At a morning press conference following the abrupt firing of state transportation secretary Lynn Peterson by senate Republicans last Friday, Governor Jay Inslee displayed a side of himself rarely observed in public. He ripped senate Republicans apart.
"Folks, the senate Republicans are out of control at this moment," Inslee told reporters.
Inslee might as well have told the Republicans to walk into traffic, preferably on I-405, where Republicans claimed congestion stemming from tolls left them with little choice but to oust Peterson. A visibly enraged Inslee noted that the senate transportation committee—chaired by Sen. Curtis King (R-Yakima)—had unanimously recommended Peterson's approval in June before Republicans denied her confirmation last Friday.
Inslee dismissed the Republicans' I-405 justification as "nonsense," and said that no Republican senators had brought their concerns about Peterson to him before Friday's surprise "decapitation."
To Sen. Andy Hill (R-Redmond), who claimed that firing Peterson was the "blunt instrument" senate Republicans had to use, Inslee said: "Senator Hill, when I talk to my grandchildren I say, 'Use your words.' We didn't have that cooperation from the Republicans."
The governor went on to blast Republicans for "conducting a dishonest, partisan, and frankly scurrilous campaign."
Senate Republicans have been pulling all sorts of outrageous bullshit in this election year, from efforts to restrict access to abortion to two bills that attempt to stop transgender people from using bathrooms that align with their identities. Inslee told reporters that Peterson's firing was nothing more than "an election year stunt."
"Poppycock," Inslee said. "Bullfeathers."
We can only imagine the words he wanted to use.
It's not like the Washington State Department of Transportation hasn't faced fair criticism over the past year, though. WSDOT's insistence on Bertha the Tunnel Boring Machine's wellbeing has been contradicted time and time again, most recently by a 35-foot-long sinkhole. That said, Inslee noted that Republicans' firing of Peterson arrived shortly after Peterson started cracking down on Seattle Tunnel Partners, the contractors responsible for the downtown Seattle tunnel project. Not long after the sinkhole opened up, the state ordered that Bertha's contractor suspend operations.
"So Lynn Peterson is out of a job because she took the obvious, rational, commonsense approach to protecting the safety of the people of Seattle from drilling under a fragile viaduct in the biggest city in the state?" Inslee asked.
When one reporter asked Inslee where the blame for Bertha should lie, the governor then turned his sights on Seattle Tunnel Partners:
I think all of us have responsibility in all of our roles. Let me start with the contractor of Bertha—let's just start there—who built a machine that couldn't tunnel. Now they've done some work. They've put 200 tons of new steel, they've totally redesigned the bearings, they have a new electronic system. And they were drilling, they just drilled too much because they weren't doing their quality control work. They didn't do quality control work. And as a result they were taking more out than they were protecting under the shield of the tunnel.
They have responsibility. Our contractor on the tolling project, who we're paying a lot of money to, who have had some difficulties, that have caused real, palatable, legitimate frustrations of our motorists, and have not complied with our contract to us, they have responsibility. The secretary of transportation has an obligation to ride herd on these contractors and insist that they give to Washingtonians what they deserve. And she has done exactly that in protecting our financial status and our physical status by making sure this tunnel gets done right so it doesn't go under downtown Seattle and crater these buildings. And she has done this.
Pretty blunt words for a governor with a reputation for being a gentle giant, and one who has repeatedly insisted that the tunnel will be completed. We'll see if that deters the senate Republicans in the slightest, but on Twitter, they don't seem to be too scared.
.@GovInslee didn't show leadership to fix problems at #WSDOT and #DOC. He didn't, so GOP did. #waleg #transportation
— Washington State GOP (@WAGOP) February 8, 2016
Jay Inslee's press conference tantrum: What happens when you put a backbencher from Congress in charge of leading state government. #waleg
— Michael Baumgartner (@VoteBaumgartner) February 8, 2016