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Spin Control: Washington’s Capitol dome will get a good scrubbing, but no visitors

UPDATED: Sat., March 31, 2018, 7:40 p.m.

OLYMPIA – The dominant structure in the state capital is, appropriately enough, the dome of the Capitol, and the cupola atop it that can be seen from parts of the city and even several miles away at the entrance to Budd Inlet that forms the south end of Puget Sound.

Lately, the masonry dome has been looking pretty dismal because the sandstone absorbs moisture, of which there is plenty, and grows fungus, mold and moss. Every few years, the Legislature has to set aside money to have it cleaned, which is expensive because not just any bozo can be hired to scrub the world’s fifth-tallest masonry dome.

Among the many things added to the 2018 supplemental capital construction budget is some $3.4 million to clean the dome, in part after an impassioned speech about its near-historic shabbiness by Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, the Senate’s most senior member.

Sheldon waxed eloquent about the inelegant state of the dome after he was allowed an up-close look at the exterior from the lantern-shaped cupola. Access to the dome is generally verboten, but a combination of Sheldon’s senior status, and the fact that he was going to push for money to scrub the sandstone, apparently got him a tour.

He introduced a bill calling for a study of the effects of all that grayness on the health and psyche of those who work around it, and for every legislator to be offered the same tour.

That bill didn’t go anywhere, but lawmakers slipped a paragraph into the 449-page supplemental budget calling for the Department of Enterprise Services, which runs the Capitol’s buildings and grounds, “to allow individuals to access the top of the capitol dome under approved supervision and guidelines developed by the department.” There were several reporters just waiting for those guidelines to be published so they could file a request and get some shots from the tallest structure in town.

Alas, that won’t happen. With a line-item veto, Gov. Jay Inslee red-inked that paragraph, saying the Olympia Fire Department has warned that access is so narrow it couldn’t get a gurney in and out of the dome top if someone got hurt.

“While the view is beautiful from the dome, there are too many risks involved in granting access to the public,” he wrote. That sounds suspiciously like he’s been allowed up there. But then, he’s the department’s boss’s boss.

Speaking of vetoes

The last bill signing, setting aside March 31 as Cesar Chavez Day, happened Saturday, marking the denouement of the 2018 session.

One can only hope it also marks the end of lawmakers and lobbyists who don’t like a particular piece of legislation calling for Inslee to veto it “just like” the bill that would have given the Legislature exemptions to much of the state’s Public Records Act. This refrain came up regularly in recent weeks, especially from opponents of the bill that establishes a system for putting individual providers of home health care under a private company, with membership in the Service Employees International Union.

They were clear in their antipathy to organized labor and its political clout, which is fine. But they were fuzzy in comparing the journey the two bills took through the Legislature.

The public records bill was filed one day, had no hearing, was voted on without debate the next day in both chambers in the span of 20 minutes and hustled down to Inslee’s office. Even some people who supported the provisions were unhappy with the process.

The individual provider bill was introduced on the third day of the session, had hearings and votes in the Senate Health and Long Term Care Committee and the Senate Ways and Means Committee; a full debate on the Senate floor on Feb. 10; hearings and votes in the House Health Care and Wellness Committee and House Appropriations Committee; and a debate and vote on the House floor. People who didn’t like the provisions had plenty of opportunities to voice them.

Other veto calls using the same reasoning had the same problem because no other bill was handled like the legislative public records bill. One can only hope that by next year, that argument will be laid to rest and replaced by a better one.

Things one learns

from email

Email can be the bane of one’s existence, but from time to time it does improve the vocabulary. Last week’s inbox had the following offerings:

Charrette. It’s an “inclusive, interactive and collaborative workshop to identify relevant issues and potential solutions for projects,” according to the state Department of Transportation, which is holding such a gathering for the Children of the Sun Trail portion of the North Spokane Corridor at 10 a.m. Saturday at the East Central Community Center. According to the attached flyer, the department has been charretting at community centers around Spokane about every other Saturday since Feb. 24.

Smurfing. Buying more than the amount of marijuana allowed under state limits by traveling to different dispensaries in the same day. This according to a company that wants to sell equipment that will catch smurfs who are smurfing. One would think they could just look for little blue guys with funny white hats.


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