Seattle Times weighs in on Benton controversy

Editorial: State Sen. Don Benton for environmental post? Really?



This editorial ran in the Sunday edition of The Seattle Times:

State Sen. Don Benton for environmental post? Really?

Putting Sen. Don Benton in charge of environmental review is like using a paper shredder to edit a document.

But that’s apparently the point for the two Republican Clark County commissioners, who suddenly last week picked Benton, a longtime Republican legislator from Vancouver, to reform what one commissioner called the “job-killing bureaucracy” of the county’s Department of Environmental Services.

The job’s minimum qualifications included eight years of management experience overseeing “complex environmental services,” and gave strong preference for a master’s degree in a related field.

Benton, who most recently worked as an advertising consultant, has neither.

But he does have deep roots in Republican partisan politics. That was apparently enough for the commissioners to halt a job hunt before it had really begun and to pick Benton for a job that likely will pay more than $100,000 a year. No other candidates were interviewed.

Benton describes himself as a “constitutionalist libertarian” and has the legislative record to back it up. He has consistently worked to limit land-use regulation, and has worked to block funding for the Columbia River Gorge Commission.

This year, he boorishly boasted of having “schooled” U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood over the question of light rail on the proposed Columbia River Crossing. LaHood was in Olympia advocating for the Interstate 5 bridge.

The lone Democrat on the three-member county board of commissioners, Steve Stuart, rightly decried the “political cronyism” of Benton’s selection. Stuart questioned how Benton could run a complex county agency while remaining a part of the Republican Senate leadership team.

The bigger question is, what were the commissioners thinking?