Feb 182012

The Tea Party? Not for me, thanks. But I am outraged as the next person by abuse of public trust.

How about a $300,000 luxury party boat purchased by the good folks at NOAA.

Or a Snohomish County executive who traveled widely with his mistress on the public dime (see KING-TV coverage here and Seattle Times reports here and here). Aaron Reardon, the politician in question, appears to have taken to heart the advice of Henry Ford II. Asked about his arrest for drunken driving — a woman not his wife was in the passenger seat at the time — Ford famously responded: “Never complain, never explain.” Reardon refuses to answer questions, citing a continuing State Patrol investigation. Lame.

There’s nothing like a good sex scandal to spice things up. Frankly I don’t care about Reardon’s private behavior. But if he spent public money traveling with his paramour – or even chatting with her on his county-issued cell phone – he ought to resign. And if he committed a felony, he ought to go to jail.

Examples of this kind of misbehavior with public money are, sadly, not hard to find. This stuff feeds the Tea Party. It destroys the public’s trust in necessary institutions. Honest public employees – perhaps I am naive, but I believe they are in the majority – are victimized by this kind of stuff.

Maybe I really am naive. I was surprised there was so little public outcry last September when the Seattle Times reported that every fifth employee of the City of Seattle makes more than $100,000 a year.

Seattle has a gleaming and inviting downtown that bustles at all hours. But out in the neighborhoods, Seattle’s infrastructure is literally falling apart. Some arterial streets in my neighborhood — even those heavily used by transit buses — are right out of the Third World. Meanwhile, city transportation spending seems focused not so much on fixing broken pavement as on on forcing people out of their cars in favor of little-used bike lanes. Little wonder people are cynical and distrustful of government.

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