sunday, Jan. 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Ian Terry / The Herald

Brian Henderson, of Renton, plugs in his Kia Soul EV electric vehicle at a charging station in Sultan on Wednesday, June 7. Henderson and a group of fellow electric car drivers made the trip from Everett's City Hall to Spokane's City Hall late last week in an effort to raise awareness about convenient charging locations along U.S. Highway 2.

Photo taken on 06072017
Editorial: Yes to gas tax hike, but this has to be the last

Transportation needs must be funded, but the gas tax is dwindling as a sustainable revenue source.

Children from the Children's Workshop, an arts and science preschool, pause in a sculpture after walking their neighborhood with flags they made in celebration of the inaugurations of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Comment: After four years, a president suitable for children

It’s not just knowing they aren’t likely to hear vulgarities but that a president will heed their needs.

Comment: Planning for change by changing how we plan

We need reform of our state’s growth and planning laws to better address sprawl and climate change.

Comment: New mothers need care for child’s sake and theirs

The Legislature must try again to provide a full year of health care following the birth of a child.

Trump, Republicans culpable for Capitol riots

Following the storming of our nation’s capitol by Trump cult followers, a… Continue reading

Where was the concern during this summer’s riots?

I just love it! Now many people are concerned and revolted by… Continue reading

toon
Editorial cartoons for Saturday, Jan. 23

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Arlington Fire Chief Dave Kraski outside Station #46 downtown. (Arlington Times)
Editorial: Arlington voters should approve fire agency merger

Merger of its fire department with North County Fire will maintain those services affordably.

Most Read